The Festival Concept
The Ashtapadi Festival is a journey of rediscovering the eternal appeal of Jayadeva's lyrical epic Sri Geetagovinda, the well-known Sanskrit classic composed in the twelfth century as a musical offering to Jagannatha, the presiding deity of Srimandira at Srikshetra Puri on the east coast of India. This dedicated dance festival presents Geetagovinda through fresh interpretations in music and dance. It offers the audience a Complete Aesthetic Experience of Jayadeva's Geetagovinda through Sangeeta in its holistic connotation of Geeta, Vadya and Nritya.
All but two of the twenty-four songs of Geetagovinda have eight stanzas or padas and these are commonly known as Jayadeva Ashtapadi or simply Ashtapadi. Over the centuries, the word Ashtapadi has become synonymous with the songs of Geetagovinda on account of their tremendous popularity. Acquisition of such a generic connotation for these lyrical compositions speaks volumes about the high esteem in which the community of artistes hold Jayadeva and Geetagovinda.
Evolution of the Festival
The First Edition of Ashtapadi Festival, an important component of Delhi Celebrates, presented in the Kamani Auditorium, Delhi during the Commonwealth Games, 2010 was a huge success, attracting full house and enthusiastic audience response and critical acclaim. "Odissi hasn't looked so good!" commented a leading daily. "Notwithstanding countless Odissi versions, Geetagovinda Pratisthana's two-day Ashtapadi Festival…managed to enthrall large audiences with fresh interpretations. …the crowning concluding effort was Sharmila Biswas's simple uncluttered choreography of the 'Jaya Jagadeesha Hare' Dashavatara", wrote senior dance critic Leela Venkataraman in the Friday Hindu review. "An amazing performance, beautifully presented -n- aesthetically staged.", "Well conceived.", "Stunning.", "Wonderful show.", "Superb & spellbinding performance in its supreme form!" - were some of the comments of the discerning audience. The Second Edition was organized on the 3rd and 4th of October 2011 at the same venue.
In these two editions Ashtapadi Festival presented all the twenty-four songs of Geetagovinda, the twelfth century classic of Jayadeva entirely consisting of new choreography in Odissi based on Sampoorna Geetagovinda, a recent music composition of the unabridged version of the classic by Dr Subas Pani, noted cultural organizer with research interests in Jagannatha and Jayadeva.
With these two editions, the Ashtapadi Festival has made a mark as a major event in the cultural calendar of Delhi. It has received critical acclaim and wide support from connoisseurs, rasikas, foreigners and discerning audience.
In view of the pan-Indian popularity of Jayadeva Geetagovinda, the Geetagovinda Pratisthana has started to present Jayadeva's classic composition in all major Indian Classical Dance forms – Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Sattariya, Manipuri, Kathak and Mohiniyattam beginning with the Third Edition of this unique festival.
Unique Character and Special Features
The Festival attempts to showcase classic, recent and new choreography of the twenty four songs of Geetagovinda and some of its seventy two slokas. The festival presents dance interpretation of the songs primarily in the solo format but duets and group items are also included.
The Festival endeavours to cover tall the twenty four songs of Geetagovinda and some of the Sloka sequences in a cycle of two editions. It encourages participating dancers to explore new choreography of Ashtapadis to expand their repertoire and also to reinterpret some.
Through creative collaboration with artistes, adoption of the authentic text and appropriate interpretation of the twelfth century Sanskrit classic is encouraged. Accompanying singers are supported in rendering the Sanskrit verse with the correct diction and to follow the right nuances of the language in pronunciation and division of the text into right units without sacrificing the musical sweetness.
So far the attempt has been to introduce some new features and provide a fresh experience of this age old lyrical masterpiece of Sanskrit literature that has remained a favourite with connoisseurs, the artiste community and the public at large.
The Festival provides a rich experience in terms of cultural content with a dedicated website that has complete details of each item performed including Authentic Text of the song in Devanagari and diacritical Roman script for universal access of Jayadeva's original masterpiece.
Dr Subas Pani, author, translator, composer and scholar with research interests in India's Cultural Heritage, Jagannatha, Jayadeva and Geetagovinda, has curated all the editions of the festival as its Creative Director.