--> Skip to main content

Book Vishvarupa – Paintings on the Cosmic Form of Krishna–Vasudeva by Neena Ranjan

Vishvarupa – Paintings on the Cosmic Form of Krishna – Vasudeva by Neena Ranjan showcases paintings based on the cosmic form that Shri Krishna revealed to Arjuna in the Kurukshetra in the Mahabharata and which is detailed in the Bhagavad Gita. Most of the Vishwarupa Paintings included in the book are from 17th to 20th century.

From the Foreword in the book by B.N. Goswamy

… a prolonged philosophical discourse (Bhagavad Gita) in which the most profound of questions are asked and a range of answers given. But then sensing, in the midst of it, Arjuna's continuing inability to comprehend 'the deepest mystery' of it all, Krishna reveals to him his true self, a concrete vision of the creator and the destroyer, and of times deadly destructiveness: ‘a fearsome explosion of countless eyes, bellies, mouths, ornaments, and weapons, gleaming like the fiery sun that illumines the world’.

That magnificent form, the Vishwarupa of Krishna-Vishnu, is however not for everyone to see. When Arjuna sees it, it is only with the divine eye granted to him for that moment. And when the vision ends, Krishna reminds him that ‘this form that you have seen is rarely revealed’. For, he adds, ‘Not through sacred lore, penances, charity, or sacrificial rites, can I be seen in the form, that you saw me.’

And yet, generation after generation, and in region after region of India, artists have been attempting to capture that very form in their work. It is a daunting task, for the vision is at once grand and terrifying and wondrous. The brilliance of the word of the eleventh chapter is not easy to match, and to compress everything into one soaring image almost impossible. For how does one bring in nearly all that there is: the ‘fiery rays of crown and mace and discus’, ‘brushing the clouds with flames of countless colours’; ‘roiling river waters streaming headlong toward the sea like moths in the frenzy of destruction flying into a blazing mouth; the many mouths and eyes thighs and feet and bellies and fangs seeing which the worlds tremble; the throngs of gods entering the great form- howling storm gods, sun gods, bright gods, and gods of ritual, gods of the universe, twin gods of dawn, wind gods, vapour-drinking ghosts, crowds of celestial musicians, demigods, demons and saints; a form that has 'no beginning, or middle, or end?

The descriptions are remarkably dense, and when all the space, as the text says, is filled with this form alone, all space ‘between heaven and earth and all the direction, is there any room left, even a little sliver of it, for the visual artist to enter it, one wonders?

The book contains chapters on the Origins of Vishvarupa, Concept and Philosophy of Vishnu Vishvarupa, Vishvarupa in Indian Art and Thought, Vishvarupa in Indian Painting, Illustrations with Notes on Paintings.

The Author, Neena Ranjan is a civil servant, who spent long periods in the departments of art and culture and also industry and commerce in the Government of India and the State Governments. She joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1969 and retired as Secretary, Ministry of Culture, and Government of India in 2006. Since then, she is the Honorary Mentor of the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi.

Vishvarupa — Paintings on the Cosmic Form of Krishna-Vasudeva
Neena Ranjan
Aryan Books International
Pooja Apartments
4B, Ansari Road
New Delhi-110002.

The book is also available on several online stores.