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Gīta Govinda

See Also Visvarupa (Cosmic vision of Krishna)

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A multimedia experience on Gīta Govinda, a 12th Century epic by Jayadeva was developed with the objective to familiarise audiences on the fundamental concepts of Indian music, dance, art and their inter-relationships and interpretation. The content was conceived by Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, a scholar of Gīta Govinda for over thirty years and an internationally acknowledged authority and pioneer of inter-and multi-disciplinary studies in the humanities, and the arts. She is the author of many definitive monographs on the Gīta Govinda including those on the diverse painting schools, specially Mewar, Jaipur, Bundi and Assam. 

The experience consisted of a network of 13 physical and virtual multimedia spaces that interpreted six songs of the poem spatially, laid out across two circular rings. Arranged on the circular axis were the songs of the poem, showing various emotional situations of Radha and Krishna in love. The two rings represented the poem's meanings through diverse media.

This has involved a major documentation effort in video, audio, photography etc. - in total, forty giga bytes of authored Gīta Govinda content was presented.

The multimedia experience makes explicit the dynamics of the variable and the invariable in Indian arts and bears testimony to the phenomenon of the underlying unity within the diversity of Indian culture. This was presented to the public in December, 1997-January, 1998. Based on this material CD-ROMs are being prepared.

RANJIT MAKKUNI, a researcher at Xerox PARC, USA led the multimedia research and design activities of the Gīta Govinda presentation at IGNCA. He had also developed the internationally acclaimed cultural learning exhibit on Tibetan Thangka paintings exhibited at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco in 1989.

Commentary  - Gitagovindam is a lyrical poetry in twelve chapters, sub-divided into twentyfour  divisions called Prabandha.  The author was Jayadeva of twelfth cenrtury.  In this work, the author has tried to combine religious fervour with eroticism. It belongs to the medieval Vashnavism and describes the love sports and pangs of separation of Radha and Krishna.  In this poem, according to the author, he has shown his mastery in music and dance, his devotion to Vishnu, his understanding of science of erotica etc. 

He invites critics to examine these aspects, at the end of the work.  Each sub-division called prabandha contain two further division, comprising mostly of eight couplets and hence it is called ashtapadi.  These ashtapadis are preceded and followed by verses in different meters, numbering about thirteen.  By this he has shown his mastery over the science of metrics and his choice of words are appreciated by all the later poets. There are more than forty commentaries on this work, apart from regional versions and imitations.  From this one can understand the popularity of this work.  The lyrics of Gīta Govinda have been set to devotional music throughout India.  They have been adapted in dance and also in painting.

All this was due to its capacity to arouse the emotions of the audience.  This is the very reason for its translations in all the Indian  languages and in modern times into European languages.  When you hear the Gīta Govinda song or see its depiction by way dance postures, it invokes your interest and conveys a literary flavour and religious significance.  It gets mingled into the cultural ethos of the hearer.  It lends itself to be adapted to the different musical versions and dance performance.  Because of its religious fervour, it was adapted by temple dancers.  Originating in Orissa, it has traveled to Bengal, Gujarat, South India and even Nepal.  Raga and tala came to be assigned to these lyrics and they used for different occasions to be sung or danced.

In this multi-media production, we have chosen only a limited number of verses and they are discussed from literary point of view are shown as applied in music and dance and their renderings in temples, depicting the madhura bhava of devotion.  These verses are also selected to show how an adept poet can adopt profane ideas to profound heights of devotion.    

About Gīta Govinda

Jayadevva,  the twelfth century poet, was a contemporary of several other poets in the court of Lakshmana Sena of Bengal, and even at a young age he attained fame for skill in composing verses in Sanskrit with apt words, as per his own statement in the introductory verses to Gīta Govinda. He further says there that his mind has been made the residence of Goddess of Learning and he was the king who made the feet of Padamavati dance to his tunes and beats. The legend goes that Padmavati was the temple dancer at the Puri Jagannath temple and Jayadeva married her and settled down there to serve the Lord and Padmavati simultaneously. This tradition of Devadasi Dance is being continued at Lord Jagannath Temple to this day. This aspect also is discernible in his introductory verse wherein he says that those interested in Hari smarana  and those finding pleasure in love sports may read his Gīta Govinda kayva.

The Gīta Govinda kayva is a lyrical poem, dramatizing the love sports of Krishna and Radha on the surface and conveying simultaneously the deep ethos of devotion of the individual soul, its pining for God realization and finally attaining the consummation in service of God. This Bhava is similar in both god realization and eroticism and the cloak fits in well.

Since the Gīta Govinda was composed specifically for dance performance during the night worship of Lord Jagannatha, the composition is so deftly made as to be sung to the beats of a dancer's foot movements. The author himself at the end of the Kavya again states this fact, where he again emphasizes that the poem was intended to the Kavya again states this fact, where he again emphasizes that the poem intended to be a prop for meditation on Vishnu and it is clothed in Srngara rasa by the kavi  Jayadeva pandita immersed in the contemplation of Krishna. The poem became so popular that within a century or so, it spread to all corners of the country from east to south, west and north and was adapted to dance, music, painting and temple worship.

The Gīta Govinda consist of twelve chapter, further divided into twenty-four songs. Each song consists of eight couplets, it is called Ashtapadi. Chapter one and chapter two, four five and twelve contain two ashtapadi each; chapters three, six, eight, nine and ten contain only one ashtapadi each. Thus there are twenty-four ashtapadis. These  ashtapadis can be set to music in different melodious ragas, which were appreciated and followed by the poets later period. On which more than hundred commentaries has been written in Sanskrit and over fifty more than hundred commentaries have been written in Sanskrit and over fifty in regional languages in India also in many foreign languages.

In this multimedia production, a limited verses were chosen and discussed from literary point of view are shown as applied in music and dance and their renderings in temples, depicting of Madhura bhava of devotion and how an adept poet can adopt profane ideas to profound height of devotion.

The first song has four introductory verses, followed by eleven ashtapadi that describe the purpose of the ten avataras of Vishnu and at the end prostrations are offered for unhindered completion of the work. This is followed by another ashtapadi where the hero of the work is hailed. Here the author has indicated that this  ashtapadi is Mangalam - benedictive verse.

In the third song the spring season is described with its multifarious features like pleasant smelling and cool winds, and sweet sounds of the bees and cuckoos been thinking of Krishna was being led by her maiden friend to these bowers where Krishna can be found. In this hope Radha follows her friend.

In the fourth song, the poet describes the delightful dance of love of Krishna with all gopis in the dark forest of Vrndavana. All the gopis surround him, embracing him with joy and caress him passionately and he praises them hugging one, kissing another passionately, glancing at another and smiling with other maiden in love. Jayadeva says that in reality, Krishna was bestowing bliss on everyone.

In the eleventh song, the poet describes the vipralambha srngara. Krishna the God of Love is waiting Radha on the bank of river Yamuna. The poet compares the embrace of Radha and Krishna with the lightning and the black cloud and with white crane and dark cloud.

In the twelfth song, the poet describes the pain and distress of Radha on the separation of impertinent Krishna. Seeing the condition of Radha sitting in her bower unable to move, filled by passion and setting her mind on Krishna all the time. The sakhi goes to Krishna to tell of the state of madness Radha, who sees him everywhere, before her mind's eye and she is alive just with the only memory of her lover. The sakhi request him to go quickly to meet Radha; who is waiting fully decked for the arrival of Krishna.



Video Recordings


Kuru Yadunandan

Recitation of Poem by Dr. Sampat Narayan 03:00



Yahi Madhava

Recitation of Poem by Dr. Sampat Narayan 02:42






Dhire Sameere



Hari Rih Mugd  



Lalit Lavanga





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