Since the medieval times, the legend about the Raja Gopi Chand (Gobichand), who has renounced his throne to become a Nath yogi, was one of favorite themes of the ballads singed by the wondering bards and theatric plays performed by the folk theatres of the Northern India, from the areas of Punjab to Bengal. The fragments of his life appear side by side with the ‘classical’ (widely popular) life stories of the oldest Natha Siddhas, such Patriarchs of the Natha Sampradaya as Matsyndranath, Gorakhnath, Jalandhari and Kanhipa, and integrated into their midst to such extent that it become impossible to separate them from each other. There exist numerous variations of the legend depicting the life of the Raja Gopicand in the various languages of India, but most of them have nearly the same main line of narration, with some minor differences. The reasons of most of those variations are that the original story was apparently quite short and was telling only about few major moments of his life, and most of the intermediate dialogues, while the extended details and more events were added to it later, in order to dramatize it. This is the main difference between the reliable historical account and its dramatization; the accounts are usually short and scarce on the details beyond of the main events, while their ‘entertaining’ versions are longer and full of details and dialogues. If story would by ‘dry’, would it attract the attention of the wide masses required for the earning of the daily income? Because of this, being bound by necessitate, the various artists in course of time have expanded the original stories to their present state in accordance with their personal knowledge and the regional traditions. Later on, the legend has completed the circle and came back to the tradition it came from, and became ‘settled’ there in its ‘new’ expanded form. For example, the narration of the Natha Yogi who has listened the performance of the regional theatric version of the legend about the life of Gopichandra most likely would be some different and much longer than of one who learned it from the spoken tradition of the sect.
There aren’t enough the reliable historical records about the historical king Gopichandra to make exact judgments about his time and place, and the different versions of the legends and ballads depicting the events of his life are often found in the contradiction with each other on the numerous issues. However, all sources mentioning him mention him as contemporary with the Guru Gorakhnath and other Patriarchs of the Natha Sampradaya. Also, while in the mention the name of his father, the different accounts are often found being not in agreement amongst themselves, all of them unanimously agree that the Queen Mayanāmati (Maināvantii) was his mother, which is also conformed in the Evening Prayer of the Natha Yogis (Sandhya Aarati). In some legends it is told that the Raja Bhartrihari was her brother, and therefore the maternal uncle of Gopichandra. As about his father, it is told that he was the king of Bengal Raja Manikchandra, the brother of Dharmapala (in accordance with Kalyani Malik).
to be continued..
A Carnival of Parting
, The Tales of King Bharthari and King Gopi Chand as Sung and Told by Madhu Natisar Nath of Ghatiyali, Rajasthan. Translated with an Introduction and Afterword by ANN GRODZINS GOLD.