The child Krishna holding a lump of butter. Bronze; 23 cm x 22 cm. Orissa. c. 18th century. 16/220.
Having been brought up among cowherds, Krishna is renowned for his fondness for home-churned butter. There are numerous references in myths and legends of him mischievously stealing butter from the houses of neighbouring cowherds. Devotional poetry of the mediaeval period, especially that of Surdas, elaborately describes how Krishna, with his cowherd companions in their amorous adventures, held up the path of young herdswomen under the pretext of demanding butter as “toll”.
This is one of the three types of images of the child Krishna conceptualised in Vaishnava iconography, the other two being the child Krishna lying on a pipal leaf (Ficus religiosa) sucking his toe, and Krishna quelling the ferocious snake Kaliya.
In this bronze image Krishna is shown wearing a crown indicating his divine status even in childhood. His hairstyle with a lotus-bud-shaped bun, pointed crown, thick lips, large eyes, plump body and broad shoulders are typical features of Orissan bronzes of this period.