Address by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Honourable Vice President of India after inaugurating the revival ceremony of ancient Dance Drama Ashtapadiyattam which is Gita Govindam, in Guruvayur, Kerala on May 21, 2018.

Guruvayur, Kerala | May 21, 2018

“I am happy to be with all of you at this event that is dedicated to revival of the much acclaimed “Ashtapadiyattam”- a dance drama based on “Gita Govindam” believed to have been composed by Jayadeva in the 12th century.

Indian thought has been holistic from time immemorial.

In India performing arts like music and dance as well as the visual arts like painting and sculpture are sublime expressions of a whole range of human emotions we call Nava Rasas.

Through the creation of a work of art, the artist strives to evoke a state of pure joy or bliss or Ananda.

This state of “Ananda” refines our inner beings and makes us better human beings, makes us more “cultured”, makes us more of “feeling” individuals.

What is remarkable about the Indian cultural heritage is its richly interwoven texture.

Philosophy, spirituality, fine arts and literature are a part of the same quest. The quest for a deeper meaning of life, quest for zest in a routinized mundane existence, and quest for achieving greater creative heights of imaginative expression and artistic creations.

Art has traditionally been considered as the best medium for expressing and experiencing devotion.

Indian fine arts have, therefore, a very strong religious and spiritual base and devotional content.

Indian sages have conceptualized the Creator of the Universe as a cosmic dancer, the Nataraja,

“Whose bodily movement is the entire Universe
Whose speech is the language of the Universe
Whose ornaments are the moon and the stars
Him, we worship as the pure , serene, Lord Shiva!”

This is the first stanza that every classical Indian dancer recites and enacts at the beginning of any dance performance.

Bharatha Muni’s Natya Shastra, composed around the 2nd century BC,is therefore, often called the Panchama Veda or the fifth Veda equating it with the four Vedas.

Sisters and brothers,

While we have preserved and nurtured our illustrious artistic heritage, there are, unfortunately, certain classical Indian art forms that remain in a state of neglect and are slowly fading.

We must not allow this unfortunate situation to persist.

Our cultural roots sustain us, make our lives richer and make our society more humane and civilized.

When I heard that the “Ashtapadiyattam” a dance drama based on “Gita Govindam” dance was being revived, I was extremely happy. It is like unearthing the buried treasure. It is like watering a plant that is fast losing its vitality.

This art form, a poignant rendition of the love between Lord Krishna and Radha, written by 12th century poet Jayadeva is a remarkable piece of literature that has been adapted in various parts of our country and integrated into different dance forms like Manipuri, Mohiniattam, Odissi and Kuchipudi. It became an essential element of Sri Chaitanya’s movement in Bengal, inspired Yakshagana dances and became the genesis of an entire genre of music called “Sopana sangeetham” as Jayadeva’s ashtapadis were sung on temple stairs. Very few compositions have united India so effortlessly as this composition.

Although Jayadeva originally composed his ashtapadis in Sanskrit, his work enthralled the length and breadth of our country. He received rare applause from the Bengali population. He came to be considered the founding father and one amongst the pioneers of Bengali literature. With time, the recital of the ashtapadis gained widespread popularity in temples across the country, including the state of Kerala.

Gita Govindam’s unusually wide appeal comes from the story of Sri Krishna and his love for Radha. The story of Sri Krishna has a deep resonance in the Indian hearts. Along with Ramayana, the Bhagavatham and the Mahabharata have become a part of our cultural capital and form the basis for many of our collective national consciousness and shared values.

The composition is so lyrical and melodious that it is eminently suitable for various adaptations by musicians and dancers.

The theme of love and the range of emotions displayed by the two main characters – Sri Krishna and Radha- are very engaging for a wide variety of diverse audiences.

It is also worth noting that the composition is also sung in temples by Bhagavathars as a completely devotional composition.

The mundane love gets transformed into a devotional prayer.

The love between Sri Krishna and Radha becomes an allegory for the longing of the human beings for a vision of the divine form and spiritual bliss. It becomes a sublimation of the ordinary emotions of two human beings.

Sisters and brothers,

It is no wonder, therefore, that this composition became so popular all over India.

The performance of the Gita Govinda at Puri Jagannath by the Mahatis and later by the Goutipas was significant in the development of Odissi. The dance form was so well revered at the time that the Mahatis who performed the dance were prohibited to perform any other form of dance. It was believed that Lord Jagannath particularly enjoyed renditions and dance performances of the Gita Govinda that He liked to listen to them before sleep.

The Gita Govindam soon became the central theme of many traditional Indian dance forms. The importance that Jayadeva attributed to the composition of his Gitas is evident from how he has carefully laid down the ragas and thalas for his gitas.

Jayadeva’s Gita Govindam classic encompasses a unique mix of classical literature, classical music and classical dance.

For these reasons, the Gita Govinda has made significant impacts on the performance arts in India and has spread across India. Although the ‘Ashtapadiyattam’ in its original form is no longer in existence, it can be found in various parts of India in various forms- like Mohiniattamand Kathakaliin Kerala,Bharatanatyam in Tamil Nadu,Kuchipudi in Andhra Pradesh, Manipuri in Manipur and Odissi in Orissa. Each of these regions developed its own way of articulating Jayadeva’s classic in the form of dance. It is hence imperative that this invaluable classic be handed down to posterity.

Sri Guruvayurappan Dharmakala Trust deserves all praise for taking up this mission. With the divine blessings of Lord Krishna who is the embodiment of all the 64 arts in the world as well as the grace of Puri’s Lord Jagannath who heard this classic composition first, we are indeed fortunate to be in the holy precincts of another abode of Lord Krishna in Guruvayur to revive a tradition that was nearly lost.

Sisters and brothers,

It gives me immense pleasure and honour to be amidst the devotees of Lord Guruvayurappan today and witness with each one of you the ‘Ashtapadiyattam’. I am glad to be able to get the blessings of Sri Krishna and Guruvayurappan in this God’s own country where Adi Shankara started his spiritual journey and where immortal hymn of “Narayaneeyam” continues to lend a healing touch to ailing humanity.

I hope that this dance drama is revived in all its pristine glory, as Jayadeva would have wanted it, giving full justice to the costumes, the music and the mudras as used in the original performance.

I hope we continue to revive and foster ancient art forms so that we may enrich the quality of our lives and the lives of the people of the world by sharing the infinitely ennobling, harmonizing and blissful universal vision of our country.

Jai Hind!”