G\u012btagovinda is an unparalleled work in in the Bhakti genre of Sanskrit literature and has captured the imagination of aesthetes, artists, the erudite, and the laymen alike. Composed in the 12th Century by \u015ar\u012b Jayadeva, the seminal work is unique in its construct for including the meters from the pr\u0101k\u1e5bta indigenous to its land. It is perhaps one of the early forays into wielding the lilt of pr\u0101k\u1e5bta meters to bear the evocative and picturesque vocabulary of the Sanskrit language. The G\u012btagovinda is unique for yet another significant reason. It is a lyrical poem that has been absorbed into the Bhakti and artistic traditions across the length and breadth of Bh\u0101ratavar\u1e63a, like no other. The work, for instance, serves as a prominent theme for painting traditions namely Jaur (16th-century paintings from Rajasthan), Mewari (17th-century paintings from Rajasthan), Bundi (18th-century paintings from Rajasthan), Jaipur-Amber (19th-century paintings from Rajasthan), North Gujarat paintings (17th Century), Basholi (18th-century paintings from the foothills of Himachal Pradesh), Kangra (18th-century paintings from Himachal Pradesh), and Orissan paintings (17th Century). The A\u1e63\u1e6dapad\u012bs, as each song of the twenty-four sets of eight verses is called in the G\u012btagovinda, are the defining features of the dance forms, Manipuri and Odissi, and also inform the repertoire of Kathak and Bharatanatyam. More importantly, the A\u1e63\u1e6dapad\u012bs have inspired and enriched distinct music and dance theatre traditions in the country including the K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47\u0101\u1e6d\u1e6dam and Sop\u0101na-sang\u012btam of Kerala and Bhajana-samprad\u0101ya and R\u0101dh\u0101kaly\u0101\u1e47am of Tamil Nadu. \u092f\u0926\u093f \u0939\u0930\u093f\u0938\u094d\u092e\u0930\u0923\u0947 \u0938\u0930\u0938\u0902 \u092e\u0928\u094b \u092f\u0926\u093f \u0935\u093f\u0932\u093e\u0938\u0915\u0932\u093e\u0938\u0941 \u0915\u0941\u0924\u0942\u0939\u0932\u0902\u0964 \u092e\u0927\u0941\u0930\u0915\u094b\u092e\u0932\u0915\u093e\u0928\u094d\u0924\u092a\u0926\u093e\u0932\u0940\u0902 \u0936\u0943\u0923\u0941 \u0924\u0926\u093e \u091c\u092f\u0926\u0947\u0935\u0938\u0930\u0938\u094d\u0935\u0924\u0940\u092e\u094d\u0965 yadi harismara\u1e47e sarasa\u1e41 mano yadi vil\u0101sakal\u0101su kut\u016bhala\u1e41 | madhurakomalak\u0101ntapad\u0101l\u012b\u1e41 \u015b\u1e5b\u1e47u tad\u0101 jayadevasarasvat\u012bm || If the heart revels in reminiscing Hari and delights in (his) amorous sports, hearken then to the words of Jayadeva; a collection of words that are delectable, sweet, and ravishing. - G\u012btagovinda The highly erotic work is celebrated as an allegorical poem of great esoteric heights, where R\u0101dh\u0101 is said to represent the individual soul, K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a the Supreme Soul, and R\u0101dh\u0101\u2019s confidant or the sakh\u012b, the guru. The explicit and unabashed eroticism of the poem is thus explained to be a crucible of the kernel; of the soul\u2019s longing for union with the Supreme. Western scholars opine that this explanation is aimed largely at the divesting of the poem of its unabashed eroticism, thereby rendering it more palatable to the orthodox schools. Considering that this tradition affords a legitimate place to the tantric practices in the hierarchy of spiritual inquiries, the explanation can also be understood as the perception of multiple layers to a single spiritual quest. The explicit eroticism of the text is the top layer that explains the attraction at a physical level between R\u0101dh\u0101 and K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a. This is inlaid with a metaphysical level \u2013 an unquenchable longing that attracts the soul of R\u0101dh\u0101 inexplicably to the Supreme Soul in K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a. In essence, the G\u012btagovinda displaced the bridal mysticism from the fringes of spiritual inquiry to its centre, and this trend is evident in the bhakti schools that followed soon after. The most pronounced effect of the seminal work can be observed in the Gau\u1e0diya tradition of \u015ar\u012bk\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a-caitanya and its vast literature. The G\u012btagovinda thus provided the muse for works such as Govindal\u012bl\u0101m\u1e5bta and R\u0101dh\u0101rasasudh\u0101nidhi, and the basis for philosophical school, Pu\u1e63\u1e6dim\u0101rga of Vallabhadeva. The history of Jayadeva, who delivered this masterpiece, can be gleaned from the work itself. The history of the poet has been further elaborated by Candradatta in his work, Bhaktam\u0101l\u0101. Jayadeva was born to \u015ar\u012bbhojadeva and Ram\u0101devi in the village of Kendubilva, which Candradatta explains to have been located in the country of Utkala1. He was, by nature, a reclusive br\u0101hma\u1e47a who bore great love for lord K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a and had no desire to be married. A poor br\u0101hma\u1e47a once approached Jayadeva along with his daughter and said to him that he had been commanded by lord Jagann\u0101tha to give the hand of his daughter in marriage to Jayadeva. The impoverished br\u0101hma\u1e47a left his noble daughter, Padm\u0101vat\u012b, in Jayadeva\u2019s care and departed. Perplexed, Jayadeva resolved to leave the damsel behind, as he had no desire to get married. After a little persuasion, he realised the injustice of his resolve, and instead, went to Padm\u0101vat\u012b\u2019s native village so that he could rightfully marry her. Having taken her hand in marriage solemnly, Jayadeva returned to his abode to begin a pious life. 1 It is disputed to this day, whether the village of Kendubilva lies in the present-day West Bengal or in the state of Odisha. Candradatta specifically mentions that the village was located near the modern-day city of Pur\u012b, which suggests that Kendubilva may be located in the state of Odisha. Padm\u0101vat\u012b and Jayadeva spent their days blissfully, worshipping lord K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a by singing and dancing. As Jayadeva admitted in the G\u012btagovinda, he was the dance guru of Padm\u0101vat\u012b. Days rolled by thus, before Jayadeva desired to worship lord K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a with the verses he composed. He began to pen down verses in Sanskrit and in the course of composing these verses, Jayadeva wrote a sequence where he envisioned lord K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a pleading with R\u0101dh\u0101 to place her lotus-like feet upon his head. When Jayadeva realised the magnitude of what he had just written, he was shocked at his audacity. He quickly struck off the verses and proceeded to the river for a bath. Jayadeva desired to clear his head before resuming to compose more verses. Having completed his bath, Jayadeva returned home and requested Padm\u0101vat\u012b to hand him the palm leaves. As he opened the leaf to make a note of the verse he had in his mind, he noticed that someone had made a correction in his palm leaf. The verse he had struck out previously had been rerecorded. Perplexed, he asked Padm\u0101vat\u012b, \u201cWho made the correction?\u201d Padm\u0101vat\u012b was equally perplexed by Jayadeva\u2019s question. She said, \u201cYou rushed back soon after you left for a bath, stating that you needed to make a correction to your poem. You corrected this and went back to the river for a bath. How can you not remember this?\u201d Jayadeva was stunned by what he had just heard, for lord K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a had arrived at his humble abode in his guise, and had personally approved of the verse he had previously believed to be too audacious. Jayadeva right away recognised the relationship that united R\u0101dh\u0101 with K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a, and more importantly, the greatness of the soul he had so far looked upon merely as his wife, Padm\u0101vat\u012b. He began to consider Padm\u0101vat\u012b as his guru, for the lord had appeared before her and not before him. He thus began referring to himself as \u2018Padm\u0101vat\u012brama\u1e47a\u2019 (the husband of Padm\u0101vat\u012b). The narrative progresses further to reveal how lord Jagann\u0101tha expressed his deep attachment to Jayadeva\u2019s poem and how the lord convinced the local king to propagate the poem. The poem thus found its way to becoming an inextricable part of the adulation of Jagann\u0101tha at the Pur\u012b temple, and thence, slowly penetrated the fabric of Bh\u0101rat\u012bya arts and religious traditions. The G\u012btagovinda opens with a verse that encapsulates an episode elaborated in the Gargasa\u1e43hit\u0101 \u2013 \u092e\u0947\u0918\u0948\u0930\u094d\u092e\u0947\u0926\u0941\u0930\u092e\u092e\u094d\u092c\u0930\u0902 \u0935\u0928\u092d\u0941\u0935\u0903 \u0936\u094d\u092f\u093e\u092e\u093e\u0938\u094d\u0924\u092e\u093e\u0932\u0926\u094d\u0930\u0941\u092e\u0948\u0930\u094d- \u0928\u0915\u094d\u0924\u0902 \u092d\u0940\u0930\u0941\u0930\u092f\u0902 \u0924\u094d\u0935\u092e\u0947\u0935 \u0924\u0926\u093f\u092e\u0902 \u0930\u093e\u0927\u0947 \u0917\u0943\u0939\u0902 \u092a\u094d\u0930\u093e\u092a\u092f\u0964 \u0907\u0924\u094d\u0925\u0902 \u0928\u0928\u094d\u0926\u0928\u093f\u0926\u0947\u0936\u0924\u0936\u094d\u091a\u0932\u093f\u0924\u092f\u094b\u0903 \u092a\u094d\u0930\u0924\u094d\u092f\u0927\u094d\u0935\u0915\u0941\u091e\u094d\u091c\u0926\u094d\u0930\u0941\u092e\u0902 \u0930\u093e\u0927\u093e\u092e\u093e\u0927\u0935\u092f\u094b\u0930\u094d\u091c\u092f\u0928\u094d\u0924\u093f \u092f\u092e\u0941\u0928\u093e\u0915\u0942\u0932\u0947 \u0930\u0939\u0903 \u0915\u0947\u0932\u092f\u0903\u0965 meghairmeduramambara\u1e41 vanabhuva\u1e25 \u015by\u0101m\u0101stam\u0101ladrumair- nakta\u1e41 bh\u012bruraya\u1e41 tvameva tadima\u1e41 r\u0101dhe g\u1e5bha\u1e41 pr\u0101paya | ittha\u1e41 nandanide\u015bata\u015bcalitayo\u1e25 pratyadhvaku\u00f1jadruma\u1e41 r\u0101dh\u0101m\u0101dhavayorjayanti yamun\u0101k\u016ble raha\u1e25 kelaya\u1e25 || \u201cO\u2019 R\u0101dh\u0101, the sky gets laden with clouds, the woods darken with Tam\u0101la trees, the night falls, and this (lad) is timid; hence rush him home,\u201d \u2013 the amorous sport of the couple R\u0101dh\u0101 and M\u0101dhava, who were thus instructed by Nanda, reigns supreme in every bower along the woods of V\u1e5bnd\u0101 upon the banks of the Yamun\u0101. - G\u012btagovinda Once, Nandagop\u0101la, K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a\u2019s foster father, set out for V\u1e5bnd\u0101vana, along with his timid lad. As Nanda\u2019s cattle grazed upon the lush grasslands of V\u1e5bnd\u0101vana, a thunderstorm broke out. The skies became dark as night; claps of thunder rocked the earth, lightning streaked across the sky ominously, and the forest wore an abysmal gloom. Nanda found himself torn between his terrified son and his helpless herd of cattle. He debated whether he ought to stay behind in the woods guarding his cattle, or he must hasten home to pacify his terrified son, who was clinging to him tightly. As he stood there, steeped in thought, a charming damsel appeared before him. With every limb of her person adorned with her budding youth, she glided forth dispelling the descending pall of gloom and put the swans to shame. It was none other than R\u0101dh\u0101. Nanda, who was enlightened about R\u0101dh\u0101\u2019s true nature by Garg\u0101c\u0101rya, was thrilled upon beholding her. He clasped his hands in reverential salute and addressed her with his eyes moist with tears thus, \u201cO\u2019 R\u0101dh\u0101, I am aware that you are none other than Goddess Mah\u0101lak\u1e63m\u012b and that my K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a is none other than lord V\u0101sudeva. Take him with you and sport with him in the glorious bowers of V\u1e5bnd\u0101vana to your heart\u2019s content. Please return my son to me thereafter, fulfilled of every desire.\u201d Thus, permitted by Nanda, R\u0101dh\u0101 carried baby K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a on her waist and proceeded forth, commencing the G\u012btagovinda. What unfurls further is a scintillating saga of a soul tormented, chastened, refined, and enlightened by love. K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a magically transformed into a handsome youth, delighting R\u0101dh\u0101 in amorous thrills. R\u0101dh\u0101, who has relished union with K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a, was informed by her confidant that K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a now revelled in the company of other cowherd damsels, rejoicing them in his warm embrace and endearing glance. R\u0101dh\u0101 found her heart sullied by a pang of jealousy. She proceeded forth, and much to her consternation, witnessed K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a engaging a bevvy of charming damsels in an amorous sport. She tells her confidant, \u201cHe sports them with an enchanting smile upon his lips, O\u2019 friend, and it feels like he derides me with his smile.\u201d Smarting with jealously and indignation, R\u0101dh\u0101 moves away from there and seeks the solitude of the charming bowers of V\u1e5bnd\u0101vana. Try as she may, R\u0101dh\u0101 found that she was unable to drive the thoughts of K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a away from her mind. The longing for K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a burgeoned with every growing minute, and everything pleasant in the charming bower only contributed to her yearning and pain. The delirium of longing sets in, and R\u0101dh\u0101 grew listless and despondent. Yet, her pride would not allow her to seek K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a unabashed. She stayed rooted in her bower and languished. Moved by the piteous plight of R\u0101dh\u0101, the Sakh\u012b hastens to K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a\u2019s presence and explains to him how R\u0101dh\u0101 sank by the minute. Impressing upon K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a the dire state that R\u0101dh\u0101 was now in, she entreats K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a to rush to her side. Convinced, K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a hastens to R\u0101dh\u0101\u2019s side but is repudiated by an enraged R\u0101dh\u0101. She chided him, \u0939\u0930\u093f\u0939\u0930\u093f \u092f\u093e\u0939\u093f \u092e\u093e\u0927\u0935 \u092f\u093e\u0939\u093f \u0915\u0947\u0936\u0935 \u092e\u093e \u0935\u0926 \u0915\u0948\u0924\u0935\u0935\u093e\u0926\u092e\u094d\u0964 \u0924\u093e\u092e\u0928\u0941\u0938\u0930 \u0938\u0930\u0938\u0940\u0930\u0941\u0939\u0932\u094b\u091a\u0928 \u092f\u093e \u0924\u0935 \u0939\u0930\u0924\u093f \u0935\u093f\u0937\u093e\u0926\u092e\u094d\u0965 harihari y\u0101hi m\u0101dhava y\u0101hi ke\u015bava m\u0101 vada kaitavav\u0101dam | t\u0101manusara saras\u012bruhalocana y\u0101 tava harati vi\u1e63\u0101dam || O\u2019 Hari, be gone. Be gone, O\u2019 bearer of \u015ar\u012b upon your bosom! Be gone, O\u2019 slayer of Ke\u015b\u012b; utter not falsehood! O\u2019 Lotus-eyed one, pursue her who robs you of misery! - G\u012btagovinda Unable to convince R\u0101dh\u0101, K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a turns away agonised. Recognising that R\u0101dh\u0101 had turned K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a away just for sheer spite, the Sakh\u012b counsels her. She explains to R\u0101dh\u0101 that anger and jealousy are unbecoming in love. She urges R\u0101dh\u0101 to give up her pride and to seek the Supreme unabashed. Counselled and brought to her senses by her sakh\u012b, R\u0101dh\u0101 hastens to the presence of K\u1e5b\u1e63\u1e47a and is embraced by him with gratitude and joy. He tells her most earnestly, \u0924\u094d\u0935\u092e\u0938\u093f \u092e\u092e \u092d\u0942\u0937\u0923\u0902 \u0924\u094d\u0935\u092e\u0938\u093f \u092e\u092e \u091c\u0940\u0935\u0928\u0902 \u0924\u094d\u0935\u092e\u0938\u093f \u092e\u092e \u092d\u0935\u091c\u0932\u0927\u093f\u0930\u0924\u094d\u0928\u092e\u094d\u0964 tvamasi mama bh\u016b\u1e63a\u1e47a\u1e41 tvamasi mama j\u012bvana\u1e41 tvamasi mama bhavajaladhiratnam | You are my ornament; you are my life, and you are the jewel obtained by churning the ocean of the manifest world. - G\u012btagovinda This verse is a testimony of one of the basic tenets of the bhakti school of thought \u2013 that the Supreme toils in the manifest world to claim for himself, a realised soul. He verily churns the ocean of materialistic existence to derive this jewel as he did with goddess \u015ar\u012b. The entire poem bears a testimony, in essence, to the struggle of an imperfect soul; a soul pulled down by baser instincts, to rise above. It establishes how a guru aids in this refinement, and most importantly, how the Supreme directly invests in the process through means that are not always apparent. In the case of R\u0101dh\u0101, he deliberately engendered jealousy in her, pretended to ignore her, angered her, and drove her to desperation and unbearable longing. Brooking the uncharitable words she spewed, he then waited for her to evolve and realise her true self patiently, and embraced her when she approached him.