Nayaka Padas of Kshetrayya

Salabhanjika talks to Shri. Ardhanareeswaram Venkat, renowned Kuchipudi dancer, to explore the significance of Kshetrayya’s Nayaka Padams

The renowned Sanskrit poet Jayadeva was the first of the few poets to have written about the heartfelt woes of the Nayaka or the male lover. The ‘GITAGOVINDA’ written by Jayadeva in the 12th century beautifully describes the earnest grief of separation or the “Viraha”, of Radha and Lord Krishna. This poetic work construing the deepest pain that was hugely and soulfully predominant at the time of leave-taking of the two divine lovers, are flawlessly narrated in the first person perspectives by Radha herself, then in the words of the Sakhi (the beloved friend) who speaks on behalf of either Radha or Krishna and lastly in the impeccable descriptions of the poet himself. However, there are also a couple of Astapathis or the eight set couplet hymns where there is a direct conversation between Krishna and Radha about their farewell.

‘Priye Charuseeley’ is an Ashtapathi, where Krishna explains his Viraha Taapa-the profound sadness, in bidding his goodbye to Radha. ‘Rati sukhasaarey gata makhisaarey’, is another Astapathi from ‘Gita Govinda’ were the Sakhi recounts the Nayaka Viraha of Krishna to Radha.

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Gita Govinda is undoubtedly a definitive poetic work that significantly lights up the concept of Madhura Bhakti or the sweet but steadfast devotion of the ‘Bhakta’ or the Devotee, who forever considers his god as his beloved. The longing of the devotee for the union with his/her favourite holy being is symbolized in the form of viraha of the Nayika for her Nayaka. The Gitagovinda is undeniably the first work in the genre of Hindu literature that focuses on the Nayaka Viraha at least at very few instances.

The significant and fervent feelings that the Nayaka has towards his lover while in her absence were always given lesser priority by many of the great composers in Sanskrit and other languages. But the decisive interest of the great Padakartha Kshetrayya was to bring out the mental agony of both male and the female in their mutual longing for each other. This was mainly due to his keen observation of all the real life characters he had encountered. In all the Nayaka Padams or the male significant hymns of Kshetrayya, the role of the Nayaka was never underplayed.

Listed below are few of his memorable Nayaka Padams: 

1. Yemani Telupudu Yelaagu Taaludu – Yeemi Setuney? O’ Cheliya
- Composed in Anandabhairavi Ragam and set to Triputa Talam.

The Nayika is completely moved by the poignant gestures of the Nayaka, while leaving to another village. This is a Padam where the Nayika explains about the love of the Nayaka in her own words.

2.Yela Vachitivey Saaminedabaasi Yelaagu Kaalladaney O’ Lalanaaro.
- Composed in Navaroja Ragam and set to Triputa Talam

This famous pada of Kshetrayya, is in the first person perspective of the Sakhi. The Sakhi questions the Nayika on her reasons for leaving her Nayaka and then explains to her, the plight of the Nayaka ever since she has left him.

There are also instances where the Nayaka himself expresses his strong desire to meet his Nayika, like in…

3. Yennatiko Naa Kommanu Joochedi? – Yennatiko Naa Manasu Challanayyedi?
- Composed in Kambhoji Ragam and set to Triputa Talam

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This pada vociferously describes the intense desire of the Nayaka to catch a glimpse of his beloved.

4.Rama Ramaa Pranasakhi Nedabasi Sri Ramundetuvaley Taaleno Mundu
- Composed in Aahiri Ragam and set to Jhampey Talam

A Padam where the Nayaka asks Lord Rama how he lived many years without his beloved Sita, as he cannot think of living without his Nayika, even for a day.

And definitely, Kshetraya ingeniously worked out masterpieces in his literary works by portraying the sadness of the male lovers of the Hindu Mythology- most of who were sidelined for their female counterparts in the love sagas.

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