The Muslim woman who paints Krishna

Jasna Saleem artwork on the Hindu deity is also a source of livelihood

Krishna is a deity who, for believers, emulates feelings of friendship, fondness and love alike. For Jasna Saleem, a young woman from Koyilandy in Kozhikode, Krishna is synonymous with livelihood.

“I am a Class 10 drop-out. If I have earned recognition today, it is only because of my Kannan,” Ms. Jasna said, with fondness and gratitude for the Hindu deity. Known for numerous Krishna portraits that adorn the walls of several temples and houses, Ms. Jasna is a faithful Muslim.

It is the name ‘Kannan’ that connects Jasna with Krishna, for it was her nickname in childhood, too. “My family decided to call me ‘Kinnan’ as I used to throw around the kinnam (plate) at home, which later changed to ‘Kannan’,” Ms. Jasna explained.

Ms. Jasna took a liking to a picture of little Krishna with laddoos in his hand that she found somewhere. “Before drawing Krishna, I had not even drawn a map properly. I had no skills whatsoever. But somehow, Krishna turned out well,” she said. Later on, she shifted to the portrait of “little Krishna eating butter”, which earned her fame across the State.

“I used to contribute Krishna paintings to the Guruvayur temple every year. Though I could not go inside, I used to hand them over to the security personnel and leave. But my friends and neighbours who returned from Guruvayur would often comment on my paintings, which they saw in the temple. I was elated,” she said.

Later, the temple committee at Ulanadu Sreekrishna Swamy Temple at Pandalam invited her to reveal her painting before the deity.

Ms. Jasna did initially have some opposition from her family and community for painting a Hindu deity, but this stopped as she gained recognition for her work.

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