SONGS FROM THE GiTAGOVINDA
Translated by Barbara Stoler Miller
Jayadeva sings the final song of his G^tagovinda with the promise that memory of Krishna's dancing feet has the power to cool the fever of living in the dark time that is Kali Yuga. Jayadeva's expressed purpose in composing his songs is to recall Krishna's dancing feet.
Within the Gztagovinda signature verses, or bhanitas, we find clues to the poet's history. His parents, his birthplace, his inspiring muse, and his literary contemporaries are named. Although actual names vary in manuscripts, a strong tradition makes him the son of Bhojadeva and Ramadevl, born in Kindubilva (a village near Puri, or maybe Birbhum district, Bengal)o He was inspired by his wife, the dancer Padmavati^ He compares himself with the poets Umapatidhara, Govardhana, and Dhoyi, all of whom are associated with the Bengal court of Laksmanasena (ca. 1185-1205). Traditional accounts also place Jayadeva at Laksmanasena's court.
The Gitagovinda is dedicated in devotion to Krishna. Intensely sensual passion is the experience Jayadeva uses to express the complex relationship of love between Krishna and his devotee^ The poem is set in luxuriant spring (sarasavasante), fertile and lush with emotion. The emotional drama unfolds in twelve movements of songs, sung by Radha, Krishna and her friend, who acts as the go-between. It begins when Krishna's stepfather, the cowherd Nanda, sends the boy home through dark woods with the beautiful cowmaid Radha, Krishna's love is graceful and restless; Radha soon suffers the pain of longing for him, while Krishna plays elsewhere. Her longing makes Krishna suffer too. The major part of the poem elaborates variations on the theme of the separated lovers' passion. The drama finally culminates in the ecstatic reunion of Radha and Krishnağ Interpretations of the Gitagovinda are numerous and varied, but none can convincingly divorce the meaning of the poem from the context of its songs.
The twenty-four padavalTs. (verse-series), or as^tapadls (eight-verse songs) as they are also know, sustain the emotional atmosphere of the poem. They are composed in rhymed, alliterative, moric meters. They are true lyrics, meant to be sung with appropriate pagas (melodic patterns) and tolas (rhythmic cycles). Much of the power of the songs is in the hypnotic sonorities of the refrains. These have inspired the present attempt to intensify the sense of the