Accepted Papers:

Nectar or arrow: cases of textual variations in early Kabirian padas  


Minyu Zhang (Peking University)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper studies the micro pattern of textual variations at both word and sentence level in early Kabirian padas and what motivated behind the phenomena. Such variations reflect how the multifacetedness of the Kabirian tradition is gradually shaped.

Paper long abstract:

Widespread textual variations feature the Kabirian poems that spread widely in north India. Scholars generally agree that even early Kabirian poems consist of various traditions due to their appropriation by different communities, who compile anthologies that favour works of particular themes or styles. This paper proposes to study the patterns of textual variations at a more micro level, which started to construct the multifacetedness of Kabirian tradition subtly at an early stage. The corpus under study are the early Kabirian padas in Winand Callewaert's The Millennium Kabīr Vānī. Collating the padas out of early manuscripts that are similar, or almost identical, to one another, I try to trace how the variations took shape. Except for obvious scribal errors and spelling discrepancies, many textual variations yield different but reasonable readings. These phenomena can be categorized into three major types: 1) substituting a word with a quasi-homonym, such as rasa/sara (śara), jugati (yukti)/joti (jyoti), satari (sattara)/satagura (sadguru), etc.; 2) substituting a word with a synonym or context-dependent quasi-synonym, such as suni (śūnya)/sahaja, raghurāī (raghurāja)/khudāi (khudā), etc.; 3) rewriting a half-line, or a whole line. Though possibilities of purely casual factors like the slip of pen cannot be totally ruled out, particularly in the first category. Most variations and the fact that they were transmitted and studied urge us to think about the motivations behind, including technical reasons like prosody concern and ideological trends like bhaktification, mystification, de-Islamization, etc. Intellectual context such as sahajayāna mysticism, Indo-Persian cultural reconciliation also made certain variations viable.

panel P33
New approaches to manuscript variations in South Asia