"The sky is clouded and the wood resembles
The sky, thick-arched with black Tamala boughs;
O Radha! Radha! take this soul that trembles
In life's deep midnight, to Thy golden house!
So Narada spoke—and led by Radha's Spirit,
The feet of Krishna found the road aright;
Wherefore, in bliss which all high hearts inherit,
Together taste they, Love's Divine delight!"
These are the opening lines of a translation by Edwin Arnold of a piece of poetic composition in Sankskrit called Gita Govinda, the theme of which is the Divine Love between Radha and Krishna. The author is Jaya Deva, a great reputed Bhakta who lived about five hundred years ago, in a village called Bilvagam, near the sacred city of Jagannath-Puri in the state of Orissa. Gita Govinda is the most celebrated poetical work of Sri Jaya Deva.
Jaya Deva's father was Narayana Sastri, a very pious Brahmin. Jaya Deva's mother's name was Kamalabai. She was pious and devoted. Sastriar and his wife had no child for a long number of years. Sastriar had no desire for children. But Kamalabai nurtured a sacred desire for a son. She did not reveal this to her husband. She constantly prayed to the Lord that she might be blessed with a beautiful and virtuous male child. She was ashamed to be regarded by the world as a barren woman.
One night Narayana Sastri dreamt that the Lord appeared and told him that his wife's prayer would be fulfilled and that he would soon have an illustrious son. Sastriar woke up and reported to his wife his happy dream. He asked her if she made any prayer to God for the boon of a child. She admitted that she did pray. Narayana Sastri felt extremely grieved that all their Tapas and devotion became useless on account of their selfish motive. He became angry with his wife and said, "Foolish woman, you ought not to have prayed for a son. You ought to have prayed for the eternal bliss of Anna. You have ruined yourself and me also." He did not speak to his wife from that moment. She appealed to her husband for pardon, but to no purpose. They both even fasted for a day or two.
A holy pious Brahmin entered their house and enquired into the cause of their grief and reconciled them both. He said that it was the will of the Lord that they should be blessed with a virtuous son and that the child would become a great reputed saint.
Narayana Sastri thought that the Lord Himself had appeared in human form. A few months thereafter, a male child was born to Kamalabai. That was Jaya Deva.
Jaya Deva was highly devoted to God even in his boyhood. His Upanayana ceremony was performed when he was five years old. He studied all the sacred scriptures. He had an orthodox type of education.
Narayana Sastri entered the forest along with his wife to lead the life of a Vanaprasthi.
There was one Brahmin in Jagannath-Puri by name Deva Sharma. He was a great Bhakta of Lord Jagannath; but, for many years, he had no child. One day he prayed to the Lord, "O Lord! If I beget children through Thy grace, I shall surely dedicate the first among them to Thee. This is my sincere heartfelt prayer. O dear Lord! Kindly grant this, my wish." So praying, he returned to his house.
Then, in due course of time, a daughter was born to the devout Brahmin Deva Sharma, and afterwards, many good and brilliant sons. Taking the daughter with him, one day he came to Lprd Jagannath with his wife by his side and said, "O Lord! By Thy grace, my desire has been fulfilled. According to my promise, I dedicate this first child to Thee. Kindly accept her."
Then he narrated all the previous story to the Pujakas or worshippers and went back to his house.
That night the Lord appeared in Deva Sharma's dream and told him, "O Deva Sharma! I am highly pleased with you. I have accepted your child. But, give your daughter to Sri Jaya Deva, because he is my dear devotee." The same dream the worshippers also had.
Jaya Deva was then living outside the village boundary in a leafy Kutia. He was meditating upon Lord Jagannath and his face showed clearly that he was extremely happy in spite of his material poverty. Sharma came there, and prostrating to Jaya Deva said, "By the command of Lord Jagannath I have brought my daughter Padmavati to you. Kindly accept her." Jaya Deva declined the offer, saying that he was very poor and that he was not a fit person to accept Kanya Dana. Despite all efforts, Jaya Deva did not accept the girl. Deva Sharma brought the worshippers of the temple to verify his statement.
Then, making the girl stand nearby, Deva Sharma said, "my dear daughter! From today he is your husband. You have to worship him daily. A woman merged in the service of her husband attains undying happiness." Thus saying, he returned to his house.
The girl stood for a long time near Jaya Deva. Jaya Deva said to the girl, "Your parents have gone away leaving you here. How are you going to live in this dreadful forest?" Padmavati replied, "O my lord! What are you saying? My father has given me to you. I belong to you now. I am not alone here, because you are always with me." Hearing these words of Padmavati, Jaya Deva thought, "She is speaking the truth. Surely it will be a sin to abandon her. Hence I shall have to go to her parents' house and marry her according to the ritualistic ceremonies." Thus resolving, Jaya Deva asked Padmavati to follow him to her parents' house for marriage according to Brahminical rites.
Padmavati said, "My father has ordered me to obey your commands implicitly. Therefore, this is a great blessing to me to act as per your wish." So saying she was ready by his side.
Thereupon Jaya Deva married Padmavati, daughter of Deva Sharma. He was liberal. He fed the poor and gave presents to Brahmins. He would never eat without at least one guest. The little money that Narayana Sastri had left was in a short time exhausted. Afterwards Jaya Deva begged rite in the orthodox Brahmin style. Despite the poverty, Jaya Deva and Padmavati lived very happily. Even though they were poor, they never ate without some guests. Their heart was filled with pure love and devotion. They were respected by all.
Jaya Deva wrote his grand immortal poem Gita Govinda which celebrates the glorious divine love of Radha and Krishna. All the people of the little village Bilvagam recited the Ashtakas. The Ashtakas were sung before Lord Jagannath during the annual festival. People were struck with the splendid music and poetry of Gita Govinda and praised it highly. The fame of Jaya Deva reached far and wide.
When Jaya Deva was composing the Gita Govinda and was in the middle of his composition, he could not find a suitable word. He kept the manuscripts in the room and went for a bath.
Lord Krishna Himself took up the form of Jaya Deva and asked Padmavati, "My dear, give me those manuscripts." Padmavati gave the Lord the manuscripts. She took the Lord for her husband. Lord Krishna wrote the couplet in His own handwriting. Again He went hurriedly for His bath in the river.
After a short while, Jaya Deva came to his house after his bath. He took up the manuscripts to jot down the poem which he had composed. To his great amazement, he found a couplet written there by somebody. He said to his wife, "O Padmavati!
Who has written this poem? It is exceedingly beautiful. I could not write like this."
Padmavati said, "You yourself came suddenly, wrote the poem and at once returned for bath." Jaya Deva was struck with awe and wonder. Lord Jagannath appeared in his dream and said, "O Jaya Deva, I Myself wrote the couplet." Jaya Deva woke up and rejoiced heartily.
When the king of the country heard the glory and fame of Gita Govinda, he became jealous of Jaya Deva. As he himself was a poet, he wrote another Gita Govinda.
Once the king came to the temple of Jagannath. Jaya Deva was then dancing and singing his own Gita Govinda. The king said, "Why do you not sing my Gita Govinda?" Jaya Deva said, "The Lord is not so much pleased with your own work as He is with my Gita Govinda. Let us test this now."
The king ordered both his work and Jaya Deva's work to be placed before the Lord. The king prayed to the Lord, "Please keep that which is better and dearer to You on the top." All came outside and bolted the door. After a short time all went inside. The king opened the door first. He saw Jaya Deva's book kept over his own book.
The king was very much afflicted at heart. He gave up food and water. He had a dream. Lord Jagannath appeared in the dream and said, "Why do you grieve unnecessarily? There is no Kavya dearer to me than the Gita Govinda. I am pleased with your composition also. But, accept Jaya Deva's Gita Govinda as superior to your book. Propagate Jaya Deva's Gita Govinda all over the land." The king woke up and regained strength. He became a great devotee of Jaya Deva. He himself studied by heart Jaya Deva's Gita Govinda. He propagated the work of Jaya Deva throughout the land.
One woman was singing beautifully the Gita Govinda in the forests, when she was collecting fruits for sale. Lord Jagannath was very much pleased with her singing. He began to wander in the forest to hear her recitation. The Lord's garment was torn to pieces while He was running all over the forest, as it was caught in the thorny bushes of the forest.
In the early morning, the priest of the temple and the king saw the Pitambara of the Lord in rags. They were not able to find out the reason for the torn condition of the Pitambara. They prayed to the Lord to make them know the reason.
The Lord appeared in their dream and said, "One woman was singing Gita Govinda in the forest. I ran in the forest to hear her song. When I ran, the Pitambara was torn to pieces by the thorns."
The king and the priest praised both Jaya Deva and the woman who was selling fruits. The king brought the woman to his state and gave her immense wealth. She sang daily the Gita Govinda in the presence of the king.
The Lord becomes a slave of His devotees. He will do anything for the sake of His devotees.
Robbers cut Jaya Deva's hands and feet
Jaya Deva's father-in-law came to see his son-in-law and stayed with him for some days. He took Padmavati for a short stay with her mother.
A rich merchant named Bhagavan Das, native of a neighbouring village, came to Bilvagam and requested Jaya Deva to go to his house as a guest. Jaya Deva consented and accompanied the merchant. He stayed in the house of the merchant for some days. The merchant sent back Jaya Deva to Bilvagam in his own carriage loaded with many rich presents. There was a small forest between the two villages. A band of robbers came and attacked Jaya Deva. Jaya Deva gave them all the things. But the robbers suspected from the readiness with which Jaya Deva gave away all the things that he might report to the police and get them punished. Therefore they cut off his hands and feet and threw him into a waterless well.
Jaya Deva bore all the sufferings patiently. He prayed to the Lord that the robbers might be pardoned. He gave himself up to the care of God. He was fully conscious that God did everything for his good. He never made any complaint to God. He thought that a very great bad Karma had been purged out. He had perfect belief that what had happened was not an act of the robbers but the bidding of God Himself for his own good. This is the Bhav or the mental attitude of all real devotees. They always welcome suffering, trials and adversities.
The king of that province who had been out for hunting came to the very well where Jaya Deva was lying helpless, to see if there was water in it to quench his thirst. He did not find any water in the well, but he saw a mangled human body. At once he ordered his servants to lift up Jaya Deva. The servants carried out the orders of the king immediately. The king arranged to take Jaya Deva with him. In the course of his return to his capital, he asked Jaya Deva what his name was. As soon as the king came to know that the man was Jaya Deva of great reputation, he fell at his feet and requested him to accept him as his disciple. The king adored Jaya Deva as his Guru. Jaya Deva was carried in a palanquin. There was a grand procession in the town with music, etc. Jaya Deva was installed as the chief Guru of the stat*;.
The saintly nature of Jaya Deva, his piety, wide knowledge, spiritual attainments and his resignation to the will of God made a very deep impression in the mind of the king. One day the king approached the Guru and wanted to be initiated into the Sannyasin life.
Jaya Deva said, "O king! Sannyasa is not external renunciation. Real renunciation is of the mind. Renunciation of desires and egoism constitutes real renunciation. One may give up his wife, children and wealth and yet he may not be a Sannyasin, because he may be attached to them all in his mind. There is not much benefit in external renunciation. Be a Grihastha Sannyasin as I am trying to be. Be a king outwardly, but internally be a mental Sannyasin."
The king was quite astonished to know that Jaya Deva had a wife. He was under impression that his Guru had renounced the world. The king thought there was great truth in the advice of Jaya Deva. He sent some woman servants with a palanquin to Bilvagam to fetch Padmavati.
Padmavati who had been to her mother's house returned to Bilvagam. She did not find her husband in the house. She thought that Jaya Deva had abandoned her and gone away as a Sannyasin. Her father searched for Jaya Deva in all the neighbouring villages, but could not find him. He thought that Jaya Deva had gone to the forest for doing Sadhana and Tapas. Padmavati was sunk in grief, because on her return from her mother's house, she found her own house empty, her husband missing, and the enquiries she made about him here and there were all in vain. When she heard the news of her husband through the women servants, her joy became unbounded. Padmavati reached the palace and met her husband. She fell at the holy feet of her husband and washed them with tears of love and devotion. Jaya Deva told his wife how he lost his hands and feet. Padmavati was very much afflicted at heart when she looked at the mangled form of her husband. She prayed to the Lord, "Will not the Lord Jagannath, the all-merciful, restore to my husband his hands and feet?" The Lord granted her prayer. Jaya Deva regained his hands and feet by the touch of Padmavati. They lived together happily under the patronage of the king.
(tnother version of the story
The king regarded Padmavati as Goddess Lakshmi. He revered her more than he revered his mother. He ordered it to be proclaimed in his country and its neighbourhood that devotees of all creeds would be sumptuously entertained and given rich presents. All the Sadhus who came had first to visit Jaya Deva. Afterwards Jaya Deva sent them to the king. All the Sadhus who went to the king were entertained nicely and given rich presents.
The robbers who offended Jaya Deva heard of the king's hospitality and charity. They put on the robes of Sannyasins and appeared before Jaya Deva. They saw Jaya Deva and recognised him. Jaya Deva also knew who they were. Fearing punishment, they stealthily left the palace. Jaya Deva sent men to pursue them and bring them back. The servant brought them back. Jaya Deva bowed to them. When the king came, Jaya Deva directed him to prostrate at their feet, garland them and treat them with great respect. Then they were removed to a palatial residence and entertained as if they were members of the royal family. The robbers were not happy. They were every moment expecting a sentence for execution. Therefore one day they informed that they wanted to return to their native place. Jaya Deva told the king in great joy and in an unblemished manner, "Aey! On the way there is a great forest. To help these poor scholars, please send some of your soldiers. There are great robbers in the forest."
The king presented the robbers nice good garments and immense wealth and sent five soldiers to accompany them. On the way, all of them sat near a tree for taking rest. The soldiers said to the robbers, after a long talk on some point, "Please tell us who you are. In what way are you connected with the poet? See how he helped you; he asked the king himself to give you enough comforts."
The robbers smiled and told the soldiers, "Yes, now hear the reason for all this. We were sitting somewhere near the residence of the King of Karnataka for the sake of Bhiksha. There came this Brahmin also searching for wealth. There this greedy contemptible Brahmin stole some money from one man's house. That man brought this poet to the court of the king. The rich man told the king, '() king, this is not area.1 Brahmin at all. This is a great thief. He lives by theft only. Now he had stolen wealth from my house. 1 got him tied by my servants and now I have brought him to Your Highness.' The king called for a Pariah and told him to take this Brahmin out of the country and kill him. The Pariah dragged this Brahmin out and took him out of the vicinity of the country. There we saw this Brahmin crying in a helpless condition. We told the Pariah not to kill this Brahmin. We asked him to drive the Brahmin out of the country and cut off his fingers only instead of putting him to death. We instructed the Chandala to show the king only the fingers. Thus advised, the Pariah took him far out of the country, and somewhere there, cut off the Brahmin's feet and hands and showed these cut portions to the king. This is the story, O soldiers! Therefore this Brahmin is worshipping us, because we saved him from the king's command."
When the robbers were speaking thus, there was a terrible sound up above the sky. There was a tremendous thunder and it fell horribly on the heads of those robbers. They perished at once. The royal servants all lost their consciouosness and stood like stones for some time. They regained consciousness after a while, wondered at the dreadful scene and came back to the palace. But the king had not come from Jaya Deva's house. Therefore the soldiers went to Jaya Deva's house with the wealth given to the robbers. They said to the king with folded hands, "O king! Those scholars were struck by a terrible thunder and they all died instantaneously. We have come bringing back all the clothes and wealth given to them." The king could not understand all these marvellous changes. He did not know what actually had happened. "What happened? What happened?" the king queried. Then the soldiers told the story relating to those dead persons and the news regarding the cutting of Jaya Deva's hands and feet as related by them.
Hearing this, Jaya Deva, the kind-hearted poet cried, "Ha, ha!" He sobbed very much, striking his crippled limbs on the ground in great distress. At once the hands and legs of Jaya Deva became all right. Jaya Deva had his normal limbs as before. (This is another version.) All were wonder-struck to witness this surprising event! Hearing the death of those barbarous people, Jaya Deva felt very much at heart. The Lord, Purushottama, felt very much for the miserable state of Sn Jaya Deva and gave him his original hands and feet.
The king questioned Jaya Deva what the real matter was. He again and again prostrated to Jaya Deva and beseeched him to tell him the secret underlying all those incidents. Then Jaya Deva related to the king all that had happened from the beginning to the end of his connection with the robbers. The king was very much pleased on knowing this great marvellous story. The king praised Jaya Deva and said, "O Jaya Deva! You are the only really fortunate man in this world. Nobody is equal to you in this world At least I have seen and heard in this world of a wonderful man who treats his friends and enemies alike. Even if I am a very contemptuous creature before you, I am really very very fortunate to have this personal connection with you."
The king praised Jaya Deva again and again still more. Then he came back to his own palace and told all the wonderful story to his sons, wife and ministers in the court.
Chastity of Padmavati
Once the king's brother died due to old age. His wife, a great Pativrata, was determined to follow her husband on his pyre.
The king and the queen arrived there to witness the scene.
At that time, Padmavati, wife of Jaya Deva, also came to see the woman who was about to enter the fire. The queen said, "Padmavati! Have you come to see the Sati?" Padmavati replied, "Shame! Shame!! What Pativrata is this who has not burnt to ashes at the very news of her husband's death? Fie, what is this—trying to burn oneself after the husband's death in a fire of fuel? If a woman does not leave her Pranas at the very moment of her husband's departure from this world, then where is her devotion, where is her love, where is her austerity towards her beloved husband?"
The queen said, "What do you say? Are you very sure of this in your own case? How can this be possible? Let me see, I shall test you one day. I will wait for an opportunity."
One day the king wished to have the Darshan of Sri Purushottama and proceeded to the temple together with his friend Jaya Deva with devotion and love. The king spent the night with Jaya Deva in the temple itself.
In the early morning, the queen sent for Padmavati. Padmavati went in a hurry and asked the queen what help her humble self could do to the queen. The queen began to sob bitterly and beat her head and breast in great agony. She said to Padmavati, "The king went to the temple with your husband for the Darshan of Lord Purushottama. But O! How can I speak...your...dear husband breathed his last. Struck with terrible grief at the death of his great friend, the king has not returned from the temple as yet. The servants have returned and told me the sorrowful news."
Hearing these words of the queen, Padmavati was struck with a terrible shock. At once she fell down on the floor unconscious and left her Pranas.
The king and Jaya Deva returned from the temple. They both entered the palace and saw Padmavati lying dead on the floor. The king said to his wife, "What has happened to Padmavati?" The queen replied, "I wanted to test the chastity of Padmavati. She made a remark when your brother's wife was about to enter the funeral pyre. Today I said in jest that her husband died. She fell down unconscious ajid gave up her life-breath. Pardon me."
The king was very much annoyed towards the queen and said, "I will abandon you now. You can go anywhere you please." Jaya Deva pacified the king and said, "The queen is innocent. People would tell some untruth at one time or the other due to emotion and excitement." Jaya Deva took up the hands of Padmavati, thought of Lord Krishna and sang His glory. After a few moments Padmavati got up and joined her husband in singing the Lord's Song. The queen prostrated to Padmavati and begged her pardon.
Jaya Deva's last days
Jaya Deva took a vow that he would take bath in the Ganga till the end of his life. He became old. One day he fell down in an unconscious state while' returning from his bath in the Ganga. After some time he regained consciousness. The king offered a palanquin to Jaya Deva. Jaya Deva totally declined to accept it. Ganga Herself appeared in the well in the house of Jaya Deva, with lotuses, on account of the force of Tapascharya of Jaya Deva and his devotion.
Such was the glorious life of Jaya Deva, the greatest devotee of Lord Krishna, who was humble, simple, unostentatious, who had no idea of possessions, who always found joy and happiness in meditation on Lord Krishna, and who was perfect, who was an embodiment of forgiveness. He was a Sannyasin though he remained with his wife. He understood the secret of renunciation. He knew that renunciation was mental with all senses completely restrained. His life is an example to show to the world that God-realisation can be had even in the householder's life.
Glory to Jaya Deva whose life inspires all!