An image of Krishna's brother Balarama in tree with an elephant below

Unknown Artist

Krishna's brother Balarama in tree with an elephant below

Other titles:
Celestial being in tree with axe
Not on display
Further information

For centuries, Hindu women around Madhubani, in the Mithila region of Bihar, India, have decorated the walls of their village homes with vivid paintings to ward off evil, mark festivals, and commemorate passage rites. This longstanding tradition, however, remained largely unknown to outsiders until the late 1960s, when a severe drought, lasting up to two years, had a devastating impact on the region’s predominantly agrarian society. To provide the community with a non-agriculture-based income, the All India Handicrafts Board then urged the women to create their paintings on paper for commercial purposes and introduced the world to Madhubani or Mithila painting.

Balarama is the elder brother of the blue-skinned Krishna. He is regarded as the incarnation of the cosmic snake Sesa, or the ninth incarnation of the god Vishnu. Balarama is depicted holding a ploughshare in his right hand, an implement that
associates him with agriculture. The elephant below appears threatening, but it is also connected with rain and so may be a good omen for the deity.

Place of origin
Madhubani, Bihar, India
Cultural origin
Madhubani or Mithila painting
circa 1980s
pen and ink on paper
72.7 x 53.0 cm sight; 73.9 x 94.0 x 1.7 cm frame
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Gift of Claudia Hyles 1999
Accession number
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