Welcome to the Gita Govinda blog. Here you will find a collection of different renditions of Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda Ashtapadis. Each of the 24 Ashtapadis has a static post of its own, which you can access on the right (the dates on the posts are just to set the order; we’ll keep updating them as we find new renditions).
Jayadeva was a poet of the 12th century, hailing from today’s Orissa. His Gita Govinda is a work of Sanskrit love poetry and song, centered around its most famous components, 24 Ashtapadis (songs with 8 couplets). These Ashtapadis are about different moods in the love between Krishna and Radha — some are almost hymns, listing Krishna’s achievements in his various incarnations; some are glimpses into Krishna’s or Radha’s minds at times of separation, anger or reconciliation; some others are the words of messengers sent to each other, urging mercy and to swallow pride. There is a nod to the concept of ‘Ashta-nayika’, an idea from Bharata’s Natyashastra about 8 situations a heroine in love finds herself in. There is, naturally, also a possible spiritual interpretation to all this, with Radha as the jivatma and Krishna as the paramatma.
These Ashtapadis’ very alluring mixture of context, melody, simplicity, and really, a certain je ne sais quoi have made them Sanskrit literature’s greatest cross-platform blockbuster hit. From the easternmost corner of Manipur and Assam, where it spawned a tradition of dance and singing; to Bengal, where this was an essential element of Sri Chaitanya’s movement; down to Orissa, where even today virtually every art form from Odissi dance to music to temple sculpture involves them; to Andhra, where it is the soul of several Kuchipudi dance compositions; down to Tamil Nadu, where Carnatic music rejoices in newer and newer tunings of its lyrics, tens of Sanskrit treatises elaborate on how it can be performed in dance, Tanjore paintings celebrate its scenes, and temple traditions make Bhajans out of it; to Kerala, where the dance form Mohiniattam derived great inspiration, and an entire genre of music, Sopana Sangeetham, was born as these Ashtapadis were sung on the temple stairs; up to the coast of Karnataka, where it inspires Yakshagana dances to this day; up to Maharashtra and Gujarat, where it was a key nucleator of the Krishna-Bhakti traditions; to Rajasthan, the central territories and the Gangetic plain, all the way up to Kashmir where several hundred derivative works have appeared in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and local languages. To even comprehend the Gita Govinda’s reach would require some level of mastery of every facet of Indian art! What’s more, a large portion of this conquest happened within just a century after its composition. Political and geographical fragmentation seems to have been a trivial barrier for this cultural unity to envelop the whole of the subcontinent!
The real beauty of the Gita Govinda is in its music. The lyrics are written in such a way that a talented composer can fit a large number of tunes and unleash his creativity, letting the music speak even more than the words. We wanted to give a glimpse of this and began collecting different renditions of a few Ashtapadis; this snowballed into an all-out effort, and this blog was born.
For starters, check out Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna’s version of the famous Ashtapadi #7 “Mamiyam Chalita” and compare against Varagoor Narayanan’s Carnatic Bhajan version here: Ashtapadi #7, “Mamiyam Chalita”
Next up, #11 “Dheera Sameere”, is a great next step. Compare Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi’s immortal rendition with Ghantasala’s strongly Carnatic version, and P. Unnikrishnan’s very well melded Pop version here: Ashtapadi #11, “Dheera Sameere”
#19 “Priye Charusheele” is also an all-time favorite. Compare Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna’s version with Njerlath Harigovindan’s percussion-heavy Sopana Sangeetham version here: Ashtapadi #19, “Priye Charusheele”
Just to see how incredibly vibrant these songs remain, check out the fusion version of #8, “Nindati Chandanam”, by Haraprasad and compare with the more traditional versions here: Ashtapadi #8, “Nindati Chandanam”
The blog is still a work in progress, and we very much appreciate your feedback and suggestions. Please feel free to comment. If you know of a rendition you think we should put up, we’d be very grateful if you could let us know.