Jayadeva was a 12th century poet who lived in Bengal, north-east India. He was the author of the classic poem, Gita Govinda which is also famous as Ashtapadi, depicting the love of Krishna and Radha. The poem symbolizes the striving of the human soul to God. Jayadeva has written nothing else, but the poet became famous all over the country across centuries because of the popularity of this single work of his. The poem, written in Sanskrit, was enthusiastically translated in various Indian languages. Critics have evaluated that the subtle psychological detail and the vivid imagery of this poem were to exert a tremendous influence on the development of poetry in almost all new Indian languages, and the mystical interpretation of sexual attraction later became widespread in Bhakti poetry. This and the amorous style of the poem in its romantically fashioned words, in turn influenced music, painting, sculpture, and theatre in large measure.
The poem, though in Sanskrit, attracted great popular acclaim. Its influenced reached far and wide. The famous sculptures of Bhubaneswar, Puri, Konark and Khajuraho and of the Chalukya-Rashtrakuta period of later times, depicting amorous scenes are borrowed from Gitagovinda. The poem has cast its influence in the paintings of several states of india like Gujarat, Rajastan, Benares, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and also Nepal.
Gitagovindam is called Ashtapadi, because it contains eight stanzas each in each of its 24 songs, presented in each of its 12 chapters. The poet, Jayadeva, was not just a poet, but a musician and composer of music. He was one of the five ‘jewels’ adorning the court of the king Lakshmanasena, ruler of the principality of navadvipa, on the banks of river Bhagirathi in Bengal (second half of 12th century). From Gitagovindam itself the information comes that the poet’s father was Bhojadeva and mother Vamadevi and that his wife was Padmavati. These names are given variously too. Padmavati is described as an expert exponent of musical dances. Legend is that the poet wrote his master piece intoxicated by his love for Padmavati, his wife.