The widely acclaimed lyrical composition of Gita Govinda of Sri Jayadev, the 12th Century A.D. saint poet, has been a powerful influenced on several genres of creative and performing arts in various parts of India. It is perhaps the most lyrical Sanskrit composition of the medieval era.
This book is authored by two known researchers of Orissa Shri A.K. Tripathy and Shri P.C. Tripathy is a senior bureaucrat, columnist and author of several books in Oriya. The book highlights the living traditions of Gita Govinda in present day Orissa, besides giving a host of historical and cultural references on the life and times of the saint poet in and around the Temple city of Puri and his claimed native place nearby.
The Gita Govinda of saint poet Jayadev is a unique work in Indian literature. In both mediaeval and contemporary Vaishnavism, it has been a great source of religious inspiration. It was composed in the 12th century AD and since then it has spread not only throughout India but also abroad. It has been translated into most of the Modern Indian Languages and also in many foreign languages. The original book contains both a high order of literary richness and a heightened religious significance. The religious affinity of the Gita Govinda is towards Vaishnavism but it became so popular that it is also sung in Shaiva and Shakta temples. The songs of the Gita Govinda are common prayers or bhajans in all sects of Hinduism. People may not understand its meaning, but enjoy singing its melodious lyrics. Composed in Sanskrit some of its songs are used as mantras in temples and at homes by the priests. It many places the palm leaf manuscripts of the Gita Govinda are worshipped like the Bhagavat and the Ram Charit Manas.
Jayadev strongly reinforced the introduction of Radha, Madhava and Dasavatara (10 incarnations) cults in literature and religion. Jayadev worshipped Vishnu as his supreme Godhead. He admired in describing him as Madhava, Keshava, Krsna and by a host of other names. By dint of its lyricality the Gita Govinda surpasses all preceding works of Sanskrit literature, in its appeal of music, poetry, mystical and spiritual content.
According to Sri Nilamadhab Panigrahi, an authority on Odissi Music and dance, "So amazing has been its popularity for the last eight hundred and odd years that it can be said to have charmed, enraptured, feasted and fed the mind and soul of the people of India". Jayadev, the poet musician, had himself tuned the songs of his Gita Govinda in the ragas and talas, which have been mentioned above each song.
Late Debaprasad Das, a noted guru of Odissi dance has summed up in brief the contribution of the Gita Govinda to classical dance forms. He writes, "As per a legend, Padmavati was a beautiful young devadasi who later on became the life partner of Jayadev. Before his marriage to Padmavati, Jayadev, was well-known as a master of music, dance and drama and was taking delight in singing the Gita Govinda in the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri. After their marriage, Jayadev and Padmavati combinedly presented the Gita Govinda before the Lord every night. Jayadev's recitals were now accompanied by the dancing mudras of Padmavati. The Gita Govinda was thus sung, danced and enacted at several places throughout Orissa and South India, following the traditions in the Jagannath temple at Puri. Undoubtedly this poem had a great potential of being sung and danced to and in fact it was a Sanskritised form of the folk theatre that was prevalent in the then Orissa."
The Gita Govinda is also performed as a giti-natya or dance-drama to the accompaniment of song as dialogue. The songs were composed with proper raga and tala structure befitting to the place, time and situation. The abhinaya or gesture is the most important factor of the giti-natya which is enacted keeping in view the theme and sentiment of the song. The giti-natya is the earliest type of traditional Sanskrit drama in India.
Dr. Bhagaban Panda, a noted Sanskrit scholar and Indologist, observes that Gita Govinda marked the transitional stage between the pure lyric and pure drama. The work was a lyrical drama which though dating from the twelfth century, is the earliest literary specimen of a primitive type of play that must have preceded the regular drama. The Gita Govinda has the unique advantage of a poem which can be enjoyed simply as such but in addition, it could be adapted to dramatic presentation. Therefore it has been variously described as a lyric drama, a pastoral, an opera, a melodrama and a refined yatra identified as Krisna Lila.
According to Dr. Dinanath Pathi, noted painter and art critic, the Gita Govinda has influenced the art, music and literature of India to such an extent that it is almost impossible to find a school of thought in the field of literary, visual and performing arts without the magic touch of the Gita Govinda. In particular, the impact of the Gita Govinda on Indian painting has been so profound that Gita Govinda paintings are available in abundance throughout India in several regional schools. The pictorial traditions of the Gita Govinda extend from the East to West, touching Orissa, Bengal, Nepal, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. It is however surprising that no Gita Govinda illustrations are known from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Manipur where the Gita Govinda singing has a very long tradition.
As regards visual imageries, Sri Rabi Narayan Dash, ex-Superintendent, Orissa State Museum has described the Gita Govinda in these words. "Gita Govinda is a perennial source of visual imageries which helps to understand and appreciate the poet's society and the beautiful Nature visualized in its various manifestations. Behind the lucidity of poetic narrations, Jayadev has narrated the facts of life in the society through his poetry. Krsna of the Gita Govinda is not only the consort of Radha who used to play on his flute to lure the gopis into the groves on the banks of the river Yamuna, but also the symbol of youth of the time. Similarly Radha is not merely the beauty loved and adored but the woman of the time, most sensuous and playful."
To conclude, we quote Sri Bankey Behari in his book Minstrels of god (Vol-I), "So longs as Sanskrit language lives, Jayadev's name shall flourish. In the temple of Love, his name is written in divine letters for all time. He was a great singer and poet; but above all, a saint whose devotion for Sri Radhakrsna and whose renunciation shed indelible lustre on the canvas of time and spread a fragrance which even lures the Lord to play the Bhramar on the elegant bouquet offered by Sri Jayadev in the form of the great song Gita Govinda."
We express our sincere gratitude to Dr. N.S.R. Ayengar, Professor of English in Berhampur University and a noted scholar on Jayadev for having given us permission to include his translation of the Gita Govinda in English verse.
Our special thanks are due to Dr. Damodar Rout, Minister of Culture and Panchayat Raj, Government of Orissa, Dr. Bijoy Kumar Rath, Superintendent State Archaeology, Orissa, Dr. Chandrabhanu Patel, Curator, Orissa State Museum, Prof. Dr. Satyakam Sengupta, an eminent Indologist of Kolkata, Dr. Ashis Kumr Chakravorty, Curator, Guru Sadaya Museum, Kolkata, Dr. Surendra Kumar Maharana, an eminent scholar and Sri Jayashis Ray, a senior journalist.
It is hoped that this Book will throw some new lights into the life and works of Jayadev who is regarded as the greatest of lyric poets in Indian Literature and the last great name in Sanskrit poetry since the 12th century.
A. C. Tripathy
P. C. Tripathy
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