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Krishna playing the flute

Krishna playing the flute

Artist: Anonymous

Medium: Pen and ink on paper

Date: 1801

Shelfmark: WD1063

Item number: f.37

Length: 37.1

Width: 24.8

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Drawing

Pen and ink drawing of Krishna playing the flute from the Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple in Madurai, from an 'Album of 51 drawings (57 folios) of buildings, sculpture and paintings in the temple and choultry of Tirumala Nayyak at Madura. c.1801-05', by an anonymous artist working in the South India/Madurai style, c. 1801-1805. Each picture is inscribed with a title and a number in ink.

The Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple complex contains two main shrines; one dedicated to Shiva and one to his consort Minakshi, an ancient local divinity. Each shrine is set within its own walled complex containing several subsidiary shrines, mandapams (assembly halls) and artificial pools. The construction of this temple-town was made possible by the wealth and power of Tirumala Nayak (1623-1659). He was the most prolific builder of a long line of Nayaka kings, a dynasty who ruled a large portion of Tamil country in the 16th and 17th centuries. The whole site, which mostly dates from the 17th century, is enclosed within a rectangular precinct which covers six hectares and has 11 huge gopurams or towers, the biggest of which mark four entrances from the four cardinal points. The popular Hindu god Krishna is the eighth incarnation of Vishnu and there are many stories associated with him that celebrate different aspects of his personality. In this drawing, Krishna is Venugopala, the flute playing cowherd who attracts the gopis with the sound of his divine music. His union with his favourite gopi, Radha, symbolises the union of the human soul with the divine. In this iconography Krshna is represented holding the flute in two arms, while the other two hold the conch and the discus, attributes of Vishnu.

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