Markandeya Viewing Krishna in the Cosmic Ocean

Markandeya Viewing Krishna in the Cosmic Ocean

c. 1680

Opaque waterolor on paper

Image: 15.2 x 10 cm (6 x 3 15/16 in.); Overall: 20.5 x 15 cm (8 1/16 x 5 7/8 in.)

Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Sherman E. Lee 1967.241



The anonymous court artist from a Hindu kingdom in the foothills of the Himalaya mountains has chosen a web of concentric abstract shapes to represent the cosmic ocean as the backdrop for this
elegant, striking composition. The sage Markandeya received the dubious gift of immortality, so even
after the destruction and dissolution of the world and all its creatures, he must carry on exhausted and alone through the cosmic ocean until the next world cycle begins. At one point in the darkness he saw a branch from a banyan tree floating on the ocean’s surface, and with awe he saw the infant Krishna on one leaf, sucking his toe. When Markandeya looked into his mouth, he saw the entire universe as it was and as it will be. This story and imagery shows that with the destruction of the universe comes the infancy of evolution, and creation will begin anew.

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