Cremation of the Demoness Putana, from a Krishna-Lila

Cremation of the Demoness Putana, from a Krishna-Lila

c. 1790

Opaque watercolor on paper

Overall: 20.9 x 31.2 cm (8 1/4 x 12 5/16 in.)

Delia E. Holden Fund 1984.4


In the foreground the grotesque oversized corpse of Putana is being cut up with much difficulty by the
men of Vraj, the cowherd village where the Hindu god Krishna lived in his infancy and youth. Her
forearms and hands are already being conveyed to the massive pyre at the upper left. Krishna’s foster
father Nanda, the elder of the village, has come in a bullock cart to survey the situation, putting his
finger to his mouth in the gesture of astonishment.

At the right, baby Krishna is being bathed as cowherd women look on in shock. Krishna, who was incarnated in order to rid India of a tyrannical king, vanquished a series of his assassins-including Putana. Putana had come to the cowherd village in the form of a beautiful nursemaid with secretly poisoned breasts. When she began to nurse Krishna, instead of being poisoned by her, Krishna sucked the very life out of her, at which point she resumed her true form.

Although unfinished, this painting reveals the care the artist took with the drawing and shading of the

See also
Indian Art
Type of artwork: 
Credit line: 
Delia E. Holden Fund

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