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Kaliya Nartana Krishna is a classic theme in Chola bronze sculpturing. This is a statue of Lord Krishna subduing the five-hooded snake Kaliya who had come to reside in the waters of the river Yamuna, thereby poisoning it.
Kaaliya was a terror to the residents and cattle of Vrindavana, a village on the banks of Yamuna in North India.
It was the time when Lord Vishnu had incarnated on earth as Krishna and was residing in Vrindavana as the child of Yashoda and Nanda.
Once, while playing with friends Krishna jumped in Yamuna on a pretext but really for the purpose of ridding Yamuna’s waters of Kaliya.
Kaliya was enraged at Krishna’s daring and attacked him with full force. Krishna however subdued Kaliya and compelled him to rise to the surface of Yamuna. The fight carried on there too and when Kaliya was unable to crush Krishna with the grip of his coils, he attempted to bite him.
Each time Kaliya would attempt to bite Krishna with any of his hoods, Krishna would jump on that very hood, mount it and dance on it hurting Kaliya with his dance-steps. It was a wonderful sight to behold and this was called Kaliya Nartana of Krishna.
Kaliya would lose strength and blood with each attempt to bite Krishna since his nostrils bled profusely due to Krishna’s forceful dance on his hoods.
Finally when Kaliya understood that he could not bear this anymore and realized that Krishna was none other than the supreme Vishnu, he humbly begged for forgiveness. Krishna forgave him on the condition that he would leave Yamuna and reside in the ocean.
This very finely carved bronze sculpture depicts the moment when a tired Kaliya requested Krishna’s mercy and Krishna granted such by raising his right hand in Abhaya Mudra (assurance or granting fearlessness). He is seen holding Kaliya’s tail with his left hand. His left foot is placed on the snake’s central hood and the right one arrested halfway in response to snake’s desperate request.
The snake Kaliya is shown in semi-human form with folded palms, requesting Krishna’s forgiveness.
This statue is a creative reproduction of the original Chola masterpiece.