Akrura Invites Krishna and Balarama to Mathura

Historical period(s)
Pre-Mughal period, ca. 1525-40
Pre-Mughal School
Opaque watercolor on paper
H x W (overall): 19.5 x 28.4 cm (7 11/16 x 11 3/16 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


Balarama, Bhagavata Purana, cow, family, India, Krishna, Sanskrit
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 manuscript is the earliest illustrated Bhagavata presently known.

In the story illustrated here, the elderly and pious Akrura has come to invite Krishna and his brother, Balarama, to Mathura to compete in an athletic contest. According to the Sanskrit text: "After inquiring about his journey, and offering him a high seat, Balarama washed his (Akrura's) feet with due formality and offered him articles of Madhuparka (such as honey, ghee, curds, water). Having presented a cow to the guest and after massaging him as he was fatigued, the powerful lord (Krishna) served to him with reverence a preparation of pure food with a variety of excellences."

Published References
  • Masters of Indian Painting. Exh. cat. Zurich. vol. 1: pp. 77-88, fig. 8.
  • D.J. Ehnbom. Indian Miniatures: The Ehrenfeld Collection. New York. pls. 1, 2.
  • D.J. Ehnbom. The Dispersed Bhagavta Purana. Berkeley. .
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court. Exh. cat. Washington, 1981. cat. 3a, p. 48.
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.