Read Gita Govinda: Love Songs of Radha and Krishna by Jayadeva Lee Siegel Online


Jayadeva's Gitagov-nda is a lyrical account of the illicit springtime love affair of Krishna and Radha, a god and goddess manifesting on earth as a cowherd and milkmaid for the sake of relishing the sweet miseries and rapturous delights of erotic love. The narrative framing their bucolic songs was composed under royal patronage in northeastern India in the twelfth century.Jayadeva's Gitagov-nda is a lyrical account of the illicit springtime love affair of Krishna and Radha, a god and goddess manifesting on earth as a cowherd and milkmaid for the sake of relishing the sweet miseries and rapturous delights of erotic love. The narrative framing their bucolic songs was composed under royal patronage in northeastern India in the twelfth century. It was to be performed for connoisseurs of poetry and the erotic arts, for aesthetes and voluptuaries who, while sensually engaged, were at the same time devoted to Krishna as Lord of the Universe. The text at once celebrates the vicissitudes of carnal love and the transports of religious devotion, merging and reconciling those realms of emotion and experience. Erotic and religious sensibilities serve, and are served by, the pleasures of poetry. In the centuries following its composition, the courtly text became a vastly popular inspirational hymnal. Jayadeva's songs continue to be sung throughout India in fervent devotional adoration of Krishna....

Title : Gita Govinda: Love Songs of Radha and Krishna
Author :
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ISBN : 9780814740781
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 204 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Gita Govinda: Love Songs of Radha and Krishna Reviews

  • Dylan Grant
    2019-05-19 18:59

    In Sanatana Dharma, there are various ways of expressing Devotion (Bhakti) for God. We can love God like a Father (the mode of Devotion most common in Western culture), or we can love God like a Mother, or a Friend, or a Child (the devotions to Baby Jesus would be the Christian equivalent of this), or even a Lover. The last of these is the most alien to Abrahamic religion (Judaism/Christianity/Islam). Is it because we always imagine God as being very far away, and not close enough to us to be like a lover? Is it because in our minds we have a solid division between the material and spiritual realms, and can't imagine something like romantic love being transcendental?Whatever the case, Sanatana Dharma has no trouble with this conception of devotion. Krishna (an Avatar of God) and Radha (a cow-herding village girl) are the fullest expression of the idea of "Worshipping God like He is your Lover". Radha manages to get God to come to him, with all the spiritual enlightenment that implies, through her passionate longing for Krishna that is spiritual and erotic at the same time. The Gitagovinda, this poem by Jayadeva, is about Krishna and Radha's relationship.However, in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna the titular Guru says that devoting ourselves to God is a dangerous mode of worship in the Kali-Yuga (the Dark Age we currently live in) because the human mind has become so degenerate and lustful, and he recommends against this attitude. Ramakrishna himself practiced the "God-as-Mother" conception of devotion, and Ramakrishna saw himself as a little child of the Divine Mother. I think that is worth keeping in mind. This edition of the book begins with a very long, dragged-out essay. It didn't effect my enjoyment of the poem at all, but it was very boring. The essay at the beginning seeks to accomplish three things: 1) Place the Gitagovinda in the proper context so it can be understood 2) Explain who the author of this poem is and 3) Explain how Hindu poetry works. The first thing is extremely necessary, because this poem is incomprehensible unless someone understands Krishna's legend, and how he is considered one of the avatars of God, etc. The second thing is the most interesting part of this essay. Jayadeva is a wandering Sadhu whose spiritual practice consists of writing Devotional songs and poetry. He wanders into a temple one day and falls in love instantly with one of the temple-dancers. The father of that dancer, a Brahmana, says that he had a dream that the two must marry. This goes against Hindu cultural norms of arranged marriages. I find the Hindu poets to be really interesting, because a Hindu poet isn't allowed to attach their actual name to any of their works. They have to make up a new name that is symbolic. Most of their writings are all very esoteric and spiritual. This makes them seem like mythic figures. Jayadeva in particular is really interesting because he goes from being a Sadhu to being married, and writing this work of spiritually-charged eroticism known as the Gitagovinda. Now on to the actual poem. The Gitagovinda is really sensual. There are lots of references to the colours of spring, or the smells of flowers, and long descriptions of the attractive bodies of the cow-herd girls and Krishna. Then Krishna starts playing games with the girls and teasing them. All of this gives the poem a very erotic and youthful atmosphere that can be very jarring if you are more used to the Krishna that is depicted in the Bhagavad Gita. Until we get to Radha, it seems like the Gitagovinda is just someones sexual fantasy, with Krishna being an attractive alpha-male with a large harem of women to attend to his every desire. When Radha appears the eroticism becomes mixed with a spiritual mood, as Radha feels tremendous pain at being separated from Krishna. The description of this pain is very much how it feels for the Soul to be separated from God and it is very moving. Radha begins prayerfully weeping, meditating, chanting Krishna's name, and other acts of Sadhana in order to get near to Krishna. However, throughout that whole section it is clear that Radha sees Krishna not just as an Avatar of God, the Eternal made flesh in order to Grace His devotees, but also as a youthful boy. So she is in love with Krishna in two ways: In the sense that she is a devotee who revers God, and in the sense that she is a young woman madly in love with Krishna. All these sections with Radha are the most interesting parts of the poem. All of the sections with Radha are very interesting, and the most beneficial for a spiritual aspirant who wants to find out what the "Lover" attitude of devotion is like. However, when we return to Krishna, the poem gets very confusing. Sometimes it seems like the erotic and spiritual moods aren't being mixed, but instead we are constantly switching back and forth between the two of them awkwardly. This is a real problem in the poem. Sometimes Jayadeva will hint that there is something more esoteric going on, but whatever it is I really can't figure it out. Finally, there are some passages that are so erotically charged that I don't think they would be of any benefit to a spiritual aspirant. I think, really, this is a very Tantric poem. Ramakrishna says that Tantra is a spiritual discipline in which our sensual desires get transmuted into spiritual desires by thinking of God whilst enjoying them, or being grateful to God whilst receiving sense-gratification. Another conception of Tantra, one elucidated in Samael Aun Weor's "The Perfect Matrimony", is that Tantra is a way to enter certain beneficial spiritual states through sexual acts. I don't really understand Tantra and it has never been super beneficial for me personally. I guess I should read more Tantric texts someday, and then return to the Gitagovinda and see if I can understand Jayadeva's constant hinting that there is something deeper going on when Krishna is engaging in sexual acts. Throughout this whole poem there is an intense longing which keeps getting more and more intense. There is a physical longing for sexual contact, an emotional longing for companionship, an intellectual longing for the truth, a spiritual longing to know God, all mixed up into one. But, frustratingly, this poem never actually resolves that longing in a satisfying way. When Krishna and Radha finally meet, the poem ends shortly after that and very abruptly too. It is very frustrating, haha. On the subject of longing.... there is a parable about an enlightened master and a monk. The monk asks the master, "I want to reach Enlightenment. How can I do it?". The Master asks the monk to follow him to a river. He grabs the monk and starts to drown him in the river. The monk starts to panic as he thinks the master is trying to kill him. He struggles to breathe. After a few minutes, the master takes the monk out of the river and says "When your longing to realize the Truth exceeds the longing you had just then to stay alive, you will surely reach it". Ramakrishna said that when our devotional desire for God's presence reaches a level where it exceeds our desire for wealth, sexual contact, and fame we will become enlightened masters. In other words, there is definitely a spiritual lesson in longing. That's the one positive thing I can take away from the Gitagovinda. The poem is often very beautiful, and there are lots of passages that are both enlightening and titillating. But just as often the poem is too repetitive, as the same imagery (especially imagery with bees and honey) gets repeated ad nauseam. I find it hard to recommend this book to anyone because I don't find it helpful for spiritual aspirants (unless they really understand Tantra - which I don't!) and it is a flawed poem on top of that.

  • Karen
    2019-05-23 15:24

    The book was a requirement for my Hinduism class and surprisingly, I kept it because it made such an impression on me. I often need to get forced to read poetry and when I do, I end up liking it. Reading this in a public place at the library while taking notes though isn't ideal. I found myself constantly blushing and looking up from my place to see if anyone else happened to see into my head. It blatant eroticism in poetry style about lovers despite being a god because in love even gods can still get scorned by lovers.

  • Drew Hoffman
    2019-05-15 19:04

    This translation of Jayadeva's esteemed lyrical poem the Gitagovinda is truly a work of transcendent beauty. The story of the love and separation of Krishna and Radha is told in breathtakingly lovely lines such as this passage (my favorite):Wind from a lakeside gardenCoaxing buds on new asoka branchesInto clusters of scarlet flowersIs only fanning the flames to burn me.This mountain Of new mango blossomsHumming with roving bumblebeesIs no comfort to me now, friend.

  • Debjeet Bhattacharjee
    2019-05-18 22:03

    Two lovers and their yearning for each other is etched permanently in poetry of sheer perfection.

  • Patrick
    2019-05-17 17:13

    Having recently taken a Religion course "Love and Its Myths" in University. I have come across the material on Hinduism. Their socio-religious interpretation of the world around us; the culture so to speak has been for me strange, foreign and hard to understand. The differences that made this religion different from the Judeo-Christian faith that I grew up with was clear to me at once. The concept of a personal, loving God was non-existent. I guess what I'm trying to say, which Caryl Matrisciana better explains is:"Although the Hindu tries to convince himself that suffering is only in his mind an illusion as he calls it 'maya'. At the same time he believes that he has to suffer again and again by forever being forced to return to this world through reincarnation. There is no escape from this endless wheel of 'samsara' life and death because in Hinduism unlike Christianity there is no forgiveness, because there is no sin therefore sadly there is no hope."The religion itself has no sense of guilt, redemption or atonement, making it hard for the devotee in my opinion to experience true liberation that comes from being set free from 'sin' (bad consciousness). One's dharma (obligation) in Hinduism always trumps everything even if the dharma is to go against sound reason. So with such a philosophy if your dharma is to hate your neighbour it is to hate him. If it is to love only those who do good to you then it is to love them, and hate your enemy. One quickly realizes that with such plain moral principles supreme love, sacrificial love, true love of the other is unattainable. And it creates a social class that is reflective of Hitler's Germany where people are unequally divided by a cast system. Of course one may say what about one's 'bhakti' (love of God) which goes beyond everything is ones duty. But again bhakti has a flaw, like the Apostle John explains in the Bible, "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20). Bhakti which is nothing less then a superficial demonstration of love of the divine. That love can never be viewed as 'agape' (sacrificial love). A virtues love, divine love, reminds the devotee that God is in heaven and man on earth, so love another here and that will be reflective to the love of God in heaven. So what am I trying to get at? And how does all this relate to the Gitagovinda? Having just finished reading the story, the love song between Krishna and the 'gopi'(cowgirl) Radha. Yes it is well written which the poet Jayadeva did an amazing job on it, but it lacked what one may call moral judgement, moral truth. Why are we given a story where a supposed 'god' Krishna and a supposed married cowgirl interact in a adulterous love affair? What does it teach us about good and right action? Oh yes I forgot the Hindus don't believe in absolutes, they are fine with moral relativism. Therefore I'm more convinced that the Gitagovinda or the Hindu religion in aspect can never be the solution do men's detrimental questions and salvation. The Bible makes it clear and reconfirms it through the man Jesus Christ. "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."(Acts 4:12)Jesus is true, he address the problem of sin, and is not a cosmic-comic who enjoys tormenting the souls of people on earth. No for that we already have the devil, Satan.

  • James F
    2019-05-11 17:18

    Krishna -- the dark lord -- in Hindu religion is an incarnation (avatar) of the Creator, Vishnu, who was born as a mortal to save the world from an age of darkness and is also worshiped as a separate god -- an idea a certain later religion seems to think is its own original invention. But unlike the celibate Jesus of Christian tradition, Krishna loves humanity -- especially in the form of beautiful cowherdesses. The G��tagovinda, a late-twelfth-century poem -- contemporary with the troubadours, trouv��res, and minnes�_nger in the West -- is a lyrical retelling of the love story of Krishna and R��dh�� the cowherdess. More than half this short book is taken up with an introduction and notes by the translator/editor Barbara Stoler Miller, very necessary to me as I knew little about Krishna or Hinduism, beyond having read an ultra-abridged one volume translation of the Mah��bh��rata for a college humanities class forty some years ago (I've intended since to read a longer version -- I gather the actual unabridged version has never been translated or published -- and I just bought used copies of the first three volumes of the latest translation, so maybe I will move that up a few hundred places on my TBR list.) Unfortunately, many of the notes are heavy on untranslated Sanskrit, odd for a translation but apparently the hardcover edition of the book also contains the Sanskrit text.Like the Biblical Song of Solomon, which it resembles and outdoes in its erotic imagery, this poem has been treated as allegory, depicting the intimate relation of the soul to divinity. It is sung as part of certain temple rituals in the Hindu world.

  • Barnaby Thieme
    2019-05-04 18:19

    "Love Song of the Dark Lord" is an excellent translation of Jayadeva's Sanskrit masterpiece, which treats the erotic love of Krishna, conceived as a manifestation or avatar of the great god Vishnu, with the cowherd Radha. It was this set of songs, I believe, that elevated an obscurish episode from the Puranas into a beloved icon encompassing the fusion of earthly and divine love. Accustomed as many in the English-speaking world are to thinking of divine love purely in terms of agape, it is startling to contemplate images of ecstasy and passion for an exhalted deity, as we find in Jayadeva's verse. But its frank eroticism is exhilarating and its worlds, lovely. Interestingly, Jayadeva was a near-exact contemporary to two of the greatest poets of erotic love as an aspect of holiness - Gottfriend von Strassburg, author of the great romance "Tristan," and Rumi, whose ambiguous love for his companion Shams transformed him from a sober cleric to an ecstatic poet. I found Stoller Miller's translation of the Bhagavad Gita a bit sterile, but here she's in top form. Her excellent introduction gives a useful historical context to the text. I would enthusiastically refer readers interested in Jayadeva to Kalidasa as well - "The Loom of Time" is a marvelous collection which contains an excellent translation of his masterwork, "The Recognition of Shakuntala."

  • Azade
    2019-05-09 14:57

    Gitagovinda is an important text in medieval Indian literature cus it was used/ recited by Krishna cults in east Indian temples. Miller's introduction is so comprehensive, it sheds light on all aspects of the text.

    2019-05-21 15:19


  • Thomas
    2019-05-15 16:16

    A beautiful translation with a helpful introduction and tons of notes that are easily ignored. Gorgeous verse. I'm off to see if I can find performance recordings.

  • onejusthead
    2019-05-20 20:04