Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Unknown Artist
Krishna Swallows the Forest Fire, Folio from a Bhagavata Purana (History of God) series
Other Titles
Title: Krishna Swallows the Forest Fire: Episode from the Bhagavata Purana (Ancient Stories of the Lord)
Work Type
c. 1730
Creation Place: South Asia, India, Kashmir, Basohli
Mughal period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Opaque watercolor and metallic pigment on paper
actual: 28.5 x 23 cm (11 1/4 x 9 1/16 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Suzanne and Frederic Weinstein in memory of Eleanor Dodge Barton and Marjorie R. Hubbard
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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The painting depicts Krishna, the eighth avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu who is worshipped as a deity in his own right, in profile and swallowing large flames. His arms are outstretched and he bears a crown topped with three lotuses, an attribute of both Krishna and Vishnu. The image depicts a scene from the Bhagavata Purana, (History of God). The Bhagvata Purana is one of the eighteen Mahapuranas (Great Histories) and is a revered text in Vaishnavism, a Hindu tradition that worships Vishnu. Produced sometime between the sixth and tenth century, the text promotes bhakti (devotion) to Krishna. According to the Bhagavata Purana, the young Krishna and his eldest brother, Balarama, are separated from the rest of the cowherd and their cows, who enter deep into the forest in search of fresh grass. Suddenly, they are encircled by a large and violent fire, with no means to escape. They call out to Krishna for help, and the deity rushes over and swallows up all of the flames, saving them. While many depictions of the scene portray Krishna, the cowherd, and the animals within a fiery landscape, the artist here has chosen to depict the deity alone, in order to dramatize the moment when he manifests his divine power.
Publication History

Steven Kossak, Indian Court Painting, 16th-19th Century, exh. cat., Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1997), Page 85/Figure 49

James Cuno, ed., A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions by the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., Spring 2000), p. 38

Exhibition History

Hot as Curry - Subtle as Moonlight: Masterpieces of Rajput Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/02/1991 - 12/20/1991

From India's Hills and Plains: Rajput Painting from the Punjab and Rajasthan, 17th through 19th Centuries, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/04/1993 - 10/31/1993

Indian Court Painting: 16th-19th Century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 03/24/1997 - 07/06/1997

A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions of Islamic and Later Indian Art, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 06/08/2000 - 09/03/2000

32Q: 2590 South and Southeast Asia, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 04/19/2018 - 11/07/2018

A Colloquium in the Visual Arts , Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/04/2021 - 01/02/2022

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at