, Festival of the Cattle [Gopashtami]; shrine hanging [pichhavai] Enlarge 1 /1
Rajasthan, India

Festival of the Cattle [Gopashtami]
shrine hanging [pichhavai]
19th century Materials & Technique: paintings, opaque watercolour on cotton
Dimensions: 223.0 h x 220.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Acquired with the assistance of the Masterpieces for the Nation Fund 2007
Accession No: NGA 2007.729

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Pichhavai, large painted cotton shrine backdrops, frequently depict scenes from the life of Krishna, the beloved avatar of the great Hindu god Vishnu. Gopashtami marks Krishna’s promotion from herder of calves to a full cowherd. The joyous Gopashtami festival, held annually in late autumn to honour cows and Krishna’s idyllic life as a cowherder, is still celebrated today. Aesthetic enjoyment and the ‘pathway of pleasure’ are essential elements of Krishna worship, with poetry, painting, music and dance considered religious pursuits and keys to spiritual awakening.

Identified by his dark-blue colouring, Krishna stands on a lotus as his evocative fluting summons the entranced cows, which are decorated with peacock plumes and festive Gopashtami garlands. A row of peacocks – a metaphorical allusion to Krishna – can be seen in the foreground. Above lush foliage,
on each side of the full moon, the heavens contain celestial chariots carrying divine couples. The gleaming colour of the cattle accentuates the dazzling image of Krishna, who is weighed down with garlands and jewellery. Krishna is dressed in a distinctive orange scarf and an ornate, layered dancing skirt. On his head he wears a decorative turban from which a large peacock feather protrudes.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

The Gopashtami festival marks Krishna’s promotion from minder of calves to full cowherd. It honours Krishna and cows in general. During celebrations, cows are brought in from nearby rural areas to be paraded and honoured with a feast. Here Krishna stands on a lotus, his evocative fluting drawing spellbound cows to gather around him. The white cattle accentuate the dazzling image of Krishna adorned in a dancing skirt, flowing scarf, peacock-feather headdress, jewellery and flower garlands. The cows wear gilded horn covers, peacock plumes and festive garlands.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label