Krishna on a Banyan Leaf ( Vatapatrashayi )

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Item Code: NAT689
Author: Devangana Desai
Publisher: Aryan Books International
Language: ENGLISH
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9788173056284
Pages: 101 (Through out Color and b/w Illustrations)
Other Details 9.00 X 9.00 inch
Weight 680 gm
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Book Description

I am happy to say that this is the first book written on the subject of Vatapatrashayi.

The interlude between the Dissolution and the Recreation of the Universe is a silent moment when the whole cosmos is at rest. It is the moment before the 'big bang' or the start of 'time'. Lord Vishnu sleeps like a spider that has drawn the thread back into itself. In the form of a child, he rests on a leaf floating in the ocean after completing the miraculous act of swallowing the Universe for its safe keeping. Only sage Markandeya, who has the boon of immortality, lives roaming endlessly in the universe inside the body of Vishnu.

There have been some articles written on this theme of the Divine Child reclining on the banyan leaf. An important article on the myth was written by Adalbert J Gail, "Krsna on the banyan leaf (vatapatra-sayana)" in 2014, in Pandanus 14, Nature in Literature, Art, Myth and Ritual, Vol. 8.i. I have published three articles on the subject: (1) "The Lord on the Leaf", in the Felictation Volume to Prof. B. N. Goswamy, in 2014; (2) "Vatapatrasayi: Lord of the Banyan Leaf in Temple Sculpture" in Prasadanidhi, Papers Presented to Professor M.A. Dhaky, in 2016; and (3) "Sage Markandeya and the Divine Child in the 17th century Illustrated Manuscripts" in the Research Journal of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), No. 2, 2017.

The leitmotif of this book of Bala-Mukunda or Krishna as a child, lying on a banyan leaf, leads me to happy memories. Even as a child I used to be guided by my parents to recite the well known stuti: kararavindena padaravindam mukharavinde.. .. .. .. .., for my morning prayers.

In the thirties, my uncle Dharamdas Kothari commissioned at Nathdvara a painting of the child Krishna reclining on a banyan leaf and the sage Markandeya praying to the divinity (Fig. IV.18). The painting used to hang on the wall of our Worli house in Mumbai. My sister Malti liked it and later took it to her room. I used to admire this painting. After Malti's death in 1985, I brought it to my home and since then seeing it daily. It has inspired me to work on this subject of Vatapatrashayi. I have collected material on it since some years. Now it has taken the form of this monograph.

It is befitting that I dedicate this monograph with deep affection to the memory of my uncle, Dharamdas Kothari, and of my sister, Malti Kothari.


In Indian mythology there are some cosmological themes of great importance'. One of the profound themes is that of Vishnu-Krishna reclining on a banyan leaf floating on the cosmic ocean. Symbolically, it represents the first form of life on earth. It is a magnificent image. We find this form described in literature and illustrated in visual arts.

It is a theme known to many of us in daily prayers. kararavindena padaravindam mukharavinde viniveshayantam vatasya patrasya pute shayanam balam-mukundam manasa smarami

I contemplate in my mind that Bala-Mukunda who with his lotus-like hands has held his lotus-like foot and placed it in his lotus-like mouth, as he rests on the tender shoot of a Vata leaf.

This stanza is from the Krishnakarnamrita (2.57) of Bilvamangala Thakur, who lived between 1220 and 1300 in Travancore region of Kerala.

The above vision of baby Mukunda (Krishna) is beautiful. His hands, feet and face are like a lotus flower (aravindam). He has placed his lotus-like foot in his lotus-like mouth.

It is a magnificent imagery - a baby lying on the Vata (banyan, Ficus Indica) leaf that is floating on the cosmic waters of the vast ocean.

vast sheet of cosmic waters." (Gay-at Mahatmmiya in Vayu Purana).

At Prayag, on the trunk of the tree there are four silver masks representing the sons of Brahma. Huen Tsang (629-645 CE) mentions the wide-spreading, large Vata tree at Prayag, ( from which persons jumped down and committed suicide ). Cunningham refers to this tree, "the undecaying Banyan tree". Al Beruni in c. 1030 mentions a Vata tree on the junction of the two rivers, with long branches and roots.

According to Hindu cosmology, at the end of one cycle of creation the heat produced by Surya, the sun god, reduces all that is on earth into ashes_ This continues for eight thousand yugas. Then Vayu, the wind god, blows relentlessly for many years and huge clouds are formed. It rains incessantly creating a great flood - deluge. The entire earth remains under water for millions of years.

On this water lies, the child form of Vishnu (Krishna) on a banyan leaf, known as Vatapatrashayi. Krishna on a ficus leaf is also known as Aalilaikannan or Aalilaikrishna in south India.

The theme is represented in temple sculptures of south India on a small scale from the 9th century and its importance is seen more from the 18th century in paintings all over India. Its meaning is discerned through the study of its depiction in literature and in -visual arts of sculpture and painting, as we proceed through the book.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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