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The Demon Serpent Kaliya Surrenders To Lord Krishna

Graphite on paper. 89 x 59 cm.

In the ancient Hindu epic text named 'Bhagavata Purana', meaning: 'ancient tales of the follower of the lord', a story is told of the encounter between the god Krishna and a hundred headed demon serpent named Kaliya. According to legend, Kaliya lived in the Yamuna river of the region named Vrindavan. The waters, spanning many leagues around Kaliya's colossal body, boiled and bubbled with poison. No human or animal dared venture the rivers edge. 

Lord Krishna hears about this menace in the river, and sets out to confront the demon. He dives into the depths of the Yamuna river and sees Kaliya writhing about in the murky depths. Kaliya is startled, and begins to wrap his massive serpent coils around Krishna. Krishna in response, starts to grow to an immeasurable size, making it impossible for Kaliya to hold onto Krishna. As Krishna swims to the surface he slowly regains his human form, and waits. The demon serpent Kaliya pursues Krishna, and surfaces to confront the god. Krishna flies upwards and lands on the central head of the serpent, an begins to dance. As Krishna dances he assumes the weight of the entire universe. The demon serpent Kaliya is overwhelmed, and slowly begins to die. The six 'nagini' wives of Kaliya appear, and beg Krishna to spare their demon husband. Eventually Kaliya surrenders to lord Krishna. Krishna banishes Kaliya to a remote island, away from mankind.

The idea of creating a composition that showed a serpent with one hundred heads, was imagined by many artists as being too difficult, so they produced a snake with many heads. I decided to create one hundred heads, that emerge from a central serpent hood. 

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