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A Personal Krishna for Everyone

Meet a painter who draws a new Krishna every day of his life in all manners and styles – from a Thanjavur Krishna to a Botticelli Krishna to a Kung Fu Krishna.

Keshav, 52, lives in Chennai and has worked as a cartoonist at The Hindu since 1987. Apart from his day job, he has also been drawing a daily picture of Krishna regularly since 2002. 

Within the Krishna for Today oeuvre are a number of sub-series: the Single-Line series, the Dialogue with Arjuna series, the Experiments with Krishna series and the Chinese Brush and Ink series. There are series in different styles of painting, including the Kangra, Mithila and Thanjavur styles. Then there are series on particular deities such as Vitthala, the Udupi Krishna and the Rajagopala of Mannargudi, and there also is the New Forever series. He, too, enumerates the different qualities and virtues of Krishna through his paintings, including aspects such as the Gosakha (the companion of the cows) and the Jagadodharana (the uplifter of the world). He explores key incidents in the ‘life of Krishna’ such as the Ulukhala Bandhana (the Bondage of Krishna to the Mortar) and the Grace of Yashoda.

  Keshav, who has been drawing from childhood, has had no formal training in art. He studied the Western classical artists, especially the Renaissance masters. Keshav eventually moved from the academic realism of Western art to the idealism and symbolism of masters from the east, looking not only to India, but China, Cambodia and Japan for ideas and inspiration.

His body of work includes beautifully whimsical depictions: a bug-eyed, chubby-cheeked child Krishna inspired by drawings for children, a Japanese-inspired Krishna in a kimono and topknot, and a Pharaoh Krishna, accompanied by a leopard rather than a cow.

“If you give Krishna sacred marks, you make him Indian, Hindu,” he says. “I want to take him beyond religion and country, make him universal. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. But mine is a no-holds-barred Krishna. I stick to what I do. This is my Krishna, take it or leave it.”