Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda

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Item Code: IHJ059
Author: K. Jayakumar
Publisher: Shubhi Publications
Edition: 2021
ISBN: 9788182904002
Pages: 108 (Illustrated Throughout In B/W & Colour)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.2 inch X 6.2 inch
Weight 450 gm
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Book Description
From the Jacket

Generations have marveled at the exquisite beauty, lyricism and literary value of Geetagovinda. At once sacred and profane, its appeal is universal. While an inimitable felicity of diction and an intensity of passion distinguish the work in its original Sanskrit, no less significant is Jayadeva’s intensity of devotion to Hari. The work portrays the nuances and complexities of love in all its dimensions. Krishna and Radha, as portrayed by Jayadeva, endear themselves to the reader by their human and divine attributes. Jayadeva’s Krishan is human in his follies while divine in his intensity of love. Radha is infallible as a goddess in devotion while human in her susceptibility to anger and grief.

By its celestial perfection and extraordinary beauty, Geetagovinda has always challenged and lured translators and commentators. Every generation deserves to rediscover the eternal spell and charm of this great work that combines sensuqus beauty with devotional fervour.

K. Jayakumar is a poet, author and translator, who write in English and Malayalam. Among his important translations into Malayalam are Gitanjali of Tagore, The Prophet and Jesus, the Son of Man, by Kahlil Gibran, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and One Hundred Poems of Rumi. He has published two books poems in English, Seduction of the Soul and in the Interlude of remembered rains and four anthologies of poems in Malayalam. He is also a popular lyric writer in Malayalam. He has scripted a few films and directed a film for children. He is also a painter who has held several exhibitions.

A civil servant by profession, he is currently working in the Government of Kerala.

Geetagovinda by Jayadeva has fascinated generations of poets, scholars and general readers. This poetry of unmatched lyrical beauty and multiple dimensions has a universal appeal as a kavya of extraordinary literary value and a work of great spiritual significance. Its spirituality is remarkable for the deft blending of the sacred and the sensual. In fact, the work prompts us to redefine our notions of the sacred and the profane. Even when scholars disagree on the spiritual symbolism of the poem, Geetagovinda continues to be a poetic marvel by the enchanting moods of sringara it depicts and the sweetness of the rasa it generates. Its imagery and cadence are alluring and the diction is unparalleled in elegance. Above all, the sense of mystery about the reality of the narrative, enveloped in beauty and passion, makes it a source of eternal fascination.

Whatever be the interpretations of the poem, there is no doubt that Jayadeva’s engagement with Krishna is of a devotional nature. Therefore to completely discount the spiritual dimension of the poem would be violating the intent of the poet. Then what might have been the purpose of couching narrative in rather explicit sensuous and erotic imagery? Was it to shock and attract the reader? Or was it a conscious act of inducing a catharsis as the erotically embellished pagodas of Konark and Khajuraho attmpt? It would be futile to elicit a definitive answer. The search for such answers has only enhanced the mystery of the poem.

The appeal of Geetagovinda is not confined to literature. It has inspired several schools of paintings, particularly the miniature traditions. By the 17th century, Geetagovinda themes began to be painted in Mughal style and later they began to inspire artists or Rajasthan and Gujarat. However the refinement and perfection was reached in the Basholi and Kangra Paintings by the middle of the 18th century. The tradition of palm leaf paintings (patachitras) of Orissa flowered by its influence.

The cadence and lyrical quality along with the dramatic nature of the songs have endeared Geetagovinda to almost all types of classical dances as well. In fact, its verses have played an unmistakable role in the revival of many a dance form. There is no other work in Indian literature that is uniformly accepted and adapted by the various dance forms ranging from Bhartanatyam to Kathak and Manipur to Mohiniyattam, not to mention Odissi. All these forms have not only adapted Jayadeva’s verses but have internalized them as their essential repertoire. Apart from the emotional appeal and the scope for abhinaya, the capacity of these songs to be amenable to different styles of musical rendition and dancing styles is yet another reason for their popularity among the different dance forms, disregarding distances of space and time.

As a religious work its sanctity has not been eroded by the almost continuous allegations of profanity. Devotional singing of Geetagovinda continues to be an integral part of not only the Puri Jagannadha temple, but of the temples as far away as in Kerala. The poem has traveled all over India either as a religious text or as a source of inspiration to painters, musicians and dancers. In its pan-Indian appeal and reach, Geetagovinda is behind only to Ramayana, Mahabharata and perhaps Bhagavad Gita.

The Kavya essentially narrates the various stages of love between Radha and Krishna in the verdant setting of Vrindavan. There are only three characters, Radha, Krishna and a Sakhi. Through twenty-four songs, interspersed with short slokas, the narrative moves on from the stage of expectation to despondency, anger, reconciliation, exhilaration and ecstasy. The songs have different points of view. Some by sakhi, some by Radha and others by Krishna. Different scenes portray Krishna and Radha in diverse emotional situations. Sometimes he is surrounded by Gopies, at other times he waits crestfallen and remorseful and yet at another time he is enjoying with Radha, professing total love and devotion to her. Are these scenes real? Or are they nothing more than fantasies of Radha and sakhi? Or is the sakhi herself a symbol of the suppressed eloquence of Radha? Is Krishna at the time of the narration old enough for all these amorous adventures? The poem, which opens with Nandagopa asking Radha to escort Krishna through the darkening woods, the young lad being scared, gives adequate hint about the age of Krishna. Are the following sections wild fantasies? Or is our prudery trying to find morally convenient interpretations? Or could it be that the whole poem is an allegory of the eternal dalliance of the devotee and God?

Radha has become synonymous with premabhakti. It has been pointed out that the character of Radha does not find mention in any of the epics. However the reference to a favored gopi in Bhagavata has led some scholars to infer it as Radha. The word Radha seems to have derived from the word ‘aradhita’, which means ‘one who worships’. Tribal and folk influences too must have provided a favourable background for Jayadeva to shape a heroine as special, as passionate and as devoted as Radha. Though there might have been earlier allusions, the credit for creation a wholesome character of Radha as the heroine of Geetagovinda goes almost entirely to Jayadeva. Geetagovinda established Radha as the heroine of Geetagovinda goes almost entirely to Jayadeva. Geetagovinda established Radha as the consort of Krishna. Today she is the universal symbol of unswerving love and devotion.

Geetagovinda has inspired hundreds of translations and countless adaptations, imitations and commentaries. It has a deceptive simplicity and bewitching beauty that allure translators and commentators towards it. Once captivated, they realize the magnitude and complexity of the task. No sooner a translator is lured into the mystery of its theme and the magnificence of its narration than Geetagovinda acquires the form of an ocean too vast to cross or a mountain too steep to climb. Firstly the original verses exude such an abundance of beauty that it constantly reminds the translator of the limited success he can hope to claim. The cultural environment of Geetagovinda is so rooted in Sanskrit that the translator inevitably makes compromises and approximations. Eminent scholars beginning with William Jones and Edwin Arnold have translated this work. In recent times, the translation by Barbara Stroller Miller has been well acclaimed. Besides, translations by Indian scholars continue to be published.

In spite of all this, I dared to embark upon this translation, emboldened by a few motivations. The first was the desire to meet the challenge of translating a poem, which is essentially beyond translation. The other was the urge to capture the typically Indian nuances of love and the cultural habitat of the poem, which, it appears to me, is difficult for a non-Indian translator to imbibe, let alone translate. Finally, I was persuaded by the wish to present this eternal poem to the contemporary reading public in a syntax and diction that are familiar to them. For this reason, I have avoided attempts to rhyme. It has been my conviction that a stanza in a well-rhymed iambic pentameter is the surest way to kill the appetite of a contemporary reader of poetry. Every great work needs to be rediscovered by every generation in an idiom that matches its comfort level. That is precisely what I have attempted in this translation.

As this book reaches the readers, a modest sense of satisfaction as well as a great sense of awe overpower me. This awe has its source in the realization of the depth and complexity of this kavya, masked by a veneer of simplicity. The sense of accomplishment arises from the fact that, finally this translation is reaching the readers for critical appraisal. I thank Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan, who promptly and kindly wrote an elegant foreword. Thanks are also due to Dr. Nirmalkanti Bhattacharjee of Sahitya Akademi and Shri S.C. Bhalla of Central Secretariat Library for supporting me with materials. I should thank Dr. Sandhya Purecha, the dancer-scholar, for her insights and Ms. Ranjana Gauhar, the Odissi exponent, for her encouragement. Finally, I thank Shri Sanjay Arya of Subhi Publications for bringing out this book with the care and concern it deserves.


Introduction 5
Foreword 9
Canto One 13
Canto Two27
Canto Three 35
Canto Four 41
Canto Five 49
Canto Six 57
Canto Seven 65
Canto Eight 75
Canto nine 79
Canto Ten83
Canto Eleven89
Canto Twelve 99
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