Awkward First Kiss: Krishna Revels with the Gopis

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Unknown, Krishna Revels with the Gopis: Pages from a Dispersed Gita Govinda, 1605
Awkward First Kiss
By ELIZABETH ELLIS

This painting shows an illustration of a part of the text from the Gita Govinda. The painting has the god Krishna on the bank of a river surrounded by gopis, maids who herded cows who were known for their unconditional devotion to Krishna in the stories of the Bhagavata Purana. The text above the painting sets the scene for the painting:

"A girl with curving hips, bending to whisper in his ear,
Cherishes her kiss on her lover’s tingling cheek.
Hari revels here as the crowd of charming girls
Revels in seducing him to play."
—Gita Govinda, canto 1, verse 41

This painting, similar to the illuminated manuscripts from medieval art, shows a scene from a larger story in the Gita Govinda, a work composed by the Indian poet, Jayadeva, in the twelfth century. He details the story between Krishna and the gopis of Vrindavana, and the girl he falls in love with, Radha. The story is written in couplets grouped in eights, called the ashtapadis.

Jayadeva’s story described the Krishnu’s love for Radha, how he turns away from her, and his final return to her. His story meant to show the human soul straying from God, but eventually returning to him at the end. The painting itself is an opaque watercolor and silver on paper. The bright colors within the painting and animals bring life to it. The distinct patterns on the painting gives detailing to catch the eye. The whirling of the waves in the water, the differences in leaf patterns on the trees, and layering of the opaque skirts of the stripes all add a sense of dimension to the painting and a place for the eye to fall. The monkeys and birds in the trees add to the sense of fun and liveliness of the scene. The playfulness of the scene is shown in the bright, contrasting colors, fun patterns, and full composition. 

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