Krishna, a popular Hindu deity and an incarnation of the god Vishnu, is adored for his mischievous personality, infinite love and miraculous actions. Vishnu assumed the form of divine, blue-skinned Krishna to oppose a malevolent king and restore joy and harmony to the world. The legends from Krishna’s early life centre on his upbringing as a cowherder, and his playful interactions with the gopis (milkmaids), who found him irresistibly attractive.
Celebrating one such story, this vibrant temple hanging shows Krishna, dressed in characteristic flamboyant dress, playing his flute to crowds of infatuated women. The scene is in a forest beside the Jamuna River during the autumn full moon; Krishna’s music has enticed the women from their beds to dance
This painting is a depiction of the concept of rasa lila, or divine play. Joyful, fun and flirtatious, rasa lila images are metaphors for the relationship between gods and humans, and demonstrate ideal devotion. The gopis love, revere and follow Krishna, even leaving their families to join him. This hanging was originally intended as a shrine backdrop in a haveli (palace), the ritual space of the Vallabha sect of Hinduism, during ceremonies to worship Krishna.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008