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Mirabai and the Spiritual Economy of Bhakti

Author(s): Kumkum Sangari


Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 25, No. 27 (Jul. 7, 1990), pp. 1464-1475
Published by: Economic and Political Weekly
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4396474
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SPECIALARTICLES
Mirabai and the Spiritual Economy of Bhakti
Kumkum Sangari
In an economywherethe labourof womenand thesurplusproductionof thepeasantand artisanarecustomarily
and 'naturally'appropriatedby the rulinggroups,the high Hindu traditionssought to encompassand retainthe
managementof spiritual'surplus'and to circumscribe its availabilityalonglinesof casteandgender.In thisspiritual
economy,the liberalisingand dissentingforms of bhakti emergeas a powerfulforce whichselectivelyuses the
metaphysicof high Hinduismin an attemptto createan inappropriableexcess or transcendentvaluegrounded
in the dailiness of a materiallife within the reach of all.
Thispaper attemptsto understandthe specificcharacterof Mirabai'sbhaktias itfinds shape withinthe overlap-
ping yet contradictoryconfigurationof the patriarchalassumptionsof the medievalRajputstate, prescriptive
brahminicaltexts, and the female devotional voice as it develops in earlierand contemporarycompositionsof
male bhaktas. Whatemergesis, firstly, that though the prescriptionsof the smritisand puranasdo not survive
as law, they are availableas ideology whichshapes the customarydomain and self-descriptionof Rajputruling
groupsand constitutethe historicalmomentin whichMiralives.Secondly,in the breakingand remakingof patriar-
chal relations,Mira'sbhakti marksas well as belongs to a longer historicalmoment in whichthe prescriptions
of the smritisandpuranasareselectivelyinternalised,and the customarynexusof religiouspracticeis translated
into metaphorsand emotionalstructures.Thirdly,thoughMira'scompositionsarethemselvesambivalentlysituated,
therearesignificantdifferencesin herpersonalpracticeand in her ideologicallocation whencomparedto earlier
and contemporarymale bhaktas.And, finally, etched into Mira'senterpriseis not only the difficulty of being
'original'in an oral tradition,but also the recalcitranceand the precariousnessof personal rebellion.
Rhe paper is publishedin two parts. The second part will appearnext week.]
THE ideologicaldiversityand contradictory separatelyfrom the social practicesin which experiential base has altered but not
locations of bhakti are startling. Already it is implicated. disappeared.
embedded in vedic and puranic literature This essay attempts to understand the
Within an e0onomy where the labour of
bhakti is not restrictedto what have been specific characterof Mirabai'sbhakii as it
women and the surplus production of the
specified as movements:it is a structureof finds shape within the overlappingyet con-
peasant and artisan are customarily and tradictoryconfiguration of the patriarchal
personaldevotion which entersinto the for- 'naturally' appropriated by the ruling
mation of new groups or classes, into the
groups,the high Hindu traditionssought to ass.umptionsof the medieval Rajput state,
protests against elite hegemonic groups as prescriptive brahminical texts, and the
well as into the redefining of dominant encompass and retain the management of
female devotional voice as it develops in
spiritual 'surplus'. and to circumscribeits
classes,' and is also central to the produc- earlier and contemporarycompositions of
availabilityalong lines of caste and gender.
tion of a syncreticvocabularyin accessible male bhaktas. Eachone of these is a site for
vernacularlanguages.Though often a mode In this spiritualeconomy,the liberalisingand the production of vation schemata, of
of dissent which expresses dissatisfaction dissenting forms of bhakti emerge as a notions of sexuality and of different sorts
powerful force which selectively uses the
with certainorthodox, caste-basedmodes of of female agency. Unfortunately,from this
metaphysicof high Hinduism (maya, kar-
social ordering,brahminicalHinduism, 'ex- historical distance it is easier to ascertain
ma and rebirth),in an attempt to createan
clusive' religious institutions, and, at least their ascriptive funotions and ideological
inappropriableexcessor transcendentvalue
apparently, patriarchy, the difficulties of matrix than to determinetheir preciserelr-
measuringthe bhakti movements'potential groundedin the dailiness of a material life
tion to social practices.
within the reach of all. Even if bhakti does
for change in i pre-industrialformationare What emerges firstly is that though the
not substantivelybreak the boundaries of
enormous. This would involve ascertaining prescriptionsof the smritis and puranasdo
high Hindu traditions it redefines these in
which areas of meaning, social agency and not survive as law, they are ava,ilableas
content, modality and address, i e, in what
interaction, political participation, power, ideology which shapes the 'customary
is said, how it is said (orally-in defiance
and prescriptiveHindu orthodoxy are pris- domainand self descriptionof Rajputruling
of the centralisationof knowledge in writ-
ed open by/for the lowercaste peasants, ar- groups, and in this sense are that part of
ten texts), and who it is said to. their 'past' which constitute the historical
tisansand women who wereinvolvedin each
movement. It would entail an evaluative Bhakti makes a language for aspiration moment in which Mira lives. Secondly, in
description of the nature of the social and desire, through a notion of personal the breaking and remakingof patriarchal
transformations taking place, with the devotion and more direct communication relations, Mira's bhakti marks as well as
gradual and differential establishment of with a compassionategod, which is embed- belongs to a longer historical moment in
feudal structures as the field from which ded withinan experientialbase-particular which the prescriptionsof the smritis and
bhakti emerges and to which it responds. sorts of hierarchical,patriarchaland feudal puranasare selectivelyinternalised,and the
Finally, this would involve seeing bhakti as relations-a location which defines both the customary nexus of religious practice is
a productand partakerof a changingsocie- power ,nd the vulnerability of such a translated into metaphors and emotional
ty, which emerges alongside feudal language.Once assimilatedinto mainstream structures. Even as her bhakti sets out to
structures-whether assisting or resisting Hinduism, the critical edge of dilssenting escape, ignore or challenge certain social,
them-for several centuries. Bhakti can forms of bhakti is blunted,yet the language religious and patriarchal institutions, its
neither be understood solely in terms of its remainsevocative,long afterthe movements moral legitimacyis partiallyobtained from
social content and ideology, nor evaluated havethemselveswaned,predsely becauseits a transformationof some of these (enforce-

Economic and Political Weekly July 7, 1990


able) prescriptions into an internal ethic. Rana Sanga, and heir to the Sisodia brahmins find is her sari enveloping the
Thirdly, though Mira"scompositions are kingdomof Mewar.At the time RanaSanga idol. Some versions (which seek to extend
themselves ambivalentlysituated, there are is the most powerfulof Rajputkingsand has her life beyond 1547 in order to make her
significant differencesin her personalprac- greatpoliticalambition.He has twenty-eighl meet Akbar, Tansen, Birbal and Tulsidas,
tice and in her ideological location when queens and seven sons, and his son's mar- and so supply her with powerful patrons,
comparedto earlierand contemporarymale riage to Mira is, like his own marriages,a pupils and gurus) suggest that this is a suc-
bhaktas. Finally, etched into Mira's enter- political alliance. Legend has it that at the cessful ruse to escapethe brahmins.In th se
prise, insofar as it is possible to reconstruct time of her marriage ceremony she circles versions Akbar -conquers and plunders
it, is not only the difficulty of being the idol of Girdharji(Krishna),to whom she Mewaras retributionfor the ill-treatmentof
'original' in an oral tradition, but also the is devoted from childhood, instead of her Mirabai;and Tulsidas,in answer to her let7
recalcitranceand the precariousnessof per- husband, declares herself married to Him. ter seeking advice about her persecutionby
sonal rebellion'. and refusesto consummateher earthlymar- her husband'sfamily,advisesher to leaveher
The different usages of the female devo- riage.She refusesto worshipthe familygod- marital home.3
tional voice in comparison with male dess, Durga. In some variations of the How do we evaluateMira as a saint and
bhaktas brings up'two general but crucial legend, Mira'shusbandresentsher celibacy, as a symbol of legendarydevotion and per-
questions.The first is the problemof reading suspects adultery,persecutesher, and takes sonal rebellion, as a historical figure and
an oral corpus which cannot be reducedto another wife. In one version, he is reconcil- woman who resistedthe power of princely,
a single author. The second is the relation- ed to herbehaviourwhenhe comes to believe feudal patriarchy,the social codes of family
ships between figurativemodes, patriarchal that she is mad. Her only supporteris Rana pride, honour, decorum, and became critic
values and the engendering of religious Sanga's mother-Jhali Rani-a pupil of of certainforms of social oppression?What
belief. The solidity of patriarchalassump- Raidas, who undertakesto placate her son. is the relation between the historical figure
tions in metaphors and analogies, their Some versionsclaim, Raidas,a Chamaarby and the legendary saint? At one level the
readilyparaphraseable'content'raisesques- birth, as Mira'sown guru-the dates do not saint's life is a consensual and so socially
tions about the role figurative modes play match. Widowed five years later in 1523 legitimate pattern which inherently con-
in reflecting or forging a social consensus Miracontinues to compose poetry and sing tradicts the normative requirements of
in oral traditions.Patriarchalstructuresand bhajans under the protectionof her father- wifehood. Mira'stransgressionof the norms
religious belief are -notinert but subject to in-law. In another version she becomes a for a good Rajputwife and widow may have
constantremaking-it appearsthat theymay Krishnabhakta only upon the death of her necessitatedseeking protectionin the alter-
even be interdependent and mutually husband, and is persecutedafter his death native norms of sainthood. Or, conversely,
generative. when she is a widow. In one account her her life may have been retrospectively'fit-
father-in-law asks her to kill herself. She ted' into the ideal-typicallife of a saint thus
I obediently plunges into a riverbut survives erasing all the signs of personal suffering,
with divine aid. After her father-in-law's isolation, vulnerabilityand daringin the life
The Life of the woman. At another level both the
death by poisoning in 1528, her brother-in-
It is difficult to disentangle legend from law Raja Ratan Singh, and his successor historical figure and the legendary saint
historyto reconstructand interpretMirabai's Rana Bikramajit,persecuteher for political belong to the realm of public transcription,
life. In biographies (the earliest are the (rivalrywith her natal family), religiousand both inhabit a hierarchising, prescriptive
Bhaktmala of Nabhadas (1667) and the probablypersonalreasons.In some versions social domain wherethe 'norms'of the one
Bhakt-maltika of Priyadas (1732), based her father-in-law also persecutes her. She can be invokedto 'punish'the other:e , the
partlyon her own compositions,her life, like miraculouslysurvivesthe cups of poison and ill-treatmentof a saintcan changethe course
the lives of all medieval saints, and more snakes they send her and flees for shelterto of political events and cause Akbar's con-
specifically of women saints, is punctuated her uncle Viram Deo. Her father dies in quest of Mewar.Finally,the narrativeof the
with 'typical'conventions:the bitterpersecu- 1530. Viram Deo, who is defeated in battle saint's life projects modes of behaviour
tions and m,iraculousescapes, the displays and expelledfrom Mertain 1535,finds it dif- which arise in response to expectations or
of wit and logic when questionedand tested ficult to acceptsuch activity,especiallyfrom proscriptionsas simpleand pureexpressions
by a male authority figure, the association a widow.She servessadhus, meets all kinds of spiritualbeing, and interprets'character'
with holy places, the breakingof norms and of men and has a disturbing appeal for as deriving from such a substantive self
taboos, the renunciation of family and women and especially for men and women ratherthan from the exigenciesof changing,
domestic life, the rejectionof worldlypower of lower social classes. So Mira takes to the accrued experience.The Mira who may be
and authority, and finally the miraculous road as ajogin or religiousmendicant. She gleanedfromhistoricalfactsis one who belongs
death where she merges with god in a givesup social decorum(lok laaj) and family to a simple realm of 'political' eventswhich
temple.2As a genre the saint's biographyis honour (kul shrinkhla). She sings and occur in a sequential-causality.It is difficult
complete: part of a series of idealised life- dances,lovesKrishnalike a gopi, visits Vrin- to rescuethe 'real'Mirabai,or to reconstruct
types it presentsan exteriorself open to the davan, and refuses to return to the palace her life separately either as legend or as
public gaze, and a finished or alreadymade even upon the blandishments of a later history.It is, however,possibleto readit ten-
relation with the world. The personal and Rana. It appears that after she leaves Chit- tatively against both together-insofar as
historical contingencies which informed tor, the fort is conqueredby BahadurShah they interlock and contradict, and insofar
Mira'schoices either appearas generalised of Gujeratin 1535, followed by the jauhar as both suggest the pre-existingstructures
preconditionsfor sainthood or are invisible. (mass immolation) of the women led by which she may have appropriated,altered,
The legend-historyhas it that Mirais born Rani Karmavati,a wife of Rana Sanga. The or resisted.In this sense, the negotiation of
into a Rathor family in 1498 in Koorki legend goes that her brother-in-law(in some these pre-existingstructures,ideological in
village in the Nagaur district of Marwar. versions her father-in-law)seeing these as character,comes to constituteMirabai's'ex-
Both her grandfather Duda Merta and her consequdncesof his persecutionof Mirabai perience' for us.
fatherRao RattanSinghareVaishnavitesand sends brahminsto bring her back; perhaps If a straightforwardreadingof Mira'slife
worshipKrishna.Her mother dies when she as a mascotto guardagainstfuturemishaps. is unavailable,eliciting certaintiesfrom her
is five and she is brought up by her grand- Mira is in Dwarka, the home of Krishna. songs is equally problematic. The written
father.She is both literateand learned,skil- (She has re-builthis temple in Dwarka.)In texts assembledfrom oral traditionsare part
led in 'male'arts qhunting,sports,battle)and her dile'mmashe sings and dances beforehis of a collective oeuvre. Certain parts must
in the 'female'arts (dance,m'usic,sewing, image in the temple while the brahminsfast have been re-accentuated,certainpotentials
etiquette).When about eighteen she is at the door. Krishnaunableto resisther love in the images actualised, others allowed to
marriedto BhojRaj,sonof the 'Hindupat' incorporates her into himself. All the fade over time. Mirabai herself re-

Economic and Political Weekly July 7, 1990 1465


accentuateswhat has preceded.In this sense begin to fabricate the origin and trace the tahpurof Rajputsseems to be rivenby divi-
the songs areinscribedin an extendedrather lineage of the ruling clans to remote anti- sions among women along lines of age,
than a discretemoment of production.They quity. Not surprisingly,the managementof seniority,political influence,status of natal
represent intentionalities, beliefs, desires women and marriage are key elements in family,materialbenefits,size of income,and
whichstretchbeyondthe individualand may the process of cultural unification, and in mode of acquisition(i e, wife, concubineor
be designatedas a definable mode of social the imperialdesigns of the emergentfeudal slave), and by the struggle for mobility
perceptioninhabited by Miraand nameless Rajput state. through access to the ruler-husbandwhich
others. Further,Mirasang and danced-the The early medieval Rajput state is one inevitably,except for favourites,is limited.8
nuances, inflections and assertions of per- particular patrilineal clan or sub-clan Womenhaveneitherthe rightto divorcenor
formed worshipwhichset personaldevotion politicallyorganisedinto a single iuit within to property and the right of widows to
squarely within the public gaze-can in which is inscribedthe place of women who s .alintenanceis easy to infringe.9
retrospectonly be surmised. are tied to the needs of clan identity and The obligatoryand politicallyinstrumen-
status,and which also sets out to governthe tal characterof marriageis rationalisedand
II hierarchical system of vassalage and the sacralisedthrough the ideologies of service
Family, Marriage and State reciprocalduties of masterand servant.The and of suhaag (the marriedstate). In some
notion of kul or clan acquires its emoti've, sense the service demanded of women
What was the location of a princessmar- affective power from these. As the smallest overlaps with the compulsory service
ried into the premier ruling family of unit of a clan, the family providesa system demandedof other subalterngroups. Both
Rajasthan?The late fifteenth and early six- of patriarchal protection tor women, arc placed within a chain of ideal connec-
teenth century which mark the end of the operates as an oppressive site for the daily tions in which the realityof the social order
Delhi sultanatewerecharacterisedby a con- reproduction of caste alnd gender iFnequality itself, indeedits veryintelligibility,is perceiv-
tinuous three-pronged conflict in Rajput in which womrrenthemselves play a signi- ed as irrevocablytied with the principleof
statesmanyof whichwerestill at a formative ficant role. The fanily eniters intto a scries hicrarclhicallayeringin which husbandsand
stage. Territorieswere being wrested from of relations with thle state. It beconies an kings occupy the summit The characterof
tribes, from Muslim rulersand from othcr adjunct of the state in thalt cen as it milaill- Rajputs as an expansive and hegemonic
Rajputstates.The politicalhistoryof Mewar tains its owi statuis (pai11tlV tilhrOLghl its militaryaristocracyled to and demandedthe
is one of ceaseless competitive warfare, a womien) it also maintains thecorder of social developmentof an instrumentaland quasi-
condition both of steady expansion and of hierarchyi. The patriarchy of the fanily autonomous ethic of male heroism with its
insecurity, which reinforces the mutual becomes in some sense co-extensive with the corollariesof male bonding and corporate
dependence between ruler and clan, ruler state. The state too can be effortlessly involv- identity.Manhoodor malenesscomes to be
and vassals-in effect builds and reinforces ed in marriage norm.s becluse the state synonymous with veerta(courage,bravery)
a feudal relation. On the one hand, the no- assumes a continuity between itself and its and kulgaurav (the honour of the clan)."t
tion of kul acquires a certain urgencyfrom subjects. And the tamils can iii turnibe a unit The conflation of god-ruler-thakur(chief),
the need for affirming lineage cohesion, of the state's 'decentralised' patriarchal the perceptionof militaryand other service
genealogical status, and familial solidarity power-supplying women for nmarriage ex- as a torm of worship expressed through
based on kinship-some of the co-ordinates actly as it supplies men for battle. Dis- unstintingdevotion and self sacrificewhich
of military success. However,the conquest honourin eithercase amountsto sayingthat brings both material rewardand salvation,
of neighbouringterritoriesprovidesthe king the family's political reliability is at stake, embeds the warrior'sserviceinto the hierar-
and statewith an economic and politicalad- since the family is inserteddirectly into the clhy of the feudal relation." Within the
vantage over kinsmen, and makes relations political sphere within relations of depen- Rajputpolity, as in the smritis, women are
betweenthem tense and unstable.So on the dence and solidarity. And yet the family is conceived primarilyas subjects.'2 The wife
other hand, there appearsto be an internal neitherstablenor secure.L-inkedas it is with too takes on a relation of generalised
stratificationof lineageswhereinkinshipand clan, state and struggles for power, it is a subalternityto her lord-husband-master. She
the rights of the subject vis-a-vis the fragile,competitive,feudingunit evenwithin is subordinatedvia men to the state and
sovereign are being remodelled in con- the kin group, which repeatedlydisplays a domestic service of the husband becomes
sonance with emerging 'contractual' rela- potential for internal fission. In sum, the analogous to religious service. The desired
tions, as yet embryonic, which would degree of integrationand desired harmony rolesof both servantand wife arepredicated
become sharply defined with Mughal rule.4 between family and state not only sets off on devoted service and fidelity to a feudal
This is not only a periodof expansionand the ruling Rajputgroups from other castes, state within a hierarchywhich expresses,
the consolidation of vassal and tributary but also determinesthe patriarchalpublic legitimises and idealises an unequal social
states, but also a period of culturalunifica- natureof the code of family honour, of the relation.
tion. The fifteenth century sees the managementof marriage,the regulationof Though the subordinate function of
emergence of the word 'rajput' in its con- sexuality, and the restriction of women's Rajputwomen seems to put even women of
temporary sense,5 signifying not merely a right to property. the ruling group into the humble category
caste but a ruling military aristocracy The politicisation and depersonalisation of the ruled, their consent to patriarchal
with its own ethos of martial valour, a of marriageis striking.Exogamousmarriage domination (ideologically obtained) also
claim to prestige and achieved status, is a structural mainstay of the clan as a becomes a consent to coercive social rela-
and its own patriarchal practices groun- politicalunit, buildscohesiveclan and inter- tions in wider sense. The sacralisation of
ded in the clan system. Mewar was sur- clan relationships across territorial boun- marriagewith its corollarysystemof rewards
rounded by Muslim kingdoms on three daries,constructsrelationsof vassalageand and punishmentsoccurs most fully among
sides, and Rana Sanga's assertive Hindu clientelist allegiance wherein marriage upper castes, and becomwes a mode of dif-
identity was related to his imperial am- becomes an expressionof loyalty and feal- ferentiatingthem from the lower castes in
bition.6 The resurgent 'Hinduism' of ty, and institut,onalisesa system of gaining Rajasthan who have less formal marital
'kshatriya'ascendancy,whichinterlockswith land, influence, power,honour, status, and arrangements.
an exaggeratedlineageconsciousness,rested alliances,7within which the women though The world beyonddeath, once described,
on propitiating brahmins (who could indispensable are construed as little more acquiresa social existence,organisessocial
legitimisehigher varnastatus throughselec- than counters of exchange.There is a high relations and plays a determining role in
tive use of the smritis and puranas)and on instanceof polygamy,dowry,and femalein- their reproduction.Representationsof this
investing heavily in a self-legitimising fanticide amongRaljputs,especially in the 'invisible' world are shared by men and
genealogicalenterprisewith the co.operation upper strata. Women have no independent women, and it is partly through these that
of bhats anldchamnrs(court bards)who now access to political power.The zenanaoran- womenconsentto theirdomination.Patriar-

Economic and Political Weekly Jijly 7, 1990


chal domination depends on the symbolic III Real suhaagis with an immortal, "Him
labour of women themselves in rituals to whom the snake of death will not devour"
preservemarriageand wardoff widowhood,
Interpreting Mira s Life
(DP: 119, 116):
aroundwhich much of their'religiousactivi- Mira's rebellion, social critique and iconic Jhootha suhaagjagat ka ri sajni, hoi hoi
ty is centred. The ideology of suhaag image have to be located within this set of mit jaasi
legitimises the enforced dependence of relationships which constitute the field Main to ek avinaasi varoongijaahe kaal
women and redescribesit as the necessary within which her bhakti finds shape. To what nahi khaasi (BM: 79)
submission to duty and veneration of the extent does Mira break the norms of the Surat dinanath su lagi tu to samajh
husband. The organisation of the zenatia feudal relation regarding marriage and suhaagan naar...
and the emotional structures of suhaag widowhood, in her choice of asceticism and Aise varko kya karujo janme aur marjai
together describe the wife as monogamous in the nature of her asceticism? Varvarivoek saavreri mero chudlo amar
in terms of her fidelity and devotion to a She breaks the code of marriage by ho jai...
'naturally'polygamoushusband.Her service remaining sexually unavailable to her A binaasi ki pol par ji Mira karai chai
acquires the illusory character of an ex- husband, and by her obsessive religiosity pukaar (P: 165-67)
changeor a reciprocalcommitmentin which from the moment she is wed. She claims to Like other women saints, when widowed
the husband's well-being saves her from have already married Krishna in a dream Mira denies the reality of having been mar-
widowhoodand finds her a place in heaven. (Mai Mahane supne tne paranigqve Gopal ried in the first place.'8
At the same time the ideology of suhaag ac- BM: 70 ). In those versions of the legend in Kaaiaur ko baru mnaavri,mahaon kejag
quires its power, success, and continued which she is persecuted by her husband, janjaal
justification for women from the experienc- there is an indication of the magnitude of Mira ke prabhu girdhar naagar, kari
ed realityand perceivedconsequencesof the her decision. 4 Her indifference to her hus- jagaai haal (BM: 70)
loss of suhaag or widowhood. This reality band and passion for Krishna is 'read' as The rejection of earthly rnarriage, alongside
naturalisessuhaag-it does not appearto be adulterous by both husband and father-in- the honour of the family, of kul, and the
an illusion. The ideology of suhaag thus law, she is even suspected of a liaison with bonds of kinship, is in effect a rejection not
becomes a way of controlling marriageand Akbar who has come in disguise to see only of their educative and organising func-
through it procreation, inheritance and her.'5 In other versions of the legend where tions, but ot the whole social order within
property. she becomes bhakt only atter the death of which they are enmeshed. Further, the break
Widowhood is read in the brahminical her husband, NMira's credenitialsas good wife with docmsticity is a rejection of the
tradition derived from the smnritisas the are being ensured prior to her transformation primarv domain where sexuality is
predestined,k2rmicproductof transgression into a saint. However, in the former version, customarily rcgulated. The Manusmriti ex-
in past lives, which justifies the customary as a disobliging wife, a significant element plicitly offers ritual and donmesticlabour as
treatmentof the widow and helps to create in the life of a saint-celibacy and its atten- a suitable meanis for restraining wives and
a-hierarchyof dependencewithinthe family. dant spiritual powers-is also being establish- controlling temale sexuality (MDS: 232).
Widowhood is a punishablecrime, widow- ed. Here the good wife and the saint cannot be NMira'sclaim is substantive when she says:
hood is atonementthroughpersonalausteri- reconciled-she can only be one or the other. Sati na hosya. girdhar gaasya mahaara
ty, piety, and domestic drudgery.'3 Unlike As an errant, disobliging wife, Mira acquires man mohe ghannami
lower caste women she is forbidden re- not only an active freedom from an expected Jeth bahu ko naato na raanaji, hu sevak
marriage. The genealogy of the Rajput role, but also the preconditions for access the swaami
widow can be traced to the model of the to wisdom, authority, self-sufficiency, Girdhar kant Girdhar dhani mahaare,
Brahmin widow in the Manusmriti. The spiritual growth, and most of all, marriage maat pita boi bhai
Brahmin widow in order to be good must to Krishna. Thai thaare main mahaare Ranaji, yun
nevereven think of anotherman, avoid sen- He/i mahasu Hari bin rahiyo na jai kahe Mirabai (B: 162).
sual pleasures,and in orderto obtainheaven Saasu lade ri sajni, nanad khijairi pivji Why should I burn myself on a pyrewith
like the Brahmin ascetic, she must practise rahyori samai the body of the rana and be sati?
those "incomparablerules of virtue which Chauki bhi melau sajni, pahra bhi malau, Is not Girdhar my eternal consort?
have been followed by such women as were taalaa ghau na jadai I recognise no relationship of body, or by
devoted to only one husband"(MDS: 135). Purab janam ki preet hamnaarisajni, so marriage to human beings
In orderto acquirerenownin this worldand kahan rahai ri lukai I know only Girdhar. He is my father,
the same abode as her husband in the next Mira kahai prabhu girdhar ke bin, dujo mother, husband, kin, none besides.
world,the widow too like the wife must sub- na aavai mnahaari dai I have nothing to do with the ruler of the
ject mind, speech and body to her husband. (BM: 85) state
Infringement, likewise, is punishable by So says Mirabai. (B: 106).
ostracism in both worlds (MDS: 135-37, In this sense each patriarchal persecution-a
Though Mirabai's mendicancy breaks the
234). Marriage is indissoluble even upon product of her real transgressions-is at the
mandatory seclusion of the upper caste
widowhood. The good widow then must same time a test which proves her sainthood
within the pattern of a saint's life.
Rajputwidow (Ab kahe ki laajsajni, pargat
both practically and emotionally be as ho naachi, P: 45), she does not challengeall
monogamousas the good wife; for both the Mira ignores the claims of suhaag. Like
the other accepted 'components' of a
wife and the widow,the husbandis the inter- Mahadeviyakka who sang, "Take these
widow's life-piety, asceticism, austerity,
mediary between this world and the next, husbandswho die,/decay,and feed them/to
celibacy.'9 Since Krishnais a god, their sej
and monogamous devotion to him is the your kitchen fires"' 6 Mira designatesjag
(marital bed) can be an abstraction, ahd
unilateralpath to salvation.Marriageoccurs suhaag or marriage with a mortal as mithya
bhakti a path:
in society but outside history. or useless and illusory:
Terokoi nahi rokanhaar,magan hui Mi;a
Within the ideologies of service and Mhmhi jhuthe ham hi jhuthe jhutha hai chali
suhaag, the realmsof domestic service,ser- sab sansaara Laaj saram kul ki marjaada,sir se door
vice to the state, and service to god are Stri purush ke sambandh jhuthe, to kari
already bonded. The smritis when desired phuthya haiya tumhaara Maan apmaan dou ghar patke, niksi hu
offer timely and notableassistance.Kinship, Mhmhi kaho ardhanghahamaari,hamku gyan gali
the state, the souls of the servant,wife, and lagaayo kaara Unchi atariya laal kivariya, nirgun sej
widow, belong to an indivisiblerealm, have Koti brahmandme vyapyarahiyo hai so bicchi (BM: 56).
a single future destiny. nij var hamaara'7 Female renunciationfinds no place in the

Economic and Political Weekly July 7, 1990 1467


smritis (travel for religious reasons and leaving home? Did she turn to mendicancy moralpowerin the name of god. Her bhakti
pilgrimage are expressly forbidden to only because she was rejected by hei natal is at once a principle of consonance and of
women20 except in two paradoxical ways, and maritalfamily?Did she then haveto 'fit' discord. Mira disengages herself from a
First, the austerity of the last two renun- into a sanctionedmodel of sainthoodsimply social order she has understood, some of
ciatory stages of a householder'slife are no as a vulnerable woman seeking a form of whose oppressionsshe has grasped, without
different in principle from a widow's life. security? Were her bhakti and the reputa- disarticulating its order of reality. At this
However,these stages, unlike widowhood, tion of celibacy maintained as defensive level her metaphors retain an inner cpr-
are a product of male volition. The shields in the absence of patriarchalprotec- respondencewith-thesocial order.The rela-
grahasthaashramof a woman simply ends tion? Did the very fact of lacking the socio- tion of the female subjectto the feudalpoli-
on her husband'sdeath. Then a 'voluntary' political guarantee that a family provides ty, resisted in practice, is remade as
obedienceto cpstom is exhorted.The upper necessitatebelonging to god? Once outside metaphor.Could she havedisarticulatedthis
caste widow should be an austererenouncer, the system of familial protections and orderin its entiretyand remainedintelligible
she must emaciate her body, and live volun- obligations what other choices existed ? or been allowed to exist?
tarily on flowers, roots etc (MDS: 135). Se- Mira'ssongs oscillate between a recogni- What is the nature of her asceticism, of
cond, because renunciation so utterly con- tion of her 'inevitable'destinyand a celebra- the claimsshe makesin the name of austerity
tradictswifehood and domesticsurveillance, tiori of her choice: and in the name of maya?
it is only permissibleunderduress(and that Maata chhoripita chhore,chhoresage soi The inequitable ground of ascetic
too only in some dharmashastras),for an Sadha sang baith baith lok laaj khoi.. widowhood is generalised to extend to
abandoned woman or a widow.21 In some Ab to baat phail gayi, jaanai sab koi everyone regardlessof gender and marital
sense then the absorption of the widow in- Daasi Miralal girdharhoni so hoi (B: 139) status, and this along with the definition of
to the renunciatorvmode is both acceptable Mai ri mein to liyo gobindo m-! povertybeginsto composethe essenceof the
and threatening (it requires for some . . . liyori taraaju tol true bhakta or devotee. The devotee is
biographersthe sanction of a Tulsidas!).So ... liyori aankhi khol (BM: 71) privileged precisely because he/she has no
the same 'components'which makeMiraan In either case her vuluicrabilitynever socially recognisedprivilege,and is already
object of familial persecution (P: 171-73) ceases. Indeedorality may well be a domain accustomedto subjection.Miradescribesthe
also ensurea wider social legitimacyfor her where assertiveness accentuates personal this-worldly as illusory, maya:
enterprise.Like many other renouncersshe risk. The acquiescenceof the listenerhas to Yosansaar sakal jag jhutho (BM: 68)
breakswith 'outer','ephemeral'social systems be sought and established: it cannot be All the wealthand ornamentsof the world
of kinship and political power only to guaranteed. Choices are explained and are ephemeral,
rejointhe communityin another capacity- dramatised,public opinion is taken into ac- truth lies only in devotion to god (B: 114)
as critic and commentator. Moral authori- count. Mira repeatedlydescrtbesherscefas Jhootha manik motiya ri jhothi jag mag
ty in the high Hindu traditions is usually a mad, is acutely and defiantly conscious of joti
product of control over sensuous gratifica- how she is perceived: Jhootha sab aabhushanaari saanchipiya
tion (MDS: 153);Mira'smoralauthorityalso Piv karan bauri bhai, jyu kaathhi ghun ji re poli
partly depends on her austerity.If celibacy khai (BM: 76) Jhootha paat patambara re jhootha
betokensan inner spiritualstate, then the re- Ranaji mujhe yeh badnaami lage meethi dikhni cheer
nouncer must melt the divide between the Koi nindo koi vindo mein to chalungi Saanchipiyaji ri goodrija me nirmalrahe
inner and the outer, between essence and chaa; anuthi (P: 81) sareer (B: 167)
behaviour. Koi kahe Mira bahi baavri, koi kahe kul Woo poverty. It is the great matchmaker
The degree of 'real' choice available to naasi (P: 91 B: 164) between you and god (B: 124)
Mira is unclear. Did she reject the court or Mira baat nahin jag chhani (P: 175) All "externalfinery" "rubiesand pearls"
Lok kutumbibarajibarajhi, batiyakahat and "bondage to the world" are "false";
was she houndedout? The songs sometimes
present Mira'schoice of Krishna as a pro banai (BM: 58) "worldlycomfort" is an "illusion"and "the
duct of her own will. In one song she resists Durjin log maari ninda karechhe (B: 172) world is a deceit and a delusion,/ or simply
Log kahai Mira bhai. baavri, nyaat a dream"(DP: 44, 27, 77, 106, 116, 194, 87,
the persuasionof her-brother-in-lawto give
(relatives) kahai kulnaasi re (BM: 60) 128). Mira conflates actual poverty with
up wanderingin the company of saints: it
destroysthe honour and reputeof the family Mira may havechosen to breakthe feudal poverty as a renunciatory state of mind
(Kulko daag lagai chai bhabhinindaho rahi relation, she may have beenforcedto break (Karnafakeeriphir kya dilgiri,sadaa magan
me rahna ji, B: 174). As princess turned
bhaari), a woman from such a family de- with it or she may even have felt herself
means it by dancing in public (Bada ghar broken by it. Yet if the feudal relation ascetic,povertyfor heris a willedstatewhich
in her personal practice, in some by shearing away earthly desire is more
the janam liyo chai naacho de de laarO),so. crumbles receptiveto the divine, indeed such poverty
she must returnto the palace,to her fine or- ways her songs recoverit both figuratively
is a mode of access to the divine (Hasti ne
namentsand her husband.Mirarefuses,the and as ideality and so recompose its ever-
sadhus and sants are now her family: present 'necessity' as choice. This recom- ghora maal khazaana kaai na ave saath,
position is not merely an ideological P: 117). Her gesture creates a productive
Rana ne samajhavo javo mai to baat na manoeuvre-it genuinely effects a de- disturbancein a birthbound hierarchy,of-
maani naturalisationof 'necessity,and enablesher fers an element of control over cir-
Mira ke prabhu Girdhar naagar santa rejectionof the domestic. It does, however, cumstances, and eventuallyperhaps even a
haath bikaani (P: 175-77) make Mira'siconic image problematic.The sourceof alternate,extra-institutionalmoral
She reiteratesher choice whateverthe cost image returns to challenge and reworkthe authority.23Further, in Mira's composi-
Sadhu sangati kari harfsukh layu,jag su character of her personal rebellion. It is tions, maya specifically designates a set of
door rahu religiousbelief which empowersMira;both familial and patriarchal ctaims-of hus-
Tanman dhanjaavo bhali mero sees lahu her sense of selfhood and her violation of band, mother, father,brother,kin and clan
(BM: 64) man-madecustom emergefrom her convic- (BM:7f,68)-which are describedas illusory
At other times her bhakti seems to be im- tion of her subjectionto god and her dedica- (B:172),ephemeral (Maat pita sut kutumb
pelled by helplessness, by persecutioneven tion to a 'higher' cause. The series of op- kabeela, toot gya jyu taaga BM: 51),
by the women; she has no otber "true positions offered to hierarchyare both made materialisticand self-interested( sab matlab
relativeor friend,/Thewhole worldhas turn- possible and undone by the fact that as a ke garji BM: 56). Both her natal and marital
ed against me". (DP: 136)22 female subject Mira takes recourse to the family (Jaaun na pihar jaaun na saasar
Did the refusal to.consummate her mar- highest point-god-within the same P: 139)-primarily constitute the falseness
riage set up a whole logic which~resultedin patriarchal structure. She can only claim of the world.

1468 Economic and Political Weekly July 7, 1990


And yet it is necessary to see Mira's tion as no morethanthe conscienceof ruling the way it regulates relationships between
languageas amenableto maintainingstatius groups. Or it can turn the existing realityof men and women, and the way the 'private'
quo. If the absence of economic in- the dominatedinto the desiredrealityof the is structuredby and into the publicdomain.
dependence is transformedinto the renun- renouncern Her choice of Krishna as the object of
ciationof materialdesire,then doesn'tMira's As a renouncerMiraestablishesa distance worship and -devotion is both ironic and
rebellion confirm the power of the famuily with daily integrativesystems of inequalitv complex.Krishnais not simplya monarchic,
and feudal state which can only be in order to open them to reflection or to patriarchalgod like the maryadapurushot-
abnegated but not changed? What does represent themnas petty. And yet in order to tam Ram. He has two distinct aspects
asceticismimply for a widow who can claim do so 'she affirms at figuirative and (though one may be more prominentin cer-
maintenancebut has no inalienableright to metaphysicallevels. some of the structured tain traditions), and there is an implicit
propertyor directaccess to political power? relatioilsof collectivepowerand some of the structuralrelation between the two. To put
Is she not deciding to forego what she can- very principlesof inequalitywhich underlie it crudely, he is both pastoral cowherd-
not easily have?-and that too undershelter these systems. Renunciationhere has an in- peasant and prince-proprietor.
of a fairlygeneralisedmetaphysicof renoun- escapable sociality: throuigh redescribing The first aspect of Krishnais structured
cing maya. A metaphysic emerges fromiithe povertyand geindei-(as I shall liseuss later) around his reciprocity and negligence of
constriction and tyrannies of a social tfor- in ways which carrytirern well bevo(idtheir social propriety. As the 'sinful' cowherd
mation, occupies relationships of ideality, ascriptive functions imlto t0e figurative- lover towardswhom all longing is directed,
alterity,and often structuralsimilarity with metaphysicaldon -uin,it reworksexistingin- he invokesand receivesunabashedpleasure,
it. Once it emergesa metaphysic-appearsto equities into hightertevelsgovernedby faith. with intermittent reciprocity, in his illicit
assume an ideality arid to acquire an When this meraphvsicis al15othe groundof pastoralfrolicswith the gopis in Vrindavan.
autonomy: this in fact facilitates art il- the challente toeud I h a and patriar- He not only himself breaks the norms of
strumentalityof a differentQ order siftl. C is cly tlhiei sonim qic ku rernairi.D)oes niot mnarriage-Radha is married ini some
always intersectedby other discturses and Mira continue tsn hare the donminant Vaisnav traditions-but Krishnabhakti
insertedinto a rangeof social practices.I hus representation.s of the isibic and inivisible becomesthe occasion for womento trespass
the metaphysical core of NIira'shhakA is w4,orld? Do faith and mnc;aphvsic ab,orb and norms, includingthose of conjugal fidelity.
labile and abstract enough to pro tide a detlect critiqueor du-e :rintqueretirone and His relation with the gopis can be non-
mediumfor unarticulatedlLumanpossibility relocate meta physic? hierarchical,non-procreative, disinterestedin
(moksha), for speculation on the niattireot Tthere cart sarccivy h" an adecluate textuial maintainingsocial order,and unlikethe con-
being and the pressureof niortalitV, as wetli answer to tlnese questiotnls. Mira relinquishes jugal relation, can exist in and for itself-
as a mediuimfor the formation of an 'timen her oWnI ca<te and class status, gives up the not as the 'fruit' of action but as action
life' or 'sensibility'.And vet beitig labile and benefits of princely power along with the itself. Not only is Krishnasympatheticto the
abstract it is sinultaneously open to re- perilous niornisof tuppercaste w-idowhood, 'feminine' he can at times be subject to it.
interpretation,to caste, class or patriarchal and contsorts with lower caste tmen and Bengal Vaisnavbhakti blurs the distinction
interest and to political use. somnen.She hnada foliowing ainong lower between god and devotee and heightens
deatlhand maya challenge caste men and wormenboth during and after reciprocity: the jiva is a part of the
The belief that her- lifetime. Thlough her compositions dc Bhagawat, and so shares in the quality of
all is a staple of the metaphysicof the high not enunciate it, her critiqueof wealth,when belovedness.Worshipis satisfying for both
Hindu tradition. Like many other saints, combined with her
personal practice, may
Mira's bhakti reinterprets mzaya.24 From have had a different ideological location. goe and devotee. Krishnacannot taste his
own beauty and sweetnessunless it is objec-
being a cosmic illusionemanatingfromcrea- After tified in anotherpersontowardwhom he can
41l, the wealth to be rejected in this
tion or from god, it becomes more a set of context is accumutlated by merchants, direct his love.27 Finally, he has powers
conventional beliefs and attitudes, familial uisurers,drawnfromithe ostcntatiousexpen- superior and yet analogous to those of
and patriarchal encumbrances, which pre-
diture of tne landc;wninggIoups, and from humans and is open to direct appeal.
vent the meeting between the self and god. the scantily remu-erated labour and peren- The other aspect of Krishnais structured
In general,maya is an impedimentto bhakti
nial indebtedness of peasants anid artisans. aroundhis political powerand pragmatism.
in the shape of characteristicsins-kaam The different potentials for appropriation He is the warrior-hero:the vir engaged in
(desire),krodh(anger),lobh(greed),abhimaan could be surmised from the elite and popular continuouswarfarein orderto conquerevil,
(pride), mad (intoxication) and moh (delu- versions of Mira's legend and songs through the feudal ruler who urges Arjun to battle
sion)-which corruptthe man or heart(BM: time, but that is too vast a search to be in the Bhagwad Gita, the prince and
77, 81). Maya becomes a condensedsign for undertaken here. husband of the Bhagwad Purana who has
invoking a moral order based on moral sixteen thousand one hundred wives and
worth ratherthan on social institutionsand IV eight queens, loves them all and neglects
inheritedprivilege. Significantly,it is not a none. He is representedas the object of
moral order which can be situated in in- Choosing Krishna
orthodox wifely fidelity-eight queens are
dividualvolition'alone. Maya as an obstruc- Mira's relationship to patriarchy is far immolated on his death.28 The courtly
tion cannot be removedby the sheer force from simple.And it is her songs, more than Krishna lives in Dwarka, indeed Dwarka
of the devotee'swill atld personal insight;25 her life which complicate the refractionof becomes a "synonym for his absence" for
it can only be withdrawn by Krishna, wifehood and widowhood. Her songs, like the lovetorn gopis and for Radha;:2 it
through the devotee'spleas for deliverance: those of manywomensaints,arelargelycon- representsthe difficulty of reconciling the
Hari hitu se het kar, sansaar aasa tyaag cerned with love or madhurya bhava- peasant with the prince. The pragmatic
Das Mira lal girdhar,sahaj kar bairaag perceivedas the highest and most encom- causalityof the actions of Krishnathe ruler
(BM:77) is the obverse of his 'aimless' loveplky,his
passing - relion.26 Mira's location as a
Mira only leaves home at Krishna'scom- Rajputwoman is cruicialhere since 'love' is self-delighting lila in Vrindavan(DP: J3).
mand (Jogiya ne kahiyo re aades P: 83). scarcelya privatematterthough it may ap- The secondaspectof Krishnais not verydif-
Even this re-interpretedmaya, despite its pear to be so. The notion of personal (not ferent from that of the Rajput military
critical edge is no less a metaphysic,which individual) devotion to a reciprocating aristocracy,of which in turn Mira'sbhakti
may look quite differentfrom differentparts husband-lovergatherspecialresonancesand is the 'other' face.
of the social hierarchy. The critique of inflections in a medieval Rajput court. It Mira'isdescription and designation of
wealth and power is expressed(ideological- becomes both responseand challengeto the Krishna varies. Sometimes he is a courtly
ly) in moral and metaphysicalrather than way marriage is institutionalised by a Krishna: "Girdhar nagar", "Dwarka ke
in political terms, and as such it may func- polygamous,expansive, mltary aristocracy, thakur",and "maharaj".She resentshis shift

Economic and Political Weekly July 7, 1990 1469


from Vrindavan to Dwarka (Pat pat And every morning will rise early Roughly the same set of activities are for-
Vrindavan dhoondyo... aap to jaye To have thy sight. biddento them, ostensiblybecausethesewill
Dwarka chhaye BM: 31) and "follows" his In the leafy lanes of Vrindavan cause their downfall (patan): recitingVedic
itinerary in her travels. Mostly he is the I will sing the deeds of Govind. mantras,going on pilgrimages,performing
cowherd lover, and she presents herself If I perform Thy service, austerities,renunciation,the fourth ashram
sometimes as a gopi or Radha. However I will have thy sight for reward. of sannyaas, etc.33In this literaturesocial-
both aspects of Krishnaenter into her con- Thy remembrancewill be my wages, ly prescribedroles are conjoined not only
figuration of god, husband and lover. The spirit of devotion my fief. with the essential nature of women and
Though Rajasthan has a significant poetic For which I have longed during many a sudras, but also with the very orderof crea-
tradition centred on the heroic courtly birth (DP: 97). tion. The desire to create and/or maintain
Ktishna (e g, Prithvi Rathaur's VeliKrisan Syam! mane chakar rakho ji, the subjection of women and sudras is
Rukmini),.broadlyspeaking, the emotional Girdharilal!chakar rakho ji fundamentallya desireto securecontrolover
contours of her bhakti are closer to Chakar reh su baag laga su, the means of reproductionand production
Chaitanya's Gaudiya Vaishnava school in nit uth darsan paasu (i e, labour)-and extendsto negotiatingthe
Bengal-firmly establishedin Vrindavanby Vrindavanki kunj galin me, ways in which they are to be represented.
the 16th century under the Goswamis. The teri lila gaasu Subalternity seems to acquire a 3pecial
Goswamis use the analogy between human Chakri me darsan paau, value in some strandsof Vaishnavism.The
love and divine love comparinglove for god sumiran paau kharchi VishnuPurana, the BhagwadGita, and the
with a woman's yearning for her rover:the Bhav bhagati jagiri paau, Bhagwat Purana describe a Vaishnavism
enjoyment of god's nature occurs through teenu baata sarsi (B: 153). which marks the inclusion of women and
a bhakti expressed as rati (pleasure). Rup Tummere /hakur main teri das: (13:149). sudras as listeners to the stories and
Goswami-drawson the seculardefinition of Nor can Mira'ssongs be isolated from other teachingsof the epics and Puranas.34Here,
sringizrarasa, elevatesbhakti into a rasaand semanitichistoriesof bondage.The worddas simultaneouswith descriptionsof the sub-
gives madhura bhakti supreme status.30 emerged from Dasyu or non-Aryan, and jection of women and sudras and of their
Mira'sbhajansderivetheir emotional and came by early feudal times to mean house essential'fallen'nature,thereoccurs,inverse-
cultural power from the metaphoric use of servantor bondsman,sudra or low caste, as ly, a metaphoricalenrichmentand idealisa-'
the common analogies between god and well as retainer or serf.3' In medieval tion of subalternity.The Bhagwat Purana
master, god and lover, between earthly Rajasthanthe das or dasi was bought and (c 500-1000 AD) representswomen as' the
husbandas lord, master,and lover,between sold (eitherby himself/herselfor by others), distractingcreations of maya, to be shun-
soul and wife, between divine service and and bonded in perpetuity for generations ned by wise men and sages as impediments
wifely or domestic service,betweenthe bon- since his/her children were born as slaves. to devotion. The characteristicqualities of
dage of the soul to the god, the bondage of The chakar could be a servant a the lowestcastes are "absenceof cleanliness,
the wife to the husband and the servant to household or the client of a feudal patroni. falsehood, thieving, heterodoxy, want of
the master,and betweenthe spiritual'desire' faith, quarrelsomeness without a proper
Analogies and metaphorsof bondage are
of the soul and sensual desire. In her songs cause, strong lust, violent anger and in-
common, even generic, literary devices in
Krishna is the beloved (piv, pritam, piya, ordinate covetousness" (BhP: 5: 1948-49,
sajana), the husband-lover (saiya), the
bhakti compositions. However,they cannot
1993, 2013). And yet the ideal bhakt in the
bridegroom (yar, dulha), the husband be taken literally or 'accused' in the same Bhagwat Purana is the poor or low caste
way as prescriptivestatement and there is
(pati), the master(thakut),the protector,the man becausehe does not devotehis time and
in Mira's songs which works against
king (maharaj),and of coursegod (prabhu). much energy to the acquisition, protection and
them (as I shall discuss later). It might be
Mira is the eternal virgin (janam janam ki consumption of wealth, because he owns
helpful to look at the semantic history and
kunwaari), the bride (dulhan), the wife- neither possessions nor propertyto tie him
beloved separated from the husband-lover local context of her figurative modes. to the world, because he is by nature em-
(virhan), the servant (chakar), the maid- pathetic, free from arrogance,and conceit,
servantor slave (das,), the devotee(pujarin). V
humble, guileless, pure, both born to and
in
Miraglories single minded devotion(mere Different Modes of Bondage accustomed to service.35 Women and sudras
aasaa chitwani tqmri aur na dooj dor become the 'natural' constituency of
BM: 55), immersesherself in servitude,suf- Subordination becomes the figurative
Krishna,clubbedtogetherby the Bhagwat's
fering and in the vicissitudes of loving ground for transcendence in her bhakti thorough chastisement of the wealth, ig-
Krishna. resultingin a play with a rangeof meanings
norance,degeneracy,self-interest,and pride
At one level these metaphors of desire in the ideas of service, servitude, bondage of the uppercastes.Since the model bhakt
approximate the language of social and and domination, and raises its own set of is a renouncer,povertyand low caste can be
patriarchal subjection; and in a far more disturbances. Her metaphors acquire a read as a 'natural' freedom from maya
emphatic way as comparedto the composi- special resonancein the context of medieval (BhP: 5: 1901, 1921-23, 2031, 2062-63).
tions of earlier women bhakts like Rajasthan,the more so becausethey encap- Subalternityitself is endowed with inverse
Mahadeviyakka and Andal. The female sulate a long Vaishnav history of vesting powerby a personageno less than Krishna.
body appears to be publicly structuredby subalternitywith symbolic power. Krishnasays that he is under the control of
existing hierarchies. The pairingof women with sudras,which
his devotees who have "enthralledhim by
It He sold me into slavery, I would occurs in the Satapathabrahmana-on the theirdevotionevenas good wivesdo by their
acquiesce DP: 41) basisof both beingembodimentsof untruth,
devotion to virtuous husbands".36Such
Jaha baithavaitithi baithu, bechainto bik sin and darkness32- becomes more detail- power is in turn seen to be an effect of
jaun (B: 155). ed and frequentin the smritis(MDS:43, 93,
133) and puranas, texts which mark and kaliyug.
But Mira is sold into Hari's hands, probablynegotiatethe shift from a nomadic, The cyclic time scale of the four yugas
His slave for birth upon birth. (DP: 53). pastoral to an agrarian economy, In the entersinto a curious relation with subalter-
She has. sold herself in slavery to Him Manusmriti,the essential wicked or servile nity. The Brahmanda Purana (c 300-1000
Without accepting a fee (DP: 58). natureof women and sudrasis preordained, AD) describes the first utopian krtayug as
0 Girdhari Lal, keep me as thy servant theirlowly birthis a resultof sins in previous a nomadic world markedby the absence of
Keep me as thy servant. births (MDS: 230-33, 168). This in turn inequalityor any form of stratification,and'
I will remain thy faithful servant, necessitatesa low ritual status for both and by the perfect presence of knowledge and
Will plant thy garden the constructionof rules for their exclusion. dharma~Peoplearedevoidof desireandpro-

1470 Economic and Political Weekly July 7,. 1990


geny are born without copulation through The rule of patriarchyis at its most in- to god entwine the feudal state and its sub-
mentalconception. It appearsto be utopian secure and women are completely fallen in jects into an indispensable spiritual
precisely because of the absence of caste, kaliyug,worsethanthey haveeverbeen.And economy.The common analogybetweenthe
property, sexuality and consequently any yet, paradoxically, by simply subjecting- attributesand rights of a king and of god43
form of patriarchy!The second tretayugsees themselves to patriarchythey can achieve is complementedin political thought by the
the establishmentof settled cultivation and salvation easier than ever before. Impedi- representationof monarchyon the patriar-
agriculture,kingship, law and order, caste ment can become advantage through chal domestic model wherein "the subjects
distinction and copulation. In the third obedience-a "woman has only to honour are wife to a king; they are like crop to be
dwaparyug, the four stages of life, the her husbandin act, thought, and speech"'.4 brought up for grain"." The family is
classification of castes, and the clear-cut Social and patriarchalsubjectionconstitute metaphorically interchangeable with the
principles of dharma are all being the path to salvation-which amounts to state, the husband with the king. The state
adulterated,thus layingthe basis for kaliyug. staying in one's ordained place. Here a incorporatesthe (willing)subject,suggesting
The absence of religious homogeneity and triadicrelationshipbetweengod, the upper- the desiredideal relationof the (female) in-
the contradictoryinterpretationsof ancient caste male and the woman or sudra is dividualto family and state. Herethe incor-
texts are singled out as the cause of corrup- establishedin which the uppercastemale is poration of the subjectinto the body of the
tion. Thoughkaliyugis projectedas a future an intermediary.The dominance of upper- social plenum represented by the king
dystopia, it is the description of a present caste men is presented ideologically-they becomes the deep structuralform of all be-
made dissatisfactory for some by the can be perceivedalmost as doing a kindness ing. Mira does not alter such a positioning
religious and social dissent of others.37 to/for women and sudrasby providingthem of the subject; a certain ontology remains
In the Vishnupurana(c 100-500AD), the with easy avenues of (service) salvation. intact. The fact that her bhakti remains
Bhagwat Purana and the Brahmanda, Whether or not kaliylug is accurately groundedin such ideality may in part be a
Purana kaliyug is marked by mortality, describingthe present,it expressesfear and reflectionof her own classlocation. Though
natural calamities, the inevitability of evil anxiety about preservinig desired social the analogyhas a certaintransparencyat the
and the reversal or degeneration of the hierarchies. The parallel idealisation of level of ruling class desire, and naturalises
political, the social, the legal and the caste subalternityatid the new and 'easy' modes the continuumof woman-devotee-husband-
order: the rule of wealth, the misuse of of salvation opened to the subalternare an king-god, its relation to social practice is
religious texts, the rise of heretics and of inversion of the fear of the empowerment bound to be diverseand complex.It maynot
enemies of the system of varnashram- of womenand sudras-which in a contradic- coincide with the aspirations of the ruled
dharma, the adoption of heretical(i e, non- tory way also makes a new space for them even when women and other subjects
brahmanical)doctrine by sudras, a respect in salvationschema. Ironically,these schema themselvesshare these representationsand
for heresy, and the rule of the low-born. makeft possible for womenand lowercastes assent to characteristicsascribed to them.
Kaliyug is most notable for the breakdown not oply to share these representations,but Thus the divine or 'higher'power to which
of patriarchal norms: the failure of mar- to use the kaliyug time scale for self- N'Iiraaffirms her subjecthood, may be
riages to conform to ritual, marriages for empowerment. It is in this contradictory analogousto the king but it can arsoin turn
the sake of mutual liking or mutual cousent space for subalternity-in which caste and incorporateboth king and state. Invisible
ratherthan family pedigreeor social status, patriar-chalorders are being obsessively power may even be a handy recoursein the
the disregardof laws regulatingthe conduct u:o2tdein the face of 'resisting'sudras and face of the hostile, visible power of the
of husband and wife, the collapse of the woruC.Oand which simultaneously offers rana----whetherhe is the husbandor the king.
extended family, the desertion by wives of thenT somel- '-e of control over their The rana is addressed with defiance:
those husbandswho havelost theirproperty, salvation-that ,-ira's metaphors are Ranaji tmein to sanvre -e rang raati
the general valorisation of sexual pleasure, constituted. (BM: 79)
and the immhoralityof women. The innate If the triad of servant/wife- Ab nahin maanu Rana thaari,
faults of women are enhanced: they are master/husband-god accrues one set of mein bar payo Girdhari(B: 184/P: 125).
selfish, fickle, dishonest,wanton,shameless, meanings from texts which belong to an He is placed in open combat with Krishna,
dissolute, short, greedy, given to harsh earliersocial formationevolvingan orderof the poison he sends is turned into nectar
speech, theft, fraud and daredevilry,dis- caste and gender at a time when a state and with Krishna'sbenediction(BM: 75, p 157);
obedient to husbands and parents, fond of classes are emerging (meanings which hjs disfavour is as nothing compared to
pleasure.In generalunchaste,they also begin Mirabai'ssongs duplicate and displace), it Krishna's disfavour (Raja ruthai nagri raakai
to sell theirbodies. The faithfulwivesdo not acquiresanother specific set of meaningsin hariroothyakahajaanaBM:75). It is finally
survive. By the end of the yug women out- the medieval Rajput state. The symbolic the Rana who is dispensable: Thmjaavo
number men.38 This dystopia virtually locatiofi of subalternityhere hinges on the ranagharapne meriterinahinsari (BM:56).
makes kaliyug a projectedembodiment of relation of the female subject to the state.
strisvabhavor the essential fallen natureof The manyhusbandswho mediatethe disper- VI
women. sion of the political power of the state The Female Subject
Conversely, in this Vaishnav literature throughintermediaryzamindariesor chief-
kaliyug is described as the best time to be taincies,and who mediatethe women'srela- The ideological and semantic accretions
born a human since Krishnamakes himself tion with king and god, correspond with of these analogues and metaphorsof bon-
much more accessibleto those human souls what in another context has been called the dage have gien them a 'determinate',readi-
who practisedevotion to him, and salvation "overallparcellisationof sovereigntybased ly paraphrasablemeaning. Though deeply
is attainablewith greatspeed simplythrough on the coincidenceof politicaland economic implicatedin them Mira'scompositions,do
singing his name and deeds.39Indeed.the relations of subordination/appropria- not merely replicate these meanings. The
redeeming properties of kaliyug consist in tion".42 The hierarchy obtaining within passionate intensity of the songs actively
the singujar blessedness of the lowest and marriage not only representsother social worksagainstand sometimesdisplacesthem
most subaltern-women and sudras-who hierarchiesin miniature,but also belongsto because the female is centrally a desiring
can now achieve religious merit with ease. a continuum of power relations in which subject. The smriti literatureacknowledges
In contrast to the enormous ritual labour power is serially distributed; patriarchal sexual desire but presents it as something
required of twice born men, women and practices can function ideologically not which must be regulatedfor both men and
sudras can attain god simply through per- merely in their own name but in the name womenwithinthe primarilyprocreativecon-
forming their duties and throughservice of of something else. jugal relation. The practices of Rajput
their husbands and twice born men The series of mirroringanalogical rela- polygamy regulate the sexual desire of
respectively.40 tionshipswhich extendfromlowliestservant women but allow men an insatiableappetite

Economic and Political Weekly July 7, 1990 1471


.nd accessto a potentiallyunlimitednumber irretrievablepublic exposureof her self and believer. Second, Mira's bhakti refixes a
of women. Mira's desire for Krishna is by body to the point which makes readmission feudalhierarchyevenas it carvesout a space
definition unregulated,unconnectedto pro- into the respectability of the family for her personal deviation from the social
creation. Though her songs bear the traces impossible-she is dancing in front of order.The space created by and for excep-
of an Advaitic nirgunabhakti in the asser- 'other' men/sadhus. tional women is restrictedspace and can be
tion of the identity of the individual soui Nit uth Hariji ke mandir jaasya, made to ratify the rule for ordinarywomen.
with god, she yearns more often to realise naacchya de de chhutki (BM: 72) Whatis the precisenatureof the gratifica-
such identity through union: Ram lane rangraachiRana tion available?In this space genderdivisions
Thou and I are one, like the sun and'its mein to sanvalia rang raachi re are generalised and dissolved even as they
heat MDP:80), Taal,pakhawaj, mirdang baaja are recreated.Firstly,the specificity of ser-
Jot me jot mila jaa (BM: 55) saadha aage naachi re vitude is dissolved into servitude as the
Let my light dissolve in your light Koi kahe Mira bhai baan-wri human condition, where even a ruler is no
(DP: 53, 80) koi madmaati re (pp: 167-69) more than a ruled, a servant before god.
Performanceis both jeopardy and ecstasy. Such servanthood provides unspeakable
Her Krishna is both present and absent.45 How does the personaldevotion and sen- relief, securityand intimacywith a god-who
Taken up with the physical beauty of suous desire as embodied in the 'subaltern' is addressedas tu. Secondly,the god created
Krishna she yearns for a sight or vision femalevoice correspondto and divergefrom in the same analogical continuum as
(darshan) of Krishna, a spiritual consum- the feudlalrelation, as it is expressedin the husband-king, is a god figured as involved
mationwhichis describederoticallyas a sen- prescriptive, perceptual and customary in productionand reproduction,as control-
suous union and sometimes attained(Bisari norms of a class? Though Mira appears in ling both the female body and the social
gayi dukh, nirakhipiya ku sufal manorath some waysto choose and advocatean ascetic body described as female. The undeniable
kaam BM: 55, and DP: 93-95). Her love is way of life, her bhajans are filled with sen- material reality of this femala-socialbody
an unquenchablethirst (taras,pyasi) which suous yearning. Indeed the renunciationof in turn confers a special reallty on this god
holds her captive (mohi), crazes her (prem worldlydesiresseermto give lie celibate Ra- objectified as human. The metaphor
divani), drives her astray,absorbs her com- jput princess access to the language of sex- substantiatesgod, glories in its own creative
pletelylike a madness (bhaktibhav me mast ual desire.Mira'spersonalpracticeand songs power, creates female desire as partially
doltl), makes her oblivious to all else (aakul disturbthe model of the good wife and the self-sublimating.
vyakulphiru rain din). She dressesin bridal good widowbut theyalso articulatethe good Mor mugat pitaabar sohe,
clothes, makes a bed of flowers and awaits wife and the good widow,or more accurately gal baijanti mala
Krishna or is seated in her bridegroom's the 'wifely'voice, within another set of rela- Vrindavanme dhenu charaaye,
house "arrayedin finery and quite without tionships. In a sense it is the femalkvoice- mohan murli wala
shame' Or else she is a woman separated with its material basis in patriarchal Hare hare nit baag lagaau,
from her lover sitting all night in her palace subjugation-which providesthe emotional bich bich raakhu kyaari
of pleasure threading tears-pearls into a forceof self abasementand willedservitude. Sanvariya ke darsan paau,
necklace (virhan baithi rang mahal me, The sensuous symbolism and performative pahar kusummi saari (BM: 153/DP: 97)
motian ki larpove), her bridal bed is empty mode transgressthe austereconventions of Baso mere nainan me nandlal
(sooni sej) or exists in anotherworld (gagan uppercaste widowhood, but what occurs at Mohini murat, sanvri surat,
mandal par sej piya ki). She anticipates a the same time is that her songs re-evolvea naina bane bisaal
midnight tryst on the bank of the river of new relationof bondagewhichis now replete Adhar sudha ras murli raajat, ur baijanti
love (aadhi raatprabhu darsan dinhe, prem with desire. Through the infusion of such maal (B: 142)
nadi ke teera). She has spent a whole night desire the feudal relation becomes at once Suni ho mein hari aavan ki avaaj (B: 148)
waiting for her beloved (piya ke panth the political relation, the domestic relation, Thirdly,the generosity of willed servitude,
niharat sigri rain vihani ho). Her chest the eroticrelation,and the spiritualrelation, in returnfor acceptingboth his arbitrariness
heavesat the sound of his name (sabadsunat knottedinto the same vocabulary,intricating and the unequal relation, endows the lord
meri chatiya kampe), without him her body various modes of desire and dominance. with a complementarymunificence,indeed
is lean and anguished (ang cheen vyakul With fairly contradictory results. createsa notion of lordlinesswhich mustres-
bhaye), she longs for physicalunion (ang se Indeed for Mira in her own life, the pond to the immeasurableand excessivepas-
ang lagavo) and her whole life passesin such "offer"of herself as "sacrifice"(DP: 84) or sion of the das/i with an illimitable excess
longing (DP: 96, 92, 36, 45, 46, 69, 61, 97, of willed servitudeto Krishnais the (ironic) of reward(salvation).
114; B: 83, 144, 60, 141, 94, 153). grounidof agency, i e, an altered personal Jo pahiravai soi pahiru, jo de soi
Significantly this desire is expressedand practice. A language which makes the khaau...
accompaniedby performancethroughwhich patriarchalsubstratumof customarysubjec- Mira ke prabhu girdharnagar baar baar
she constitutes herself as a defiant self- tion simultaneously the matrix of agency bali jaau (B: 155)
describing subject of Krishna (BM: 80), in and transcendence may achieve quite Precisely as only the unquestioning obe-
some ways more a boldly attractive remarkableshifts of emphasis, dislocations dience of the wife can complete the patriar-
courtesanthan a dutiful wife, more immoral and create new, contradictory spaces, even chal power of the husband, so only unstin-
than 'moral' as it remainsamenableto maintainingstatus ting devotioncan establishand completethe
Mein girdhar aage naacchoongi quo. munificenceof god. In effect, such servitude
Naach naach piv rasik rijhaau, What is this new space?First, it is a space whethersocial or patriarchaldemands and
premi jan ko jaanchoongi which is artificially wrenched from the assumesreciprocity,claims its rightsevenas
Prem preet ke baandh ghunghru materialdomain: in it the relationsbetween it acknowledges evu.ty.
surat ki kacchwi kaacchoongi wife-husband, servant-master,devotee-god
Lok laaj kul ki marjaada, are readas affectiveand non-economic.The 7Tmrekaaran sab sukh chorrya,
ya mein ek na raakhoongi poor, whether women or sudras, are rich in ab mohi kyu tarsaavau hau...
Piy ke palanga jaa paudungi, affective worship;46their affective power is Ab chhorat nahi bane prabhuji,
Mira hari rang raachoongi (BM: 73). only strengthenedby the fact that the path hans kar turat bulaavau hau (B: 150)
This performance itself is a quasi- of bhakti is a choice. Because submissionis It is obedient not to the mere letter of
metaphorical sign of abandon (Tan karu voluntary, and not merely a duty, social feudalism but to its 'spirit',a spirit of such
taal, man karu dhapli BM: 8; Pag ghunghru behaviours of enforced dependence are potential magnificence that all social prac-
baandh Mira naachi re BM: 72), and of an displaced and become the qualities of the tice must cave in by comparison, all earthly

1472 Economic and Political Weekly July 7, 1990


servitudeincludingthe domesticbe rendered function of, nor the modality of an in- coded as stridharma, and of female desire
paltry,all human love faced with a sense of dividualidentityand the processesof its for- coded as strisvabhav, are selectively
inadequacy, a lack of plenitude, and mation. The space which the body occupies combined, internalised and recast as a
'recognised'as mere bondage without pro- is the simultaneousspace of this world (the femaleness-even as the actual physical/
mise of release.The materialconditions of body as a site for social knowledge and its corporeal subjection of women within the
ordinaryexistenceare at once devaluedand reproduction)and a world other than this. family is relegated. This new ennobling
transfigured(but not necessarilychanged). The female body is the site of passion, suf- femaleness is in striking contrast to the
It is in this sense that Mirabai, by fering,the punitiveoperationsof patriarchal 'negative' femaleness essentialised as in-
replenishingthe reciprocitystructuredinto power,but it is also the site of mortalityand satiable, immoral strisvabhav:strisvabhav
an 'ideal' feudal relation, replenishes that diffuse unnameable desire. Desire too is may be incorporatedas a generalisedfemale
relation,turns it into an unimaginedexcess. structuredboth in and across the world; it sexualdesireand its 'excessiveness'garnered
The transcendenceeffected is not a rising is both with and without purpose, rapture as intensity,but it is relegatedas a charac-
abovethe feudalrelationor an 'escape'from with and without a secular teleology. The terisation of women or womanhood.
it, rathera transcendencewithinthe relation heterogeneous modes and operations of In some sense Mira'sbhakti is transfor-
itself which is both marked and enlarged, patriarchyare at once embodied and cast ming some of the structuresof social con-
which is both measured and made elastic aside in the plenitude and diffuseness of trol prescribed in Hindu orthodoxy into
and which is enmeshedin the actual texture such desire. The body, always,inseparable intimate, internalisedstructuresof feeling.
of living.The 'self-transcending'feudalrela- from its social meanings, can scarcely be The domain of ethics, and of paap-punya
tion so constructedaspiresto humanisethe separatedfrom the 'soul' in Mira'sbhakti. (part of the karmic ledger of maya) shifts
actual feudal relation and makes it The spiritual economy of Mira's bhakti from obedience and transgressionof law,
inhabitable. may in many ways be homologous with the and becomesfundamentallya matterof how
This new space created remains a con- domestic and political economy of the a person stands .with god- an 'internal'
tradictorysite becausethough.it may set out Rajput state but it is structuredas 'uncon- matter.Similarly,the uitimatedisplacement
to dissolvegenderdistinctionsit remainspre- tainable',as excessive. of the husbandby god shifts the domain of
eminentlya genderedterrain.Visiblemodes To what else may such excess be attri- female purity;48However,this displacement
of humandesireand patriarchaldominance buted?Mira'sbhaktibelongs to a prolonged simultaneouslyassists in the refinementand
coincideor overlapwith but also contradict historicalmomentand marksan exhilarating internalisation of these very structuresof,
'higher'modes of spiritualdesireand divine shift in fhe rel'ationbetweenlaw, subjection control. Service, discardedas a set of rules
dominance. One contradiction occurs and sexual desire. In the Rigvedic and and stricturesbecomes a complex bhava, an
becausespiritualdesireis open to individual Brahmana myths desire is representedas emotional configuration. A bhava which
shaping or remaking depending on the either a 'natural' part of creation or as comes to be defined in part through her
devotee'swill, and also open to excessive disruptive.By the time of the smritis, law refusal to serve either her husband or his
investmentwithout fear of human betrayal making is itself part of an obsessive con- memorycan become a freefloating emotion
or the frauds of maya. There is a second struction of theoreticalmodels for control, which can be rejoined to the institution of
contradiction between a 'wifely' voice of social orderand salvation..It is now seen as marriageas devotion to the husband. This
devotionand between actual wifely service. necessary to contain female sexual desire bhava can be used conservativelyto assist
Here the feminisation of devotion could wi'thin evolving orders of caste and eitherin 'spiritualising'marriageor in recon-
potentially be used as a new spiritual patriarchythrough prescribedmethods of ciling 'love' with marital duty.
sanction for patriarchy, in which the daily surveillance,and throughrewardsand However,though the female devotional
languageof a woman would assist in the in- punishmentsin this world and the next. It voicemay be open to suchsimplificationand
corporation of domestic bondage into a is seen as sinful for womento havetheirown ideologicaluse, it is far fromsimple in itself.
celestial code. At this level Mira's bhajans desires and these are explicitly opposed to Its very historicalexistenceis complex. The
rebelliously distance and 'transcend' their dharma(MDS: 231, 234). At the same orthodox triadic relation between wife,
oppressiveinstitutionsas mundane,illusory time woman is cast as the eternal temptress husband and god, is broken. The wife no
maya even as they refine and -replicate -the obj6ct and very form of sexual desire longer gets her salvation through her
unegalitarian feudal relations inside the who can ensnarethe wisest and most ascetic 'godlike' husband as in the Manusmriti
languageof rebellion.Third,when a gender of men (MDS:42). Methodsof containment (MDS: 135). Rhakti offers direct salvation,
ideology governing familial and political and of extractingobedienceand virtue from the intermediaryposition now belongs not
structures is inserted into sensuous and wives are coded as stridharma while the to the human husbandor the Brahminpriest
mysticalexperience,then these structuresare essentiallydisruptivenatureof femaledesire, but to the female devotional voice. This
sacralisedand convertedinto transcendent a part of their essential wickedness,is cod- voice, obsessed with the relationships
modesof fulfilment;however,in a contradic- ed as strisvabhav.47Both exist unreconciled between men and women, continues to
tory way, these very structures are in the smritis and the epics. The subjection negotiate the triadic relationship-it
simultaneously marked as the inevitable of women, and the control of sexual desire simultaneously transgresses and refor-
ground of transcendence, so effecting a is to be effected externallythrough a com- mulates patriarchalideologies.
dispersalof desire across a whole range of bination of Vedicand customary laws. The Marriage, and more generally, licit and
social relationships. Finally, the religious Manusmriti does, however, concede that illicit relations between men and women
vocabularyitself effects a further dispersal some degreeof internalisationor self-control come in handy as metaphorical and
of desire which refuses patriarchal con- is necessaryto keep a wife good: she'must analogicalmodes to develop,expressand ap-
solidationeven as its language consents to be guardednot only by the family/husband prehendthe relationshipbetweenbhakt ind
it. The spiritual can hold the domestic to but also by her own "good inclinations" god. In the process the social relationships
ransom. (MDS: 232). and moralitieson which these are based Arc
In these contradictory spaces, Mira's The female devotional voice of Mira's also opened up to reflection, to either criti-
bhaktiis able to establish an irregularrela- bhakti makes subjection the ground of a que or reaffirmation.The relationshipof the
tion betweena woman'sduty and a woman's female desire which now encompasses and female devotional voice to patriarchalin-
desire-they may be either aligned or dis- extendsbeyond the sexual-it can now take stitutiqnssuch as marriageis at once a rela-
junct, they may or may not be compatible. desireand subjection,femalenessand moral tionship to an actual institution and to an
Sexualityand desireare both embeddedand duty in its stride.Theseareno longerparallel ideologicallyfraughtconceptualabstraction
expressedwithin an ensembleof genderand and unreconciled. Desire and morality are made up of intimacy, subservience and
class relationsand in particularnotions of remadetogether in a new series of relation- transcendence.
self and time. But sexuality here is not. a ships. The*structures of social subjection Exactlyas the prmnaryconcernnow is the

&onomic and Political Weekly July 7, 1990 1473


xtureof the relationshipbetween god and of Bombay, 1985, p 181). Irfan Habib
bhakt, so too one of the chief addressee's locates the emergence of monotheistic cults
is the heartor man of the bhakt, i e, his/her in.caste mobility, and in the expansion of BALLARPURINDUSTRIES
affective powers. It is this man which is to artisan groups to service the ruling classes LIMITED
contestexternalsocial, juridical,religiousin- in the 13th and 14th century, as well as to
stitutions and their norms. The man is an the reformation of cattle tending pastoral N O T IC E
Jats into a peasant group due to the expan-
active worshipper at god's feet: once it is sion of settled agriculture between the 11th It is hereby notified for the information of the public
freed from social constraint and opened to and 15th century ("The Historical Back- that Ballarpur Industries JLimitedproposes to make an
god, the path is cleared.There is inexpressi- ground of Popular Monothr stic Move-
application to the Central Government in the Depart-
ment of Company Affairs, New Delhi under sub-
ble joy for Mira when her heart, purifiedby ments of the 15th-17th centuries", section (2) of Section 22 of the Monopolies and
Krishna, becomes his home. mimeograph, 1965). Harbans Mukhia Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969, for approval to
Ghatke sab pat khol diye hai, isolates the conservatism of Dadu Dayal in the establishment of a new undertaking/unit/division.
his use of the analogy between the divinity Brief particulars of the proposal are as
lok laaj sab daar ke (BM: 63) under 1. Name & address of the applicant BALLAR-
Man re, parasi hari ke charan (BM: 68) of the sovereign and the divinity of god LIMITED Office PO.
PUR INDUSTRIES (BILT),Regd.
Mero man laago hanisu, ab na rahungi ("The ideology of the Bhakti movement: the Ballarpur, Distt. Chandrapur, Maharashtra State. Head
atki (BM: 72) case of Dadu Dayal" in History and Office Thapar House, 124-Janpath, New
Hari jan dhobiya re, mail mana di dhoy Society: Essays in Honour of professor Delhi-1. 2. Capital structure of the applicant
Nihharranjan Ray, ed Debiprasad Chat- organisation Authorised Capital Rs. 25,00,00,000,
(B: 166). topadhyay Calcutta: K P Bagchi, 1976). Issued Capital Rs. 22,44,33,850, Subscribed & Paid-
Aere piya mere hrday basat hai up Capital Rs. 22,44,13,381. 3. Management struc-
Rani Vilas Sharma designates bhakti as a
yeh sukh kahkvona jaati (BM: 79). progressive anti-feudal manifestation of
ture of the applicant organisation indicating the
Raarli hoi ke kin 'rejaau, names of the directors, inciudlng managing whole-
class conflict (Sahitya Sthayi Mulya aur time director(s) and manager, if any. Trie Company is
tum hau hirdaarosaaj (BM: 86) Mulyankan, Delhi, 1968), while Rameswhar managed by the Managing Directoi subject to the
Bin piya jot mandir andhiyaari (F. 205) Prasad Bahuguna shows bkakti to have had superintendence control and direction of the Board
Mero man baasigo girdhar lal (P: 129). different trends and ideological pulls and of Directors of the Company consisting of the foliow-
ing 1. Mr. L M Thapar-Chairman & Managing Direc-
With Krishna ornamenting her heart-the to have been gradually assimilated ("Con-
tor, 2. Mr. V M Thapar-Deputy Managing Director,
man virtually becomes a mandir or temple flict and Assimilation in the Bhakti Move- 3 Mr. 0 P Malhotra, 4. Mr. K A Chaukar, Nominee of
which can 'centre'all activity and desire. ment in Medieval India", M Phil thesis, ICICI,5. Mr R Narayanan, Nominee of LIC, 6. Vice
The new substantivedefinition and cen- Centre for Historical Studies, School for Admiral K K Nayyar (Retd), 7. Seth H P Poddar,
trality of the man is of some significance. Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru Univer- 8. Mr. S M Ramakrishna Rao, 9. Mr. M M Thapar,
sity, 1986). These differing descriptions and 10. Mr. Narottam Sahgal. 4. Indicate whether the
In Mira'scompositions as well as those of proposal relates to the establishment of a new under-
many male bhaktas-Nanak, Kabir-the assessments of the material basis and
taking or a new unit/division The project will be im-
heart is both home and temple, the place revolutionary potentials of bhakti have ef- plemented as a division of BILT. 5. Location of the
fectively broken it as a universal, mystical new undertaking/unit/division State of Andhra
where husband-godresides.49This enlarged
monolith, and cleared a space for specific Pradesh. 6. Capital structure of the proposed
space of the man appears to be part of a studies of bhaktas and movements. undertaking Not applicable. 7. In case the proposal
historical shift where even as god is inter- 2 See A K Ramanujam, 'On Women Saints' relates to the production, storage, supply, distribu-
nalised it becomes possible to internalise a The Divine Consort: Radha and the God- tion, marketing or control of any goods/articles, in-
specific patriarchalrelations-both can be desses of India ed John Stratton Hawley
dicate. i) Name of goods/articles 01 -Acetanilide,
02-Sulphanilic Acid, 03-Metanilic Acid, 04-Meta
transformed into seemingly 'unmediated' and Donna Marie Wulff (Berkeley: Amino Phenol, 05-Alkyl Benzene Amines (Dimethyl,
essences and experiences which appear te Graduate Theological Union, Religious diethyl, diphenyl), 06-Chloro benzenes (Captive con-
bypass social institutions ';tudies Series, 1982), pp 321-23. sumption), 07-Nitrochloro benzenes (ortho/para/
3 Ram Vallabh Somani, History of Mewar meta), 08-Nitrotoluenes ortho/para/meta, 09-Conc.
Nitric Acid (Captive consumption), 10-Sulphuric
(To be conchudeco, (Bhilwara: Mateswari Publications, 1976);
Acid (Captive Consumption). ii) Proposed Licensed
Har Bilas Sarda, Maharana Sanga, the
C;,pacity 01-Acetanilide-2000 TPA, 02-Sulphanilic
Notes Hindupat: The Last Great Leader of the Acid-2000 TPA, 03-Metanilic Acid-3000 TPA,
Rajput Race (nd, rpt, Delhi! Kumar, 1970); 04-Meta Amino Phenol-1000 TPA, 05-Alkyl
1 Krishna Sharma, Bhakti and the Bhakti Rekha Misra, Women in Mughal India Benzene Amines-4500 TPA, 06-Chloro benzenes-
Movement: A New Perspective (Delhi: (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1967), 10000 TPA (Captive consumption), 07-Nitrochloro
Munshiram Manoharlal, 1987), and pp 22-23; G N Sharma, Social Life in benzenes (ortho, para, meta)-10000 TPA,
08-Nitrotoluenes (ortho, para, meta)-4000 TPA
Susmita Pande Birth of Bhakti in Indian Medieval Rajasthan (Agra: Lakshmi Narain 09-Conc. Nitric Acid-16000 TPA(Captive consump-
ReligionandArt (Delhi:Booksand Books, Agarwal, 1968), pp 230-35, 278; Suman tion), 10-Sulphuric Acid 33000 TPA. iii) Estimated
1982)demonstratethatbhaktias a formof Sharma, Madhyakaleen Bhakti Andolan ka Annual Turnover Rs. 106.32 cr approx. (100% capacity
personaldevotionis not restrictedto what Samajik Vivechan (Varanasi: Vishwa- utilization). 8. In case the proposal relates to the
havebeen specifiedas movementsand its vidyalaya Prakashan, 1974), p 165; Max provision of any service, state the volume of activity
elementsarenot onlyvariedbutto be found Arthur Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion: Its in terms of usual measures such as value, income
in variousplacesat differenttimes.Romilla turnover etc. Not applicable. 9. Cost of the project-
Gurus, Sacred Writingsand Authors, 6 Vols Rs. 88.29 cr approx. 10. Scheme of finance, in-
Thaparsees the Tamildevotionalcults of (Oxford: Clarendon, 1909), Vol 6, pp 344, dicating the amounts to be raised from each source
the7thand8thcenturyas partlya resistance 350, 352, 355; A J Alston, The Devotional The project is proposed to be financed by Co's
to the powerof the brahminsunderroyal Poems of Mirabai (Delhi: Motilal Benar- internal resources and to be supplemented by bor-
patronageandto Aryanisation-A History sidas, 1980), pp 7-8-this is henceforth cited rowings from banks, financial institutions, foreign
of India (Harmondsworth: Penguin, in the text as DP; Premvani Mirabai ke ek exchange loans, debentures, etc. Any person in-
1966),Vol 1, pp 186-88)-and the rise of terested in the matter may make a representation in
sau barah padon ka sankalan ed Sardar
quadruplicate to the Secietary, Departmer.l f Com-
heterodox,socialprotestmovementsas con- Jafri (Bombay: Hindustan Book Trust, pany Affairs, Govt. of In-J!a, Shastri Bhawan, New
nected to expanding trade and social 1965), pp 21-25-this is henceforth cited in Delhi within 14 days from the date of publication of
mobility-Ancient Indian Social History the text as P; G S Acharya, Bhakt Mira this notice, intimating his views on the proposal and
(1978, rpt Delhi: Orient Longman, 1987, (Chittorgarh: Vijay Prakashan, 1983), including the nature of his interest therein.
p 148)-For D D Kosambibhaktias a con- pp 16-18-this is henceforth cited in the text
stellationof- personaldevotion, faith and for BALLARPUR INDUSTRIES LIMITED
as BM.
loyaltyis both a symptomand propof the 4 For a suggestive discussion of the forma- Sd/-
feudaleconomywhicharisesat the end of tion of Raiput lineages see Richard G Fox, (VIRENDERGANDA)
the 6th century-D D Kosambion History Kin, Clan, Raja and Rule (Bombay:Oxford SECRETARY'
and Society:IProblemsof HistoricalInter- UniversityPress, 1971). Date: 28th June, 1990.
pretationed A J Syed(Bombay:University 5 M S Ahluwalia, Muslim Expansion in

1474 Economic and Political Weekly July 7, 1990


Rasthaw The Relations of the Delhi 21 PatrickOlivelle,'RenouncerandRenuncia- vol 2, pp 304-07, 542; BhagwatPurana,
SultanatewithRajasthan120641526 (Delhi: tion in the Dharmashastras', in Studiesin vol 5, pp 2130, 2140.
Yupntat Prakashan,1978),p 31. Dharmashastra, ed Richard Lariviere 39 VishnuPurana,p 492;Brahmanda Purana,
6 The Siaxdia kingdom of Mewar which (Calcutta:Firma, 1984),pp 114-15;Leslie, vol 2, pp 308, 667-68; Bhagwat Purana
enJrgd in mid 14thcenturywasat thepeak Perfect Wife,p 139. vol 5, pp 1925, 2142.
of its powerunderRanaSangaand ascen- 22 See alsoAlston,DevotionalPoems,pp 49, 40 Vishnu Purana, pp 487-93. See also
dantovermost Rajputstates.Sangainvited 51, 83, 88. P V Kane, History of Dharmashastras,
Baburto Delhi in orderto take over the 23 Thapar,Ancientlndia, pp 49, 56. 5 vols, (Poona:Bhandarkar OrientalInsti-
throne at Agra from IbrahimLodi, and 24 HirenGohain, 'The Labyrinthof Bhakti: tute, 1977),vol 5, partii, pp 928-30.In the
ended fightingBaburand being defeated. On Some Questionsof MedievalIndian VishnuPuranathemodelfor thegoodwife,
The boundariesof Mewarfluctuatedcon- History Economicand Political Weekly, as derivedfrom the storiesof Satadhenu
stantly between 1527 and the 1550s.See vol 22, no 46 (November14, 1987),p 1971. and Saivya, amounts to the continuous
A C Bannerjce,RqjputStudies(Calcutta: 25 JosephT 0 'Connell,'GaudiyaVaisnava associationof wife with husbandin birth
A Mukherjee, 1944), pp 56-97, and Symbolismof Deliveranoe' in 7Tditionand after birth (pp 273-75).
Ahluwalia,MuslimExpansion,pp 167-68, Modernityin BhaktiMovementsed Jayant 41 VishnuPurana,pp 487-93.
190. Lele (Leiden:E J Brill, 1981),pp 131-32. 42 JohnMellington,'TownandCountryin the
7 See Shashi Arora, Rajasthan me naari 26 See Ramanujam,'On Women',in Divine Transition to Capitalism'in TheThansition
jeevan ki stithi. 16041800(Bikaner:arun Consort,ed Hawley;and S M Pandeyand from Feudalismto Capitalism,ed Rodney
Pakashan,1981),pp 38-39,63, 56;Norman Norman Zide, 'Surdasand his Krishan- Hilton (London:Verso,1978),p 178.
Ziegler,'Some Notes on RajputLoyalties bhakt',in Krishna Myths, Rites and At- 43 Forexamplein Dadu Dayal.See Mukhia,
duringthe MughalPeriod'in J F Richards titudes,ed MiltonSinger(Chicago:Univer- 'The Ideology'in Historyand Society,ed
ed Kingshipand Authority in Medieval sity of Chicago Press, 1966),p 190. Chattopadhyay, and Savitri Chandra
SouthAsia (Universityof ChicagoPress), 27 EdwardC DimockJr,'Doctrineand Prac- Shobha, Social Life and Concepts in
pp 229-30;Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph, tice among the Vaisnavsof Bengal' in Medieval Hindi Bhakti Poetry (Delhi:
Essays on Rqiputana Reflections on Krishna:Myths ed Singer,pp 47-48. Chandrayan Publications,1983),pp 38-39.
History,CultureandAdministration(New 28 BhagwatPurana, trans Ganesh Vasudeo 44 Rajniti, 317a, a Sikh text composed
Delhi: Concept Publishing, 1984), p 46. Tagare,S vols (1976, rpt, Delhi: Motilal originallyby the RajputbrothersBhojRai
Significantlythe gift of dharti (land) or Benarsidas,1979), Vol 5, p 2121.This is and.Lakhan in 1684,quotedby SurjitHans,
dulhan(bride)alone,not money,could be henceforthcited in the text as BhP. 'Politicsbeforeandafterthe Annexationof
givenamongRajputsas compensationfor 29 DavidR Kinsley,TheSwordand theFlute: Punjab', Journal of Arts and Ideas,
bloodshed;see K R Quanungo,Studiesin KaliandKrishna(1975,Delhi:Vikas,1976) nos 14-15(July- December1987),pp 123,
RajputHistory(NewDelhi:Chand,1969), p 76. 126. For the increasingemphasison the
p 69. 30 Seedescriptionin KrishnaSharma,Bhakti divine origin of kingship see Thapar,
8 Arora,Raiasthanme naari, pp 21, 22, 57, pp 260, 273, 289, 292, 307. Historyof India, p 249.
62, 64, 78-80, 97. 31 D D Kosambi,ed Syed, pp 77, 82-84. 45 SeeAiston,DevotionalPoems,pp 30-31,42.
9 Ibid, pp 71-72. 32 Satapathabrahmana, XIV 1 1 31,quotedin 46 In the Bhagwat Purana devotion is
10 Saubhagya Singh Shekawat, Rajasthani Leslic,Perfect Wife,p 251. describedas uninhibited andintenselyemo-
NibandhSongreh(Jodhpur:HindiSahitya 33 ManavaDharma,p 135,133,232, 233, 24; tional: faltering words, melting heart,
Mandir,1974),p 242. Leslie,ThePerfectWife,pp 76, 83, 139,275. lamentat separation,andjoy at the mercy
11 Shekawat,ibid,p 234;Ziegler,'SomeNotes, 34 Thakur Harendra,Dayal, The Vishnu of the Lord(vol 5, p 1993).
in Kinship and Authority ed Richards, Purana. Social, Economic and Religious 47 Fora typicaldescriptionof strisvabhavsee
p 234. Aspects(Delhi:SundeepPrakashan,1983), ManavaDharma,pp 232-33;andfora sug-
12 ManavaDharmaSastraor the Instituteof pp 201-03;R S Sharma,MaterialCulture gestivediscussionof dharmavs strisvabhav
Manu, trans G C Haughton, ed Rev P and Social Formationsin Ancient India see Leslie,Perfect Wife,pp 262-66.
Perival, prefaceby WilliamJones (1825, (Delhi: Macmillan, 1983), p 135. In the 48 For exampleit bypassesthe disapproval
4th ed 1863,rpt Delhi:Asian Educational Bhagwad Gita Krisna offers release to of 'mental' adultery or unbecoming
Services,1982),p 134.Henceforthcitedin 'thosewho takerefugein Me, be theyeven thoughts-whichareseenas a precursor of
the text as MDS of the sinful breeds such as women, infidelityon the part of a wife and even
13 Sharma,Social Life, p 118. vaishyas and sudras' (quoted in D D requireexpiationin theManusmriti(MDS:
14 The punishmentsfor suchrefusalarecom- Kosambied Syed, p 169). The Bhagawat 129, 233).
parble to those for adulteryin the Smritis. Puranaoffersto addresswomenandsudras 49 In Kabirwhenthepritam/godcomeshome
See ManavaDharma pp 224, 24041. who havehithertobeen kept in ignorance aftera long absencethen the templelights
15 Macauliffe,SikhGurus.Vol6, pp 348,351; of thegreatnessof HariandclaimsVaishnav up (mandirmaahibhayaujiyaara)in Kabir
Acharya.Bhakt Mira, pp 16-18. bhaktias the best course 'even'for themn Granthavali, ed Mataprasad Gupta
16 Speaking of Siva, trans and with (Yol 5, pp 1921,2086). Allahabad:SahityaBhavan, 1985, p 141
an introduction by A K Ramanujam 35 BhagwatPurana,vol 3, p 966, vol 4, pp (citedhenceforthin thetextas KG,G ) and
(Harmondsworth:Penguin,1973),p 134. 1310,1639,vol 5, pp 2012,2062;Thomas Man mandir rahan nit chashai in
17 Bankey Bihari, Bhakt Mira (Bombay: fopkins, 'The Social Te'achingof the Hazariprasad Dwivedi,Kabir,(NewDelhi:
BharatiyaVidyaBhavan,1961),pp 122,172. BhagwatPurana'in Krishna:Myths, ed Raikamal,1980),p 331(citedhenceforthin
Subsequentreferencesto this in the texiare Singex,pp 14:7. the textas K, HD) or as in NanakHamre
cited as B, and wher Englishtranslations 36 Bhagwat Purana, part 3, p 1147. The ghariaayajagieevanubhataaruquotedin
are availablethey are indicatedwith an power of the pativratais cexmplifiedin Ramcharan Sharma,HindiSantSahityame
oblique. Drupadi'sanswerto howshehasmanaged Madhuryabahva Pillani:ChintaPrakashan,
18 Ramanujam,'On Women'in Divine Con- to sain control over her husbands:"My 1986,p 221.
sort, ed Hawley,p 320. husbandshavecome undermy controlas
19 Her biographersgo to some length to a result of my attentiveness,my eternal
establishher virtue in foiling'sual ad- readinessto serve,and my devotedservice New Subscription Numbers
va sceo Macauliffe,SikhR ion, Vol6, to my elders' (Mahabharata,III 222.37,
quotedin Leslie,PerfectWife,pp 280-81). Subsribers are requestedto note
p 349. In Rajashani illustrationsof the
Bhaktmala.Mimeis depictedin the yellow 37 BrahmandaPurana,2 vols, transGanesh their new SubscripjtionNumbers
dhoti of the renouncer worn in male VasudeoTbgare(Delhi:MotilalBenarsidas, mentioned on the wrappersand
fashion;see Sharma Social Life. p 153. 1983),vol 2, pp 69-71,293-96, 1302. quote these numbers when cor-
20 Mon. Dharma.p 232, and I JuliaLeslie, 38 VishnuPurana,transH H Wilson(1840rpt responding with the circulation
TheFet Wife(Idebi:OxfordUniversity Calcutta:PunthiPulstak,1961),introR C department.
Pres 1989),pp 132-33,137. Hazra, pp 487-93; BrahmandaPurana,

Eownomicand Political Weekly July 7, 1990 1475