One of the finest and the most accomplished examples of metal-casting this gold-like lustrous brass cast represents Krishna playing on his flute – ‘venu’. As if waving with flow of the melody emitting from his pipe his entire body has curved into the form which in the Vaishnava iconographic tradition is known as ‘tri-bhang’ – triple-curved posture. The absorption reflecting from its every part, the entire statue seems to glow with the divine lustre.
In Vaishnava iconography Krishna’s ‘tri-bhang’ posture has two forms;
in one, he stands on the right foot, as in this image, and the left is
angularly curved; and in the other, it is just the other way, that is,
he stands on the left foot and the right is curved in ‘tri-bhang’. The
Radha factor is quite significant in determining the two modes. In
routine when Radha and Krishna are portrayed or cast together Krishna
is usually in ‘tri-bhang’. His straight-standing images are almost
nil. In statues in which he has been cast with Radha it is invariably
the right leg that is curved for modeling the figure into ‘tri-bhang’.
The left is rendered straight aligning with Radha’s figure. It is not,
however, the uniform rule, at least not so strictly followed in case
of isolated sculptures.
Sometimes a ‘tri-bhang’ posture seems to be used for anatomical
balance and balancing the two figures. Conceived with sound aesthetics
in this statue the curve in the left leg delightfully aligns with the
slanting form of the flute. Such amicability is the essence of
‘tri-bhang’ posture. A triply curved left leg extended towards Radha
would awkwardly come in between Krishna and Radha, hence the
‘tri-bhang’ being preferred on the right side, not left. ‘Tri-bhang’,
a ‘lalita-rupa’ revealing beauty of form, is sometimes seen as Radha’s
feminine aspect blended in Krishna’s form. Hence, in an isolated
sculpture of Krishna ‘tri-bhang’ is sometimes seen as symbolically
manifesting Radha or as alternating the absence of Radha’s
personalized form. Under Indian iconographic norms Radha’s place is on
Krishna’s left; hence, the ‘tri-bhang’ meant to symbolise Radha
essentially manifests on the left.
Outstanding in plasticity, modeling and anatomical balance, as also in
its artistic merit and worth, this resplendent image of Krishna is
unparalleled in its iconography, figural grace and ornamentation which
is both, lavish as well as elegant. Perfectly cast the statue equals
the best of South Indian bronzes. A tall slender figure with highly
balanced anatomy : round face, sharp features, well defined neck,
subdued belly … elegantly pleated ‘antariya’ – lower wear, and every
piece of ornament designed with its own distinction :
‘makara-kundalas’ – ear-ornaments designed like crocodile, towering
crown with beautifully conceived back-support, multi-laced necklaces
and garlands covering his neck and breast, belly-band with knot-like
designed buckle, armlets, bracelets, girdles and decorative frills and
laces of beads attached to them, besides the twice used ‘kirtimukha’
motifs – more characteristic features of South Indian iconography, all
are attributes of a great masterpiece.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.
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