The Birth of Krishna, from a Sursagar of Surdas

The Birth of Krishna, from a Sursagar of Surdas

c. 1700

Opaque watercolor and gold on paper

Image: 33.6 x 22.2 cm (13 1/4 x 8 3/4 in.); Overall: 37 x 25.4 cm (14 9/16 x 10 in.); with mat: 49 x 36.3 cm (19 5/16 x 14 5/16 in.)

Edwin R. and Harriet Pelton Perkins Memorial Fund 1984.65

Description

The blind poet and Hindu saint Surdas (1578/79–c. 1581), a devotee of Krishna, is shown in the hut at the lower right corner playing cymbals to measure meter as he recites his poem, called Sursagar. Verse 5 is written at the top of the page, and the scenes of festivities surrounding the arrival of the newborn Krishna are depicted throughout the rest of the painting. His adoptive mother Yashoda lies with the infant in the chamber at the upper left. His dark skin led to his being named Krishna, meaning dark, and shown as blue. Women clamor at her door to see the baby, as the men of the village receive silver coins being distributed on behalf of Nanda, the village elder and Krishna’s adoptive father, who is seated at the left receiving two well-wishers. Below, men and children of the cowherd village celebrate by pouring pots of curds and ghee over each other and dancing to the sounds of horns and drums.

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