Ascent to Darkness: Sacred Dance in Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda and Nizami’s Layla Majnun

How to Cite

Lalita Sinha. (2022). Ascent to Darkness: Sacred Dance in Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda and Nizami’s Layla Majnun: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 22(1), 105–134. Retrieved from


Light is commonly associated with God in many religions of the world. By the same token, access to, and relation with, the Absolute is established through customary religious rituals. This article however, as indicated in the title, associates the Absolute with darkness. Accordingly, access to the Absolute is attained through dance, rather than religious rituals. The deliberate transposition of standard notions is typical of esoteric expression. This alternative understanding is offered with two objectives in mind. The first is to explain and substantiate the author’s interpretation of expressions taken from two mystical poems, namely, the Gitagovinda of Jayadeva, and Layla Majnun by Nizami. The second objective is to present a comparative analysis of the poems, which are examined as products of two different mystico-religious traditions from the medieval period, that is, the Vaishnava Bhakti tradition of India, and the Islamic Sufi tradition of Persia. The article concludes that while, as representations of the individual diverging traditions the works possess an immense wealth of heterogeneity, an esoteric reading reveals a remarkable convergence of principles and perspectives.

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