Dr. Thomas E. Donaldson, Professor in Asian Art History at the Cleveland State University of America, has made it clear that Sri Jaya Deva whose love-lyrics have been edited as �Gita Govinda� was an Oriya by birth and every attempt to link him to Bengal by a section of the Bengalis must be construed as an act of cultural dishonesty.
Teaching at CSU since 1969, Prof. Donaldson is an international authority on Indian culture. He has toured India extensively and has deeply analyzed Indian civilization on the basis of her art history. The world is indebted to him for the light he has thrown on Orissa�s unique contributions to man�s philosophy, arts and culture. His works include �Hindu Temple Arts of Orissa� in three volumes (Leiden 1985-87), �Kamadeva�s Pleasure Guarden-Orissa� (Delhi,1987), �Sculptural Masterpieces from Orissa: Style and Iconography� (New Delhi, 1998), �Ornaments of Orissa� (Delhi,1998), �The Iconography of Vaisnava Images in Orissa� (New Delhi, 2001), �Iconography of Buddhist Sculpture of Orissa� in two volumes (New Delhi, 2001), and �Tantra and Sakta Art of Orissa� in three volumes (New Delhi, 2002).
Addressing a seminar on �Sri Gopinath and Jaya Deva� organized by the Utkal University of Culture at Soochana Bhawan here on 14 February 2003, this scholar par excellence totally agreed with Orissa�s position as the motherland of Sri Jaya Deva and made it abundantly clear that the poet was not at all a contemporary of Bengal�s King Laxman Sen as claimed by the Bengalis and hence it is quite absurd to say that he was his court poet. In fact, the Bengalis had no knowledge of Sri Jaya Deva till a section of them following Sri Chaitanya came in contact with his love songs at Puri where the later had found his final quest-point on philosophy. The said protagonists of �Goudiya� sect, charmed as they were by their Master�s reverence for Sri Jaya Deva, spread his fame in Bengal. And, later, when Orissa lost her freedom to British power that clubbed her administration to Bengal, in an urge of chauvinism, attempts were made to appropriate this splendid son of Orissa by a section of Bengalis, he said.
Emphasizing that Gita Govinda is a part of Puri heritage, Prof. Donaldson declared that it is Orissa and only Orissa in whole of India that has to her credit the oldest of manuscripts of this immortal work and the oldest available annotations on it, the �Sarvangasundari Tika� written in the 14th century. This as well as the �Rasikapriya Tika� authored by Rana Kumbha, king of Chitore, in the 15th century do decidedly place Sri Jaya Deva in the Brahmin village �Kenduvilva� that was situated near Puri of Orissa. No Brahmin village by this name had ever existed in Bengal, he said. If at all there was a village by the name of Kenduli on the bank of river Ajay in the Birbhum district of West Bengal, it was certainly not the birthplace of the poet of Gita Govinda. Had that been the birthplace of Jaya Deva, poet Chandra Datta, belonging to the Bengali race, would certainly have proudly trumpeted that in his famous work �Bhakta Mala�. But he has clearly stated that Sri Jaya Deva was born in the Brahmin village �Kenduvilva� near Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannatha. On the other hand, there is no mention of Sri Jaya Deva in any literary work of Bengal prior to the 18th century linking his origin to Bengal. The evidences paraded by the Bengali community in support of its claim on Sri Jaya Deva are so feeble and flimsy that a serious student of literature and cultural history cannot put any premium on them, he said. Stating that the poet�s name has been mischievously linked with Laxmansen only after decadence of Orissa�s political influence under a foreign power, Prof. Donaldson felt that this cultural dishonesty might not have received any encouragement had Orissa of the 18th century not been in a disadvantage administratively and had her voice not been rendered feeble under the foreign yoke. But, whatever whosoever may say, every credible piece of archaeological and literary records makes it doubtlessly clear that Sri Jaya Deva was born in Orissa and by birth belonged to the race of the Oriyas, he pinpointed.