Radha-Krishna is art : splendorous images

      Radha-Krishna is worshipped in Hinduism as the combination of the male and female principles and many temples are dedicated to them. Works of art on this divine couple have been produced in the past and still continue to grip the imagination of artists.  Their coming together is held as the symbol of the individual’s desire for union with the Supreme or Universal soul. Krishna was first mentioned in the Chandogya upanishad. He is a main character in the epic Mahabharata. In the Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavata purana we further understand his divine nature. The Gita-govinda  in Sanskrit,composed by Jayadeva Goswami in the 12th century, gave the cult worship of Radha-Krishna a mystic and soulful impetus along with the presence of the gopis, the cow-maidens, Radha being the favourite gopi of Krishna. Radha was the wife of Ayanagosha. She is also believed to be the origin of all the gopis who are divine beings who participate in the rasaleela. During the rasaleela it is believed that Krishna took on multiple forms and danced with with each gopi, thus each gopi thought that Krishna loved her the most ! The deseration of the gopis of their husbands and parents signify their liberation from worldly attachments.

       The Radha-Krishna theme has been depicted in Indian art in different schools of art. The images are typical of the school they represent and are vibrant and colourful. The backdrop could be the bank of the Jamuna river at Vrindavan, with gopis and cows. Verdant foliage in idyllic groves are frequently seen. Radha is a doe-eyed beautiful damsel while Krishna is the dark, blue-skinned God with the peacock- feather, garland(vanamala), pearl necklaces and flute.The paintings are akin to visual poetry; depicting scenes from Radha-Krishna episodes by the use of different colours conveying feeling and form. The romantic dalliance of Krishna with Radha and the other gopis including rasaleela is the main subject in the paintings. Gita-govinda is a major inspiration for these paintings. Bhanudatta also composed poetry in Sanskrit on Radha-Krishna. Surdas, Bihari, Keshavdas and Vidyapati’s compositions brought out the romantic persona of Krishna.

      Radha was a shringara rasa nayika, an embodiment of beauty and love. In the Kishangarh paintings Savant Singh (who was a total Krishna bhakt or devotee)and his wife Bani Thani were represented as Radha-Krishna by the court painter Nihal Chand. Bani Thani was an accomplished beautiful dancer and poetess.This influenced the paintings of Nihal Chand though the paintings are not an exact replica of how she looked but more of an idealised form. The nayika has arched eyebrows, elongated nose and a doe-eyed representation. This became the signature style of Kishangarh paintings.

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Radha-Krishna, 18th century,Kishangarh painting, Rajasthan.

By Nihal Chand (Madison Avenue Gallery) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Attributed to Nihal Chand. Savant Singh and Bani Thani as Krishna and Radha. Kishangarh, ca. 1760..jpg

   At Bhim Vilas in Udaipur’s City palace  which was built over 400 years starting in 1559, by different rulers of the Mewar dynasty, a fresco depicts Radha-Krishna. The image  is resplendent with a prominent Krishna and Radha slightly behind him. She is less of a gopi but is seen in a mature lady-like demeanour.

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Radha-Krishna, Fresco, 16th- 20th century, City Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan.

By Pebble101 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Krishna and Radha in a Bower.jpg

Radha-Krishna in a bower,folio from Gita-govinda, Mewar school, Rajasthan17th century.

By Sahibdin (fl. 17th century) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

        The Rasikapriya was composed by Keshavdas which inspired many paintings on the Radha-Krishna theme. The Rasikapriya was a pioneering work of the Ritikaal period of Hindi literature.In these ritikavyas Radha is not depicted as rustic gopi, but a heroine of courtly love. Ritikavyas in Brajbhasha inspired painting in Rajput courts and Himalayan kingdoms.

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Radha- Krishna, page from Rasikapriya, Amber, 1610, Metmuseum, USA.

By anonimus (Metropolitan Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

File:2 Krishna Kisses Radha Page from the Boston Rasikapriya Amber 1610 Metmuseum.jpg

Radha-Krishna,page from  Rasikapriya, Amber, 1610, Met Museum, New York, USA

By anonimus (Metropolitan Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Radha-Krishna in a Rasikapriya manuscript, 1634.

By Anonymous – V&A Museum [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4175942

Rajasthani miniature painting centred in Malwa and Bundelkhand in central India flourished in the 17th century; called Malwa miniature painting. The school is typical with its fine brushwork and flat compositions, figures shown against a solid colour patch,the subject painted in vibrant colours.

File:Radha and Krishna 2.jpg

Radha-Krishna, Malwa painting, 1620, Rajasthani school.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Krishna and Radha dancing the Rasalila, Jaipur, 19th century.jpg

Radha-Krishna and gopis in Rasaleela, Jaipur, 19th century.

By Anonymous – http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/130.1986/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4179978

              Kangra painting from Himachal Pradesh belongs to Pahari school of painting. The Pahari schools have Mughal and Rajput influences on their work. Radha-Krishna paintings in the Kangra style express piety and are visually evocative. Krishna’s sweetness is captured as a  romantic hero or nayaka. Joy, longing, separation are all represented deftly using colour, feeling and movement amidst nature in Vrindavan in different seasons.

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Krishna is playing on his flute while a companion persuades Radha , folio from Gita-govinda, Kangra painting, 1825, Himachal Pradesh.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Kangra Painting.jpg

Krishna flirting with other gopis to Radha’s dismay, Kangra, 1760, Himachal Pradesh.

By Attributed to Purkhu [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Radha-Krishna during a thunderstorm, Kangra painting late 17th-mid 18th century.

See page for author [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Collection of Brooklyn Museum.

  

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Radha-Krishna exchange clothes,Kangra, 1800, Himachal Pradesh.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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Radha-Krishna looking into a mirror, Kangra painting, 1800.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Basohli style of painting is characterised by a vigorous style in which strong primary colours were used. Mostly made in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in the foothills of the Western Himalayas and Punjab. Rasamanjari, a Sanskrit text by Bhanudatta on Indian aesthetics,from the 15th century was an inspiration for Basohli paintings. This poetic work classifies young damsels, the nayikas, in love.

 

File:Radha and Krishna in Rasamanjari by Bhanudatta, Basohli, c1670.jpg

Radha-Krishna in Rasamanjari by Bhanudatta, Basohli, 1670.

By Anonymous (Victoria Albert Museum [1]) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Radha and Krishna in Discussion 1.jpg

Radha and Krishna in conversation, Basohli painting,  Gita-govinda, 1730.

By Basohli School – http://www.harekrsna.com/sun/features/01-12/features2332.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21078305

          Chamba is well-known for its exquisite miniature paintings and murals. The paintings have  a strong Mughal influence. Its main patrons were Raja Udai Singh and Raja Jai Singh. Radha-Krishna,gopis, Shiva Parvati, nature representations with deer, birds were common themes.

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Radha rejecting Krishna, Chamba painting,Himachal Pradesh,1760.

By Image: http://collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-31960415-O3.jpgGallery: http://collections.lacma.org/node/238755, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27306009

    The Awadh(Oudh) school of painting which flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries at Awadh in Northern India was a combination of Mughal and Rajput styles, with lot of Persian influence, representations are seen in the canopies and shamianas, ground covered with flowers etc. The Rajput influence can be recognised by the stylised nature of the painting. Niddha Mal was a painter of this time and is known for his Radha-Krishna paintings. The later Awadh styles showed major European influence. Meer Chand was a noted artist during this period.

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Radha-Krishna, with gopis, at the Holi festival, Awadh, 19th century.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

       Kalighat painting is a mix of tradition and modern styles. The artists evolved a typical style of paintings in the vicinity of the Kali temple during the nineteenth century at Calcutta (now Kolkata). The paintings are simple yet modern but striking.

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Radha-Krishna,Kalighat painting,late 19th century and early 20th century.

By Unknown – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2000.98.3_IMLS_PS4.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14623135

     Madhubani painting is done on walls or paper mostly by women of Madhuban,part of ancient kingdom of Mithila, now in  Bihar. Mostly done in natural colours, these paintings are a form of visual education and enrichment. The subjects are many including scenes from the epics, the Radha-Krishna theme, flora and fauna etc. The paintings are rustic and vibrant with the use of bold lines and colours.

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Radha-Krishna, Madhubani painting by Sita Devi, 2oth century.

By Sumanjha1991 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47963002

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Radha-Krishna, print of painting by Sri Gopal Rao, 1927.

By Gopalarao (http://www.gopalarao.com/painting8.html) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

      Pattachitras are from Odisha and have been traditionally made using natural ingredients like china clay, chalk,conch shell, red stone etc. Lord Krishna is Lord Jagannatha at Puri and there are many pattachitras with Subhadra and Balaram and Lord Krishna. However Radha is not forgotten and Radha-Krishna; inspired by the Chaitanya movement and Gita -govinda too is depicted in pattachitras.

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Radha-Krishna, pattachitra, by artist Shakti.

By Shakti (Own work) [CC BY-SA 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Radha-Krishna, modern depiction, drawing by artist Subhash.

By Subhash – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38462855

References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.
  • Dehejia, Harsha.V/Radha: Gopi to Goddess,New Delhi :Niyogi Books,2014.
  • Aryan, Subhashini/Kala Chintan New Delhi : Rekha Prakashan,2008.
  • wikipedia.org
  • shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

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