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BALARAMA BATHING WITH THE MILKMAIDS. Illustration to the tenth book of the Bhagavata Purana. Malwa, Central India, dated 1688. Gopi Krishna Kanoria collection, Calcutta
BALARAMA BATHING WITH THE MILKMAIDS


After killing the tyrant Kansa and thus completing the prime purpose for which he has entered the world, Krishna abandons the loves of his youth-the cow-girls of Brindabanmarries the princess Rukmini and embarks on a life of courtly adventure. The cow-girls, however, continue to adore him and in order to assuage their longing, Krishna dispatches his brother, Balarama, to re-enact with them the early rapturous scenes. The picture shows Balarama, pale-skinned and crowned, consorting with the milkmaids after night upon night of ecstatic dancing. Desiring to bathe in the river Jumna, he commands it to alter its course and when the river fails to comply, drags it to him with the aid of his ploughshare. At the top of the picture, the river-goddess, in green dress, bows before him while, lower, Balarama and the milkmaids plunge and frolic in the water.
In style the picture descends directly from Plate 4, the squatter figures and more summary execution suggesting a possible gap of fifty years. Despite its later date, the painting possesses the rich and glowing colours of the earlier series while the standard Malwa convention of a single flat plane enables the essentials of a situation to be conveyed with masterly clarity.