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Nathdvara, Rajasthan, India

Krishna's divine play [Krishna lila] for the annual pilgrimage of Vraja [Vraja yatra]
shrine hanging [pichhavai]
c. 1830 Materials & Technique: paintings, opaque watercolour, gold and silver on cotton Support: cotton
Dimensions: 279.5 h x 255.5 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2005
Accession No: NGA 2005.354


This is a painted shrine hanging from the Nathdvara region, Rajasthan, India (c1830) depicting important scenes from the life of Krishna as a map. The painting is shown as five enlargeable images and in a video. Text onscreen gives information about its religious intention, as a way to attain religious merit in the Vallabha Hindu sect. The video, narrated by Melanie Eastburn, curator of Asian Art at the National Gallery of Australia explores the story of Krishna’s life and his various depictions in this map. The painting measures 279.5 cm high x 255.5 cm wide and was painted with opaque watercolour, gold and silver on cotton.

Educational value

  • This is an excellent resource for the Responding strand in the visual arts curriculum at all year band levels, especially relevant for those content descriptions that refer to considering the broader context of works of art, such as their social, cultural and historical context. In the primary bands it provides valuable background information for teachers only. In secondary it is suitable for both teachers and students. It may also be relevant to the India depth study in the year 7 history curriculum, particularly for the content description about the significant beliefs of Indian society.
  • The resource is useful for the Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia cross-curriculum priority, especially for promoting an understanding of the religious diversity within India and other parts of Asia. In particular, Hinduism and the associated traditions and belief systems could be further examined. The life and importance of Krishna as a deity are exemplified in this resource.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

In the form of a map, this shrine hanging presents important moments in Krishna’s life. He appears as an infant, a playful child, a flirtatious young man and a protective hero. The places shown are major pilgrimage destinations for the Vallabha Hindu sect. Such paintings are displayed during the annual Vraja pilgrimage festival. Devotees unable to travel can attain religious merit by viewing the images and taking a mental rather than physical journey.

Krishna was born to oppose his uncle, the demon-king Kamsa. He survived infancy by living incognito in a cow-herding village. In the cluster of buildings near the painting’s centre, divine newborn Krishna appears before his parents. Below, Krishna’s father carries his son across the river, protected by a serpent and tiger.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label