Calcutta Woodcuts, Part 4


Krsna Helps Mother Yasoda to Churn Butter

Aug 08, 2019 — CANADA (SUN) — Transcendental art: the rare woodcut prints of 19th Century Calcutta.

Today's look at the Calcutta woodblock prints features another well-loved pastime from Lord Krishna's Vrindavan lila. The scene is Dadhi Manthan - baby Krsna helping Mother Yasoda to churn the curd into butter. Inscribed in Bengali beneath the figures are their names: Ruhini, Jasoda, Lalita, Bisakha, Duti, Shri Ganganarayan Ghosher Krita, Sang Shyambajar. Translated from Bengali, we see Rohini, Mother Yosada, Lalita and Visakha sakhis, and the messenger Duti. This woodcut was done by Shri Ganganarayana Ghosh of Shyambazar.

The artist uses a similar method to that seen in yesterday's woodcut, where bold strokes were used to depict the Yamuna's fast-moving waters. Here, a similar device is used to create the sense of a well-worn earthen or wooden floor. The fine detail of the women's saris gives the clear impression of unique fabrics and textures. Traditional Indian styled window arches and columns frame the image's background.

Mother Rohini holds baby Balarama, who intently watches his brother Krsna engage in the churning pastime. Little Krsna, the famous butter thief, has hand snuck down into the churn, and he we image his fist full of the soft yellow butter.

Three of the sakhis are holding butter pots in hand, waiting to take the churned curd home to their households. One is looking away from the scene, indicating that she has either just arrived or is preparing to leave.

As is so typical of these 19th century Calcutta woodcuts, the artist has broken with tradition and added elements to the image that are not found in the universally popular Krsna lila pictures. In this case, he employs a trick of the eye by emphasizing the women's saris. On a closer look, we see that the messenger Diti has wings behind, although she appears at first glance to be sari clad, with a hanging sari palau behind her.


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