The book GITAGOVINDAM: Sacred Profanities: A Study Jayadeva’s it Gitagovinda purports to study issues relating to Jayadeva and Gz`tag0vz'ndam in a historical perspective. Translating yet again the author tries to put Jayadeva’s Gitagovindam in a refreshingly new perspective. In order to prepare the readers to read and enjoy the classic work (Gitagovindam) in translation, the book tries to highlight all related aspects — cultural and historical — in its introductory chapters. The book also tries to suggest that Gitagovindam is one of the finest dramatic lyrics in Sanskrit which deals with the sacred profanities by deftly fusing eroticism with profound religious experience, and how through imagery, tone, colour and rhythm it mingles levels of physical and metaphysical association where the divine and the mundane are fused into one condensed religious ecstacy.
About the Author
Dr. NSR Ayengar has been teaching English for the last 28 years. Presently he is teaching in the Department of English, Berhampur University, Orissa He headed the Department of English, Khallikote Autonomous College, Berhampur from 1992-94 and the Department of English, Berhampur University from 1996-98. His area of specialization is Modern British Theatre and his doctoral dissertation was On John Osborne’s Major Plays. He has three published books to his credit. Two of them – The Mystique of Anger: A Study of Osborne’s Major Plays and The Critics Eye - serve as valuable books of reference to the Honours and Postgraduate level students. He Third one is an edited textbook of P; Poetry entitled The Milk 0fParadlse is prescribed by both Berhampur University and Utkal University for the Honours Graduate) level students. He has ass published several original research papers to his credit in reputed literary journals of the country. Apart from English Literature, he has a scholarly interest in Sanskrit literature/ poetry and aesthetics, which is evidenced by his latest book: Gitagovindam: Sacred Profanities: A Study of Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda.
It is a wonderful coincidence that today [the 8th day of the dark phase of the month of Shravana (September 3, 1999)], on Krishna’s birthday Janmastami), I am writing the preface of my book Gitagovindam Sacred Profanities — A Study of Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda (with English Translation), marking the conclusion of my five-year-long ‘sczdham1’. But these five years (1994-99) of intense study and work were nevertheless backed up by forty years of longing, observation and preparation. As a child I was inspired by the songs of The Gitagovinda rendered by P. Bhanumati and Ghantasala Venkateswaram, two veteran singers of Andhra Pradesh, who, of course, didn’t render the entire Gitagovihda but a few selected pieces. In retrospect, however, I feel that they poured their heart and soul into them. The haunting melody of the songs of Jayadeva appealed to me on an intuitive level, though in my conscious mind I couldn’t understand even a word of those songs. T.S. Eliot’s statement ‘that poetry is appreciated before it is understood’ appears eminently relevant to me now than ever. In 1968 again, I had a tryst with The Gitagovinda when Mr. Raghunatha Panigrahi (a celebrated singer of Orissa, who had training in both Hindustani and Odissi classical vocal tradition) and his wife Smt. Sanjukta Panigrahi (now no more), (who was one of the greatest exponents of Odissi dance form) performed the Gitagovinda on our college stage. The worshipful way they rendered The Gitagovinda and the way they recreated the Gitagovinda atmosphere on stage, that even the most mischievous elements of the audience were silenced as if by a trance, and the audience got transported to that romantic idyllic past. I for a moment mistook the couple I for the reincarnation of Jayadeva and Padmavati. This instance helped renewing my interest in W10 Gitagovinda, though, even at this stage, frankly, I didn’t understand the full implications of the ‘Kavya'.
In 1975, when I was a young lecturer in M.P.C. College, Baripada, Orissa, I came across Mr. Panigrahi’s long—play record in a friend’s radio shop. I was so inspired by it that I bought two L.P. records and presented to two relatives of mine who had record players (I did not have one) and enjoyed listening to the songs by their courtesy. The desire to do something about The Gitagovinda was always there vaguely in my mind, but I didn’t know what. The idea of translating the ‘kavya’ occurred to me once or twice, but 1 felt rather inadequate both in Sanskrit and English despite the fact that I had a fair knowledge in both of them. I had to shelve the idea.
In the summer of 1994, when I was holidaying at Madras, I chanced upon Barbara Stoler Mil1er’s translation of The Gitagovinda in my father—in—law’s collection. It was like a gold mine for me. I read out the book eagerly from end to end, and was filled with admiration for Prof. Miller who had done an excellent job. At the same time I was filled with a sort of self—indignation at the fact that when Prof. Miller (from USA.) has taken so much pains to study and translate 71e• Gitagovinda, I have done nothing about it, even though it was one of my favourite Indian ‘kavyas’. This divine discontent propelled me to study The Gitagovinda and all that is written about it. Eventually I decided to translate it.
Last September (1998) when I set out to translate the Sanskrit original into English, I felt that my knowledge of Sanskrit was insufficient for the task. For if the grammatical intricacies of the language is not taken proper care of, it may lead to a misreading of the text and may result in an inaccurate translation. Fidelity to the text and the culture was uppermost in my mind. I, therefore, requested Pt. Vasudeva Kar (Sahityacharya and Vyakarana Sastri), a retired Professor of Sanskrit to teach me the text. It is because of his careful teaching and able guidance I felt confident to translate the poem.
For my translation I followed two authentic texts: one, the edited version of Narayana Rama Acharya Kavyatirtha (Gitagovinda, Nirnaya-Sagar Press, Bombay, 1949) which includes the texts and commentaries of Ranakumba’s Rasikapriya and Sankara Mishra’s Rasamanjari, two, the text And commentary found in Barbara Stoler Miller’s book The Gitagovinda of Jayadeva: Love Song of the Dark Lord (Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1989). In addition I went through several other important commentaries on Gitagovinda to evolve my own views about the poem.
Gitagovindam, one of the finest dramatic lyrics in Sanskrit, deals with the sacred profanities by deftly fusing eroticism with a profound religious experience. The theme of Gitagovinda, as its title suggests, is ‘song of Krishna’ which celebrates the spring—time love—frolic (Vasanta Rasa) of Radha and Krishna. On the surface the poem appears to be of a regular carpediem cast. And it surely is. But it doesn’t stop there. Its spiritual dimension — the Madhura Bhakti it exudes — is what saves the poem from lapsing into the category of the merely erotic. The restraint and control he use through language, transforms the purely erotic subject matter into material for aesthetic and religious experience. That is why one finds that, in spite of the crude, vulgar, erotic details, the poem never stimulates a wanton desire in the readers. What seems prima facie in the poem is the element of devotion. The allegory of the union of Jeevatma and Paramatma (the human and the supreme) is implicit in Gitagovinda. Through imagery, tone, colour and rhythm Jayadeva mingles levels of physical and metaphysical association where the divine and the human are fused into one condensed religious ecstasy, where mundane distinctions of "I” and "you", "mine" and “thine" are totally quelled, and the imaginary barrier broken.
The Vaisnava devotional poetry (Bhakti poetry) is replete with this theme. In Tamil we have Tirupavai which celebrates the love between Andal and Krishna, and in Rajasthan we have the whole body of Meera Bhajans which enshrines love between Meera and Krishna. But in case of both Andal and Meera, the lord doesn’t physically involve himself in his beloved’s mundane existence, though he loved them equally intensely as he did Radha. In them we see the divine presence but from a revential distance. Whereas Jayadeva in Gitagovinda humanizes Lord Krishna and depicts him as an ordinary human lover who suffers the pangs of separation and betrays the weaknesses as does an ordinary mortal male at the sight of a beautiful female. Jayadeva artfully balances the divine lover against the mortal beloved and places them on a very intimate plane where reciprocity of their love could be made possible. He seems to suggest that their love is mutual, not unilateral and that Krishna is not allowed to strike a condescending, patronising attitude towards Radha.
In terms of the technique, the poem show superb Craftsmanship. The poem has a dramatic structure, as is evident from its episodic divisions in twelve cantos. The sequel of feeling and action, and the shifting of locale and interplay of light and shade etc. give it an unmistakable dramatic dimension.
What is more important about the poem is its simple unpretentious diction, wedded to a remarkable lyrical lilt. Though written in a beautiful, pristine Sanskrit, Jayadeva uses a vernacular rhythm in the poem, which explains its phenomenal success and the intimate place it occupies in the Indian popular psyche. The remarkable rhetoric of love the poem is informed by is what gives Gitagovinda its novelty and speciality.
Gitagovinda has been translated into almost all Indian languages and many European languages including German and Italian, let alone English. English translation of Gitagovinda has been tried by several eminent scholars beginning from Sir William Jones to Barbara Stoller Miller, and several eminent Indians like S.Laxminarasimha Sastri.
I too have tried to translate Gitag0vinda anew, without suggesting in the least that the earlier translations are inadequate. But I certainly feel there is still scope for improvement, and there shall always be. Every translation is only an humble attempt to get closer to the original.
How far I have been successful in realizing this goal is only a matter to be decided by the readers. In the process of my translation of Gitagovinda, I realized that it offers two fold problems to the translators. It is a deeply cultural product with profound religious significance. A translator has to keep these two aspects in mind and should not miss out on either. The ‘culture specifics’ in the Source Language pose problem for the foreign translators (English, America, German and Italian), though they handle the Target Language eminently well (because it is their own), conversely the target language poses problems to Indian translators in the sense that the ‘culture specific words’ with deep religious undertones, find no translatable parallels in English. One has to be satisfied Willy—nilly with a workable substitute. Obviously, therefore, the translators — foreign or Indian — have to at one stage or the other, make compromises — one with the sense, the other with the language. It is in the very nature of translation itself that such compromises are imperative. Therefore, the most acceptable version would be perhaps, that which makes the least sacrifice on, either count. Further one feels humble when one realizes that even a hundredth part of the beauty of the original cannot be distilled into the target language.
Keeping all these inherent problems in mind I have tried to translate Gitagovinda. Since I am deeply conscious of the fact that Gitagovinda is not what it appears to be on the surface, I have taken meticulous care about the choice of diction (in my translation), hoping that it will be in keeping with the dignity of Jayadeva verse, and evoking the right kind of response in the readers by providing the appropriate wave—length between the poet and the readers.
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