Indian and Himalayan Art
The Madness of the Gopis
Artist/maker unknown, India
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Currently not on view
1994-148-426Stella Kramrisch Collection, 1994
LabelWhen night falls, Krishna plays his flute deep in the forest. Dropping everything, from chores to children to husbands, the cowherdesses (gopis) pursue him, but Krishna tells them to go home. When they beg, he flirts with them, caresses them, until each feels that she is Krishna's chosen one. Seeing them engulfed in such pride, Krishna instantly vanishes. Maddened by their longing, the gopis wander the forest in search of him. This painting shows the gopis imitating Krishna's heroic deeds and elements of his loveplay. At top, two gopis reenact infant Krishna suckling the life from the demoness Putana; another holds aloft her white clothing just as Krishna lofted Mount Govardhana. Others act out flute-playing, cowherding, and Krishna's love-games of piggyback and hide-and-seek. In their madness, the gopis dramatize the mystical identification between deity and devotee.