Nov 20, 2019

Krishna's Butter Ball, Mahabalipuram

Krishna's Butter Ball, Mahabalipuram

c. 1900s

Gelatin silver print, toned, on collodion printing-out paper

Image: 15.3 x 10.8 cm (6 x 4 1/4 in.); Paper: 15.3 x 10.8 cm (6 x 4 1/4 in.)

Gift of Barbara Tannenbaum and Mark Soppeland 2019.68


Did you know?

It was popular during the early 1900s to tone silver gelatin photographs with gold to give them a warm glow.


Mahabalipuram is a site on India’s southeastern coast where numerous rock-cut temples and sculptures were carved during the early 600s. The site includes a remarkable, naturally occurring boulder that became known popularly as Krishna’s Butter Ball, thereby merging a geological phenomenon with sacred narrative. If baby Krishna could crawl while holding this monolith as effortlessly in his hand as a ball of butter, he must be a magnificently powerful god.

Colonial-era tourists enjoy their excursion to the site with no indication that they recognized its sanctity. Photographs such as this would have been sent back to Britain for viewers to marvel at the landscape of India.

See also

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.