Gita Govinda by Jeyadeva

Gita Govinda 

The Gita Govinda — a cycle of Sanskrit songs, commentaries and invocations depicting Krishna's courtship of the cowherdess Radha — was the most popular and influential poem to emerge from medieval India. The text was added to temple inscriptions, set to music, choreographed for dance, and studied as a religious text. Contemporary poems, recitations, songs and dances point to its continuing popularity. With frank and tender lyricism, the Gita Govinda explored the many aspects of sexual passion, from first awakening through fierce regrets and jealousies to the rapture and contentment of bodily possession. On one level it narrates the loves of Radha and Krishna as simple cowherds, but the poem also celebrates nature's regeneration through sexual congress, the interplay of the human and divine, and the profound mystery of erotic experience.

The poem can be dated to the twelfth century and was almost certainly written in north-eastern India, as it shows familiarity with Jagannath sects in Orissa and mentions fellow poets at the court of the last Hindu ruler in Bengal, Maharaja Laksmanasena (AD 1175-1200). Many lines of evidence point to Jayadeva being born in Orissa, probably in Kenduli Sasan village, which lies in the Prachi valley of the Khurda district of Odisha, then under the rule of the Ganga dynasty king Chodaganga Deva. In Orissa Jayadeva probably continued to live, the Laksmanasena connection possibly arising over confusion with another poet of the same name in Bengal. If, as some scholars believe, Gita Govinda was first performed on the Srimandir and the coronation of Kamarnava as the crown prince in 1142 AD, the Laksmanasena lines must be a later interpolation. Whatever the details, Jeyadeva appears by this interpretation part of the Oriya culture that built the erotic temples of Konark, Puri and Bhubaneswar. Poets are chameleon characters, however, and Jayadeva himself is reputed to have been a saintly ascetic induced to settle by marrying the temple dancer, Padmavati, and take up writing the Gita Govinda.

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PART ONE (Excerpt)
With clouds the sky is thickened, and the woodlands
darken with Tamála trees. Tonight
comes someone leading home a doubting Rádhá
near the Yamuná, by Nanda sent:
from each path wandering, from wood to bower,
to win her Mádhava in honeyed sport.
As speech's deity adorns this house
by grace of Padmávatí's turning feet,
and prince of wandering poets, Jayadeva,
tells of Vásudeva and his Shrí.
If, passionate for Krishna's mind,
you're keen to learn the arts of love,
then hear the coaxing eloquence
of Jayadeva's tender verse.
Umápatidhara causes words to bloom,
Sharana dazzles with his lightning thought.
Dhoyí's lord of poets, Govardhana
has his love skills, Shrutidhara fame,
but Jayadeva is both deep and pure.
First Song
When world was water, you became
a tireless vessel of the Vedas.
You, in Pisces form, Keshava:
conqueror of the world, Hari!
When this heavy earth you carried
on your callused tortoise back,

how venerable you were, Keshava:
conqueror of the world, Hari!
A blemish on the hare-marked moon,
the earth became as on your tusk:
you held us when a boar, Keshava:
conqueror of the world, Hari!
With nail on lotus hand you cut
the bee-like Hiranyakashipu.
What a lion-man, Keshava:
conqueror of the world, Hari!
A marvellous dwarf, Keshava, you
outwitted Bali: from your toenail
water poured to bless the people:
conqueror of the world, Hari!
Bhrgu's lord, you made in blood
of Kshatriyas the people bathe.
As evil left, the heat declined:
conqueror of the world, Hari!
In Ráma's body, you have hurled
around you heads of Rávana,
a blessing of the war, Keshava:
conqueror of the world, Hari!
You carried beauty as a cloud
and shone as wielder of the plough
that struck with fear the Yamuná:
conqueror of the world, Hari!
Kind as Buddha, you refused
to take the sacrificial life
of animals despite our customs:
conqueror of the world, Hari!
In Kalki's body you became
a sword to scourge the foreign people,
comet-like in fire, Keshava:
conqueror of the world, Hari!
You, in a decad form, Keshava,
are the comfort of our life.
Hear the poet Jayadeva,
conqueror of the world, Hari!