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The Sleeping Shatrajit Murdered by Satadhanva, from a Bhagavata Purana

Historical period(s)
Pre-Mughal period, ca. 1520
Pre-Mughal School
Opaque watercolor and ink on paper
H x W: 17.6 x 23.1 cm (6 15/16 x 9 1/8 in)
India, North India, Delhi-Agra
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
The Bhagavata Purana (Song of the Lord), possibly first compiled in Sanskrit about 1200 and later translated into regional vernaculars, was the product of a long oral tradition. It is an immense work, comprising 18,000 verses in 11 books. Book ten remains the most popular of these, for it deals with the life of Krishna, the young cowherd and prince who was the god Vishnu incarnate.

This Bhagavata Purana is one of the most important pre-Mughal Hindu manuscripts. The artist combined several events from one narrative to convey successive events within a single composition. On the first floor of a palace surrounded by water, Satadhanva gains possession of the fabulous Syamantaka jewel by decapitating Shatrajit. Shatrajit's daughter preserves his corpse in a trough of oil (visible above the decapitation scene) and hastens to inform her betrothed Krishna of the murder. The women of the family wail in sorrow in the upper storey of the palace.

Provenance information is currently unavailable
On View Location
Currently not on view
Bhagavata Purana, dance, India, murder, palace, sleeping, turtle, water, WWII-era provenance
Collection(s) Area
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.