“Forest Women Visit Krishna and the Gopis – A Legendary Painting”, Mumbiram, Oil on Canvas, Pune 1985
A verse from the Shrimad Bhagavatam describes how the Pulindya forest women approached the adolescent Krishna surrounded by the Gopis, his cowherd paramours, on the bank of the Yamuna. This verse and this painting appear prominently in Five Songs of Rasa, Mumbiram’s English translation of the Sanskrit verses.
That vision of the all-attractive Personality of Krishna aroused amorous passions in the Pulindya forest women. The forest women could not get close to Krishna but watched the gopis gingerly placing Krishna’s delicate feet on their kumkum-smeared breasts. Krishna’s feet got smeared by that red kumkum powder. When Krishna later walked away treading upon the grass, the grass got tainted with some of that kumkum powder from Krishna’s feet. The forest women had to satisfy their amorous desires by smearing their faces and bodies with the kumkum-smeared grass Krishna trod upon. The verse had fascinated Mumbiram ever since he first read the Shrimad Bhagavatam years ago in America. Mumbiram made this oil painting on that theme circa 1985. In Mumbiram’s painting the gopis surrounding the central figure of Krishna are clearly Bollywood heroines of the 1980s.
The Pulindya forest women are all anonymous international beauties of different colours and creeds that are either trying to attract Krishna’s attention or swooning.
The painting is full of amazing details for the discerning eye. The adolescent Krishna jealously guarded by the gopis is adorned not with gold-studded jewellery but by a garland strung with forest flowers, feathers and leaves such as the forest women would adorn themselves with. The painting is unique for its subject matter as well as artistic virtuosity, treatment and perspective. It is loaded with theological and social nuances. It is attractive even to a layman. It was the central attraction of Mumbiram’s Mandai Studio for over a decade. It changed hands several times before being acquired by an executive of Mercedes Motor Company and taken to Stuttgart in Germany.