When the atrocities of Mathura’s King Kamsa became unbearable, the gods pleaded with Lord Vishnu to relieve them of the tyrannical king. He assured them that he would incarnate as Krishna - Devaki’s son. In this painting, Krishna the Saviour is saving the people of Braj from the wrath of Indra.
Every year the people of Braj performed sacrifices to appease Indra. Krishna opposed this sacrifice and this greatly infuriated Indra. There was chaos everywhere and Braj was in deluge. The people of Braj prayed to Krishna for help. He raised Mount Govardhana on his little finger like a great big umbrella so that all the people and animals could take refuge. The torrential rain continued for seven days and nights. Finally Indra’s pride was humbled and he realized that Krishna was none other than Lord Vishnu. He came down from the heavens with Devasurabhi (cow of the Devas) and bowed down to Krishna in humiliation proclaiming Krishna as the Supreme Lord. Krishna was thus given the title of Govardhandhari or the one who lifted Mount Govardhan.
Here, Indra's pride is shown as being humbled by Krishna, who is holding the mighty mountain on the tip of his finger, and Indra is paying obeisance to Krishna.
This painting from Jaipur depicts the scene very aptly. Dark grey clouds cover the skies, and there is only darkness. After Indra’s surrender, the clouds that hide the sunlight break open and the sun begins to emerge above the mountain guaranteeing a brighter future. Uprooted trees can also be seen in the floodwaters of the River Yamuna.
Despite being crowded, this composition is highly impressive. On one side stand all the men with Nanda and Yashodha, and on the other Radha and all the women with their children. Krishna, in yellow garments, stands in the centre of the mountain and is encircled by a glowing aura. The animals - cows, rabbits, birds, peacocks and snakes all turn their heads towards Krishna in adulation.
This theme has been popular for centuries. The bright colours of the costumes contrasted with the deep green colour of the flora in the foreground and background is meticulously rendered. The painting is surrounded by two borders - the first a thin blue border with a gold leaf pattern and the other a larger red border with a meandering floral gold pattern.