By Jayadeva
Translated by Lee Siegel
Foreword by Sudipta Kaviraj

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The “Gita·govínda” of Jaya·deva 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 meant to be performed for connoisseurs of poetry and the erotic arts, for those refined aesthetes and sophisticated voluptuaries who, while being sensually engaged in the world, were, at the same time, devoted to Krishna as Lord of the Universe.

 

The text is at once celebration of the sumptuous vicissitudes of carnal love and the sublime transports of religious devotion, a literary merger and aesthetic reconciliation of those realms of emotion and experience. Erotic sentiments 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. Jaya·deva’s songs continue to be sung throughout India in fervent devotional adoration of Krishna.

 

Radha gazes at Krishna:

Long had he longed to make love to her,
     his one true love, his only miss;
Love had made himself at home in him,
     and his face beamed bounteous bliss;
Just as the moon churns up
     the waves of a turbulent ocean,
So Radha’s face stirred up in him
     tides of amorous emotion.
The splendid earrings grazing his lotus face
     rivaled the sun for light
And he yearned all the more love when he saw her
     lips aglow, her smile bright.

And Krishna commands Radha:

Let obliging words stream from your sweet mouth,
     your face a moon, its nectar overflowing;
As if it were our separation, I’ll draw back the drape
     that prevents your breasts from showing.
Smother love’s fervid flames,
     press your breasts against my chest;
Your bristling bosom is hard to hold,
     brimming with desire to be caressed.
As if l, love crazed were dead,
     flesh charred by separation’s strife,
With your lips’ elixirs, wild, wild woman,
     bring me, your slave, back to life.

256 pp.  |  ISBN-13: 978-0-8147-4078-1  |  ISBN-10: 0-8147-4078-2  |  Co-published by New York University Press and JJC Foundation

About the Translator

Lee Siegel is Professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Hawai’i. He is the author of Love in a Dead Language.

Born: July 22, 1945; Los Angeles, California

 

Education:

B.A., University of California at Berkeley, 1967.
M.F.A., Columbia University, 1969.
D. Phil., Oxford University, 1975.

 

Professional Experience:

Instructor, Department of English,

Western Washington University, 1969-72.

Currently: Professor, Department of Religion,

University of Hawaii (hired 1976).

Resident Director, University of Hawaii Study Abroad

(Paris 2002, 2004, 2006; Seville 2005)

 

Grants, Fellowships, and Academic Honors:

Senior Research Fellowships from the American Institute of Indian Studies

(six: 1979, 1983, 1987, 1991, 1996, 2010-11).

Research grants from the American Council of Learned Societies

and the Social Science Research Council (four: 1982, 1985, 1987, 1990).

Research grant from the Center for Asian and Pacific

Studies (University of Hawaii, 1981).

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Teaching

(two: University of Hawaii, 1986 and 1996).

Research award from the University of Hawaii,

(Research Relations Fund, 1988).

Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim

Memorial Foundation (1988-89).

Fujio Matsuda Scholar

(University of Hawaii, 1990-91).

Scholar-in-Residence, Rockefeller Foundation,

Bellagio Study Center (two: Oct/Nov 1990; Nov/Dec 2003).

Visiting Fellow, All Souls College,

Oxford University (Fall 1997)

Elliot Cades Award for Literature

Hawaii Literary Arts Council (2009)

 

Publications:

Books:

Vivisections. Goliards Press (Bellingham, 1973).

Sacred and Profane Love in Indian Traditions.

Oxford University Press (London, New York, Delhi, 1979;

Paperback 2nd edition (1990).

Fires of Love/Waters of Peace: Passion and Renunciation in Indian Traditions.

University of Hawaii Press (Honolulu, 1983).

Laughing Matters: India's Comic Tradition.

The University of Chicago Press (Chicago, 1987);

Indian edition published by Motilal Banarsidass (Delhi, 1988).

Net of Magic: Wonders and Deceptions in India.

The University of Chicago Press (Chicago, 1991).

Indian edition published by Harper-Collins (Delhi, 2000)

City of Dreadful Night: A Tale of Horror and the Macabre in India.

The University of Chicago Press (Chicago, 1995).

Love in a Dead Language: A Romance

The University of Chicago Press, (Chicago, 1999)

Paperback 2nd edition (2000).

Indian edition published by Harper Collins (Delhi, 2001)

French translation (L’Amour dans une langue morte)

published by Éditions Philippe Picquier (Arles, 2003)

Turkish translation (.lü Bir Dilde Aşk)

published by Ayrinti Yayainlari (Istanbul, 2010)

Love and Other Games of Chance: A Novelty

Viking (New York, 2003);

Penguin paperback (New York, 2004)

Who Wrote the Book of Love?

The University of Chicago Press, (Chicago, 2005)

Love and the Incredibly Old Man

The University of Chicago Press, (Chicago, 2008)

The Gitagovinda of Jayadeva: Love Songs of Radha and Krishna

Clay Sanskrit Library and New York University Press (New York, 2009)

Trance-Migrations: Stories of India, Tales of Hypnosis

The University of Chicago Press, (Chicago, 2014)

 

Articles, Reviews, and Chapters in Books:

Numerous articles and reviews have appeared in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain, History of Religions, the [London] Times Literary Supplement, Asian Art, The Encyclopedia of Religion, Parabola, Buddhist-Christian Studies, Bulletin des Etudes Indiennes, Philosophy East and West, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Honolulu Magazine, Asian Art & Culture, Encyclopedia of South Asian Folklore; Pacifica Magazine, Hana Hou Magazine; food critic for Honolulu Weekly; commissioned essay “On Rapture” for a catalogue for the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago; Hana Hou; London Times Higher Education Supplement; the Wilson Quarterly; LIMN; the Washington Post; the New York Times Book Review; Outlook India; Nation;“Hawaii” chapter in The Nation’s These United States (2003); oxfordbibliographies.com (2011); Journal of Vaishnava Studies (2014).

 

Video, Television and Film:

Wrote, directed, and performed in an eight-episode educational television series, Mask and Mystery (University of Hawaii Media Center, 1978); scholarly advisor and interview appearance on Ancient Mysteries, “The Kama Sutra.” (A&E, 1995); appearance on The World of Magic (PBS, 1998); scriptwriter for Buddha (Waco Productions Ltd.); consultant and interview appearance on A History of Love and Sexuality (The History Channel, 1999); consultant, writer, and performer for Magic in India with Penn and Teller (Yorkshire Television and the Canadian Broadcasting Company, 1999); interview, “Pour l’interior,” on France-Culture (Paris, 2003); consultant, performer in Michael Caplan’s feature, A Magical Vision (2009); consultant on Jimmy Goldblum and Adam Weber’s feature “Tomorrow We Disappear” (2014).

 

Academic and Literary Activities:

Papers delivered: the University of Wisconsin Conference on South Asia (1984, 1986), the University of Minnesota Conference on the Erotic Theme in South Asia (1985), the Ryukoku Conference of Religious Institutions (Kyoto, 1987), the Association for Asian Studies (Chicago, 1990), New Orleans (1991), the International Conference on Humor and Laughter (Paris, 1992), keynote speaker at the regional meeting of the American Academy of Religion (Chicago, 1994), the Conference on the History of Magic (Los Angeles, 1995), the Taisho University Conference on Local Religion (Nagano, 1996); Conference of the Contexts of Buddhism at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford University (2004).

 

Performances and invited lectures delivered at the Oriental Institute of Oxford University (1983, 1985, 1989, 1997), the Collège de France, for the Association Française pour les Études Sanskrites (1985), the Centre d’Études de L'Inde for the Équipe Litterature Orale (1988), the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (1989), Sanskrit University in Varanasi (1993), All Souls College, Oxford University (1997), Kings College, London University (1997); University of California at Santa Barbara (1997), Shelby Cullom Institute, Princeton University (1997); Louisiana State University (1998), The University of Pennsylvania (1998), Muhlenberg College (1999 and 2004), Lehigh University (1999); delivered the Marshall Dodge Distinguished Lectures at the University of Maine (2000); keynote speaker at the mid-west meeting of the American Academy of Religion (2000); Williams College (2003); Académie de magie (Paris, 2003); Musée du quai Branly (Paris, 2008); University of Nairobi (Kenya, 2009); Xavier Research Centre (Goa, India, 2010); Casa de Moeda (Goa, India, 2010); keynote speaker for the Fulbright Foundation Conference on South and Central Asia (Goa, India, 2011); Hebrew University (Jerusalem, Israel, 2011).

 

Readings and literary presentations: Duttons (Los Angeles, 2000, 2003; Beverly Hills, 2005); A Clean Well Lighted Pace (San Francisco, 2003); featured author at the World Literature Festival (Berlin, 2003); speaker at the South Asian Literary and Theater Arts Festival (Washington, D.C., 2003); storytelling for “Talk Story” (Honolulu, 2004); Iowa Writers Program reading tour (Kenya, 2009); featured author at the Storymoja Hay Festival (Nairobi, Kenya, 2009); reading and panelist at Hawaii Book and Music Festival (2010); featured author at the Goa Literature and Arts Festival (Dona Paula, 2010); featured author at the Jaipur Literature Festival in India (Rajasthan, India 2011).

About the Foreword Writer

Sudipta Kaviraj is Professor of South Asian Politics in the Department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Culture at Columbia University. He is the author of numerous books on South Asian society, culture and history, including The Unhappy Consciousness (1993), and has edited Politics in India (1998) and co-edited (with Sunil Khilnani) Civil Society: History and Possibilities (2000).