Krishna pointing the Eid moon, how the fake propaganda was busted

Eid is an occasion for all to celebrate brotherhood, love and harmony. As the Muslim festival is not in the list of PETA and NGT bans, on how to and how not to celebrate it, we see a real surge of wishes, messages and truckloads of love and brotherhood everywhere. Some eminent intellectuals, however, in an attempt to overdo on the brotherhood spreading, ended up sharing a ‘painting’ that was not what they claimed.

Among all these people who shared the painting, some claimed it belonged to the 16th century and some claimed it to be from the 18th century. The so-called eminent intellectuals claimed it showed Lord Krishna pointing out the Eid Moon to a group of Muslims. Hailed as a token of cultural tolerance and inclusiveness, the image seemingly ticked all the boxes needed for a ‘secularism’ credential check.

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However, its authenticity was questioned by many. As discussions around the image continued, information surfaced that it was in fact featured in a Swarajya magazine article by Dipankar Deb titled, ‘Krishna, through the hands of Muslim artists’ dated 24th May 2015. Dipankar Deb is also the author of a book titled Muslim Devotees of Krishna where he reportedly discusses the spread of art and literature depicting Krishna by Muslim devotees.

However, even Dipankar had claimed that it was a painting of Krishna showing the Eid moon to Muslim devotees.

There were two main claims made by the people who shared the painting. They were

  1. That the painting is a Rajasthani/Mughal painting and the time period might be around 16th/18th century.
  2. It depicts Lord Krishna pointing the Eid moon to his devotees (or Rozedars, the Muslims who observe the fast in Ramzan, as Shashi Tharoor said).

The argument of this painting being a Mughal painting was questionable. Popular Twitter handle TrueIndology refuted the claims made.

Interestingly, the same painting was shared last year by William Dalrymple, Shabana Azmi and Rajdeep Sardesai with similar claims. It is interesting to note that people had proceeded to draw their own claims from the images of the painting. People had decided that the people depicted in the painting were ‘Rozedars’, Muslims keeping a fast during Ramadan.

Another Twitter user Vivek Kumar Mishra, attempted to bring some truth and clarity into the assumptions being made. The presence of a regally dressed, bearded man in the painting was seemingly understood as a Muslim person by most people. Mishra shared images from a similar painting from the national museum in Delhi that depicts the same bearded man and a very similar setting. The images depicted a very popular section of Krishna’s story in Indian mythology where Krishna guides the people of Gokul to a place called Vrindavan.

Mishra went ahead to share two more such paintings, which as claimed by him were in the San Diego museum and Harvard Museum respectively. Both the paintings had the presence of the similarly dressed ‘bearded man’. Mishra explained that the bearded man was not Muslim, as claimed by many people but in fact, Nanda Maharaj, Krishna’s foster father.

Soon, facts began to emerge and more and the painting caught the attention of experts. The authenticity of the painting was already questioned and the claims of Muslims being shown Eid moon was already busted.

Publisher Indu Chandrasekhar shared the response of prominent art historian Professor B N Goswami on the matter. Professor Goswamy refuted all the claims made by the ‘Eid moon’ enthusiasts. He clarified that the painting is not from Rajasthan or Mughal heritage but it belongs to the first generation of artists after Manaku and Nainsukh along the Tehri-Garhwal style. He asserted that the ‘bearded man’ is, in fact, Nanda Maharaj and he has been depicted in similar dress and style in all the paintings of this style. Professor Goswami also stated that the current whereabouts of this painting are unknown and if located, it must include a folio explaining the sequence from Bhagavata Purana like other Pahari paintings of the similar style.

There is nothing wrong in wishing for communal harmony. But there is should be a clear demarcation between facts and dressed-up propaganda. The painting which was made by Pahari artists showing their devotion to Krishna and depicting sequences from Bhagavata Purana has been knowingly or unknowingly misrepresented, by people who should have known better. Indian history has been cut to size and customized to fit into ‘secular, liberal’ standards in every aspect. Misrepresenting Hindu paintings showing Hindu gods to propagate those standards is unfortunate. It is more saddening when the appropriation is done by people who themselves cry hoarse over ‘fake news’.

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