Indian Painting:Krishna



Krishna Lila is one of the most prominent themes of Indian paintings. The Blue God is seen having an ecstatic dance of love with the Gopis (Cowherd girls) and His beloved Radha. Ancient Indian scriptures like the Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata called this dance of love ‘Rasa’. In the Balacharita of Bhasa, circa second century B.C., Krishna’s dance with the Gopis is called Hallisaka.

It is said that the Gopis of Vrindavana nurtured tender feelings for Krishna. The Shastras (scriptures) have defined this passionate feeling of the Gopis for Krishna as the soul’s yearnings for union with the supreme soul – the Paramatma that Krishna was. The Rasalila took place on a beautiful autumnal night. Drenched in the gossamer moonlight, Krishna played on his mesmerizing flute … and the enamored Gopis left everything to rush and be with Krishna. Krishna admonished them for leaving their homes and duties, but at the same time fulfilled their desires by sporting with each one of them. The Gopis were all satisfied and proud at the thought of being the most favored one.

Radha Krishna PaintingTo teach the Gopis a lesson in humility, Krishna suddenly disappeared from their midst. The Gopis realized that their pride was the cause of Krishna’s disappearance and became repentant.

Moved at the plight of the Gopis – Krishna’s true devotees – Krishna reappeared among them. To requite the Gopis for their immeasurable love for him, Krishna began His famous Rasa dance. During this enchanting dance, each of the Gopis thought that Krishna was dancing with her alone. At the end of the dance, Krishna and the Gopis entered the waters of Yamuna and sported in the river.

During the Rasa dance, Krishna had multiplied Himself into as many times as there were Gopis, and by an illusion, the husbands of the Gopis thought that their wives were by their sides. At the end of the enchanting night, Krishna bid the Gopis to return back to their homes.

The Shastras have explained that in the Rasa Lila or Rasa dance, Krishna was the manifestation of the supreme soul of being. Even the Gopis were Krishna’s own manifestations and the companions of His own beings with whom he enjoyed various Lilas or sports. It was the highest spiritual understanding of the godhead. It was the divine sport of the supreme lord free from all mundane desires.

Krishna Painting There has always been a predominance of the Krishna theme in Indian paintings. Along with his childhood exploits, the episode of his Rasa Lila is perhaps the most famous of them all. As an epitome of love and divine desires, Krishna and His Rasa Lila are celebrated in colors and sketches of Indian artists across various Schools and regions.

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