This article examines the difficult aspects of working with anthological manuscripts and printed editions of lyrical vernacular poetry in South Asia by focusing on the textual reception of VidyÄpati á¹¬hÄkura. In his own life, VidyÄpati wrote technical treatises in Sanskrit, historical narratives in Apabhraá¹ƒÅ›a, and a corpus of lyrical poems (padas) and two dramas in the vernacular Maithili language. While his technical works remained relatively static and limited in their circulation, VidyÄpati's lyrical poems had a more enduring and geographically widespread effect on the languages, literatures, and religions of MithilÄ and Eastern India (Bengal, Orissa, and Assam). The anthologies of padas, usually called "padÄvalÄ«'s", whatever their historical manifestation or locality, were usually collections of disconnected padas without contextual narratives or explanations. This analysis focuses on the difficulty of working with free-standing small lyrical poems, which were never conceived of as unified textual entities, in both organized padÄvalÄ«s and small disposable manuscript handbooks (pothÄ«s). The padas were used pragmatically by elite poets, devotional saints, and musicians from the 15 th century CE onwards. This creates problems when one tries to trace physical remains and textual sources from this period. There exists a gap between the Maithili padÄvalÄ«s of the 16 th and 17 th centuries and the Bengali Vaiá¹£á¹‡ava padÄvalÄ«s writing in a hybrid Bengali-Maithili kuntsprache of the 18 th and 19 th centuries. Since the linguistic and poetic variations and total number of attestations are so extensive, what relationship can be inferred between the Maithili padÄvalÄ« tradition and later anthologies based on manuscript and other textual evidence? I argue for a strategy of closely reading the variances and additions to the bhaá¹‡itÄ (poetic signature) that reveal an appeal to the courtly prestige of MithilÄ, even in the devotional communities of Bengal.
|Manuscript Studies: A Journal of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies
|Published - 2019