Mīrā’s “Earliest” Song and Her Images in History and Hagiography

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Dalpat Singh Rajpurohit



This essay revisits the scholarly consensus about the “earliest” song and early images of Mīrā—the sixteenth-century Rajput noblewoman who is a leading female voice in north Indian devotional (bhakti) movements. I show that what scholars have considered as Mīrā’s oldest extant poem—recorded in the Kartarpur manuscript of 1604, which culminated in the making of the Sikh Guru Granth Sāhib—has a different history of recension in the devotional sects of Rajasthan. In the early seventeenth-century manuscripts of the Dādūpanth, the same poem is not attributed to Mīrā but to Sukhānand, one of the twelve disciples of Rāmānand— the first Guru of the major Rām devotional sect of north India. Various possible explanations for this double attribution will be explored, and the question asked: What do the varied attributions of Mīrā’s “earliest” song tell us about the growth of a Mīrā corpus and the multiple Mīrās as represented in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century hagiographies that emerged from her own region?

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