Karna Slays a Demon

Historical period(s)
Mysore Court
South Indian School
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H x W: 11.8 x 16.6 cm (4 5/8 x 6 9/16 in)
South India, Karnataka state, Probably Seringapatam
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Manuscript, Painting

Manuscript folio

battle, demon, elephant, India, Karna
Provenance research underway.

This charged scene is from the Mahabharata (Great Story of the Bharatas), a sacred Hindu epic of ancient India that narrates the great war between two related clans, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. In this scene Karna, mightiest warrior of the Kauravas, slays Ghatotkacha, the giant demon of the Pandavas. On the right, the blue-skinned god Krishna drives the chariot for the Pandava hero Arjuna. Although the artist of this Mahabharata adopted the sharp noses and large, oval eyes of the Vijayanagara court tradition, his style is unique. The figures, which exhibit rounded contours and emphatic modeling, are charged with energy.

Before paper was introduced into India, manuscripts were written on palm leaves. The horizontal format of this page preserves the shape of a trimmed palm leaf. The text is in Sanskrit, the "refined" ancient literary language of India.

Published References
  • Julia Murray. A Decade of Discovery: Selected Acquisitions 1970-1980. Exh. cat. Washington, 1979. cat. 83, p. 109.
  • Unknown title. vol. 30 New York and Honolulu, 1976-1977. p. 124, fig. 57.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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