Calcutta Woodcuts, Part 6

BY: SUN STAFF - 14.8 2019

The Departure of Krishna and Balarama

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

Today's woodblock print is another excellent example of the refined and uniquely stylized engravings of 19th century Calcutta's artists. This black and white woodcut was engraved by Sri Madhabchandra Das of Sutanuti, and measures 15 ¾" x 11 ½".

The title of the piece, engraved in Bengali, is Odar Sambad, or possibly Uddhav Sambad. It depicts the episode from Lord Krishna's lila when the gopis threw themselves around and in front of the chariot in which Lord Krsna and Balarama were about to travel away from Vrindavan, leaving them in an agony of separation.

There are many interesting elements to be found in this woodcut, beginning with the size of the figures. Sitting atop the cart, Krsna and Balarama look much smaller than the chariot driver. The artist may have used this graphic device to indicate the relatively young ages of Their Lordships. However, we also see four small, winged attendants perched on the cart.

A full-size image of Sri Sri Radha Krsna stand behind the cart. Nine gopis are blocking the cart's way, along with one sakhi who is kneeling and, and another who has laid herself down on the roadway before the cart.

Aside from the sizes of the figures, much of the iconography used in this woodcut is quite traditional. That is, until we consider the flock of beautifully decorated butterflies that fill the skies above the scene. Like the chariot's unfurled flag, these winged creatures give the picture a sense of divinity alight, and of the mystical comings and goings of the Lord's Vrindavan pastimes with his associates.