Revered renditions

Revered renditions

Kapila Vatsyayan has organised a multimedia presentation on Gita Govinda at the Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts. She tells Shrabasti Mallik that the manuscript reflects the connection between the human and divinity

The eternal love of Radha and Krishna has been the muse of several iconic art and cultural manuscripts. While Krishna was first described in the sixth and seventh century BC texts of Taittiriya Aranyaka, Radha came to being almost after two centuries later in the Ahm poetry of the Sangam era, which talked about love and togetherness.

The first text that brought these two characters together was Jayadev’s poem Gita Govinda, celebrating their love, separation and re-union, in the 12th century. There are many interesting, unknown facts about the Gita Govinda and some of them have been compiled into a multimedia presentation by Kapila Vatsyayan, a scholar of the text for nearly fifty years. The presentation was launched at the Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts.

The poem consists of 12 parts which are further divided into 24 songs. Each song consists of eight couplets called ashtapadis. For the presentation, Vatsyayan has selected only six songs — Lalita lavanga, Haririha mugdha, Dhira samire, Pasyati disi disi, Yahi madhava and Kuru yadunandana. The presentation contains 12 GB of data and has 17 hours of material, ranging from songs, paintings, commentaries, dance and narration by Vatsyayan.

“The songs have been rendered in many musical styles like Odissi, Guruvayur , Carnatic, Gwalior and Sopana (South Kerala) and they have been choreographed in dance forms like Mohiniattam, Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Manipuri and Odissi,” said Vatsyayan. The paintings have been chosen from the Jaur, Mewari, Basholi and Bundi schools of paintings. She added, “At least 45 sets of paintings of the Gita Govinda exist in the Udaipur, Bikaner, Burni and Jaipur collections.”

Vatsyayan explained the purpose of her presentation which is based on the many decades of her research. “The story is described at two levels. At the human level, it means the love of a man and a woman. At the divine level there is love and separation of the human and the divine. In the terms of multiplicity of expressions, a single poem and just six verses could create an entire cosmic vision. Many artists have tried to interpret the text as it has several dimensions of meaning and expression.”

The poem is remarkable in its own rights. The most extraordinary thing about the poem is that its text never changes, mentioned Vatsyayan. “The text does not inherit a medieval text. It has travelled all over India and adapted to different forms but never a line has been altered,” she pointed out.

Gita Govinda is an unchangeable poem with 100 renditions. It led to turmoil at a time when cohesion was required in India. From 12th to 14th century, paschat kavis picked up this tale and made it the cultural personification of India — the greatest of them being Surdas. The paschat kavis, with all their beauty, got Radha and Krishna married off whereas the East — Odisha and Bengal — maintained the southern tradition that everything is alright as long as there is love. Surdas in the 15th century followed by Meerabai in the early 16th century formulated the songs and the persona of Radha and Krishna. “But they were immediately followed by three missionaries — as important as the minstrels of love — Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sankaradeva from Assam and Vallabha Acharya from western India.

They set this story as the central theme of love and unity within India. And it is only 150 to 160 years later that there was a complete burst of art and creativity. Prior to the second Mughal ateliers we got a form of art that was dichromatic and monochromatic but not anywhere near polychromatic. But after the Mughal second atelier, there was a burst of colours and paintings which became visually very appealing,” pointed out Jawhar Sircar, chief executive officer, Prasar Bharti.

There has been a lot of debate regarding the origin of Jayadev amongst people of Odisha, Bengal and Mithila. Sircar cleared all doubts saying that, “Jayadev belonged to Mithila but the success of the Gita Govinda is also due to two other people. While Jayadev built the concept of the poem, Vidyapathi of Mithila and Chandidas from Bengal propagated the legend of the lovers. So the poem belongs to all the three places.”

photo Pankaj Kumar



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