An Iconographical Analysis of the Balagopalastuti and Early Krsnabhakti in Gujarat

Gadon, Elinor W.

     There are three parts to this study of the "illustrated folios of the Balagopalastuti (Hymns of Praise of the Youthful Krsna), an early fifteenth-century manuscript of Gujarati provenance, painted in the Western Indian style": the first follows "the historical development of painting in Gujarat during the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, using the [Balagopalastuti] series as an exemplar." The second explores "in some depth the cultural climate of fifteenth-century Gujarat, so favorable for innovation in art and religion." This section focuses on "the identification of those factors which were relevant to the conception of the original [Balagopalastuti] manuscript, as well as the eleven others that were copied after the original in the following centuries." It looks at "both the microcosm, the minutia of stylistic change, and the macrocosm, the place of this series of manuscripts within the larger culture which was in the process of major social upheaval." It approaches "the problem of the relationship of the Vaisnava Revival to the origins of Rajasthani painting from two vantages: one, that of the impact of the Vaisnava Revival on the art and literature of Gujarat, and two, that of the origin of Rajasthani style. . . . My conclusion is that art cannot be classified on a sectarian basis and that style is a function of time and place. This is not to minimize the critical role of the Vaisnava Revival as a source of inspiration and catalyst for cultural renewal. But the origins of the Rajasthani style are to be found in the historical process of stylistic development." The third part analyzes "the relationship between text and painting, in this way recovering inherent meaning and in the process understanding something of the impact of the new faith on popular culture." "My study of the developments in the painting of Gujarat, as exemplified by the [Balagopalastuti] manuscripts, is confirmation of a vital, ongoing tradition of manuscript illustration there. . . . My study provides another perspective on the situation of miniature paintings in India, different from the usual one which focuses on the development of style. By giving priority to the cultural context, my analysis considers the place of painting in the overall culture, as understood by that culture." The second volume contains a reconstruction of the manuscript.