Breastfeeding in South Asian art

I came across a beautiful picture of Lord Krishna being breastfed by his foster mother Yashoda. A little Googling led me to some more stunners. The first pic is my favorite, but the others are incredible as well. Check them out:

I really wish I knew who painted this!

A traditional Mysore painting

Artist unknown, ca. 1890, Calcutta, India

Kalighat painting

Krishna’s Foster-Mother, Yashoda, with the Infant Krishna
India (Tamil Nadu, Pudukkottai and Tanjavur districts)
Chola period, early 12th century
Photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Niccolò Caranti

    A couple of little things I noticed:

  • Yashoda is not his birth mother. Does that mean she induced lactation to breastfeed him? Fenugreek is used a lot in Indian cooking, so I bet that came into play 🙂
    Of course, it’s quite possible she was breastfeeding other children. I’m probably getting excited about nothing.
  • He is definitely not an infant in those first two pics. A toddler or maybe even older? It’s a beautiful depiction of long term breastfeeding.
    There’s a pic that E and I took last year that has a similar vibe.

Have you come across any breastfeeding art (religious or secular) that you love?


5 thoughts on “Breastfeeding in South Asian art

  1. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures Naya! I especially love the first one.

    As for you getting excited about the induced lactation in Hinduism, you should be! Have you heard the story of Putana? She was a demon who took the form of a beautiful devi, Yashoda was so stricken by her that she encouraged her to breastfeed Krishna (she obv didn't know she was a demon ;)). This def shows that there was induced lactation.

    P.S. That picture of you feeding E in a Sari is touching. You can feel the motherly love in it 🙂


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