CHENNAI: With the advent of Kali yuga the time became ripe and conducive to realise God by the easier method of chanting the Divine name and singing His glory. The Bhagavata Purana, which Vyasa composed exclusively for elaborating the divine deeds (lila) of Lord Krishna and devotion to Him, influenced and inspired many of the mystics and saints of the Bhakti movement to praise Him in songs and hymns. One such hymn, which has become central to the Bhajan tradition (congregational devotional singing), is the Gita Govinda of Jayadeva, also known as the Ashtapadi after its literary style.
Born to pious parents in the town Tundubilva near the sacred city of Lord Jagannath, Puri, Jayadeva mastered the scriptures even in his youth. He was convinced that praising the Almighty was the way to salvation and he embarked on composing the Gita Govinda drawing insight from the elaboration of Lord Krishna's love deeds (Sringara lila) with Radha depicted in the Padma Purana. This is one of the forms of devotional mysticism called bridal mysticism in which the devotee pines for union with the Lord, conjugal relationship symbolising spiritual union, which is an oft-recurring sentiment in the hymns of the Azhwars. The Ashtapadi starts with the description of the incarnations of God and then moves on to the central theme of the Rasa lila of Lord Krishna with the Gopis.
In his Harikatha, Kalyanapuram Sri R.Aravamudachariar said Lord Krishna blessed the Gita Govinda by writing the lines Jayadeva hesitated to in his absence and he was overwhelmed that his wife Padmavati was fortunate to witness the Lord doing it. Jayadeva incorporated her name into the refrain.
There was all-round appreciation for this work, which evoked jealousy in the heart of the ruler then for he had also composed a poem. When matters came to a head, the people decided that both the manuscripts be left at the feet of Lord Jagannatha in the temple and He would indicate His preference. The Lord chose the Ashtapadi and the incident thus turned out to be a double blessing making known Jayadeva's devotion to the world at large.