start page
SUDAMA'S HOVEL. Illustration to the story of Krishna and Sudama, an episode in the Bhagavata Vurana. Garhwal, c. 1785. Victoria and Albert Museum

Faced with ever increasing poverty, the Brahman, Sudama, was urged by his wife to go to Dwarka, the golden city, and visit Krishna, his former friend. At first recoiling from the task, he at length set out, taking with him as offering a handful of rice. On his arrival, Krishna washed his feet, smilingly took the gift, plied him with delicacies, and at last, with tender care, placed him on a bed. Too abashed to ask for help, Sudama left next day and made for home. As he neared his hut, he saw that the hovel had become a golden palace and realised that his poverty had suddenly ended.
In the picture, Sudama is listening to his wife's entreaties, half-scandalised at what she proposes. Around them are littered the pathetic symbols of their plight—cow-dung cakes drying on the wall, empty pitchers, a broken spinning-wheel and basket, datura weeds springing from the soil and the roof, a gaping thatch.