The Sleeping Shatrajit Murdered by Satadhanva, from a Bhagavata Purana

Historical period(s)
Pre-Mughal period, ca. 1520
Pre-Mughal School
Opaque watercolor and ink on paper
H x W: 17.6 x 23.1 cm (6 15/16 x 9 1/8 in)
North India, Delhi-Agra
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Bhagavata Purana, dance, India, murder, palace, Sanskrit, sleeping, turtle, water
Provenance research underway.

The Bhagavata Purana (Song of the Lord), possibly first compiled in Sanskrit about 1200 and later translated into regional vernaculars, was the product of a long oral tradition. It is an immense work, comprising 18,000 verses in 11 books. Book ten remains the most popular of these, for it deals with the life of Krishna, the young cowherd and prince who was the god Vishnu incarnate.

This Bhagavata Purana is one of the most important pre-Mughal Hindu manuscripts. The artist combined several events from one narrative to convey successive events within a single composition. On the first floor of a palace surrounded by water, Satadhanva gains possession of the fabulous Syamantaka jewel by decapitating Shatrajit. Shatrajit's daughter  preserves his corpse in a trough of oil (visible above the decapitation scene) and hastens to inform her betrothed Krishna of the murder. The women of the family wail in sorrow in the upper storey of the palace.

Published References
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court., 2nd ed. Washington and Ahmedabad, India, 2012. cat. 4A, p. 49.
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court. Exh. cat. Washington, 1981. cat. 3b, p. 49.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.