Chola period, 10th (Elgood) or 11th (Michell) century. Tamil Nadu.
Delhi National Museum, India.

This small (59cm, about 2 feet tall) bronze is one of the icons of Indian art. It shows young Krishna subduing the snake demon Kaliya, by dancing on his outstretched hoods. Kaliya's offence was that he had been poisoning the waters of a pond. After his rough treatment, Kaliya repents and raises his hands in anjali mudra (submission).

Krishna, whose name means "Black," is thought to have originated as a pastoral deity associated with the darker-skinned communities of India. He is typically painted with blue or black skin. Stories about him involve countryside settings and occupations (making butter, herding cows), and often have an erotic component. All this seems foreign to the upright and conventional Vishnu, of whom Krishna is an avatar.