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Bhagavata Purana

Creation date: ca. 1840
Creation place: India

Other Information

Type: Manuscript Painting
Medium and Support: Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Credit Line: Edwin Binney 3rd Collection
Accession Number: 1990.1402
State/Province: Karnataka
Dimensions: 12 in. x 8 11/32 in. (30.5 cm x 21.2 cm)
Currently on view


David Carritt Ltd., London, England ( - April 23, 1982)

Rajah, Mysore, Karnataka, India ( - )

Terence McInerney Fine Arts Ltd., New York, New York (April 23, 1982 - April 23, 1982)

Edwin Binney 3rd, San Diego, California (April 23, 1982 - August 27, 1990)

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

Label Copy

When the people of Hastinapur disobeyed and were wicked, Balarama, who was Rama's brother, tossed the entire city into the river. Here great chunks of the city tumble through the air still inhabited by the unfortunate Hastinapuris and their animals. As in the buildings in the paintings from Myamar and Sri Lanka in this gallery, the palace at the upper left consists of uprights and a complicated roof. The city and its buildings are more complicated and very dense.
The manuscript is a product of the imperial atelier of the Wodiyar rajas of Mysore and evidence of a flourishing school of painting about which little is known. Although the book is not complete, there are 215 illustrations on 218 folios. The text is Sanskrit written in Kannada script, with captions for the paintings in Kannada. Had the manuscript been finished, these pages would have been embellished with gold.

October 2005
Domains of Wonder
This lavishly illustrated book is in a class of its own.
The Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Wodiyar III, commissioned this copy of a sacred Hindu text dedicated to exploits of the god Krishna during the later part of his life on earth. The text is written in Sanskrit, but in local Kannada script; the descriptive captions in red are written in the Kannada language, which is spoken in southwestern India.
In this scene, the first of two from the same episode,
a lizard as large as a hill has gotten trapped in a dry well. Krishna, in the subsequent scene, will rescue him and reveal that this lizard was once a great pious king, who inadvertently insulted a Brahmin. This insult led him to be reborn as a giant lizard. For other pictures from this manuscript, please see the computer touch-screen presentation in this gallery.

Gallery 10 June 2014 rotation
Bhagavata Purana
India, Mysore
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, ca. 1840
The Bhagavata Purana (“Ancient Stories of the Lord”) is a Sanskrit text about the Hindu god Vishnu and his different incarnations. The Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Wodeyar III, commissioned this copy of the book in the nineteenth century. Because it was made in southern India the writing is in the local Kannada script and the descriptive captions in red are in Kannada.
Edwin Binney 3rd Collection
After Krishna’s son Samba abducts Princess Lakshmana, he is attacked and captured by the Kauravas. In retaliation, the Yadavas of Dwarka prepare to wage war on the Kauravas, but Balarama urges calm and goes to Hastinapura to ask for Samba’s release. The Kauravas refuse, and Balarama resolves to destroy them, using his plow to uproot the city, with the intention of tossing it into the Ganges River. Feeling their city shake, the Kauravas beg Balarama’s forgiveness, which he grants. Samba and his bride are released, and Balarama returns the pair to Dwarka. In this double-page spread, Balarama is the large figure in the top left, supplicated by the frightened Kau-ravas. His raised right hand wields a monumental plow that, spanning both sheets from top left to bottom right, hooks under the city of Hastinapura. With his great strength, Balarama lifts the city off its foundations. Tilting ominously, the city breaks past the borders of the illustration. On the bottom left, Hastinapura is shown nearly falling into the Ganges. This painting is found in a richly illustrated, singular codex, with Sanskrit text written in a southern Indian script.
Last Updated: 7/8/2021


This object was included in the following exhibitions:

Indian Painting, 1525–1825 Artemis Group , 4/1/1982 - 4/30/1982

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

Arts of South and Southeast Asia 13th to 19th Century , 6/16/2014 - 12/14/2014

Arts of South Asia 13th - 19th century , 12/20/2014 - 00/00/00

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

Pearls from the Ocean of Contentment , 8/14/2021 - 2/13/2022


This object has the following bibliographic references:

Terrence McInerney. Indian Painting, 1525–1825 David Carritt Ltd.. London, England, 1982
Page Number: 80, 81-83, Figure Number: 36 (three leafs)

Robert J. Del Bonatà. Ars Orientalis The Department of the History of Art, University of Michigan. Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2000
Page Number: 101-102, 105-106, 107, 109, 112 note 20, Figure Number: 4, 8, 9, 11

Brijinder Nath Goswamy and Dr. Caron Smith. Domains of Wonder: San Diego Museum of Art. San Diego, California, 2005
Page Number: 254, 268-269, 270, 271, 272, 273, Figure Number: 115 (1-3)

Brijinder Nath Goswamy. The Spirit of Indian Painting: Close Encounters with 101 Great Works 1100 - 1900 Allen Lane by Penguin Books . India, 2014
Page Number: 264-267, Figure Number: pg. 264, detail 266

Dr. Milo Cleveland Beach and Brijinder Nath Goswamy. Masters of Indian Painting: 1100-1650 Artibus Asiae Publishers. Zurich, 2011
Page Number: 760

Ms. Marika Sardar and Ms Neeraja Poddar. Epic Tales from Ancient India San Diego Museum of Art. San Diego, California, 2016
Page Number: 60, 61, Figure Number: cat. 30

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