Krishna As God: Part – II
Krishna’s presence in music is equally ubiquitous. In Bengal, they have a saying: Kanu bina gita nahin (without Krishna there is no song). He is the focus of the largest numbers of compositions in Indian classical music and his presence is even more pervasive in the light classical music genre of the thumri, raas, hori, dadra and charchari songs. Indeed, most thumris are written in Braj bhasha, the language of the Krishna bhakti cult. In a way, the thumri, akin to the khayal ang of Hindustani music, but much more relaxed and without the self-consciousness of its more stringent classical elder, was a particularly apt medium to relate to Krishna. Its bol was not in rhetorical Sanskrit or stylized Urdu; its compositions reflected the simplified language of the heart, the outpourings of musicians rather than grammarians. Thumri after thumri deals evocatively with the pangs of separation from Krishna. Radha asks:
Bata de Sakhi, Kiun gali gayo Shyam~ (Tell me friend trough which alleyway did Shyam go?); or vexed by Shyam’s barjori she says:
Kanha mori gagariya phori re,
Dekho, dekho re langarva ne
(Kanha broke my earthen pot, see how the mischievous one has behaved with me);
or plaintively she implores him.
Chunanya de de mori Shyam,
Bar bar kar jorat tum son
(Give me my scarf Shyam, again and again I plead with folded hands);
or sometimes, in an ecstasy of longing, she bursts out:
Tum Radha bano Shyam
Sab dekhenge brij bama
Sab Sakhiyan mili natch nachave
Yeh hai brij ghan Shyam,
You come dressed as Radha, Shyam,
All the women will watch
And sing and dance
This is the dark as clouds Shyam.
In the hands of musical wizards like Faiyaz Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali, Rasoolan Bai, Siddheswari Devi and Begum Akhtar – to name but a few-such simple lines acquired an emotional luminosity that could be profoundly moving, full of sweetness, with a certain sensuous pathos, and yet retaining the robustness and lack of inhibition of their essentially folk origins.
The many forms of Krishna, particularly his roop(form) as a child and a lover, and the many incidents and events related to these two forms, were irresistible material for the visual artist as well. The Bhagavata, the Harivarnsa and the Gitagovinda were illustrated because their written content unleashed a canvas of imagery—part imagination part fantasy—that cried out to be given visual form. The tidal wave of output came in the sixteenth century when poets like Surdas, Keshav Das and Bihari took the Krishna theme by storm. Although the poems of Surdas and Bihari were favourite material for the painters, it is not surprising that Keshav Das’s sensual eroticism was responsible for the greatest number of illustrations.
The princely states in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh were the centres of this Krishna related renaissance in Indian painting. Krishna’s sringara roop was the dominant theme but popular incidents of his childhood—the lifting of Goverdhan, Kaliyadehan, the killing of Putana, and the stealing of butter—were also portrayed.