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Geetagovinda is the
favourite music of
Lord Jagannatha
since the time of its
original offering by
the poet and his
dancer wife to their
Dark Darling
within the temple

Several legends are associated with the fondness of Jagannatha for Geetagovinda. Once the Lord followed a gardener maid singing Geetagovinda and when about to be found out, ran back to the Srimandira, tearing his silken garments on the way. Later this was discovered and the emperor honoured the gardener maid. There is another tradition about a royal imitation of Geetagovinda with which the emperor sought to replace Jayadeva’s composition. However when the Lord’s preference was ascertained by placing both the works on the bejewelled throne, the Jagannatha chose Jayadeva’s work and the royal composition was lying on the floor.
Jayadeva has identified Jagannatha-Purushottama with Krishna-Keshava and glorified both his supreme divinity and his graceful aspect as a personal God. The intimate almost familial relationship of the devotee and the Divine as exemplified by the love of the Gopi maidens for Krishna and the absolute and total surrender with a simple faith are the essence of Jagannatha faith and also the kernel of the theme and philosophy of Geetagovinda. The Raasa dance provides the dramatic backdrop to weave a narrative linking the twenty four songs and seventy two slokas of Jayadeva’s composition and is presented as the leela, the play-acting of Jagannatha-Krishna for the delight of the entire universe. Jayadeva will be remembered for ever for presenting the fully developed personality of Radha. Yet Jayadeva very clearly and repeatedly emphasises the oneness of Radha and Kamala.

- Based on “New Perspectives on Jayadeva and Sri Geetagovinda”, “Tradition and Spirituality, Exploring the Mantras of Geetagovinda, Sri Jagannatha, Sri Jayadeva and Srikshetra” and other writings and additional inputs by Dr Subas Pani

© Dr Subas Pani & Sri Geetagovinda Pratisthana

Jagannatha is the anchor of Jayadeva and Geetagovinda. Without Jagannatha as the constant context and beacon light it is futile to explore the many nuances of Geetagovinda and its significance in the cultural, religious and spiritual heritage of Orissa and India.

Geetagovinda is the favourite music of Lord Jagannatha since the time of its original offering by the poet and his dancer wife to their Dark Darling within the temple precincts. Since then it has become an integral part of the temple rituals and is known as the Geetagovinda Seva. The Lord hears the songs of Geetagovinda and is adorned with Odissi textile with words of Geetagovinda woven into it, Geetagovinda Khandua, at the time of his evening make-up known as Bada Sighhara and during the evening ritual prayers - sanjha dhupa. Such is the intimate and tender relationship of Jagannatha, Jayadeva and Geetagovinda.

Geetagovinda Seva, in all likelihood, is one of the original seva continuing since the time of Chodagangadeva who built the present temple of Jagannatha - Srimandira – at Puri in the twelfth century. In all likelihood, Jayadeva and Padmavati were the original privilege holders, enjoying the right to perform this seva. The nature of the seva was to entertain Jagannatha with singing the songs from Geetagovinda and their representation in dance performances. This seva has survived the vicissitudes of history for over a 700 years and finds mention in the catalogue prepared in the 1950 by the state government and continues even today, albeit only in a symbolic form. The seva, which was perhaps, a composite one originally, has since evolved into many components such as Binakara seva, Madali seva and Mahari seva etc.

Jayadeva enjoyed special privileges as a favourite of Jagannatha and was among his angila sevakas – a category of servitors who have the privilege of performing service in close proximity, literally with the privilege of touching His Body. This is a rare privilege and granted only to the natives of Orissa and preserved and guarded rather zealously by the traditional priests.