Primary Source

Krishna Defeats the Whirlwind [Miniature Painting]

Annotation

Krishna is known in the stories of the Bhagavata-Purana as the 8th incarnation of the god Vishnu, destined to perform great deeds and remove the evils of the world. Shown in this Indian miniature watercolor painting as a child with grey-blue skin, he is a popular deity, a divine hero who personifies superhuman powers as well as human hopes and failings. Stories of Krishna’s childhood with his loving foster-mother Yashoda in a village of cow-herds are much beloved and illustrated in paintings and sculpture.

This painting, which measures 22.5 x 30.5 centimeters, illustrates Krishna defeating a whirlwind. According to the Bhagavata Purana, when Krishna was five months old, he was attacked by Trinavart, the demon of storm and whirlwind. The demon took hold of the child Krishna and spun with him in the air. While Yashoda and others anxiously searched for the child, he gripped the demon with tenacious strength, causing it to fall to its death on a huge rock. Krishna landed safely, cushioned by the monster’s body. In awe of his feat, Yashoda picked up the child and hugged him to her bosom while the other women looked on with affection.

The miniature painting is dated to 1770 CE, and belongs to the Pahari style of the Himalayan foothills, a courtly style of the Rajput kings that flourished from the 17th to the 19th century. This painting shows little of the ordinary surroundings of the village, focusing instead on the supernatural whirlwind, ominous sky, bent trees, and blowing curtain. Krishna appears three times in the same panel, showing the dramatic sequence of events from right to left across a single panel, in a narrative technique sometimes used by comic book artists on splash pages today, in which all the action appears in one frame.

Source

Rajput, Pahari, Guler or Kangra school, Set 40, Bharat Kala Bhavan III: Pahari Paintings Repository Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi (Banaras), Banaras Hindu University, Bharat Kala Bhavan, BKB #6854; Photo: © Asian Art Archives, University of Michigan Text source: Chandra, Suresh. Encyclopaedia of Hindu gods and goddesses. Sarup & Sons, 1998, p. 181–82. Annotated by Susan Douglass.

How to Cite This Source

"Krishna Defeats the Whirlwind [Miniature Painting]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #357, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/357 (accessed April 18, 2014).