Born during the reign of Ganga King Chodaganga Deva in circa 1200 AD, at Kenduli Sasan in the Prachi valley of Orissa, Jayadeva was the son of Ramadevi and Bhojadeva. Under the reign of Chodaganga Deva and his son Raghava, Jayadeva composed numerous Sanskrit epics. Jayadeva received his education in Sanskrit from Kurmapataka, at Konark. Later, Jayadeva married Padmavati, an accomplished temple dancer. During the lifetime of Jayadeva, the Kenduli Sasan area was very much immersed in the worship of Madhava or Lord Krishna and the place was dominated by Vaishnava Brahmins.

Jayadeva’s marriage to Padmavati

As per the Visvakosa, a childless Brahmin couple worshipped Lord Jagannath hoping for a son. Finally, they had a daughter and named her Padmavati. Later, when she became of marriageable age the Brahmin took her to Lord Jagannath and offered her at his lotus feet. At once Lord Jagannath directed them to take her to his devotee Jayadeva and get them married. After the Brahmin took his daughter to Jayadeva and offered the marriage proposal, he refused outright, since he had already abandoned all desires. The Brahmin left Padmavati at Jayadeva’s place, after explaining to him about the directions of Lord Jagannath. After initial reluctance, Jayadeva consented and accepted Padmavati as his wife.

Jayadeva and Geeta Govinda

Composed in the second half of the 12th Century, Jayadeva’s Geeta Govinda was a treasure trove of rhythmic musical excellence. Till date, above fifty Tikas and 155 copied Kavyas have been composed. The tremendous popularity and appreciation of the Geeta Govinda is testified by the fact that it has been translated into Korean, English, Japanese, French, Russian etc. The flamboyant and lucid style of Sringararasa, made Jayadeva’s creations of great literary value and today it occupies a position of significance in the domain of world literature.

Story behind Geeta Govinda composition

Once when Jayadeva was a child, he visited different sacred destinations and on one occasion met a Sanyasi at the Ashram of Pandabkud. Besides advising him to visit other sacred places, the Sanyasi also advised Jayadeva to recite Vishnu Mantra, Gayatri Mantra and practice Pranayam. After following the instructions of the Sanyasi, God appeared to Jayadeva on the third day and directed him to recover the image of Radha-Madhava from the River Triveni and worship the image with utmost devotion.

Jayadeva followed the instructions and he along with Padmavati praised Lord Jagannath, through singing and dancing. Jayadeva further improved the dancing techniques of Padmavati, as he was a specialist in Raga, Tala and Chhanda. He created a special Raga for each of the 24 songs. The Ragas were Bhairabi, Malabagouda, Karnata, Desi, Desibaradi, Desakhya, Basanta, Gundakiri, Ramakiri, Malaba and Gurjari. These Ragas are currently used in Odissi dance forms and thus, Jayadeva is considered to have laid the foundation stones for the Odissi dance form. Owing to the artistic excellence and richness of the Geeta Govinda, it is highly appreciated by connoisseurs and scholars alike.

Besides his artistic skills, Jayadeva was also a keen nature observer and nature poet. The intricate details of the seasonal variations are aptly depicted by him through his verse. Jayadeva also played a crucial role in the propagation and spreading of the cult of Vaishnavism. Before the arrival of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, it was Jayadeva who established the Radha-Madhava cult in Orissa. In the Dashavatara, he also successfully fused the concepts of Madhavaism, Ramaism and Buddhism. Charles Darwin’s ‘Theory of Evolution’ is sometimes put at par with Jayadeva’s Dashavatara.

Geeta Govinda

“Yadi Hari Smaranay Sarasam Mano

Yadi Bilasakalasu Kutuhalam

Madhura Komalakanta Padabalim

Srunutada Jayadeva Saraswatim”

The subtle nuances deployed by Jayadeva to portray the amorous dalliances between Radha and Krishna has been a source of inspiration for numerous artists and scholars. The Geeta Govinda is sometimes considered as the Veda for the creative compositions, visual arts and performing arts.

The Geeta Govinda consists of 12 Sargas or Cantos, which further contains 24 Prabandas or songs and 72 verses. The 22 Prabandas are further categorized into units of eight stanzas, which are known as Ashtapadis. The world admiration for the Geeta Govinda is testified by the fact, that the German poet Goethe translated the poem into German, as he was impressed by the quality and structure of the verses. He further compared the Geeta Govinda to the Meghadutam of Kalidasa.

Philosophy of Geetagovinda

Sri Jayadeva, the great spiritual poet of this soil has mentioned in his famous Gita Govinda:

“Hariravimani rajaniridani miyamapijativiram

Kurumamavachanam sattvara rachanam puraya madhuripukaman”

(Gita Govinda- 11-7)

Lord Krishna and his will is the only ultimate truth of the Universe. Hence, immersing oneself in the magical Lila of Lord Krishna is the best possible path to understand the divine essence. It is extremely crucial to keep a pure heart, to understand and acquaint oneself of the grace of the Almighty Lord. The heart needs to rid itself of the worldliness, to understand Lord Krishna’s divine grace. Jiva is unable to decipher the feelings of Love and divine gifts, owing to the ignorance it garners within itself.

The initial stage of devotion towards the Almighty Lord is the practice of Bhakti or the restlessness and yearning for God. It is also important that one practices Jnanayoga, Karmayoga and Bhaktiyoga. Controlling carnal desires and lust, coupled with spiritual austerity is the only path towards God realisation. The Gopis were able to successfully eviscerate all kinds of  worldly pleasures and desires, and hence were able to experience the Rasalila and establish a communion with Lord Krishna. Rasalila was the climax of the Divine Love and it provided a feeling of eternal bliss or ananda. Radha, also revered as Adyashakti, is the most perfect illustration of selfless and intense love. The Vrindavana Lila of Lord Krishna was achieved after the performance of severe penance by the sages for many centuries. It is the intense yearning for the Lord i.e. Bhava, which essentially turns into Mahabhava or the ultimate feeling. An innocent mind, with child-like simplicity, is capable of understanding the minutest creation of the Lord.

Jayadeva and the robbers

On a particular occasion, Jayadeva could not manage to arrange sufficient funds to organise a festival in honour of Radha and Madhava. He decided to travel, so that he could arrange the appropriate funds, through his poetic and artistic skills. While he was returning, a gang of robbers robbed him of all the cash, cut his hands and feet and threw him into a well. Jayadeva continued to chant the names of the Lord loudly and on the third day, the King, who was out on a hunting expedition, discovered the plight of Jayadeva. The anguished King brought Jayadeva to his palace and treated him. Both the King and the Queen highly appreciated the divine aura of Jayadeva and devoted their lives to the service of the Lord.

One day, the robbers who had attacked Jayadeva, disguised as devotees, appeared in the palace. Jayadeva instantly recognized them, but did not react. Instead, he behaved politely with them and even requested the King to gift them lots of money. On their way back, the robbers said to the servants that they were the persons responsible for Jayadeva’s plight and that they had done so as per the directions of a priest. As soon as they lied, the entire earth swallowed up the sinners. Thus, they were punished by the Almighty himself, instead of any revenge from Jayadeva.

Padmavati is tested

Performance of the sacrificial Sati was very much in vogue those days. To test the loyalty of Padmavati towards Jayadeva, one day the Queen announced that Jayadeva has passed away. Immediately Padmavati gave her life away. The Queen was terrified and out of her sense of guilt pleaded Jayadeva to put life back into Padmavati’s corpse. Jayadeva slowly whispered the words ‘Lord Krishna’, in her ears and immediately Padmavati started breathing.

Jayadeva Goes to Vrindavan

Later, Jayadeva, along with his deities i.e. Radha and Madhava, went to Vrindavana and began to serve his deities, near Keshi Ghat. Every day he used to sing the Geeta Govinda and enthralled the residents of the area with his sweet voice. One of the merchants in the area built large temples dedicated to the deities.

There are different beliefs regarding the place of death of Jayadeva. Some believe that it was Jagannath Puri, others believe that it was Vrindavan. It is believed that before his death, Jayadeva had spent a considerable amount of time at Vrindavan. It is also widely believed that Jayadeva passed away on the sixth day of the waning moon, in the month of Pousha.