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Krishna Vishvarupa
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The many heads of Krishna Vishvarupa signify that he encompasses all beings.

The deity Krishna gave his devotee, the warrior Arjuna, the divine sight of a yogi so that he could perceive the god’s awesome manifestation as Vishvarupa. The many small gods, sages, and mountains within the dhoti (garment) worn by Krishna convey that he contains all beings within his body.

Yoga: The Art of Transformation

Krishna Vishvarupa

The Bhagavad Gita, a canonical Hindu text, presents a spectrum of yogic doctrines and practices within a framework of personal devotion (bhakti) to Krishna. In its eleventh chapter, Krishna manifests in his cosmic form (Vishvarupa) and is praised as Lord of Yoga (Yogeshvara).

An eighteenth-century artist evoked the limitless and proliferating universe by extending Krishna’s sixty multicolored heads and forty-four pinwheeling arms to the very borders of the painting. With its delicate line, luscious sherbet colors, and especially Krishna’s gentle expressions, the painting conveys the god’s compassion toward his devotees.


Krishna Vishvarupa
India, Himachal Pradesh, Bilaspur
ca. 1740
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection




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As renovation work continues in the Freer Gallery, the Sackler Gallery also will close on July 10, 2017. This museum-wide closure will allow us to completely reinstall our exhibitions and revitalize features to improve your visit. Both spaces will reopen on October 14, 2017, when we will welcome the public back to the Freer|Sackler: two galleries, one destination. For your safety, all visitors will have their bags checked. See the complete list of restricted items and bag sizes.