major gods in Indian art traditions have all been
given consorts. They are rarely described as celibate
recluses. In their incarnate form they are explicit
in their demonstrative attraction for the opposite
sex. The goddesses do not lag behind. Their love
for their husbands or lovers is often portrayed
in an assertively earthy and sensual manner. Gods
and goddesses represent a conscious duality, complementing
Krishna was physically irresistibly
appealing. Ancient texts dwell at length on his
exceptionally alluring countenance: a blue complexion
soft like the monsoon cloud, shining locks of
black hair framing a beautifully chiseled face,
large lotus like eyes, wild -flower garlands around
his neck, a yellow garment (pitambara) draped
around his body, a crown of peacock feathers on
his head, and a smile playing on his lips, it
is in this manner that he is faithfully represented
since the ancient times to the modern.
Much as in the Christian art of
Medieval Europe, it is woman the Mother, the Madonna
suckling a babe who has been painted with reverence,
in the Indian Diaspora it is woman the beloved
who has been painted with love and passion. The
female friends of Krishna with their warm sensuous
faces, eyes filled with passion, and delicate
sensitive fingers, represent not the beauty of
a particular woman, but the beauty of entire womanhood.
In fact, she is there as the incarnation of all
the beauty of the world and as a representative
of the charm of her sex.
the embrace of Krishna, the gopis, maddened with
desire, found refuge; in their love dalliance
with him who was the master in all the sixty-four
arts of love, the gopis felt a thrill indescribable;
and in making love with him in that climatic moment
of release, in that one binding moment, they felt
that joy and fulfillment which could not but be
an aspect of the divine. Through their experience,
thus, the erotic the carnal and the profane became
but an aspect of the sublime, the spiritual and
the divine.This cumulative myth sustained one
basic point: for women, Krishna was a personal
god, always accessible and unfailingly responsive.
He was a god specially made for women. In the
popular psyche, Krishna and Radha became the universal
symbol for the lover and the beloved. Krishna
was the ideal hero, and Radha the ideal heroine.
Often the colorful legends surrounding
his amorous adventures with female friends prove
to be of supreme inspiration to artists. The following
tale describing Krishna teasing the gopis by making
away with their clothes while they were bathing
in the river is one such example :
According to tradition, unmarried
girls from ten to fourteen years of age worship
the Goddess Durga in order to fulfil their desire
for a suitable husband. But the unmarried girls
of Vrindavana were already attracted by the beauty
of Krishna. Thus they daily worshipped goddess
Durga early in the morning after taking a bath
in the river Yamuna, and supplicated the goddess
to arrange for their match with Krishna.
Each morning, the gopis would
assemble together at the banks of Yamuna and,
holding one another's hands, loudly sing of the
wonderful pastimes of lord Krishna before entering
the river. It is an old system among Indian girls
and women that when they take a bath in the river
they place their garments on the bank and dip
into the water completely naked. The portion of
the river where the girls and women bathe was
strictly prohibited to any male, and this is still
the system in some parts.
day Krishna appeared on the scene with his friends.
Observing the garments left on the bank by the
bathing gopis, he immediately collected all the
garments, climbed up a nearby tree, and with a
smiling face spoke to them thus: "My dear girls,
please come here one after another and pray for
your garments and then take them away. I'm not
joking with you, just telling the plain truth.
Please don't come here all at once. Come alone
one by one; I want to see each of you in your
complete beauty, for you all have thin waists."
When the girls in the water heard
such joking words from Krishna, they began to
look at one another and smile. Though outwardly
showing resentment they were joyous to hear such
a request because they were already in love with
him. They then addressed him : " Do not joke with
us in this way, it is unjust to us. You are a
very respectable boy and very dear to us, so kindly
deliver our garments immediately because we are
all shivering from the cold water, and end our
But all their supplications could
not convince Krishna. Seeing that Krishna was
strong and determined, they had no alternative
but to abide by his command. One after another
they came out of the water, but because they were
naked, they tried to cover their nakedness with
their soft hands. On observing this Krishna chided
the gopis, addressing them thus: " My dear girls,
you have committed a great offence by going naked
in this holy river, because of this the presiding
deity of this holy river is displeased with you.
Therefore to please this deity touch your forehead
with folded palms and ask for his forgiveness."
The gopis were all simple souls, and whatever
Krishna said they took to be true. They followed
his command, but in doing so exposed their nakedness
in all its beauty to Krishna's gaze, which was
exactly what Krishna desired.
All the unmarried gopis who prayed to Goddess Durga as their husband
were thus satisfied. A woman cannot be naked before
any male except her husband. The unmarried gopis
desired Krishna as their husband, and he fulfilled
their desire in this way.
India art tradition visualises the love adventures
of gods and their female friends because it acknowledges
that sex is the supreme fact in life, which provides
the urge to procreate and maintain the species.
It is concealed like lightning in a cloud, and
in its glow is the birth of art, literature and
science. Sex union among lovers is the most exalted
experience in life, and in mutual ecstasy the
liberation of the soul from the narrow 'self'
takes place. This is the supreme experience of
lovers as well as mystics. That is why in describing
the union of God and soul, the extremely beautiful
imagery of man and woman is employed by mystic
saints and artists. Thus we see that the classification
of love into 'carnal' and 'spiritual' is arbitrary
and unwarranted for the so called 'spiritual'
love has its roots in the so called 'physical'
love. This art thus sanctifies human love and
places it on a par with divine love. In it we
find sacredness wedded to sensuous joy.
It is not a spiritual art where
spirit and body are regarded as two separate entities.
It is not gloomy, cold and forbidding, but is
an art which is a happy blend of the sensuous
and the spiritual. The spirituality is not chilled
by an asceticism which is disdainful of female
loveliness and the delights of love. In fact,
its spirituality very much based on flesh and
blood. It is an art which glorifies female beauty
and revels in the loveliness of the female form.
The knitting together of form
and color into a coordinated harmony is the hallmark
of this art. Form and color are so blended that
the effect is musical. To achieve such a harmony,
the artist uses both line and color in these paintings.
The line which he uses is the musical rhythmical
line, which express both movement and mass, representing
the flow and ardor of impassioned love. The type
of line which Blake admired, and regarded as the
golden rule of art is this: " The more distinct,
sharp, and wiry the bounding line, the more perfect
the work of art, and the less keen and sharp,
the greater is evidence of weak imagination."
And what a rhythm these dancing lines create,
a pure limpid harmony! That is why these pictures
are so comforting and so soothing like the concertos
of Bach and Mozart. This line is effectively supplemented
by colors-the blues, yellows, greens, and reds,
the pure colors of earth and minerals, which shine
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