Depiction of Krishna of Jayadev’s Gita Govinda in Basohli Paintings

Jayadev’s Gita Govinda

Gita Govinda is a medieval literary work by the famous poet Jayadev in the 12th century CE. It is a medieval time musical work composed. Jayedev became the court poet of the Sen King Lakshaman Sen of Bnegal (1175-1200 CE) and wrote the Gita Govinda in c. 1178-1205 CE.
In Gita Govinda, Jayadev describes the love of Radha and Krishna with intense devotion and makes the love of the God a reality to the man, i.e., the pure love of Krishna for Radha. Also, it describes the love life of the Krishna with the other gopis
or the cowherd maidens of Vrindavan, apart from Radha. While Radha is not mentioned in the Bhagwat Purana till the 10th
century but in the 12th
century, Jayadev celebrates the love of Krishna and Radha in his composition Gita Govinda.

The aspect of Raasleela has been shown as well as romanticised by Jayadev in his literary creation. Raasleela is a term used to describe the event when Krishna used to play and dance with the gopis and Radha mostly at night. Time and again, this aspect became an important component of the Krishna Bhakti or Vaishnava Bhakti traditions. It is too said that it was from the Raasleela that the north Indian dance form Kathak has been derived subsequently.

This painting depicts how Krishna is surrounded by the Gopis and how he is moving in a
slow pace with them. He is most probably entertaining or
womanising while wandering around with them willingly.

The entire work of Gita Govinda has been divided into various chapters, each of them
containing a group of eight couplets that has been termed as the Ashtapadis. In this great work, one can find the 12 moods of Lord Krishna and also the
Dashavatar of Lord Vishnu, that associates this literary work to the Vaishnav sect.

Jayadev’s songs continue to be sung throughout the Indian landmass describing the
devotional adoration of Krishna.
Moreover, this great Sanskrit poem is sung in the temples as a prayer of great beauty and
power of Lord Krishna. To add to the facts, in the temple of Lord Jaggannath in Puri, Odisha
this entire work of Gita Govinda is recited before the main deity.

Gita Govinda provided the artist a material of beautification of the themes of each chapter to
be depicted in his respective subject like dance,drama, paintings and theatre. As a result, it too became an important work to be painted under the various art forms of the hilly region including the Basohli art form.

Basohli Paintings

The Basohli paintings originated at Basohli region of Jammu and Kahmi. This style emerged due to the intermingling of the folk art of the hills with the Mughal art styles Basically, the dressing style is depicted with Mughal art influences whereas the facial formula is having an impression of the local folk art.

And as far as the Gita Govinda is concerned in Basohli paintings, Gita Govinda was painted by the artist Manaku in 1730 CE under the patronages of the princess of Basohli – Malini. Altogether , it was found that Raja Kirpal Singh patronised the Basohli Paintings.

Features- These paintings are featured by the style of using primary colours vigorously (Randhawa,1959) and these paintings have a brick red border, flat monochrome background with the characters,having comparatively large eyes.Also, these painting styles too had a close resemblance with the Mughal painting styles;more specifically the Jahangiri influences can be seen in this art style.

Poet Jayadev worshipping Radha and Krishna,Paper, Basohli Painting, 1730 CE,
National Museum, New Delhi
The poet Jayadev is worshipping Radha and Krishna with great devotion in this painting. As
mentioned above, the Basohli tradition of art is remarked by the use of hot and vigorous
colours. In the above painting, impression of hot colours has been depicted. A colour
combination of yellow, orange, brown and red and their shades have been vibrantly used. The
artist Manaku has shown Radha and Krishna both wearing heavy ornaments. The background
is monochrome in depiction.Also, the trees are one of the major elements in this painting
style and hereby a tree can be spotted out here that’s a predominant object in this painting.
The border is made of bold red colour with a brown inner boundary in the painting.

As the ending note, it can be said that the paintings as a part of the Indian traditions, too tried to depict the Bhakti movement. For
instance the Basohli paintings depicted the Vaishnav Bhakti while defining the intricate
nature of Lord Krishna under the various themes of Gita Govinda. And Krishna is considered
to be one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Subsequently, the themes that the artists tried to
depict on the paintings patronized by the ruler of that time somewhere relates to the belief system of the society. Also for some political causes too, the ruler is keenly interested to patronise their culture and religion through the paintings made, thus.

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