An Assamese artist, Akram Hussain, has run into trouble with devout hindus. His painting, which is a re-interpretation of Lord Krishna with his Gopis, has caused an uproar among religious groups, as expected. The painting was displayed at Ravindra Bhavan in Guwahati’s State Art Gallery and was taken down after multiple protests from right wing groups.

The painting depicts a modern day ‘ rasa lila ‘ – which according to Hindu mythology was one of lord Krishna’s more esoteric pastimes. Also known as the “dance of divine love”, the rasa lila takes place one night when the gopis hear Lord Krishna playing his flute. They manage to escape their homes and run away to the forest where they dance with Krishna all night.

In all earnest, neither the painting, nor the artist would have gotten half as much traction had this not become a religious issue. Then again, maybe that was Hussain’s plan all along, for nothing gets people talking like hurt religious sentiments.

A group called the Hindu Legal Cell, filed an FIR against Akram Hussain, for maligning their God and hurting their religious sentiments.

This is not the first time religious groups have gotten in the way of creativity. A number of artists have been persecuted for their work by right wing extremists. For instance, MF Hussain, often considered India’s greatest painter, was harrassed to the point where he had to leave the country. His painting of Hindu Gods and depictions of scenes from Hindu mythology almost always brought him the ire of Hindu groups or self appointed censors.


Balbir Krishna, was attacked for his paintings of pro-LGBT themes. Raja Ravi Varma was charged with hurting people’s sentiments through his paintings of goddesses and celestial nymphs like Urvashi and Menaka.


There are numerous cases and there will be many more, where religious groups will attack artists over what they create. The problem is, you cannot persecute someone for their freedom of expression. It is a fundamental right extended to every citizen of this country, no matter caste, creed or religion. Akram Hussain was persecuted because he is a Muslim painter who dared to depict a Hindu god in a way that is seemingly less than divine.

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