26/07/2015 12:06 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Reimagining The Women Of Krishna (Book Excerpt)

Koral Dasgupta

Krishna is perhaps one of the most intriguing philosophies of Indian mythology. And Krishna is also one of the misunderstood concepts when you try to judge him as a surficial character. The Indian epics are a metaphorical journey anyway, containing profound meanings in seemingly simple stories about imperfect men, vulnerable women and fierce wars.

I have found people with half-knowledge naming Krishna in social media and elsewhere, referring to his colourful love-life or questioning his respect towards his multiple lovers while talking about the plight of women in our country. No, Krishna wasn't the figment of an ancient author's perverse imagination.

Krishna is called the Supreme Being; he is said to be a part of your soul. He calls humans to be simple and free of baggage, just like the hollow of his flute with which he plays the music of life. The moment you fill yourself with jealousy and hatred, the flute won't play for you any longer!

"I have found people with half-knowledge referring to [Krishna's} colourful love-life or questioning his respect towards his multiple lovers while talking about the plight of women in our country."

Krishna's status as an eternal lover is a metaphorical explanation of the relationship that human beings should have with their soul. The journey with 16108 wives and endless affairs offer symbolic paths of reaching out to your "Self" and exploring the connection with your soul. The relationship with the Self is the most complicated one anyway, and that is what Krishna represents as he stands in beauty behind his dark skin. To get in touch with yourself, you have to overcome the dark mist that envelops you. This complication in your relationship with self manifests when you may have hidden a vice from the world and yet, you are not at peace because your soul still registers your limitations. Krishna resides in your soul. His divine music is a call to you to engage with the soul on priority and let go of the rest. Engaging with your Self is engaging with him.

By this logic, you cannot really hide anything from Krishna. And if you try, Krishna will strip you out of your attempts, just like he mischievously hid the clothes of the bathing Gopis and forced them to come out of the water naked. This nakedness is your symbolic truth! The person that you are, without pretence. The ancient writers chose women to illustrate these concepts because women are compared to "Maya" or illusion in literature and art!

In the Gita, Krishna claims that he is a part of all religions and is represented, in some form or the other, in every living and non-living being of the cosmos. He also asserts that whenever the world gets drowned in sin, he'll return to perish and restart. A "true" Hindu fundamentalist, hence, will never disrespect other religions, because if he does that he violates Krishna! Also, a true believer of Krishna will never name an entire caste or a community as immoral or criminal or evil, because he'd trust that had there not been good people there, Krishna would have destroyed them!

Krishna as a mythological symbol has always kept me mesmerised. When I was in the process of weaving the journey of a sculptor in my book, Fall Winter Collections, I suddenly wondered how an artist would represent women in mythology as a part of Krishna's being. Women with a huge range of celestial and terrestrial qualities have graced Krishna's arms, just as we mortals nurture known and unknown existence consciously or in our subconscious. What if the sculptor, with his keen sense of art and the skill to bring imagination very close to reality, finds a representation of Krishna's Six Women in the world around him? For an artist who rigidly exercises strict professional disconnect with his muse, what if his restraint is challenged unexpectedly by forces that he can no longer ignore? What if, while carving the last statue of his series, he feels he is touching not rock but the body of a woman?

Hope you enjoy reading my book as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Excerpt from Fall Winter Collections

I am on an ambitious journey of sculpting Krishna's Women, a series of six statues comprising Radha, the beloved; Rukmini, the consort; Kalindi, the silent beau; Satyabhama, the dominant wife; Draupadi, the friend; and Meera, the devotee. I have almost completed working on five of them, each of which are derived from our mythological past, but have strong connections with some real life women I had come across. My sculptures are not portraits or facial replications of my inspirations. They just capture the spirit of the women who have been my subjects. Each time I have met these women, I have surprised myself with the dedication and commitment I have essayed in understanding them and expressing their philosophy in my art. I have employed tremendous force to break all barriers that lay between me and them. I am planning a lavish exhibition, once my series is complete. For that, however, I need the calm of body and mind. Hence, I have offered myself this self-imposed exile at Santiniketan!

Radha, Krishna's most legitimate companion, never married him. Yet, their union was so sublime that the connection is compared to that of mind and soul. My Radha was inspired by a lady in Canada, who never married but was raising her lover's sons like her own, after their parents died in a road accident. They were childhood sweethearts who separated after college; when she came back, he was already reduced to a photograph on the wall. She is a cheerful lady, living and enjoying life, with the social status of a widow. My probing into her story revealed that marriage had just been a word of social acceptance for them and it had no impact on the bond they shared; however the questions that the world could have raised was rocked into silence because she had returned to enter a life already deserted by him! I have carved my Radha seated alone, legs half spread, hair and attire neatly done up, anticipating the lordly presence any time around the horizon; she plays his flute in peace. Radha, I believe is the only woman who can righteously ignite the same heavenly music, without which Krishna stands incomplete. Or, maybe, Radha herself was Krishna's music.

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