Accepted Papers:

The Fatehpur manuscript as anthology of scribal styles  


Kenneth E Bryant (UBC)

Paper Short Abstract:

One of the earliest [1582 CE] of Hindi manuscripts, the Fatehpur manuscript titled "Pada Surdasji Ka", contains three sections, each apparently copied from a different exemplar. Some two dozen poems appear in more than one section each, with interesting implications.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will expand on an observation I made in the introduction to Sur's Ocean: Poems from the Early Tradition (Bryant and Hawley, Harvard: 2015, p. xxix).

"The earliest surviving manuscript [of the poems of Surdas], J1 [dated 1582 CE]— prepared "In Fatehpur, in the kingdom of Akbar," as noted by the scribe —apparently links together fragments of three earlier manuscripts; of the 239 Sur pads the manuscript contains, there are about two dozen that appear twice, and even at this early date, the two forms of each duplicated pad are substantially different from one another. This is yet another measure of how quickly the tradition was evolving: our earliest snapshot already shows a vigorously branching organism."

Each of the three sections of the Fatehpur manuscript represents a distinct set of poems with a distinct organizational principle (apparently random in one, raga-ordered in a second, confined to the topic of vinaya in a third), reinforcing the notion that the scribe(s) of this manuscript were recording, without further editing, the work of three earlier scribes. We thus have, within this one document, a broad sweep across scribal styles of the sixteenth century.

Of the many interesting studies which this document enables, I will in the present paper pursue the question: In the case of those poems which appear in more than one of the three sections, what principles govern the striking differences between one version and the other? More specifically, are these differences "scribal", "editorial", "oral", or "performative"?

panel P33
New approaches to manuscript variations in South Asia