An image of Krishna and the gopis

Unknown Artist

Krishna and the gopis

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.

The beloved Hindu god Krishna was born a prince but a prophecy foretold that his uncle Kamsa, the demon king of Mathura, would be challenged by a nephew. Kamsa then ordered the deaths of all of his sister’s sons, so Krishna was whisked away
to grow up incognito in a cow-herding village. As a young man he entranced the milkmaids (gopis) of the village and they fell in love with him. Krishna, an avatar of the great god Vishnu, can be identified by his distinctive blue skin.

Place of origin
Madhubani, Bihar, India
Cultural origin
Madhubani or Mithila painting
circa 1980s
pen and ink on paper
54.4 x 75.0 cm sight; 73.7 x 93.0 x 1.7 cm frame
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Gift of Claudia Hyles 1999
Accession number
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