Kantha (Embroidered Quilt)
Artist/maker unknown, Bengali
Crisscrossed by innumerable rivers and embankments, Bengal centered around the lush and frequently flooded deltaic lowlands where the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system empties into the Bay of Bengal. Wet rice cultivation has long been the primary agricultural activity, and fish a favored food. It is not surprising, then, that aquatic imagery-both prosaic and divine-figures so prominently in the arts of Bengal. At the bottom of this kantha, for example, the four-armed goddess Ganga, personification of the Ganges River, sits atop her makara (a fish-crocodile with elephant trunk). Continuing the riverine theme, the flute-wielding god Krishna is shown at top ferrying the gopis (cowherd women) across the Jamuna River in a boat with a peacock prow and makara stern, a form of pleasure craft peculiar to Bengal.