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Image of The Sakhi Speaks to Radha on Krishna's Behalf

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The Sakhi Speaks to Radha on Krishna's Behalf

Purkhu, Indian, b. 18th century

Creation date: ca. 1820
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: 1990.1297
State/Province: Himachal Pradesh
Dimensions: 11 3/32 in. x 14 3/32 in. (28.2 cm x 35.8 cm)


Handicrafts and Handlooms Export Corp. of India, Ltd., London, England ( - September 23, 1964)

Edwin Binney 3rd, San Diego, California (September 23, 1964 - August 27, 1990)

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

Label Copy

Written in the twelfth century by Jayadeva, a Bengali poet, the Gita Govinda, or Song of Govind, is an erotic poem with an underlying theme of bhakti (devotion to and love for God). The poet celebrates the passionate physical love between Radha and Krishna, but their exploits can also be understood as allegories representing the tortuous path of the individual's quest for union with the Unlimited. The poem consists of dramatic lyrics intended to be sung with specified ragas or raginis (musical scales). This painting and its companion to the right are numbers 22 and 24 from the same set. The text illustrated is written on the back of each in Sanskrit. Madhava has sent an emissary with a message to Radha begging her to come to him. He sits in the forest at night, awaiting a reply. Divinities are known by many names: Krishna's epithets include Govind, Madhava and Enemy of Mura (Mura was a demon slain by Krishna). Radha, as the consort of Krishna and thereby also the consort of Vishnu of whom Krishna is an incarnation, is known as Padmavati and Sri. A translation of the poetry, to be sung with Varadi Raga
Revel in wild luxury on the sweet thicket floor!
Your laughing face begs ardently for his love.
Radha, enter Madhava's intimate world!
Revel in a thick bed of red petals plucked as offerings!
Strings of pearls are quivering on your rounded breasts.
Radha, enter Madhava's intimate world!
Revel in a bright retreat heaped with flowers! Your tender body is flowering. Radha, enter Madhava's intimate world! Revel in the fragrant chill of gusting sandal-forest winds! Your sensual singing captures the mood. Radha, enter Madhava's intimate world! Revel where swarming bees drink on honey buzz soft tones! Your emotion is rich in the mood of love. Radha, enter Madhava's intimate world! Revel where cries of flocking cuckoos sweetly sound! Your teeth glow like seeds of ripe pomegranate. Radha, enter Madhava's intimate world! Revel in tangles of new shoots growing on creeping vines! Your voluptuous hips have languished too long. Radha, enter Madhava's intimate world! Consecrate your joyful union with Padmavati! Enemy of Mura, grant a hundred holy blessings While poet-king Jayadeva is singing! Radha, enter Madhava's intimate world! Bearing you in his mind so long Has wearied him, inflamed him with love. He longs to drink your sweet berry lips' nectar. Ornament his body with your now! He worships your lotus feet -- a slave bought with Sri's flashing glance. Why are you afraid?

This page is from a dispersed manuscript known as the Lambagraon Gita Govinda.. Lambagraon is the family seat of the ruling clan of the state of Kangra. The Gita Govinda is an 11th century Sanskrit lyric poem describing the passions of the gopi Radha and the god-born-as-a-mortal Krishna.
In this scene from a Gita Govinda series, Radha, mad with jealousy over Krishna’s continuing dalliances with other gopis after professing his love for her, has gone off half-crazed by herself into the forest. Krishna has recognized the error of his ways, and waits for her in the forest, hoping to receive her forgiveness. A go-between (sakhi) has just been to see Krishna on the right. He says to her:
“I’ll stay here, you go to Radha
Appease her with my words and bring her to me!”
The sakhi goes to Radha and says:
Bees swarm, buzzing sounds of love,
Making him cover his ears.
Your neglect affects his heart,
Inflicting pain night after night.
Wildflower-garlanded Krisha
Suffers in your desertion, friend.
Radha sits on the bed of leaves and petals she has prepared, fingering her necklace, holding a flower and listening to the sweet words of her beloved conveyed by the sakhi. But can she believe him? In her heart, desire flames up as jealousy, longing, madness, and fear.
In the dark landscape of this picture, the silk-clad bodies of the two lovers burn brightly. Trees divide the composition into two isolated compartments, but the branches of the tallest tree also unite the spaces under one umbrella- like canopy of flowers. The very profusion of growth mirrors the restless energy that will draw the two lovers together.

October 2005
Domains of Wonder
Krishna's beloved Radha often withdraws from him because he dallies with other gopis (cowherd girls). In this scene, a friend persuades Radha to relent and join the blue god who waits anxiously in the bower.
Although the women and Krishna are set apart in the painting, the three characters are accentuated by their bright garments and linked through the directions of their gazes and hand gestures.
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

Myths, Monsters, Maharajas: Introducing the Binney Collection San Diego Museum of Art , 11/23/1991 - 1/26/1992

Domains of Wonder: Selected Masterworks of Indian Painting San Diego Museum of Art , 10/22/2005 - 1/27/2008


This object has the following bibliographic references:

William George Archer, OBE, MA, D.Litt.. Rajput Miniatures, Portland Art Museum. Portland, Oregon, 1968
Page Number: 17, 117, 120-121, Figure Number: 92b

Darielle Mason. Intimate Worlds: Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2001
Page Number: 202 note 1

Mr. Daniel J. Ehnbom. Indian Miniatures: Hudson Hills Press. New York, New York, 1985
Page Number: 250

Brijinder Nath Goswamy and Dr. Caron Smith. Domains of Wonder: San Diego Museum of Art. San Diego, California, 2005
Page Number: 246, 247, Figure Number: 105


Inscription, On reverse: Sung in Raga Ramkali. in the sacred thicket of love . . .

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