Krishna Playing the Flute (Venugopala)
Artist/maker unknown, India
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In Bengal during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a new devotional movement dedicated to the god Krishna, an incarnation of the supreme god Vishnu, emerged. Inspired by the mystic saint Chaitanya (1486-1533), devotees sought an intensely personal and deeply emotional engagement with Krishna modeled on the relationship between the flute-playing cowherd god and his beloved Radha. In its original context in a temple, this black stone image, a common type of icon of Krishna, would have been accompanied by an image of Radha. The devotional theology and ecstatic practices developed by Chaitanya and his followers-known as Gaudiya Vaishnavism-infuse not only Bengali Hinduism but also Bengali culture to this day.