Title: Krishna Stealing Cloths
According to tradition, unmarried girls from ten to fourteen years of age worship the Goddess Durga in order to fulfil their desire for a suitable husband. But the unmarried girls of Vrindavana were already attracted by the beauty of Krishna. Thus they daily worshipped Goddess Durga early in the morning after taking a bath in the river Yamuna, and supplicated her to arrange for their match with Krishna.
Each morning, the gopis would assemble together at the banks of Yamuna and, holding one another’s hands, loudly sing of the wonderful pastimes of lord Krishna before entering the river. It is an old system among Indian girls and women that when they take a bath in the river they place their garments on the bank and dip into the water completely naked. The portion of the river where the girls and women bathe was strictly prohibited to any male, and this is still the system in some parts.
One day Krishna appeared on the scene. Observing the clothes left on the bank by the bathing gopis, he immediately collected all the garments, climbed up a nearby tree, and with a smiling face spoke to them thus: “My dear girls, please come here one after another and pray for your garments and then take them away. I’m not joking with you, just telling the plain truth. Please don’t come here all at once. Come alone one by one; I want to see each of you in your complete beauty, for you all have thin waists.”
When the girls in the water heard such joking words from Krishna, they began to look at one another and smile. Though outwardly showing resentment they were joyous to hear such a request because they were already in love with him. They then addressed him : “Do not joke with us in this way, it is unjust to us. You are a very respectable boy and very dear to us, so kindly deliver our garments immediately because we are all shivering from the cold water, and end our suffering.”
But all their supplications could not convince Krishna. Seeing that he was strong and determined, they had no alternative but to abide by Krishna’s command. One after another they came out of the water, but because they were naked, they tried to cover their nakedness with their soft hands. On observing this
All the unmarried gopis who prayed to Goddess Durga to have Krishna as their husband were thus satisfied. A fully developed woman cannot be naked before any male except her husband. The unmarried gopis desired Krishna as their husband, and he fulfilled their desire in this way.
The India art tradition visualises the love adventures of gods and their female friends because it acknowledges that sex is the supreme fact in life, which provides the urge to procreate and maintain the species. It is concealed like lightning in a cloud, and in its glow is the birth of art, literature and science. Sex union among lovers is the most exalted experience in life, and in mutual ecstasy the liberation of the soul from the narrow ‘self’ takes place. This is the supreme experience of lovers as
The glowing, virginal forms of the maidens range from a pure golden hue to a warm dusky texture. They have nubile bosoms, with well-defined tips. Both their hands and feet are richly hennaed, and thick luxurious hair cascade down their bodies like serpentine coils. Krishna, poised on the sturdy branch of the tree, has a blue complexion soft like the monsoon cloud, shining locks of black hair framing his beautifully chiseled face, a yellow garment (pitambara) draped around his body, and a crown upon his head. A smile plays on his lips.
This is not a spiritual art where spirit and body are regarded as two separate entities. It is not gloomy, cold and forbidding, but is an art which is a happy blend of the sensuous and the spiritual. The spirituality is not chilled by an asceticism which is disdainful of female loveliness and the delights of love. In fact, its spirituality very much based on flesh and blood. It is an art which glorifies female beauty and revels in the loveliness of the female form.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specialises on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.