Nectar or Arrow: Cases of Missense Textual Mutations in Early Kabīrian Padas
- Manuscript Studies: A Journal of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 4, Number 1, Spring 2019
- pp. 134-145
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Widespread textual variations feature in the poems transmitted across north India in the name of Kabir, the popular Hindi saint and poet. Kabirian poems, even the early ones, incorporate a variety of traditions due to their appropriation and adaption by different communities, which have generated anthologies that favor works of particular themes or styles. This ever-expanding and transforming corpus serves as a reproducible and mutable coding system that indicates how Kabir was remembered, interpreted and transmitted. Certain types of textual mutations, although posing challenges to philologists, whose aim is to restore the original text, can help us map out how the diversified Kabirian tradition took shape. This paper is a case study on a particular type of textual mutation, known as "missense" mutation, found in the early Kabirian padas reproduced in Winand Callewaert's The Millennium Kabīr Vānī. The cases under study include word variations like rasa/sara, satari/satagura, raghurāī/ṣudāi and phrase-sentence substitution, which yield different but reasonable readings. Though possibilities of casual factors like a slip of the pen cannot be ruled out totally, the fact that these variations were appreciated, remembered and transmitted urges us to think about the motivations behind them. These could include technical reasons, like concern for prosody, and intellectual influences like bhaktification or mystification. How these external factors were responded to textually with a spectrum of variations has contributed to the multifacetedness and popularity of the Kabirian tradition from an early stage.