South Indian / Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (Kaliyahimarddaka Krishna) / Chola period, late 10th-early 11th centurySouth Indian
Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (Kaliyahimarddaka Krishna)
Chola period, late 10th-early 11th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Indian Sub-Continent; Indian
Creator Dates/Places: South Indian
Creator Active Place: South Indian
Creator Name-CRT: South Indian
Title: Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (Kaliyahimarddaka Krishna)
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 967
Creation End Date: 1033
Creation Date: Chola period, late 10th-early 11th century
Creation Place: India, Tamil Nadu
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Copper alloy
Dimensions: H. 34 1/2 in. (87.6 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.022
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: The bronze sculptures of Hindu gods and Buddhist deities cast during the Chola period (880-1279) are among the most renowned sculptures in world art. The Cholas came to power in the late 9th century, and until the late 13th century ruled a large part of south India from their homeland near Thanjavur on the southeastern coast, maintaining diplomatic ties with countries as distant as China and Indonesia. Chola rulers were active patrons of the arts, and during their rule, literature, dance, and the other performing arts flourished. They also constructed enormous temple complexes decorated with stone representations of the Hindu gods.

Admired for the sensuous depiction of the figure and the detailed treatment of their clothing and jewelry, Chola-period bronzes were created using the lost wax technique, commonly known by its French name, cire perdue. Because each sculpture made in this fashion requires a separate wax model, each is unique, but because they are religious icons, Chola-period sculptures also conform to well-established iconographic conventions.

In addition to representations of Shiva and members of his family, other prominent Hindu deities are depicted in Chola-period bronzes. As it is assumed that each individual is at a different point of spiritual development, Hinduism accepts that each will pursue her or his religious life in the most appropriate manner, and most Hindus venerate several deities, choosing gods or aspects of gods that are appropriate to different situations and life passages. Moreover, Hinduism can be broadly categorized into three branches, each of which is focused on one of three major deities: Shiva, Vishnu, and Devi.

According to Hindu beliefs, Vishnu descends to earth in different manifestations known as avatars in order to save the world and restore the balance of the universe. Vishnu appears in many guises, including a man-lion, a giant boar, and the gods Rama and Krishna. His manifestation as Krishna is one of the most popular, and the life and activities of this beloved god--often as a child--are a favorite theme in Indian literature and art.

This magnificent sculpture of Krishna dancing on a multiheaded cobra depicts his encounter with Kaliya the serpent-demon. Kaliya had been living in a whirlpool in the sacred river Yamuna, terrorizing everyone and spreading his poison throughout neighboring lands. Krishna was caught by the serpent when he chased a ball that inadvertently went into the whirlpool. To the amazement of the onlookers, he grabbed the central head of the serpent, forced Kaliya to bow, danced upon his head, and sent him back to his native environment, the ocean.

This sculpture illustrates the difficulties of dating Chola-period bronze images. The god's broadshoulders and full torso are characteristic of sculptures dating to the late 11th and 12th centuries, yet this body type was also often used in Indian art to depict a child. Thus, here it might illustrate iconography rather than style. Moreover, several of the details in this sculpture of Krishna also point to an earlier date: the sense of volume and fleshiness; the shape of his face; his full, pouting lips; and the organic relationship between the figure and his clothing and ornaments are comparable to those found on 10th-century images of Shiva Nataraja. The precise and three-dimensional treatment of Krishna's hair and ornaments and the distinctive fan-shaped fold at the back of his skirt point to a date in the late 10th or early 11th century. Other features--such as the coppery color of the metal and the greater three-dimensionality seen in the treatment of the jewelry--suggest this sculpture was cast in a region different from the majority of Chola-period bronzes, which are believed to have been produced in the vicinity of Thanjavur.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 15.
Related Document Description: Calza, Gian Carlo. 'Musei: L'Asia in casa.' Antiquariato 34 (January 1983), p. 51.
Related Document Description: Chandra, Pramod. The Sculpture of India: 3000 B.C.-A.D. 1300. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1985, pp. 202-03.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd. New York: Asia Society, 1970, pp. 23, 31.
Related Document Description: Robbins, Kenneth X. 'The Sculpture of India: A Review.' Arts of Asia 15 (September-October 1985), pp. 104-05.
Related Document Description: Tarapor, Mahrukh. 'A Note on Chola Bronzes.' Apollo (November 1983), p. 411.
Related Document Description: Washburn, Gordon Bailey. 'The John D. Rockefeller III Oriental Collections.' ARTnews 69 (September 1970), p. 36.
Related Document Description: W├╝rttembergischer Kunstverein. Indische Kunst. Stuttgart and Cologne, 1966, cat. no. 110.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.022
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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