Calcutta Woodcuts, Part 3

BY: SUN STAFF - 8.8 2019

Sri Krsna, Balarama and Cowherds

Transcendental art: the rare woodcut prints of 19th Century Calcutta.

Today's woodcut image is a beautiful rendering of Krsna-Balarama lila. Similar to yesterday's vasta-harana illustration, this Goshthavihar (play at the pasture) pastime is a delightful combination of traditional iconography and non-traditional expression of the mood of the Vraja cowherds.

Here we see Lord Krsna and Lord Balarama in a formal 3-point pose with paraphernalia in hand. They stand beneath a beautiful Kadamba tree, upon whose branches a peacock is perched. The Yamuna river flows in the background.

This woodblock print departs from the standard fare of Goshthavihar images in a number of interesting ways. First, the entire image is imbued with the mood of lively village activity. Small buildings are seen along the Yamuna, which is drawn with engaging strokes that indicate the fast movement of the water. Two boatmen play a small craft on the waters.

The cows are engaged in various activities: drinking, grazing, being milked, resting, nursing a calf, being driven by a cowherd, and listing to Krsna's flute. The horizontally aligned ground plants at Krsna-Balaram's feet gives the appearance of a vegetable garden, further emphasizing the countryside mood.

The most delightful activities of the cowherd boys also make this woodcut unique. One of Krsna's boyhood associates is perched on a swing hung from the nearby tree. Two others are up to something, with one cowherd boy perched on the shoulders of another, reaching up into the tree. Their pose is reminiscent of Krsna's pastimes with the butter thieves.

Shown here in black and white, this colored woodcut was executed by Tarini Charana, and measure 35.2 x 25.2 cm.