Though it relates to a subsequent stage in the myth of the birth of Krishna, the painting portrays in its other half the door-guards along with their dogs in deep slumber, something which in the myth happens later when Vishnu as Krishna has incarnated and an oracle directs Vasudev to shift the newborn to Nand’s house at Gokul and bring in exchange his simultaneously born daughter. For facilitating Vasudeo for the act not only his fetters break and door-guards fall asleep but also the prison gates unlock and open and the river Yamuna, on the peak of flood which Bhadaun – the month of torrential rains, occasioned, cools down to ankle depth for giving him passage. The dark deep background and water-drops falling incessant in the upper register in the painting symbolise the month of Krishna’s birth, the monsoon month of Bhadaun.
As the myth has it, Devaki was Kansa’s sister, and a loved one, so much so that after her marriage with Vasudev he himself drove the chariot taking her to her in-laws’ place. However, when yet midway, an oracle alerts Kansa that he would be killed by Devaki’s eighth child. Hearing the voice he rushed to kill her but Vasudev dissuaded him from doing so and promised that he would hand him every child born of Devaki immediately after it was born and he could destroy it instantly and evade the risk. Kansa agreed and put them in confinement. As promised, Vasudev handed him his six children which Kansa killed. The seventh Balarama, when yet in the state of foetus, miraculously shifted into the womb of Rohini, Vasudev’s other wife and escaped death. So did Krishna exchanged with Nand’s newborn daughter whom Kansa killed taking her as Devaki’s eighth child.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.