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Balarama Kills the Ass Demon, Page from a Dispersed Bhagavata Purana Series

Asian Art

This is an illustration from the Bhagavata Purana, a lengthy Hindu scripture dedicated to the god Krishna, who is said to have lived on earth as a prince. When Krishna (with blue skin) and his brother, Balarama (with white skin), approached a grove in hopes of picking fruit, Dhenuka, a demon who took the form of a donkey (or ass), kicked Balarama in the chest. In the lower right corner of the painting, Balarama is shown recovering from the blow. In the lower left, we see Balarama’s revenge, which was to grab the donkey by the back legs and fling him through the air; the demon died upon landing a great distance away. This repetition of figures to depict several episodes in a single composition is typical of storytelling imagery in India. The beauty of the forest backdrop here belies the violence of the story, none of which is actually illustrated in the painting.
MEDIUM Opaque watercolor and silver on paper
  • Place Made: Punjab Hills, India
  • DATES ca. 1725
    DIMENSIONS sheet: 8 3/16 x 11 in. (20.8 x 27.9 cm)  (show scale)
    INSCRIPTIONS On reverse: Thus having listened to the narration of his friends, with an intention of promoting their welfare, the Lord, accompanied by the cowherds, went to the palm grove (talavana) with a smile. Arriving, the Almighty caught hold of his (the ass demon's) hing legs in a hasty motion. Being killed, the wicked (the ass demon) gave out a cry of the cound "ka" from his heart to the king in whose refuge he was, and having been hurled by the Lord with one hand, emitted grass as well as his last breath in front of the king.
    ACCESSION NUMBER 86.227.166
    CREDIT LINE Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Indian. Balarama Kills the Ass Demon, Page from a Dispersed Bhagavata Purana Series, ca. 1725. Opaque watercolor and silver on paper, sheet: 8 3/16 x 11 in. (20.8 x 27.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc., 86.227.166 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 86.227.166_IMLS_PS4.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 86.227.166_IMLS_PS4.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2010
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