Jayadeva, the renowned Sanskrit poet and lyricist was born in Kenduli, Orissa in the 11th century AD. The works of Jayadeva have had a profound influence on Indian culture. It forms the basis of the Indian classical dance form, Odissi, and has strongly influenced the Bharatanatyam classical dance as well as Carnatic music.
Jayadeva was instrumental in popularizing the Dasavatara, the ten incarnations of Vishnu in another composition, Dasakritikrite. Furthermore, the classic Tribhangi (three-fold) posture of Krishna playing the flute gained popularity due to him.
The illustrious poet also institutionalized the Devadasi system in Orissan temples. Devadasis were women dancers specially dedicated to the temple deity, and as a result of the great poet’s works, Orissan temples began to incorporate a separate Natamandira, or dance hall, within their precincts for Odissi dance performances.
The Gita Govinda is the best known composition of Jayadeva. It is a lyrical poetry that is organized into twelve chapters. Each chapter is further sub-divided into twenty four divisions called Prabandhas. The prabandhas contain couplets grouped into eights, called Ashtapadis. In this work, the author has tried to combine religious fervour with eroticism. It belongs to the medieval Vashnavism and describes the love sports and pangs of separation of Radha and Krishna. In this poem, according to the author, he has shown his mastery in music and dance, his devotion to Vishnu, his understanding of science of erotica etc.
These ashtapadis are preceded and followed by verses in different meters, numbering about thirteen. By this he has shown his mastery over the science of metrics and his choice of words are appreciated by all the later poets. There are more than forty commentaries on this work, apart from regional versions and imitations. From this one can understand the popularity of this work. The lyrics of Gitagovinda have been set to devotional music throughout India. They have been adapted in dance and also in painting.
All this was due to its capacity to arouse the emotions of the audience. This is the very reason for its translations in all the Indian languages and in modern times into European languages. When you hear the Gitagovinda song or see its depiction by way dance postures, it invokes the interest and conveys a literary flavour and religious significance. It gets mingled into the cultural ethos of the hearer. It lends itself to be adapted to the different musical versions and dance performance. Because of its religious fervour, it was adapted by temple dancers. Originating in Orissa, it has traveled to Bengal, Gujarat, South India and even Nepal. Raga and tala came to be assigned to these lyrics and they used for different occasions to be sung or danced.
The first English translation of the Gita Govinda was published by Sir William Jones in 1792, where Kalinga (ancient Orissa) is referred to as the origin of the text. Since then, the Gita Govinda has been translated to many languages throughout the world, and is considered to be among the finest examples of Sanskrit poetry.
Jayadeva wrote Piyusha Lahari, a Sanskrit Goshti Rupaka. It was based on the romantic love between Radha and Krishna similar in line to Gita Govindam. It was translated into Telugu language by Vavilala Somayajulu and published in 1993 by Telugu University in 1990.