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Radha goes to Krishna's house at night

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Radha goes to Krishna's house at night

Purkhu, Indian, b. 18th century

Creation date: ca. 1805
Creation place: India

Other Information

Type: Watercolor Painting
Medium and Support: Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Credit Line: Edwin Binney 3rd Collection
Accession Number: 1990.1288
State/Province: Himachal Pradesh
Dimensions: 11 9/16 x 9 3/8 in. (29.4 x 23.8 cm)


Howard Hodgkin, London, England ( - July 5, 1965)

Sotheby's, London, England (July 5, 1965 - July 5, 1965)

Peters, London, England (July 5, 1965 - July 5, 1965)

Edwin Binney 3rd, San Diego, California (July 5, 1965 - August 27, 1990)

San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California (August 27, 1990 - )

Label Copy

Krishna: Lover and Hero (2003)

The story of Radha and Krishna is explored in the secular literature of love known as Shringara. This literature often identifies lovers according to types using features such as physical characteristics, situations, experience, and reactions. One of the most bountiful and authoritative of these Shringara texts is the Rasikapriya, by Keshava Das, written in Hindi and compiled around 1591. Its categorization of women into eight basic kinds of heroines provided the structure for many sets of paintings of Eight Heroines, particularly in the Hill States, at courts such as Kangra.

This image, painted in an oval frame, depicts Radha as “she who goes out to seek her lover,” the “abhisarika,” one of the eight basic nayikas or heroines. Radha slips passed the sleeping woman by Krishna’s door; other women are busy on the terrace in conversation. She draws her hands to her lips as if considering for the last time not to go to him, but moves steadily forward into the doorway, harboring a tender smile of anticipation. Above, his beautiful body relaxed but alert, Krishna awaits his visitor, who comes to him under cover of darkness dressed in a black shawl friendly to the night. But her golden sari is radiant, glowing like her anticipation. The composition holds the lovers counter-poised in two registers in a last exhilarating moment of separation before they are united in their trysting place.

Belonging to a genre of poetry concerned with love and erotica, the Rasraj categorizes women into types of heroines (nakiyas). This painting depicts “she who goes out to seek her lover,” using the exemplar of Radha, the beloved of Krishna. Radha is about to enter Krishna’s house; in the upper story of the building, he anxiously awaits her. The text on the reverse of the folio reads in part: “When the nay-ika went toward the bed chamber, the fragrance of her body increased her beauty, and her radiance was greater than lightning, lamp, and saffron. . . . Even if she smiled softly, it seemed as if moonlight was spreading every-where. When she was climbing the stairs to go to the bed chamber, the bells on her waistband began to tinkle, and in order to protect the honor of the elders in the house, she felt bashful and bit her tongue.”

Section 2: The Bhagavata Purana

Bhagavata Purana (Ancient Tales of the Lord Vishnu) is the source of some of the most religiously significant and beloved tales from South Asia. These stories are associated with the Hindu god Vishnu, protector of the earth and humanity, who incarnates himself time and again in order to restore cosmic balance.
The content of the Bhagavata is conveyed through a series of dialogues between wise narrators and their curious disciples. The principal narrator is Shukadeva, who starts his recitation at the urging of King Parikshit. Through the course of the Bhagavata’s twelve books, he and other sages relate the stories of Vishnu’s ten incarnations, in which are embedded a particular conception of the cosmos and its creation, as well as notions of how to maintain order in the universe. Along the way, the adventures, battles, romances, and trials of many corollary figures are related. The narrative comes to a conclusion with the death of Parikshit, a summary of the
Bhagavata, and an assertion of its primacy among all the ancient texts.
Bhagavata was passed orally from generation to generation for centuries, until it was written down in Sanskrit, a sacred and literary language of India, sometime around the ninth or tenth century. This is the text that appears on many illustrated manuscripts, sometimes also accompanied by Sanskrit commentaries and vernacular Hindi summaries of the content. Although illustrated versions of the entire text are known and are included in this exhibition, one portion of the lengthy narrative of the Bhagavata became particularly popular for illustration. Focused on Vishnu’s incarnation as Krishna, this section delights in the deity’s boyhood antics and romantic dalliances as it celebrates his endeavors to safeguard humankind.

Last Updated: 9/5/2017


This object was included in the following exhibitions:

Rajput Miniatures from the Collection of Edwin Binney, 3rd The Portland Art Association , 9/24/1968 - 12/14/1969

Epic Tales from India: Paintings from The San Diego Museum of Art The San Diego Museum of Art , 11/19/2016 - 6/12/2018


This object has the following bibliographic references:

William George Archer, OBE, MA, D.Litt.. Rajput Miniatures, Portland Art Museum. Portland, Oregon, 1968
Page Number: 116, 119, Figure Number: 91

Partha Mitter. Indian Art Oxford University Press. Oxford, England, 2001
Page Number: 154, 155, Figure Number: 102

Catalogue of Fine Western & Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures, Sotheby & Co.. London, England, July 5, 1965
Page Number: 22, Lot no. 90

Ms. Marika Sardar and Ms Neeraja Poddar. Epic Tales from Ancient India San Diego Museum of Art. San Diego, California, 2016
Page Number: 27, Figure Number: cat. 10


Inscription, Verso: Matirām verse. I am amazed that I was able to find an excellent publication in English, one that includes a translation of the poem in our manuscript. The publication is full beautiful illustrations and illustrated manuscripts, in case you're interested in the material too. It also includes the original poems in Braj alongside their translations in English. Here is the reference I'm citing: Painted Words: Kangra Paintings of Matiram’s Rasraj. Edited by Harsha V. Dehejia and Vijay Sharma. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd. 2012. (pp. 59-60) Translation from the publication: "When the nayika went towards the bed chamber, the fragrance of her body increased her beauty and her radiance was greater was greater than lightning, lamp and saffron. Her love-afflicted beloved looked attractive on account of his handsome looks and the paraphernalia of love. Even if she smiled softly, it seemed as if moonlight was spreading everywhere. When she was climbing the stairs to go to the bed chamber, the bells on her waistband began to tinkle and in order to protect the honour of the elders in the house, felt bashful and bit her tongue. [195]" Note that our manuscript does not include a verse number at the end, but it does include a heading for the poem and the name of the meter: “Example of a mature woman with a tryst. Kabitt.” [this is the name of the meter] I have attached a short pdf of an excerpt by McGregor on Matirām's background in my email.

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