Kaliya Mardaka


Kaliya mardakaThe crushing of Kaliya.

This is a representation of Krishna dancing on the hoods of the serpent, Kaliya with one hundred heads, in the water of the Yamuna river. The main figure is flanked by Kaliya’s wives seeking mercy.

The story. Kaliya and his family moved to the Yamuna to escape Garuda. Their presence in the river poisoned it. When Krishna and cowherds came to the Yamuna, some of the cowherds drank river water and died.  Krishna jumped into the water and danced on Kaliya’s hood. The above is the scene of Kaliya getting subdued and his wives begging for forgiveness. Kaliya’s sin being poisoning the waters of Yamuna. Krishna forgives Kaliya and sends him along with his family to an island where they will not harm others.Kaliya Mardaka back

Here Krishna is shown with four arms, holding flute in his front right hand. In his left hands, he is holding Kaliya’s tail and a spear. The attribute in the back right hand is not clear. Kaliya’s two wives are shown with a human upper part and the lower part with snakes tail/body. See the image showing back.  Their hands are in Anjali mudra seeking forgiveness.The whole sculpture is framed by prabhavali. A portion of prabhavali, left of Krishna, is the replacement. Even that shown signs of age.

So far I have not been able to get the embossed inscription translated. It is in Devanagari script. Please see the image below.

In South India, Kaliya Krishna is found only as decorative figures and not as an object of worship in temples. However, use of Kaliya Krishna in home shrines is not uncommon. South Indian sculptures normally depict Krishna and Kaliya  without Kaliya’s wives

The sculpture is about 23 cm in height and the base 13 cm by 14 cm. No guess as to the age. The inscription may help in dating the image.

This is an excellent folk art and is front North India, the inscription is in Devanagari. With the little, I could translate this appears to be have been an offering to a Durga temple.

Though this theme is very popular, as evidenced by paintings from different regions, metal/bronze sculptures are rare.

Let me end this blog with  a  verse from Bhagavata Purana describing this scene:

” Each time that one of the heads of the hundred-headed monster refused to bend down, the hero, armed for the punishment of the wicked, crushed it under his leaps. O kind, where the serpent writhing in all directions, and pouring forth floods of blood from its jaws and from its nostrils, fell into misery profound”

Iconography of Southern India, G Jouveau Dubreuil (English version)

Kaliya Mardaka Inscriptions



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