The Gita Govinda of Sri Jayadev: An Illustrated Palm Leaf Manuscript

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Item Code: IDK326
Author: A.K. Tripathy and P.C. Tripathy
Publisher: Publications Division, Government of India
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 8123013132
Pages: 188 (Illustrated Throughout In Color)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.6" X 11.3"
Weight 1.07 kg
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Back of the Book

The widely acclaimed lyrical composition of Gita Govinda of Sri Jayadev, the 12th Century A.D. saint poet, has been a powerful influence 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. Shri A.K. 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. In 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 n 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 other 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 the 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 long 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 luster 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.

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 Kumar 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.


Saints and spiritual masters all through the ages have played a significant role in directing the turns and trends of human faith. Contributions of such religious and spiritual masters to social development have been great throughout the anals of human history. They have influenced norms of social behaviour in more than one ways. Poets such as Kalidas and Bhavabhuti have also, though in a much more restricted and limited way, influenced human conduct and social mores. But those who are saints and poets rolled into one like Valmiki, Vyasa, Thiruvalluvar, Tulsidas, Surdas, Kavir and Meera have had the greatest influence on the faith, social mores and cultural patterns of nations and civilisations. Jayadev belongs to that great tradition of saint poets of India.

Madhava (Vishnu) was the deity of love and admiration for Jayadeva. The worship of Jagannath (Jagadish) as the Avatari and the worship of the ten incarnations (Avatars) became very popular after the composition of the Gitagovinda, because of its lucid language, religious fervour and philosophical import. To quote Kedarnath Mahapatra, "In his invocation in the Gitagovinda, Jayadeva addresses all ten incarnations of Vishnu while describing Lord Krishna as Jagadisa-Hare, thus associating Hari with Jagadisa who is responsible for these ten incarnations, Jagadisa being a synonym of Jagannatha. The Gita of Jayadeva is meant exclusively for Govinda, none other than Jagannatha, and it was a hymn to Govinda which was solely intended to be sung before the deity, certainly not to gain the goodwill and favour of any patron". The intense devotion and admiration of Jayadeva towards Vishnu (Jagadisha) and His ten Avatars institutionalised and popularized the Dasavatar cult throughout India.

Jayadeva's Gitagovinda contributed lyrical devotional poetry of the highest calibre in the shape of a dance drama of rare quality, to the institution of Devadasi, in which girls were dedicated to the temples as wedded to the Lord for performance of dance and singing of music in temples. The institution of Devadasi had started much prior to Jayadevas' times but it mostly lacked taste, grace, colour and fervour. The popularity of the services of the dancing girls after they took to singing and dancing the Gitagovinda grew to such extent that Natayandirs (stages for temple dances) were added to Vimana and Jagamohana in many temples.

From the view points of inspiration and expression the Gitagovinda had surpassed most of the preceeding works of Sanskrit literature. Its appeal was three dimensional namely poetry, music and the mystical spiritual content. When considered from the literary musical and dramatical aspects, the Gitagovinda is a unique creation in the history of Sanskrit literature. It is a Prabandha Kavya.

The paintings of Dasavatar contain one of the thematic essences of the Gitagovinda which has been accepted QY the wall painting traditions and included throughout India in the pata paintings, tusser paingings and palm leaf paintings. Dasavatar pictures are painted on ganjapa cards, dowry boxes, other wooden caskets used as container of cosmetics and jewellery.

Considering the Gitagovinda manuscripts, the commentaries and works on the Gitagovinda, available in different parts of India. Dr. (Mrs) Kapila Vatsayan has classified these into six categories such as (1) theological works (works of Gosvamis), (2) literary commentaries (alankara text, nayaka nayika bheda, Rasikapriya, Rasamanjari), (3) works of erotics (Kamasutra, Kokasastra), (4) point of view of music (Rajatarangini, Sangitaraja, Sangita Kalpalata) (5) prose dramatized works (Sangitanataka, Gosthi, Piyushalahari) and (6) imitation in verse (Krishna is substituted for Rama etc.). Out of these categories mentioned above, the literary commentaries and the works of erotics only contain illustrations.

The Gitagovinda has been described as neither a Kavya in its form and structure nor a drama in its logical sense but a delicate and well structured combination of both which has given it a novel touch as a literary piece. It defies any conventional classification. It has been described as a combination of narration, description and speech and as an attempt to remodel older forms of composition in Sanskrit by absorbing the newer characteristics of the emerging vernacular literature.

The Gitagovinda has been described as belonging to the religio-erotic class of poetry and as the last glorious spark of the hoary Sanskrit poetic tradition. It can be called a pastoral poem with a dramatic tradition. To quote, Dr. NSR Ayengar, "The gloss of surface simplicity covers its structural intricacies and the wealth of forms and concepts it draws from ancient literary tradition and mythic sources. The structured emotion embedded in the architectonics of the poem - the separation of the lovers, the longings, languishing, pining and the eventual satiation in their reunion and consummation - proceeds as if from a lower note gradually reaching the crescendo and then again declining into a denuendo, lend it the beauty of symphony".

Dr. (Mrs.) Kapila Vatsyan who had undertaken a project entitled "Gitagovinda and the Indian Artistic Traditions" had said in the preface of her book "Jaur Gitag-Govinda".

"As I proceeded I realised that despite the hundred odd published editions, commentaries and translations of the Gitagovinda there was a vast body of primary source material extant in private and public collections which required investigation. This ranged from epigraphic records, commentaries, translations and imitations, based on the Gitagovinda to pictorial material in practically all schools of miniature painting. It was also vibrant in contemporary music and dance performance".

Be this as it may, the discovery and full documentation of these illustrated manuscripts demands a full study of each one individually. They are significant both as primary in-controvertible data for determining chronology, and valuable for their intrinsic worth as pictorial expression. They provide the basis for exploring the nature of relationship between the poetic theme, phraseology and imagery and the pictorial interpretation. Each of these studies is planned as an indepth study from the point of view of the inter-relationship and interdependence of the diverse artistic media, especially textual and pictorial, and will not be restricted to mere stylistic analysis of each pictorial school. Perhaps this will fulfill one initial objective of the project, namely to investigate the power of the literary work for multiple interpretations and the creative use of the principle of inter-relationship and interdependence at the pan-Indian, as also regional, local, specific level".

Veer Granthagar of Nepal contains one of the oldest manuscripts of the Gitagovinda. It is dated 1447 AD. An inscription of Saranga Deva in Gujarat dated 1291 AD quotes a sloka of the Gitagovinda starting with" vedanuddharata'. The Rasikapriya Tika of the Gitagovinda was composed by Rana Kumbha Kama (1433 AD to 1468 AD). All these go to prove how fast the Gitagovinda had traveled to all corners of India and got popular as well as critical appreciation at the same time.

The erotic, the devotional and the musical strands have been fused beautifully by Jayadeva into the Gitagovinda. The elements of the divine and the mundane in equal measure be traced very cleanly. On the one hand the meeting of Radha and Krishna has been depicted as the union of the Jeevatma (human soul) with the Paramatma (Supreme Soul). On the other hand to appeal to the hearts of the ordinary readers Jayadeva puts unmistakable human qualities to this meeting. Erotic details notwithstanding, the sanctity of the Gitagovinda has not been questioned by any body.

Dr NSR Ayengar who has so beautifully summed up the reasons for which the Gitagovinda has attained immortality in Sanskrit literature says "Jayadeva in spite of all his originality and innovations, didn't lose sight of the most important tenets gf Indian poetic tradition. He so admirably fuses the unconventional with the traditional that it becomes very difficult to isolate one from the other. The Gitagovinda is a remarkably complete and a very satisfying poem in all respects. In its form and content, in its language and style, diction and lyricism, meter and rhythm, mellifluity and lucidity, in its treatment of the hero and heroine, in its fusion of the sacred and the erotic, the divine and the mundane, it is simply unparalleled"

It has been described that in its surface beauty the Gitagovinda was deceptively simple, but its forms were structurally intricate which have embedded in them a wealth of reasoning. Various levels of Indian literary tradition provided the concepts which Jayadeva interwove masterfully. As a work combining the highest erotic artistic traditions with a story of great religious and spiritual depth the Gitagovinda has even today a massive appeal to the people of all classes throughout India.

By the turn of the 12th century Buddhism had been almost extinct in India except in some universities and monasteries in Bihar, present day Andhra and Orissa and in a few other places. The basic principles and philosophy of Sanatan (Hindu) Dharma had substantially been eroded by superstitions, tantricism on the one hand and by the mostly meaning less but very often costly and violent rituals of the Karma Kanda on the other hand most of which arose from the misinterpretations of the Vedas. The highly intellectual philosophy of Adwita Vedanta preached by Adi Sankaracharya, in its appeal was severely limited to the intellectuals and had declined due to lack of proper follow up. Bhakti movement and the spiritual renaissance was yet to start. A few intellectuals only were debating the academic points of the Vedas and the Gita, and adding to their commentaries but the common men in general and the weaker sections including the socially and economically backward classes were totally kept out of the mainstream of the society. Intellectual feudalism was at its highest and at the same time meanest level.



Preface v
Introduction ix
Gita Govinda 1
Chapter - 1  
The Philosophy of The Gita Govinda 133
Chapter - II  
Mode of Singing Of The Gita Govinda 147
Chapter – III  
Gita Govinda And The Jagannath Temple Of Puri 151
Chapter - IV  
Jayadev-Legend, History And Folklore 157
Chapter - V  
Kenduvilva Of The Prachi Valley 165
Bibliography 185

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