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Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (Kaliyamarddaka Krishna)

Late 10th-early 11th century

India, Tamil Nadu

Copper alloy

H. 34 1/2 x W. 13 3/4 x D. 10 1/4 in. (87.6 x 35 x 26 cm)

Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.22


John D. Rockefeller 3rd, New York, NY; acquired from Ellsworth & Goldie, Ltd., New York, NY, 1967.

The Asia Society, New York, NY, bequest of John D. Rockefeller 3rd, New York, NY, 1979.

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This lyrical image depicts Krishna overcoming Kaliya, a snake king who had been poisoning the waters of the sacred Yamuna River and terrifying the local population. While he subdues Kaliya by dancing on the snake king's hood of protective snakes, Krishna performs the gesture of reassurance to comfort his devotees. Once defeated, Kaliya himself became a devotee of Krishna, a transformation expressed by the snake king's gesture of worship and expression of adoration towards his vanquisher. Krishna is one of the Hindu god Vishnu's most popular incarnations and his life and romantic exploits are a favorite theme in Indian art and literature.