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A Flute in the Forest: Tales of Young Krishna

December 22, 2007–June 1, 2008

For many Hindus, Krishna is the supreme deity, as well as an avatar of the god Vishnu. Usually depicted with a blue complexion, Krishna is both man and God. His divinity weaves together with his human story in exquisite poems and images. While Hindus revere the mature Krishna as the wise warrior of the Bhagavad Gita, young Krishna is the primary focus of their loving worship.

Chapter ten of the Bhagavata Purana, another sacred text, tells of Krishna's early years. As an adorable toddler, Krishna mischievously steals butter from his stepmother in the rural village of Vrindavan. As a youthful cowherd, Krishna plays his flute to lure the village girls deep into the forest. When his evil uncle, the King of Mathura, sends assassin demons, Krishna reveals his divine nature by destroying each in turn with superhuman efficiency.

This exhibition draws together 25 paintings from the Museum's collection as well as sculpture, textiles, and ritual arts. Highlights include ten lively Bhagavata Purana illustrations from far-western Gujarat, and one of the earliest-known painted depictions of the rasalila—the circular dance of Krishna with the cowherd-girls.

Main Building


Darielle Mason • The Stella Kramrisch Curator of Indian and Himalayan Art

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