Krishna Adorns Radha with a Tilak

Punjab Hills, Himachal Pradesh, Mandi, ca. 1820

Ink and opaque watercolor on paper


In an idyllic pastoral setting Krishna and Radha meet on the bank of a stream. Apparently Radha has been carrying pots of milk in a wicker basket and Krishna has met up with her. The vetra or cowherd's stick on the ground suggests that he has left his work hoping for a romantic tryst. In delicate foreplay, Krishna places the tilak or bindi on Radha's forehead. The gesture is reminiscent of a brahman acknowledging an offering to the god — Radha’s relationship with Krishna stands for a devotee’s direct contact with god. The sinuous vine wrapping around the tree implies their union, while the two ducks in the water also mimic the meeting of the two lovers or the soul’s union with the godhead.


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