Mar 17, 2014

Krishna as Kali Worshipped by Radha (recto); Krishna Quells the Serpent Kaliya (verso)

Krishna as Kali Worshipped by Radha (recto); Krishna Quells the Serpent Kaliya (verso)

c. 1890

Part of a set. See all set records

Watercolor, graphite, and ink on paper

Secondary Support: 48.1 x 29.7 cm (18 15/16 x 11 11/16 in.)

Gift of William E. Ward in memory of his wife, Evelyn Svec Ward 2003.113



Krishna’s cowgirl (gopi) Radha was Ayanaghosha’s wife, and her devotion to him transcended marital ties. Whenever Radha was together with Krishna and her husband appeared, Krishna instantly transformed himself into Kali and Radha into her devotee. Radha, a model devotee, symbolizes the human soul and its longing for god. Her willingness to break the rules of duty (dharma) exemplifies her devotion.

On the verso is another scene from Krishna's life. The serpent Kaliya was poisoning the water of a great pool by the Yamuna River, near the residence of the cowherd community where Krishna spent his youth. The animals were dying from the toxins. Krishna wrestled the mighty serpent, then emerged from the water to dance on his head. Pleading with Krishna to set him free, Kaliya’s wives are shown like mermaids.

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