Krishna Dancing on Kaliya
India, Tamil Nadu
Chola Period Late 10th-Early 11th Century
H. 34 ½ in. (87.6 cm.)
Vishnu is regarded as the "preserver" of the world who has come down to
earth ten times to defeat the forces of evil. Each time he has come in
a different form--a tortoise, a dwarf, a lion-man, prince Rama, Krishna,
the Buddha, and, in his last and future incarnation, as the horse Kalkin,
who cleanses the world.
is as Krishna that Vishnu is especially beloved. Krishna, who embodies
the divine love between god and human beings, is known as a mischievous
baby, a young boy, a cowherd adored by many, a slayer of demons, and a
to look at this work
This statue depicts the story of Krishna's encounter with the multi-headed
serpent-demon Kaliya. According to myth, Krishna was raised in the countryside
by gopis (females who tended the cows). When he was a youth, Kaliya lived
in a whirlpool in the sacred river Yamuna, terrifying the population and
spreading his poison throughout the land.
Krishna chased after a ball that had fallen into the whirlpool, Kaliya
captured him. Krishna grabbed the central head of the serpent, forcing
the demon to bow. Then he danced on Kaliya's head and sent him back to
his natural environment, the ocean.
Kaliya has three cobra heads that surround one human head, personifying
the snake and indicating that he is a hybrid creature: a serpent-demon.
The multiple heads suggest that he has varied powers.
of Krishna's face and body
· Krishna is depicted in realistic human form.
· Krishna's gaze is serene and reassuring.
· His facial features are youthful.
· He has broad shoulders.
· Krishna stands atop the hood of a serpent and hold the tail in his
· Krishna's feet are in a dancing pose. The knees are bent with the
left foot planted on Kaliya's head. The right foot is poised on its
· Krishna grasps Kaliya's tail with his left hand.
· His right hand is held in the gesture of reassurance that tells the
devotee to have no fear. Clothing and ornamentation
· Krishna wears a skirt called a dhoti (pronunciation "doe-tee") that
is still commonly worn by men in South India.
· A jeweled belt lies over his dhoti
· Other adornments include hanging earrings, a thick necklace, armbands,
bracelets, and anklets.
· Krishna wears the high crowned hat that identifies him as an incarnation
is a major indicator of prominence in Hindu iconography. Here, Kaliya
is significantly smaller than Krishna, showing Krishna's greater importance.
As Krishna has already defeated the demon here, Kaliya looks up to Krishna
with a reverent gaze, his hands placed together in submission.
bronze images like this sculpture were (and still are) generally intended
for use in temples. Devotees would visit a temple to be in a space sacred
to the deity. The god is understood to inhabit the sculpture and therefore
worshipers treat the sculpture as they would a god. In the act of worship,
devotees can see the god and the god can see the devotees. Worshipers
bathe and perfume the god, dress the image in robes, and ornament it with
jewelry and flowers. During festivals, the statue of the deity might be
taken out and carried in processions.
image may have been placed in a temple dedicated to the deity Vishnu (since
Krishna is a manifestation of that deity) or it may have placed in a temple
dedicated to Krishna himself.
this object was made
This bronze image was made using the "lost-wax" technique.