Home ART & CULTURE ‘Gitagovinda Khandua’ and Nabakalebara

‘Gitagovinda Khandua’ and Nabakalebara


Asit Mohanty & Sibkumar Das

For ages, the traditional art and craft forms of Odisha have been integral parts of the Sri Jagannath culture. One of them is ‘Gitagovinda Khandua,’ an exquisite piece of work woven by master Odia weavers. Sanskrit couplets from ‘Gitagovinds’ written by Sri Jayadev, the great poet of the Bhakti era, are hand-woven as patterns on these long sarees of silk. It is believed that this cloth is adored by Sri Jagannath.


‘Gitagovinda Khandua’ is a key element during the ‘banajaga yatra’ or search for ‘daru’ trees. Members of the ‘banajaga yatra’ team go through what is known as ‘shadhi bandha’ (tying of saree) tradition when they start their journey from Sri Jagannath temple. After getting the ‘agyaanamaala’, the four ‘badagrahis’ – the three ‘Daitapati’ servitors and the Pati Mohapatra – reach the ‘anasara pindi’ in front of the main altar of the temple through the ‘Kalahata’ door. There, the head servitor ‘Bhitarchha Mohapatra’ ties up silk sarees of Khandua variety on their heads. These Khandua sarees were earlier used on the deities. Similar but comparatively smaller Khandua silk pieces are tied on the heads of the other Daitapati servitor members of ‘banajaga yatra’.

During the ‘maajana’ rituals of mother goddess Mangala at Kakatpur too, a ‘Gitagovinda Khandua’ is placed on the head of the deity as part of the prayer for help during the search for ‘daru’.

A couplet from ‘Gitagovinda’ in Odia repeatedly woven all through it makes the ‘Gitagovinda Khandua’ used during Nabakalebara unique. This couplet carries in it the essence of the viewpoint of ‘Samkhya’, one of the six schools of Indian philosophy. ‘Samkhya’ is considered the basis of Yoga. The couplet woven on this piece of silk cloth reads:

“Kansarirapi sansara basanabaddha Srinkhala/ Radhamadhaya hrudaye tayaja brjasundari”

It means; “Bearing the bonds of mortal desire in the form of emotions for Sri Radha in his heart, Sri Krishna, the enemy of a demon named Kamsa, left behind beautiful lasses of Gopa to depart.”

This shloka of ‘Gitagovinda’ speaks of the importance of Sri Radha in the identity of Sri Krishna. Sri Radha is thought to be the strength behind the power of bliss of Sri Krishna. It states that Sri Radha, the embodiment of emotions, has dedicated her life to Sri Krishna. She is the reason behind Sri Krishna’s joy and bliss. She demarcates the boundaries of rationale behind every ‘leela’ of Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna is also confined to the boundaries of Sri Radha. Nabakalebara is an inimitable leela of Sri Jagannath. Through ‘Gitagovinda Khandua’ and ‘shadhi bandha’ tradition, it is pointed out that the powers represented by Krishna-Radha, Jagannath-Mangala or Durga-Madhav have to be invoked.

It is a metaphorical representation of the basics of the ‘Samkhya’ philosophy, which holds that this universe consists of two basic realities: ‘Purusha’ and ‘Prakriti’. ‘Purush’ denotes consciousness or omnipresent energy metaphorically represented by a male deity of Indian mythology during common worship. ‘Prakriti’ represents the nature or matter, which is represented by a female deity during our worships. Existence is the outcome of the convergence of these two entities. Therefore, our body can be termed Radha while the soul or life force in it is Sri Krishna. Realisation of this truth makes one fearless of the outcomes and prepares him to accept everything in this world as a ‘leela’ of the Almighty energy represented by Sri Jagannath that materialises through Radha represented by the material world including our bodies. So, ‘Gitagovinda Khandua’ is thought to be the shield for the members of ‘banajaga yatra’ against all odds.

Next: Mystery of ‘Swapnabati mantra’ in Nabakalebara