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Some scholars speculate that the idea of a fluting Krishna derives from that of the lonely shepherd who plays his bamboo flute (venu) while tending his flock. While other cowherders of Braj hold a shepherd's staff, Krishna's staff is also his flute. He, however, does not play upon it to please the cows, but to charm the gopis or the cowherdesses. Metaphorically, he is, of course, the supreme being, the great soul (param-atma), into which the individual soul (atma) represented by the gopis, will merge, drawn by the enchanting music of his flute. He is thus the great ocean into which all rivers must eventually lose their identities.
In this wood sculpture from a temple workshop in the Salem district of Tamil Nadu, the god is shown standing in his characteristic pose on a central lotus, with his right hip thrust out. He has four arms. While the two principal ones hold the flute to his lips, coaxing divine melodies out of it, the upper arms support a wheel (chakra) on the right and the sacred conch on the left. These are of course the classic attributes of Lord Vishnu and hence this image makes Krishna's identification with Vishnu unambiguous.
Beneath the central larger figure of Krishna are carved out two smaller females, representing his two wives - Rukmani and Satyabhama, both of whom dance to his tune. The contrast between the figure of Krishna and his two consorts identifies him as a person of cosmic proportions. The highly decorated tree, cut through to create a bejewelled lacy design, and whose intertwined leafy and flowering branches form a canopy above his head, further expresses his cosmic nature.