This painting was created by a Russian artist who says he has no connection with Afghanistan

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An image has been shared thousands of times in social media posts claiming it shows a painting of a Hindu deity on display in a palace in Afghanistan’s Panjshir province. The demand circulated online after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan and pledged to impose Islamic Sharia law. The claim is misleading: the painting was created by a Russian artist who told AFP he had no connection to Afghanistan.

The image was shared in a Facebook post here on September 16, 2021.

The caption reads in part: “This painting exists (I don’t know how many days still) in the Panjsheer Palace in the ancient kingdom of Gandhara at the time of the Mahabharata, present-day Afghanistan”.

The post has been shared over a thousand times.

Gandhara is a historic region in what is now eastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan.

The Mahabharata is a Hindu epic poem that tells the story of an 18-day battle between two rival families: the Kauravas and the Pandavas.

Screenshot of the misleading message, taken on September 21, 2021

The painting shows the Hindu deity Krishna and the Pandavas seated together.

The caption goes on to state: “Now that the Sunni-dominated Taliban have taken control of Afghanistan, there is real concern that all Hindus and these memories no longer exist. They have very little time left.” .

The message circulated online after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan. The die-hard Islamist group said they celebrated their victory after claiming the Panjshir Mountain Valley in early September 2021.

The image was shared with a similar claim on Facebook here and here; and on Twitter here, here, and here.

Some articles also claim that the painting depicts a Panjshir palace – for example on Twitter here and here.

The claims, however, are misleading.

A reverse Google image search found the image to be identical to this painting called “Krishna and the Pandavas”.

He was pictured on the website for Art Spb – a Russian art gallery – and credited to Russian artist Rasikananda.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image shared in the misleading posts (L) and the image shared on the Russian art site (R):

Comparative screenshot of painting in misleading messages (L) and painting on Russian Art Gallery website (R)

Rasikananda Das was born in the Russian city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, according to the biography of the art gallery.

He is a member of the Creative Union of Artists of Russia and of the International Federation of Artists, he said.

Das shared this post on his Facebook page, dismissing the misleading claims about his painting.

He told AFP that the painting is an original work he created while in the Russian city of Sochi in 1999.

He refuted the claim that the painting depicts a palace in the Panjshir region or that it is related in any way to Afghanistan.

“The subject of this illustration is from Srimad Bhagavatam, 7th song. This painting is my original creation and it is not Panjshir at all,” he said.

Srimad Bhagavatam – also known as Bhagavata-purana – is a well-known Hindu literary epic, composed in Sanskrit.

Das said he sent the original painting to the archives of the Sweden Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) in the ISCKON Korsnäs Gård temple in 1999.

He said he was not aware of any copies or replicas made by other artists.

ArtSpb, the website for the art gallery that hosted an image of the painting, told AFP that Das sent the work to the BBT publishing house in Sweden in 1999.

AFP has previously refuted claims that Hindu deities were displayed on billboards in Time Square in New York.

About Edward Weddle

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