The Gopis Plead with Krishna to Return Their Clothing: Folio from "Isarda" Bhagavata Purana

Artist: Master of the "Isarda" Bhagavata Purana

Date: ca. 1560–65

Culture: North India (Delhi -Agra area)

Medium: Opaque watercolor and ink on paper

Dimensions: Image: 7 3/8 × 10 1/8 in. (18.7 × 25.7 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Gift of The H. Rubin Foundation Inc., 1972

Accession Number: 1972.260


Perhaps the greatest of the pre-Mughal Hindu manuscripts known, this edition of the Bhagavata Purana is admired for its pictorial sophistication, its animated narration, and above all, its sheer joie de vivre. This painting captures the essence of the text, which recounts Krishna’s amorous water-sports with the gopis (cowherds). Krishna sits in a tree, the robes of the women fluttering from his shoulder, as the dark lord reaches out to touch them, all and one together. They gaze with warm love-laden eyes and gesture devotion, praying for union with their lord. Hindu devotional worship (bhakti) had rarely been so passionately expressed in manuscript painting. Stylistically, this series evolved from the Caurapancasika group of paintings and forms a bridge with the emerging hybridity represented by the Tutinama. It displays a complex spatial rendering of a river in landscape, which can be traced to sculptural reliefs of the first century but here flows unchecked off the edge of the page, defying the composition’s own frame.