Krishna plays a very special role in a story museum his life story is told so many ways. Apart from paintings like those on this page, Krishna’s story is told on kaavads (Rajasthan portable story shrines- also spelt kavad or khavad), ola palm books (Kerelan pictorial celebrations of the the Avatars of Vishnu, who Krishna is one), Wayang Golek Stick Puppets (from the Theatre tradition of the Pri Angan mountainous region of West Java), and story pats (Bengali story scrolls) where the story is sung by a patau (scroll singer). All are essential artworks and artefacts for a story museum.
Krishna literally means ‘the dark one’, his skin is usually blue, he wears a crown with a peacock feather and is often pictured playing the flute. Krishna is loved by all and can sooth even the most savage beast. To him the lion in the painting above is less dangerous than a domestic cat.
The painting “Surprised While Bathing” depicts a story from Krishna’s youth. The cowgirls (gopi) were bathing in the Yamuna River and Krishna decided, in his mischievous way, to play a trick on them. He found their clothes on the riverbank and hung them from a tree which he hid in.
The cowgirls pleaded with him to give their clothes back but he told them they must come and fetch them.
The cowgirls didn’t want him to see them naked and eventually had to emerge from the River while trying to cover their naked bodies with their hands.
The story, very much like the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden from the Christian faith, is all about loss of innocence and it reminds everyone that they are ‘naked’ before their God. The Gods can see everything no matter how we try to conceal it.