India Design Motifs, Part 15


Krishna and Balaram under a Kadamba Tree
Chore Bagan Art Studio, Calcutta, c. 1895

Mar 31, 2011 — CANADA (SUN) — A study of the historical, spiritual and cultural elements of Vedic design.

Today we move from the realm of Gaura-lila to Krsna's Vrindavan-lila, exploring another beautiful Chore Bagan Art Studio lithograph, this one of Sri Krsna and Lord Balarama. The print is entitled, "Krishna and Balaram under a kadamba tree". The plate, marked number 41, was printed at Chore Bagan's Calcutta press.

Like the Chaitanya prints shown previously, Chore Bagan achieved a brilliant show of colors in this lithograph. The chromolithography technique pioneered by the studio resulted in colors that were not only bold, but also shone with a jewel-like light. This piece in particular has a very rainbow-like effect that is both transcendental and modern, for its day.

Krsna and Balaram are standing in a very traditional pose, elbow to elbow under the kadamba tree, standing on lotus pedestals and holding Their paraphernalia Balaram, His cowherding horn and Krsna, His flute. The artist has added small dots to the surface of the lotus pedestal, making the surface a realistic example of an actual lotus bloom. This is a design motif not often seen in such images.

The rainbow colors that light up this print come not only from the divine brothers' clothing, but also from the sky, which is layered in supernatural colors of pink, yellow, and blue above. The unusual pink and yellow layers might be interpreted as either sunrise or sunset sky colors, and we often find such morning or evening colors framing Krsna-Balaram in scenes like this one.

The pink and blue backdrop also provides contrast for the white light of transcendence shining from the heads of Their Lordships. While the light is a subtle shading, the pink and yellow sky provides bold contrast.

Another unusual aspect of this print is how perspective is used in the scenery backdrop. The water (no doubt the Yamuna), greenery and white hills are equally angled from both sides, to a vanishing point somewhere behind Krsna-Balarama. This gives an added layer of depth and movement to the scene. The depth is further emphasized by the red shawls ornamenting both Their shoulders, near the center point. All these elements of design increase the other-worldly mood of the piece.

An interesting design element employed by the artist is the two staffs held by Krsna and Balarama. The golden rods are so thin that one could easily miss them at first glance. Crossing at a point near the knees, they provide a subtle but interesting optical anchor in the piece. Also of note are the white hills in the background, which are similar to the hills depicted in a scene with Radharani and the gopis, discussed in an earlier segment. The hills suggest more of an Indian Himalayan mood than that of Govardhan Hill, both because they are white rather than brown, and because they appear so far distant in the background.

The rest of the print is composed of lush scenery, from the foliage and flowers to the lotus, birds and cows. The heavy fruits in the kadamba tree are very moon-like.

Their Lordships are opulently dressed, wearing identical peacock ornaments on their heads and flower headbands that are quite unusual. Their garments are replete with several strikingly different colors. In similar images of Krsna and Balarama, the dhotis and shawls are usually depicted in one or two main colors, with added color found in ornaments and borders. The Chore Bagan artist has used four main colors in dhoti and shawl, dominating the image in a very symmetrical way while emphasizing the uniqueness of Krsna and Balaram.

One difference of note between the two Supreme Personalities is that only Krsna is wearing tilak and gopa dots on His face. We also see that Krsna's right leg is crossed over His left, while Balarama is the opposite. In our next segment, we'll see Their legs in reverse order, as Krsna and Balarama stand beneath the kadamba with Their cows.


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