NEW DELHI: A surviving manuscript of the Bhagavat Purana from South India, detailing the exploits of Lord Krishna in his later years, has been transformed into an illustrated book by eminent art historian B N Goswamy.
The manuscript was once in the library of the royal house of the Wodeyars of Mysore before it landed at an exhibition in London. Soon afterwards, Edwin Binney III acquired it, added it to his rich collection of Indian paintings and later donated it to the San Diego Museum of Art.
The subject of the manuscript is the ancient religious text, the 'Bhagavata Purana', and we know that it was written and illustrated for the Mysore ruler, Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (born 1794, died 1868; period of effective rule 1799-1831), said Goswamy.
His book 'The Great Mysore Bhagavata' with essays by Robert J Del Bonta and Caleb Simmons seeks to do a complete study of the manuscript.
The intention is to enable the reader to access all that is there in the manuscript, save the complete text in Kannada which in any case is based on the original Sanskrit text of the Bhagavata Purana, he added.
According to the author, the Bhagavata Purana, as a subject, has been painted over and over again, but the section of it which this book deals with - the latter half of the tenth 'skandha', which leaves the winsome childhood and the seductive growing years of Krishna far behind - does not have too many precedents.
In 'The Great Mysore Bhagavata', published by Niyogi Books, there are leaps of imagination that can mesmerise the readers, and the episodes picked up by its great but unnamed illustrators are explored in dense, brilliant detail.
At each step, the painters seem to have been aware of the importance of the text itself.
The author also describes in detail 60 significant paintings, most of which are related to Krishna.
Although the San Diego manuscript of the Bhagavata Purana is unfinished, it is remarkable for the quantity and intricacy of its illustrations.
The Bhagavata Purana concerns itself with various aspects and incarnations of the god Vishnu, and book 10 of this long text has to do with the life of Krishna and is separated into two parts; this would have been intended to be that second part dealing with Krishna's adulthood, said Robert J Del Bonta.