- Museum number
Opaque watercolour painting of Visnu’s eighth incarnation as Balarāma, the elder brother of Kṛṣṇa. The gold-complexioned god carries in his left hand the hala (plough), and in his right a danda (staff).
- Production date
- 1830 (circa)
Height: 22.60 centimetres
Width: 17.60 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Dallapiccola 2010:
Not all Vaishnava traditions recognize Balarāma as one of the dashavataras (ten incarnations of Visnu). Generally, in Tamil Nadu, Balarāma is the eighth avatara and Kṛṣṇa the ninth, thus Kṛṣṇa occupies the place of the Buddha avatara in other regions of India.
This painting is part of an album of ninety-one paintings (1962,1231,0.13.1–91) illustrating gods, goddesses, saints and scenes from Hindu mythology. One of the most interesting features of the album are the eight major temple sites included: Srirangam, Tiruvallur, Rameswaram, Tirunelveli, Palani, Madurai, Thiruvanaikoil (Tiruvanaikka or Jambukeshvara) and Tiruchchirappalli. Furthermore, included in this series are some of the most important murtis enshrined in temples such as Venkatachalapati of Tirumala, Vitthala of Pandharpur and Thyagarajasvami of Tiruvarur. The geographical area covered by the paintings encompasses the totality of the former Madras Presidency and extends into the former Bombay Presidency, giving an insight into the most revered pilgrimage sites in early nineteenth-century southern India.
The drawings were first done in pencil, traces of which are still visible. In the course of his work the artist has sometimes changed his mind, as for instance in the positioning of the arms and feet of the figures. Slight shading has been consistently applied to the faces, arms and legs of the figures to suggest three-dimensionality. The vibrant colours and the delicacy of the drawings make the figures stand out from the pages.
The pages are numbered in reverse order from the back, on paper water marked ‘1820’. Occasionally, a brief note is pencilled in English, probably by a British Museum curator, at the back of some of the temple depictions. An almost identical work, albeit containing a hundred drawings, each with bilingual inscriptions in Telugu and English, is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (IM 355-1923 to 454-1923). The sequence of the images is similar to that in this album.
- On display (G33/dc66b/s3)
- Exhibition history
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Transferred from the Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books (OMPB) in 1962.
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1167 (Egerton number)