Balarama Kills the Ass Demon, Page from a Dispersed Bhagavata Purana Series
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.
Opaque watercolor and silver on paper
sheet: 8 3/16 x 11 in. (20.8 x 27.9 cm) (show scale)
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.
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Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc.
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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
overall, 86.227.166_IMLS_PS4.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2010
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