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Gita Govinda गीत गोविन्द (Song of the Cowherd): song one verse six c. 1800

Opaque watercolour including metallic pigments and gold leaf on paper. | 27.0 x 36.8 cm (image) | RCIN 1005114.h

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  • f.4

    An illustration of the sixth verse of the first song of the Sanskrit devotional poem Gita Govinda (‘Song of the Cowherd’) by Jayadeva.

    केशवधृतभृघुपतिरूप जयजगदीशहरे ॥६॥

    ‘You wash evil from the world in a flood of warriors’ blood, and the pain of existence is eased.
    Krishna, you take form as the axman Priest. Triumph, Hari, Lord of the World! 6’

    A depiction of Parashurama, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu, in rivers of blood.

    At the centre of the painting Parashurama attacks Kartavirya, the thousand-armed warrior king of the ancient kingdom of Haihayas. Kartavirya had ordered his soldiers to steal a wish-granting cow belonging to Parashurma's father, Jamadagni. When Jamadagni refused to hand over the cow the soldiers chopped his head off. This painting shows Parashurama killing Kartavirya in revenge. Parashurama is also depicted at the lower right of the painting. His killing-spree reduces all of Kartavirya's sons and their armies to severed heads and limbs seen being eaten by foxes and crows or floating on rivers of blood. The palace in the background is classical European in style and left uncoloured. The patrons stand in front of Krishna in the upper right.

    For further information on this series of paintings see RCIN 1005114.

    Translation adapted from Barbara Stoller Miller, Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda (1978).


    Presented to King Edward VII when Prince of Wales during his tour of India in 1875 by Mangaldas Nathubhoy.

  • Medium and techniques

    Opaque watercolour including metallic pigments and gold leaf on paper.


    27.0 x 36.8 cm (image)

  • Place of Production