Rai Anand Krishna is an art historian and museologist, who has not only helped in restoration and chronicling of Indian art but also created a breed of professional art researchers. Scholars from India and abroad have eagerly sought his evaluation of their work. His association with Bharat Kala Bhavan at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi has provided a modern outlook to the discipline of art-history in India.
Anand Krishna was born on November 12, 1925 into a family of Varanasithat traced its lineage to Patani Mall whose forebears served as Diwans to Moghul courts and British East India Company. Rai Patani Mall had been granted Mansab of 5000 and control of territories in Central and Western Bihar.
While branches of the family settled at Allahabad, Patna, Rai Patani Mall chose Varanasi to settle down and set up his library there. The collection of jewels, precious objects and works of art from his library were magnanimously donated to Bharat Kala Bhavan at Banaras Hindu University.
Padma Vibhushan Rai Krishnadasa father of Anand Krishna inherited the aethetic sensibilities of his grandfather. He grew up surrounded by scholars of Persian, Sanskrit and English. His grandmother was the paternal aunt of Bharatendu Harishchandra the great linguist and littérateur who standardized the national language of India, Hindi. His home was a resort to intellectuals, scholars and artistes.
Growing up in the ancestral haveli, Shanti Kutir, was itself education for Anand. The red-turbanned attendants, paintings and statues adorning the long galleris of the mansion and evenings afire with banter of artistes, poets, historians and musicians were all gradually training him for his future role. Poetry-reading was a regular affair as were music session. With such personages as Hariaudh ji, Babu Shyam Sunder Das, Acharya Shukla, Keshav Prasad Misra, art historians like Dr. Moti Chandra and Dr. Birbal Sahni, historian Dr. Altekar, artistes like Ustad Ram Prasad, Omkarnath Thakur or Heerabai Badodekar present in the house on any given day, Anand's interest and involvement with art-forms intensified.
His own experience has its solid foundation in his illustrious father Padma Vibhushan Rai Krishnadasa’s intimate knowledge and deep involvement in these areas. He grew up with the distinguished art collection of Bharat Kala Bhavan [the renowned Indian Art Museum in Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, which was founded by Rai Krishnadasa ji] and under the shadow of top Hindi littérateurs, painters, musicians et al., a solid base which he later enriched with his own experience.
Diversity in creativity
Professor Rai Anand Krishna — known to his intimates as Raja Bhaiya — is a well-known art and museum specialist; his creativity goes back to 1944: a long span of six decades. Besides his own contribution in the fields of Indian painting, sculpture and decorative [‘minor’] arts, he has significantly contributed to the world of Indian music. Based in Varanasi—a seat of Indian classical music, msucians and scholars from Pt. Omkarnath Thakur, Dr. B.R. Deodhar, Dr. Lalmani Misra to artistes like Pt. Mahadeo Mishra, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Anokhelal Mishra, Dr. N. Rajam were personally known to him. His immense and deep knowledge of not only Indian art and heritage but also every facet of human culture together with his accessible and kind personality make him a standing humanist, dear to a whole generation of Indian art students who considered him his guru.
Anand Krishna’s writings are basic to the study of Indian art history, and his teaching and lectures throughout India, Europe, and America have affected and influenced generations of students and scholars. His knowledge of art dealers, with many of whom his family has maintained close friendship, the contacts he has maintained since his youth with the greatest creative minds and talents in India, and his close relationships with such internationally important scholars as W.G. Archer [who was one of his doctoral thesis examiners], Grace Morley, Robert Skelton, Karl J. Khandalavala, Sivaramamurti, Moti Chandra, etc. places Anand Krishna at the center of the development of the study of the arts in India.
Humour: Distinctive Trait
Nonetheless, these extraordinary professional achievements do not reveal the humour, even the mischievousness of Anand Krishna. He wears his scholarship, and his family history, lightly. Few scholars are as modest and self-effacing, as unpretentious in dress and bearing, as devout, and as spirited as Anand Krishna. His presence and friendship has greatly enhanced a multitude of lives.
Recently a felicitation volume Ananda-vana of Indian Art on Dr. Anand Krishna was published. Though not lacking in biographical details, the volume carries peer-reviewed research articles in three sections. There are sixteen papers under section, BCE till 11th Century, twenty seven under section, 11th to 19th Century and thirteen in the final section of the book, 20th Century and Modern age.
All contributors had gained insight or discussed their research with Dr. Anand Krishna. Their interaction with the scholar, Rai Anand Krishna also finds space in the volume.
- Beach, Milo C. Rai Anand Krishna: A Brief Biography in The Anand-Vana of Indian Art. Naval Krishna and Manu Krishna, Editors. Indica Books, 2004. ISBN 81-86569-48-0