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.
Celestial being in tree with axe
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
© Copyright reserved
Shown in 1 exhibition
Indian Folk Paintings and Textiles, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 29 May 2004–04 Jul 2004