Calcutta Woodcuts, Part 9

BY: SUN STAFF - 9.12 2019

The Weighing of Sri Krsna and Narad

Re-presenting a 2005 Sun Feature series on transcendental art: the rare woodcut prints of nineteenth century Calcutta.

Today's woodblock print is another super-excellent example of engraved images of Lord Krsna's transcendental pastimes. The title of this piece is inscribed in Bengali, "Sri Krishner Ojan o Narad", or the weighing of Sri Krsna and Narada.

There is mention in the Puranas of the weighing of Krsna, and many stories can be found on this subject. While the Lord resided with his wives in Dwarka, the Demigods requested his presence to deal with a problem unfolding elsewhere in the creation. In order to give them assistance Krsna left his wives, Rukmini and Satyabhama, who were in great anxiety over their separation from Krsna. The two wives implored Narada Muni to make Krsna return to them.

Narada Muni told the wives they would have to give in sacrifice something of equal value to the weight of Lord Krsna. Proud of her jewels and valuables, Satyabhama set up a large weighing scale and made Krsna sit on one side. On the other side, she piled all her royal possessions, only to find that nothing could outweigh Krsna. Frustrated, she asked Rukmini to do what she could. Rukmini, the incarnation of Lakshmi, removed all the gold and gems from the scale, and plucking some leaves from the wild Tulsi growing nearby, she put them on the scale together with all her love. The Tulsi leaves offered in devotion proved to be far heavier than Krsna, thus he returned to his wives.

In this woodcut, the artist has skillfully arranged the pastime scene. Krsna's mansions at Dwarka are rendered in uniform cross-hatched lines for wood and stonework. Rukmini and Satyabhama, along with their attendants and onlookers, arrange for the weighing of Krsna.

On the balcony above another onlooker watches the event, and two small faces are seen looking out of the windows. The size of these personalities gives some perspective of distance in the scene.

We see Satyabhama, who is dark in color like Krsna, and presumably like Rukmini who stands nearby. Satyabhama is laying her opulent objects on the scale, which is tipped firmly in the favor of Krsna's weight.

Narada Muni, with his transcendental vina in hand, stands nearby on a platform. Interestingly, Narada and Krsna are holding hands, and thus Narada Muni's weight is being added to the measurement on the scale.

A few small cows can be seen beneath the scene, again giving depth and distance to the scene.

The original of this piece was a colored woodcut, measuring 24 x 37 cms. The engraver is unknown.