We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting


Krishna's brother Balarama in tree with an elephant below

circa 1980s


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Other Title
    Celestial being in tree with axe
    Place where the work was made
    Madhubani Bihar India
    Cultural origin
    Madhubani or Mithila painting
    circa 1980s
    Media category
    Materials used
    pen and ink on paper
    72.7 x 53.0 cm sight; 73.9 x 94.0 x 1.7 cm frame
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of Claudia Hyles 1999
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Copyright reserved

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    For centuries, Hindu women around Madhubani, in the Mithila region of Bihar, India, have decorated the walls of their village homes with vivid paintings to ward off evil, mark festivals, and commemorate passage rites. This longstanding tradition, however, remained largely unknown to outsiders until the late 1960s, when a severe drought, lasting up to two years, had a devastating impact on the region’s predominantly agrarian society. To provide the community with a non-agriculture-based income, the All India Handicrafts Board then urged the women to create their paintings on paper for commercial purposes and introduced the world to Madhubani or Mithila painting.

    Balarama is the elder brother of the blue-skinned Krishna. He is regarded as the incarnation of the cosmic snake Sesa, or the ninth incarnation of the god Vishnu. Balarama is depicted holding a ploughshare in his right hand, an implement that
    associates him with agriculture. The elephant below appears threatening, but it is also connected with rain and so may be a good omen for the deity.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition