Jarasandha’s army advances toward Krishna and Balarama, folio from a Mahabharata

Artist: Attributed to Purkhu (active ca. 1780-ca. 1820)
Historical period(s)
ca. 1800-1815
Kangra school
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H x W (painting): 32.7 × 43.4 cm (12 7/8 × 17 1/16 in) H x W (overall): 36.8 × 48.1 cm (14 1/2 × 18 15/16 in)
India, Himachal Pradesh state, Kangra
Credit Line
Purchase and partial gift from the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection — funds provided by the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Balarama, battle, India, Krishna, Mahabharata, Ralph and Catherine Benkaim collection, soldier

To 1968
Antique Arts, Bombay, India. [1]

From 1968 to 2001
Ralph Benkaim (1914-2001), Beverly Hills, California, purchased from Antique Arts, Bombay, India in June 1968. [2]

From 2001 to 2018
Catherine Glynn Benkaim, Beverly Hills, California, by inheritance from Ralph Benkaim in 2001. [3]

From 2018
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, partial gift and purchase from Catherine Glynn Benkaim. [4]


[1] Ralph Benkaim purchased the painting in 1968 from Antique Arts, Bombay, several years before Indian paintings were classified as antiquities by the Indian government, according to his personal records via Catherine Glynn Benkaim.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1.

[4] See Acquisition Justification Form, object file, Collections Management Office.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Antique Arts Indian
Ralph (1914-2001) and Catherine Benkaim
Catherine Glynn Benkaim


Recto: The names of the principal figures have been inscribed on the painting.
(Upper right, on the white wall of the thatched hut) Krishna, Balibhadra [another name for Balarama who is also called Bali and Balabhadra]
(Upper left, on the blue bolster behind the king’s knee) Jarasandha

Verso: (top center) numerals 38 in takri


Purkhu was the master of a large workshop in Kangra, a kingdom in the state that is today Himachal Pradesh, during the reign of a renowned patron of the arts, Maharaja Sansar Chand (r. 1775 - 1823). Purkhu and his workshop produced numerous portraits of Kangra's courtiers and several narrative series with oversize folios, including the Harivamsa.

This Harivamsa folio exemplifies Purkhu's brilliant coloring and his uncanny ability to create a magical landscape. It is as if the Himalayan peaks described in Sanskrit epic poetry have become real, with kinnaras (bird-headed figures) among celestial beauties and sages who dwell amid jewel-studded crags.

On the mountain, Krishna and Balarama sit beside a thatched hut and calmly gesture toward a swirling cloud of dust. At the center of the oncoming mass of soldiers, Jarasandha, the tyrannical king of Magadha, is shown largest in scale. Lest there be any confusion, his name is written in devanagari on the side of his golden chariot.

Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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