Jayadeva's Geeta Govinda webinar
- Dr. Nita Vidyarthi
Photos courtesy: Ileana Citaristi
December 3, 2021
As a part of the 25th anniversary of distinguished Odissi and Chhau dancer Ileana Citaristi's organisation Art Vision, Bhubaneswar, India Habitat Centre in collaboration with Art Vision and Kri Foundation celebrated the treasures of the 12th century love lyrics of Geeta Govinda written by Vaishnav Kavi Jayadeva, by illustrating three Ashtapadis through dance, visual art and literature in the digital webinar.
Presented on three consecutive days, three popular Ashtapadis, one for each day, were chosen for discussion and representation via the multiple arts. The resource persons for all the three days were renowned Sanskrit scholar Dr. Raghunath Panda (retired Professor of Sanskrit, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar and currently Professor Emeritus, Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences) who explained the philosophical and literary value of this 12th century Bhakti poem, which has inspired musicians, dancers and painters alike; Dr. Alka Pande (Consultant Arts Advisor and Curator, Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi) who illustrated the various paintings from different traditions; and Dr. Ileana Citaristi (author and Founder Secretary, Art Vision) performed to etch them to life through her stunning dance.
Dr. Arshiya Sethi, dance scholar, activist and Founder and Managing Trustee, Kri Foundation, introduced and moderated the event efficiently while enriching with valuable information. A colourful opening montage of the variegated journey of Art Vision at the beginning of each of the three sessions offered a glowing imagery of its growth and way forward. An informative introduction by Dr. Arshiya Sethi, who also referred to the various translations of the classic literary work, was followed by discussion of the dimensions of the ornate poetry by Dr. Raghunath Panda.
Dr. Raghunath Panda began the first day by tracing the history of the daily ritual of singing of the first song of Geeta Govinda "Sritakamala kuchamandala" at the bedtime of Lord Jagannath at the Puri temple. He informed that it was introduced in the year 1500, 8th July by the King Pratap Rudra who issued an ordinance by an inscription on the Jai-Bijay gate of the temple, that this song be sung uninterrupted. This was an interesting information. For all the sessions in the series he elucidated the 12 Cantos, explained the meaning of their titles and finally after singing the respective Ashtapadi of the day went on to detailed analysis.
Before each Odissi performance, Ileana Citaristi narrated highly interesting anecdotes about the details of the making of the respective composition by her Guru, the doyen of Odissi, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, the raga and tala of the music and its composer, often tracing the background and occasion of its first performance. As a bonus emerged some of his innovative ways of training his disciples especially while explaining to them the inner meaning of the Ashtapadis. Her narration was followed by a fresh video recording of her performance.
Dr. Alka Pande, after a brief remark on the poetic work of the love, longing, desire and separation of the divine couple, Radha and Krishna who epitomise love, both spiritual and temporal, went on to narrate its influence on artists with different traditions with clippings. Beginning with a Patachitra of Odisha by Rabinath Sahoo on the first day, other illustrations of Geeta Govinda by known as well as anonymous artists all over the country were displayed. There were Kangra paintings, Rajasthan miniatures, Kalighat paintings and a number of Patachitra from Odisha illustrating the classic on all the three days.
The first day's Ashtapadi was the popular 11th song "Dhira samire Yamuna theere", a favourite of dancers and immortalised by stalwarts like Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. The second day saw the 14th song "Yahi Madhava Yahi Keshava" and the final day the celebrated 24th one "Kuru Yadunandana."
Manipuri dancer Poushali Chatterjee's question of how the love between Radha and Krishna, which is considered platonic, align to the thought of eroticism especially from a poet of devotional Vaishnavite tradition, initiated the interactive session and was explained by Dr. Raghunath Panda. The nature of music for the Ashtapadis was also raised.
The last day saw acclaimed veteran Odissi dancer, academician, author and educationist Dr. Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi elaborate on very interesting reminiscences of her rich experience of learning the Geeta Govinda compositions, performances and discussions with stalwarts. Ileana Citaristi added to the memoirs. Finally Dr. Arshiya Sethi wrapped up by sharing an interesting point. The postal department had released a set of 11 stamps on Geeta Govinda, the first one of Jayadeva and the remaining 10 of Dasavatars.
Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a veteran critic of performing arts and writes on dance, music and theatre in leading publications.