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Krishna and the gopis

circa 1980s


Unknown Artist


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.

The beloved Hindu god Krishna was born a prince but a prophecy foretold that his uncle Kamsa, the demon king of Mathura, would be challenged by a nephew. Kamsa then ordered the deaths of all of his sister’s sons, so Krishna was whisked away
to grow up incognito in a cow-herding village. As a young man he entranced the milkmaids (gopis) of the village and they fell in love with him. Krishna, an avatar of the great god Vishnu, can be identified by his distinctive blue skin.


Place where the work was made

Madhubani Bihar India


circa 1980s

Media category


Materials used

pen and ink on paper


54.4 x 75.0 cm sight; 73.7 x 93.0 x 1.7 cm frame

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Claudia Hyles 1999


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Elizabeth Fortescue, The Daily Telegraph, 'Indian history through art', pg. 91, Sydney, 28 May 2004, 91 (illus.).