Krishna Celebrating Holi

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Krishna Celebrating Holi
Circa A.D. 1780-90

Place of Origin: Datia, Bundelkhand, Central India
Materials: Paper
Dimensions: L: 26.5 W: 17.5 cm
Acc. No. 63.992

Not large, but with so many figures of cowherd maidens, their variously coloured costumes and perspective, queued up in a horizontal stretch, the column of trees and a single uninterrupted hill lying across from one end to other, the horizontality being repeatedly emphasized, the canvas has been manipulated to look like a wide angle picture appropriate to the represented theme, the Holi, essentially a mass-scale celebration. Datia, in Bundelkhand, this miniature belongs to, is otherwise too a colourful painting style, its theme, Holi, the festival of colours, has further enriched its palette. The coloured powders shot into the space apart, the floor is fully soaked into colours scattered all over.

Celebrated on the first day of Chaitra, the month in indigenous calendar corresponding to February-March, Holi is the festival of ripe crops when fields are covered with the sheet of molten gold, and trees burst with new shoots, fresh leaves and colourful flowers, something that determines also the people&rsquos mood and the character of the festival. Holi is celebrated with colour and a lot of music, usually drumming and played on other instruments of ethnic character. All distinctions, ranks and even genders, are largely eliminated, enmities are forgotten and everyone has a new era of friendly ties.

Lord Krishna with Radha in his arms, as if protecting her from the colours&rsquo shooters, comprises the centre of the painting. Unprotected as they are, groups of Gopis - cowherd maidens, attack them from right and left with volleys of colours, some discharging them with pipes, and others, just the handfuls. On both sides are drummers, though on the right there are also a lyrist and a couple of cymbal and duff beaters. Some of the Gopis are loading their pipes, and others, discharging them on Radha and Krishna. From colours shot at her or otherwise, Radha, clinging to Krishna&rsquos bosom, is feeling most secured and is not in a mood to get away. As usual, Krishna has been painted with blue as the colour of his skin, and yellow, that of his ensemble, a long jama, a style of wear used those days by princes of Datia also. His conical cap has been adorned with a peacock feather like styled crest. Had Radha's red Dupatta not distinguished them, Radha's lehenga and Krishna's jama would have inseparably merged into each other.

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