The Dance of the Hindu God Krishna and the Female Cowherds, from a History of the Lord (Bhagavata Purana) \r\nmanuscript Artist: Unknown

ca. 1760–65

Asian Art

The artists’ ingenuity is reflected in this painting of Krishna dancing with the female cowherds of Vrindavan in northern India. At first glance, the image might be interpreted as showing Krishna having multiplied himself to dance with several women simultaneously. But the image, in fact, depicts the mental world of each cowherd as she believes herself to be the only woman graced by the presence of Krishna and dancing with him under a moonlit sky. The gods, like us, watch this scene with mystification from the clouds; perhaps they join us in admiring the net of illusion ensnaring these women and the artists’ skills in articulating it.


Opaque watercolor and gold on paper


without mounting: 8 7/8 × 13 1/16 in. (22.5 × 33.2 cm)
with mounting: 16 1/8 × 19 11/16 in. (41 × 50 cm)
framed: 16 × 22 in. (40.64 × 55.88 cm)

Credit Line

The Vera M. and John D. MacDonald, B.A. 1927, Collection, Gift of Mrs. John D. MacDonald

Accession Number



Mughal dynasty (1526–1857)


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Vera M. MacDonald and John D. MacDonald, Boston, Mass., by 2001; given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2001
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

human figures (visual works)




Bhagavata Purana Book 10 Chapter 33 Verses 2 - 7:\r\n2. Krsna began the rasa pastime there, in the company of those devoted jewels of women, who linked arms happily together.\r\n3. The festival of rasa dance began, featuring a circle of gopis. The Lord of all yogis, Krsna, inserted himself between each pair of gpois, and he put his arms about their necks. Each woman thought he was at her side only. Meanwhile, the sky was crowded with hundreds of the vehicles of the gods, who were accompanied by their wives and carried away with excitement.\r\n4. Kettledrums resounded the, streams of flowers fell, and the chiefs of the gandharvas amd their wives sang of Krsna's spotless glories.\r\n5. There was a tumultuous sound of bracelets, ankle-braclets and the bells of the young women in the circle of the rasa dance with their beloved.\r\n6. Krsna Bhagavan, the son of Devaki, was radiant in their company, like a great emerald in the midst of golden ornaments.\r\n7. The consorts of Krsna, their braids and belts securely fastened, sang about him with hand gestures and dancing feet. Their faces were sweating, their earrings rolling on their cheeks and the garments on their breasts slipping. Their waists were bent, and they smiled, their eyebrows playful. They shone like lightening in a circle of clouds.\r\n\r\n--translated by Edwin F. Bryant , "Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God: Srimad Bhagavata Purana Book X."\r\n\r\nSanskrit text in devanagari in black and red; one line of Takri script on back.

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