Theses Doctoral

Krishna in his Myriad Forms: Narration, Translation and Variation in Illustrated Manuscripts of the Latter Half of the Tenth Book of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa

Poddar, Neeraja

This dissertation focuses on a seventeenth-century (so-called) Malwa manuscript that illustrates the story of Krishna, and the copy manuscripts that were produced after it. It explores how the story is transformed in its incarnations as the vernacular text inscribed on the manuscript, the cycle of illustrations depicting that text, and then the copies made from what appear to be the initial illustrations. The claim is that narrative variations which find their way into these different embodiments should almost never be considered "mistakes," even when an act of misunderstanding seems to be clearly implied. Rather they are moments when the artist's or author's engagement with contemporary sectarian concerns, literary trends, artistic strategies and popular culture is manifest. The first three chapters of the dissertation are devoted to an analysis of text, illustration and copy illustration respectively, while the fourth presents the broader context in which such Krishna manuscripts were circulating.The underlying objective is to re-evaluate the conventional narrative of North Indian illustrated manuscripts. This is cast as the teleology of court styles where political history is used to decide important and influential ateliers. Visually compelling and historically important illustrated manuscripts such as the ones I study, but whose patronizing court is undecided, are largely ignored. This dissertation showcases an alternative, interdisciplinary approach that undertakes thorough visual and textual analyses alongside an examination of the broader socio-religious trends that impacted artistic production. It advocates that every illustrated manuscript should be studied individually, rather than as just a member of a predetermined stylistic group.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Dehejia, Vidya J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 20, 2014