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Article

The Carving of Kṛṣṇa’s Legend: North and South, Back and Forth

French School of the Far East (École Française d’Extrême-Orient), 75116 Paris, France
Religions 2020, 11(9), 439; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11090439
Received: 26 June 2020 / Revised: 6 August 2020 / Accepted: 11 August 2020 / Published: 25 August 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions)
This paper emphasizes the role played by the sculptural tradition in the elaboration of religious narratives that today are mostly studied through texts. It aims to demonstrate that according to the documents we know, the legend of Kṛṣṇa has been built through one continuous dialogue between different media, namely texts and carvings, and different linguistic areas, Indo-Aryan and Dravidian. Taking the motif of the butter theft as a basis, we stress the role played by the sculptural tradition and Tamil poetry, two elements less studied than others, at the foundation of a pan-Indian Kṛṣṇa-oriented heritage. We posit that the iconographic formula of the cowherds’ station as the significant background of the infancy of Kṛṣṇa led to the motif of the young god stealing butter in the texts, through the isolation of one significant element of the early sculpted images. The survey of the available documents leads to the conclusion that, in the southern part of the peninsula, patterns according to which stone carvings were done have been a source of inspiration in Tamil literature. Poets writing in Tamil authors knew texts transmitted in Sanskrit, Prākrit, and Pāli, and they certainly had listened to some others to which we have no access today. But we give reasons to assume that the authors of the said texts were also aware of the traditional ways of representing a child Kṛṣṇa in the visual domain. With these various traditions, poets of the Tamil country in the later stage of Tamil Caṅkam literature featured a character they may not have consciously created, as he was already existent in the visual tradition and nurtured by the importance of one landscape animated by cowherds in the legend of Kṛṣṇa. View Full-Text
Keywords: Tamil Caṅkam; visual tradition; Kṛṣṇa’s legend; Bhāgavata-purāṇa; Harivaṃśa; Divyaprabandham; textual transmission; Pallava; Cōḻa Tamil Caṅkam; visual tradition; Kṛṣṇa’s legend; Bhāgavata-purāṇa; Harivaṃśa; Divyaprabandham; textual transmission; Pallava; Cōḻa
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MDPI and ACS Style

Schmid, C. The Carving of Kṛṣṇa’s Legend: North and South, Back and Forth. Religions 2020, 11, 439. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11090439

AMA Style

Schmid C. The Carving of Kṛṣṇa’s Legend: North and South, Back and Forth. Religions. 2020; 11(9):439. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11090439

Chicago/Turabian Style

Schmid, Charlotte. 2020. "The Carving of Kṛṣṇa’s Legend: North and South, Back and Forth" Religions 11, no. 9: 439. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11090439

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