Home > Collections > South Asian and Himalayan Art
Akrura Invites Krishna and Balarama to Mathura
ca. 1525-40

Unidentified, Indian
Pre-Mughal period

Opaque watercolor on paper
H: 17.4 W: 22.9 cm
Delhi-Agra, North India, India

Purchase F1966.32

Enlarge this image | Purchase this image

The Bhagavata Purana (Song of the Lord), possibly first compiled in Sanskrit about 1200 and later translated into regional vernaculars, was the product of a long oral tradition. It is an immense work, comprising 18,000 verses in 11 books. Book ten remains the most popular of these, for it deals with the life of Krishna, the young cowherd and prince who was the god Vishnu incarnate. This manuscript is the earliest illustrated Bhagavata presently known.

In the story illustrated here, the elderly and pious Akrura has come to invite Krishna and his brother, Balarama, to Mathura to compete in an athletic contest. According to the Sanskrit text: "After inquiring about his journey, and offering him a high seat, Balarama washed his (Akrura's) feet with due formality and offered him articles of Madhuparka (such as honey, ghee, curds, water). Having presented a cow to the guest and after massaging him as he was fatigued, the powerful lord (Krishna) served to him with reverence a preparation of pure food with a variety of excellences."