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In the first Canto of the Gita Govinda Jaideva invokes Krishna as Jagannatha, and other nine incarnations of Lord Vishnu as his incarnations. Thus, Jaideva equates Lord Krishna, the Lord of the World, with Vishnu. The painter has used exceptional insight into his theme. With peacock-feather crest and normal two hands the portrayed image is essentially one of Lord Krishna. However, a dark formless ocean-like deep background hardly suits him who was used to colourful meadows, forests, trees, river-banks, birds, animals, friends, milky moonlit nights and bright days. Such background is more close to the iconography of Lord Vishnu who reclined upon ocean, though again the female figure seated along him could not be that of Lakshmi, his consort, who in iconographic perception is invariably conceived as seated around his feet and massaging them. This equal status could only be of Radha. Thus, the artist, while portraying Krishna has portrayed him also as Vishnu, the essence of Jaideva’s invocation and vision of Lord Krishna, and of course of Radha along with him.
Not much is known of Jaideva except that he was one of the five jewels of king Lakshmanasena, the last Hindu ruler of Bengal who ruled from around 1175 to 1200 A.D. It was around then that the Gita Govinda was composed. Lakshmanasena’s five jewels were his five court poets, Jaideva, Govardhana, Dhoi, Sharana and Umapatidhara. In the opening section of the Gita Govinda, Jaideva expresses his gratitude towards them all and towards Shrutidhara, his other colleague. The National Museum, New Delhi, has a painting in Sultanate style of around 1500 A.D., portraying Jaideva and these five poets seated around him, which suggests that Jayadeva and his poem had gained considerable popularity and had emerged as the painter’s theme by around 1500 itself.
Little is known of Jaideva’s personal life. Kenduli, a village in Orissa, sometimes contended to be in Birbhumi, Bengal, has been identified as his birthplace. Now there is complete unanimity in regard to his Oriya origin. He mentions, in his poem, the names of his father and mother as Bhojadeva and Ramadevi and of his wife as Padmavati and commemorates them. However, what has immortalized him is his poem Gita Govinda which has been as much instrumental in growth of Vaishnava Bhakti movement as the Bhagavata. Gita Govinda has been the theme of paintings for over five hundred years and gave to Indian art many of its all times masterpieces.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.