Dancing Krishna



Dancing Krishna




mid 13th-14th Century


Late Chola Dynasty
India, Tamil, Nadu


18 1/4 x 7 3/4 x 6 in. (46.3 x 19.7 x 15.3 cm)

Object Number



The Chola Dynasty was one of the great Southern kingdoms, extending as far north as the Ganges, and as far south as Sri Lanka and as far east as Myanmar. Its sculpture was known for its attention to the human form and its dynamic suggestions of bodily movement. Chola bronzes are considered to represent some of the greatest bronze casting ever done.

This figure's large almond eyes, dangling earrings, and elaborate topknot signify spiritual advancement as well as a kind of playful seductiveness. The child is shown here dancing gracefully with his leg raised in diagonal balance with his outstretched arm.

There is an unusual cross-over between the two figures of Krishna and Sambandar which make this statue difficult to identify conclusively. Both Krishna (a Vaishnava god) and Sambandar (a Shaiva saint) showed remarkable characteristics in childhood. The child Krishna stole the butter from his household. When his mother Yasodhara caught him, she opened his mouth to find the butter and saw the entire universe, twinkling inside. Similarly, Sambandar was left alone by his father in a temple courtyard, and was fed milk by none other than the goddess Parvati herself. When asked by his father who fed him, he pointed to the sky, the abode of the gods. Sambandar is traditionally pointing to the sky as a gesture of his deep spiritual knowledge of the universe.

Worshippers would find this delightful image of a dancing, divinely inspired child in a home or in a small niche in a Chola Dynasty temple. They would, of course, be reminded of either Balakrishna or Sambandar's unusual childhoods. But they would also know the other aspects of their stories, which hint at powers of cosmic transformation.

Credit Line

The Ester R. Portnow Collection of Asian Art, a gift of the Nathan Rubin-Ida Ladd Family Foundation


Wurtembergischer Kunstuerein, Stuttgart, January 20 - March 13, 1966|
Museum fur Kunst und Geouerbe, Hamburg, 1966|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, September 2004 - Present
MCCM Newsletter, September - November 2000.|
Michael C. Carlos Museum: Highlights of the Collections (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2011), 126.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2007.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or mccm.collections.services@emory.edu. Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

On View



“Dancing Krishna,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed February 19, 2019, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/7808.

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