Massaging The Divine Feet
Veeraswamy Krishnaraj
Images: Punjab Hills. Philadelphia and Museum of Michigan University.

The king of Bikaner (reigned 1631-74) had a dream about Vishnu and Lakshmi in their heavenly abode. He woke up in a state of exhilaration. He summoned the royal painter to his presence and described his dream in great detail. The scene appears to be open to the blue sky with rolling clouds above and a platform and four steps below. There are grills in the forefront and inside with ornate marble pillars on either side.  Vishnu is seated in a floral motif chair  with ornate legs and a pillow. His ankles, upper blue body, ears, and head are effulgent with garlands, jewels, crown… He is four-handed. He holds a rosary of Tulasi-beads on his left posterior hand. The left anterior hand holds the Conch.  Right anterior hand holds the lotus flower. The right posterior hand holds a stylized staff or sheathed sword.  He rests his left leg on a  footstool.  A tall buxom woman stands behind seated Krishna holding a Chowry (சாமரம்) and a white towel.

Lakshmi is seated on the floor massaging the left foot of Vishnu. Her head is partly covered. The black hair hangs down to her waist. Jewels grace her body. Both hands are at work massaging the foot.  Veeraswamy Krishnaraj

The painting: Late 17th - early 18th century.  Northern India Rajasthan Bikaner. Philadelphia Museum

Now the Role Reversal.

Radha was angry. She had to be pacified. What is Krishna going to do? He had to assuage her ire.  She still loves him. She sees his face in the lotus. Or is she seeing her own face in her sine qua non, the lotus. She is unconcerned. He had to make the next move. She is all decked up in jewels and finery. She is seated on a couch. There is a gloomy whiteness in the background.

Two handed Krishna looks at her. He sports an imploring face. He holds a crown on his head and yet is seated on the floor: an incongruous predicament. His blue body is jeweled and bedecked. His right hand is massaging her right foot. His left hand is touching her knee, depicting an intimacy with Radha. Will she forgive him? Did he condescend himself to assuage her and get in her good books?

She is not wincing. She is calm and collected. She lets him do the massaging and imploring. It is more likely a minor misunderstanding and yet serious for him to get down on the floor and massage her leg.

Painting: University of Michigan Museum of Art.  Punjab Hills 1730s