It is a composite of five miniature panels, each recounting a historic episode from the life and leela of the Lord. Starting from the left, He stands in the midst of beauteous lovesick gopis (Vrindavan milkmaids). He overpowers the demon Keshi sent by His villainous uncle Kamsa. He plays the flute while His beloved Radha dances. He spends time in the company of His gentle friend the cow. Finally, He vanquishes the vociferous serpent Kalia. Zoom in on each of the panels to appreciate the miniscule iconography and the attention to detail despite the scale.
So are the ancillary elements of the composite panel. The constituent panels are distinguished by the Indian muses, the apsaras. They are playing musical instruments and dancing to the ballads of Krishnaleela. In the narrowly sculpted row beneath the main panels are the creatures of patalaloka, man and beast, who are seemingly holding them up. On the top are multi-tiered lotus-petal roofs after the style of ancient South Indian temples. Flanked by none other than Lord Hanuman in either corner.
The lila (divine playfulness) of Lord Krishna is unspeakably endearing and potent with meaning. Children's literature in this part of the world abound with tales of His divine exploits, which have as much to teach adults as children. This wooden panel is superbly carved with portraitures of the young God in the loving company of gopis and playmates. With the practice of this endemic art running across generations of artisan families, the most perfect of wooden sculptures are to be found in the recesses of South India.
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