This book from Mysore, stands out, not only because of the splendour of its illustrations but also because it engages with that great and sacred text, the Bhagāvata Purāna, in a manner that is completely different from almost anything else that one sees.
There are leaps of imagination here that take one’s breath away, and the episodes picked up by its great but unnamed illustrators are explored in dense, brilliant detail. At each step the painters seem to have been aware of the importance of the text itself. For the Purāna they were engaging with has a very special place in the heart of devotees, there being the belief that the Bhagāvata ‘is equal in status to the Veda’.
The scope of the volume is restricted to the second half of the Tenth Book of the Purāna . Here the city of Dwarka is founded, a fierce contest with the bear king Jambavana is fought; the Khandava forest is burnt down, the great fortress of Narakasura is vanquished, the city of Hastinapura is dragged to the waters, great pilgrimages are undertaken, hordes of enslaved princes are freed, Shishupala is slain, Jarasandha is riven. Wide-eyed, one sees wonders piling upon majestic wonders.