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Edited with introduction and appendices by
With an essay by
University of British Columbia, Canada t t<
/tff.€7, ~
Maharaja Sawai Man Singh 1\ Memorial Series; No.6
General Editor I Gopal Narayan Bahura

Copyright 1982, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum Trust

.Rs 2 0 0 = 1

Published by
Dr. Asok K. Das. Director, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh 11 Mus·eum Trust,
City Palace, Jaipur-<302002

Printed and Blocks made by

JUbilee Block & Printing Works
Johari Bazar, Jaipur-302003
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Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Memorial Series

No.6 'l< ~T'iI"G!r 'PT

The Padas of Surdasa (A facsimile of ms. No. 49 of the reserved

collection of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum)

To publish : -
(a) catalogues and indices of manuscripts. paintings and other art objects
of the Museum

(b) texts and critical editions of rare and important manu'scripts in the
City Palace collections,

(c) discourses on Museum subjects and

(d) theses and independent original compositions bearing on. Jaipur,

the ruling family of the erswhile Jaipur State, history and culture of
Rajasthan in particular and India in general.
Message by
H.H. GaYatri Deviji, Rajamata of Jaipur
Foreword by
Lt. Col. H.H. Sawai Bhawani Singhji
M.V.C. of Jaipur. Chairman
Preface by Dr. A. K. Das. Director
Introduction Ly G.N. Bahura i-vi
Essay: The Manuscript Tradition of
the Sursagar : The Fatehpur Manuscript by Ken Bryant
List of Padas ['1'o:r1'fil1fOf'fi'r]
Facsimile of the text
Appendix A
Alphabeiical list of Surdasas Padas 1-11
Appendix B
Alphabetical list of repeated Pad as 12
Appendix C Alphabetical list of Padas not
traceable in Nagar! Prachirh;d' SabhH


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The song-verses 01 Surdas have been very popular throughout North India. He was not only
a great singer and poet but also an ardent devotee of Sri Krishna whom he addresses as Hari.
Bhagavan, Giridhar, Prabhu, Shyam and Govind, but more frequently as Gopal. His devotional songs
have been stirring the hearts of the people for about four centuries and made a lasting impact on
the life and culture of his country-men. In fact, there is no Vaishnava home where the padM or
bhajan. of Surdas are .not sung or chanted by men and women in the morning and evening. Temples,
of whatever dimensions or resources, resound with the lila padas full of deep devotion and self-
consignment to the lord whom Surdas realised as an Actuality in the form of Sri Krishna, a ,,1'1' lila
'a sure true friend' of the depressed and the forlorn being. He is one of the great world poets who
'are not for their own age but for all ages.' ! j
It has been accepted with all probability that Surdas never wrote himself. He composed
and sang before his lord. Rather, it was the listeners who recorded those songs in their own scripts.
Sometimes they wrote after an interval and employed their own intelligence where memory failed.
Thus the versions differed. later copyists also caused variations in the script as well as in actual
wordings of the padas. There is one more reason for the creeping in of variations in the padas of
Surdas. Besides being a poet, he was a great musician_ With·this natural gift tie blended his poetry
witl:l a rich lyrical element. We find names of suitable melodies (ragas and raginis) mention.ed before
each of his padas for singing them. Some. of the's.ingers learnt the padas by heart and recited them
at different places where interested people noted them down and compiled according to their taste.
High poetic diction, devotion, popular language and the very theme of composition blended with
sweet and rich lyrical meiodies earned a great fame and reverence for Surdas, and his padas travelled
far and wide in the country. 1he same were recorded in the garb of local scripts· and preserved in a
. large number of manuscripts. ·which still enrich so many private and institutional manuscript'

$cholars have been ceaselessly busy in the search of such collections and early recensions
in order to relate the life story of Surdas and to collect evidence of correct and actual readings
of his compositions. It need not be said that cheese has been replaced with chalk in many cases;
still an earlier manu~cript provides more definite chances for an approach to the core of the original
text. The purpose of publishing this facsimile is to provide information about the contents of a
manuscript-"Pada Surdasp ka' (No. 49) which bears the date of its script as 1639 V. S. (1582A.D.)
Le. one yea'r before or after the death of the poet.l In former case it can claim to have been
written during his life·time.
This manuscript has been preserved in the Pothikhana of the rulers of the Ilrstwhile
Jaipur State for more than three centuries and now forms an important and valuable asset of the
Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum It was issued to the Pothikhana from Khasmohar 2
custody on Chaitra Sudi 11, Svt. 2000 (4-4-'44). Scholars hardly took any notice when it remained
displayed in the Art Gallery of the Museum for seiveral years. a There had been renewed interest
in this manuscript from all over the world during the past few years especially alter the publication
of the 'Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Maharaja of Jaipur Museum, 1971: It has. therefore. been
decided to publish it in the form of a facsimile.
The particulars of the manuscript are :-foll 163; size 18x16 cms.: paper (local): lines to 11
a page 12; letters per line 20; date 1639 V.S. (1582 A.D.), written by Ramdas Ratna at Fatehpur for
Chhitarji, Kunwar of Rajsri Narharidasji; omissions and corrections are recorded on the margin, some
in the same handwriting and a few later ones in a different handwriting Attempts to edit or correct
the manuscript seem to have been made again at a later stage as insertions etc. appear to have been
incorporated with a very thin steel nib with black ink.- Red ink has been used to denote numbers of
the verses as well as the last refrain of the son,g up to f. 67. The last page bears a seal of Maharaj-
kumar Ram Singh. son of Mirza Raja Jai Singh. carrying anetfigy of a lion between the word-':[1f
and suffix "If making 'Ramasimhasya' i.e. belonging to Ram Singh. The year of the seal 1718 V.S.

1. in
Majoritv of scholEIrS agrees that Surdas d led 1640 V.S. (1583 A.D.).
2. Royal sea'!.
3. Dr. P. D. Mittal, Mathura: Nagari Pracharini Patrika, Vol. VI, No.3, 2019 V. S.
4. The ms. was sent to R. B. Pt. Vishvambhar Nath, Dewan of Kota for publication purposes vide Central
Archives, Jaipur No. 13 G/97/1933 (now weeded out).

(1661 A.D.) is also inscribed. Such seals are frequently noticed on the manuscripts collected by
or written for Maharajkumar Ram Singh while the collections made by his father, Mirza Raia Jai
Singh. bear the date of accession as ~;r.r, >;f"'f<;!, 1075 (A.H.) and sometimes a seal of;r.r<r<mr of
1059 A H" who might have been the keeper of his manuscripts. It. therefore. appears that this
manuscript was acquired by Ram Singh when he was still a Maharajkumar.
There are in all 411 Padas compiled in this manuscript Out of these 262 bear the
Chhaapa (brand) or bhanita of Surdas in different forms e.g. Sur·prabhU(lB). Sur (112), Suru(2),
Surdas (43), Surdas·prabhu (51), Surijdas (3).Surij (B), Surij·prabhu (5), Sur·svami (2),
Sur·shyam (15). S'ur (1). Shyam (1) and Shyam·ghana (1)=262. Twenty three padas are repeated
with some variations on different pages (appendix B) Only 244 padas (including the 23 repeated'
ones) could be traced out in the Nagari Pracharini Sabha edition (vols. I & II, 2021 V.S.)
but there are eight such padas more which occur with the bhanita of other poets in the present
manuscript and with that of Surdas in the Nagari Pracharini Sabha edition. These are : -
folio no. page no. pada no. name of the poet. N.P.S. no.
20 40-41 57 Brahmadas . 787
21 42 59 Manadas 1326
26 53 74 Paramanand 4664
14 29 41 Kishoredas 170
15 30 42 Vidyapati 879
16 31 45 Brahmadas 2271
14 28 39 Paramanand 4888
72 145 B9 i Tilokaswami 266
The manuscript contains an incomplete index of the verses in 5 damaged leaves which seem
to have been written crudely afterward by different persons and at different limes. The readings also
do not agree with the, text. Therefore an index of 411 Padas has been prepared in accordance
with the original and prefixed to the text, under publication.
Another alphabetical index with the first lines of 262 padas of Surdas and 8 padas of the
other poets mentioned above together with the corresponding numbers of these padas as found in
the N.P.S. edition is appended (appendix A) so that scholars may be able to compare the contents
of both the versions.
It is to be no.ticed that 262-23 (repeated ones) =239 padas only of this manuscript were
composed by Surdas. Out of these only 221 could be available in the N.P.S. edition. Thus 239-221
=18 padas may be taken as not found in the N.P.S. edition at first sight. But this calculation should
not be taken as final because it is very likely that some more padas may be detected inthe N.PS.
or any other edition, albeit, in a changed form.·
The total number of padas by other saints is 149. Their names and the number of verses

composed by each of them are as under:-

Ravidas or Raidas 8, Kabir 15, Janabhagwan 2; Askaran 1, Bhaijan 2; Krishnedas Kathharia 2,
Tilok Swami 1. Sribhatt1, Dwarika 3, Paramanand 13, Ki1horedas 1, Moha 1, Derajdas 1, Vidyapati 1,
Prahl ad 1, Hemraj 1, Brahmadas 7, Tansen 1, Madhodas 1, Purandas 2, Kilhadas 1, Makarand 2,
Sunder 1, Vyasa 5, Ramdas 1, Raimal 2', Oujanshal 3, Dayal 1, Madhul<arsahi 1, Manadas 1, Govind-
prabhu 1, Dalapati 1, Kahna 52, Namdeva11, anonymous 1=149.
Most of tha~e poets were evidently contemporaries or predecessors of Surdas. A critical
examination and search is necessary in case of the less popular name~.
According to the colophon, the manuscript was completed on Sunday, the 12th of the bright
half of Jyes/ha in Samvat 1639 i e. June 3, 1582 at Fatehpur during the reign of Patisaha Sri Akbar.
It was Vishalcha na~sh.tra and 9 ghatis of the day had passed i.e. it was about 9.15 A. M. at
that time.'·
The manuscript appears to have been written in three sections based on three separate
exemplars each with sep3rate numbering of verses but with continuous numbering of folios through-
out. This would account for the repeated verses described above_ The scribe for the first two sections
(folios 1 to 38 and 38 to 110) remains anonymous while th~ scribe for the third section is responsible
for the colophon. He gives his name as Ramdas Ratna and states that he wrote the verses for the
reading of Kunwar Chhitarji., son of Raj-sri Narharidasji, who (with an epithet Raj-sri) was most

• Dr. Ken Bryant tells that he ,emembers to have come accrosS five more padas in other editions.
See Appendix III •
• , See Indian Ephemeris, A.D. 1400 to 1600; C.D.: Swami Kannu Pillai; Government Press, Madras,
1922: p. 366.
probably a Thakur of the Kachhawaha clan and occupied a palli (sliare) in Fatehpur (Shekhawati,
now in the Sikar district). He was later driven out by Daulat Khan, son of Nawab Alaf Khan, under orders
of Emperor Jahan~ir. He (Narharidas) then fled away with his family to loharu and settled there.'

Even the smaller rajput chiefs kept charans or bards in their courts who entertained and
advised them. Sometimes they gave lessons to their sons who were called kunwars. As appears from
the surname-'Ratna', Ramdas could be a charan of the Ralnu sub-caste living in the court of
Narharidas and attending on his Kunwar Chhitarji, who might have been interested in saintly literature.
He, therefore, collected and wrote down the padas of different devotional poets for his reading.
Of course; the largest number is.of Surdas' pad as.
:It is to the credit of the ruling family of Jaipur that they have preserved this valuable manus-
cript for the last three centuries'n their collection, a rich repository of rare i and important
• Kyam Khan Rasa-by Jan Kavi, edited by Agarchand Nahata, pp. 64-65, published by Rajasthan
Puratattva Mandir, Jaipur, 1953.
I have been able to trace out the names of Narharidas and his son Chhital (Chhitar) Singh in
an old vamshavali of tha Kachchwahas, compiled and written insamvat 1835 ( 1778 A.D.)_
Narharidas wai the sixth in the line of Hamir, son of Kuntalji, who got Jobner in jagir. Kuntalji
died in 1423 V. S (1366A.D.). Hamil's son, Maharaj got Sankarpura (to be located ne,9r Fatehpur),
His line is given as below:-
Hamir- Maharaj-Raisal-Napa-Sanga-Narharidas-Chhital Singh
It is not improbable that six generations after Kuntalji's death in 1423 V. S. (1366 A. D.)
covered a period of more than two hundred years. !Daulat Khan became Dewan in 1683 V.S.
(1626 A.D.) buthe managed the -altairs of Fatehpur during the life-time of his ·father Alafkhan.
However. Narharidas was alive in 1639 V. S. (1582A. D.) and lived in Fatehpur. Daulatkhan,
therefore, might have driven him out sometime between 1605 and 1626 A.D.

There is also a probability that a name or two might have been omitted in the vamshavali.
Munhata Nainsi also mentions in his khyal one Narharidas, son of Suja Shekhavat ( Pt. I;

p. 325; R. O. R. I., JOdhpur, 1960 )

- -,
Hearty thanks are due to Her Highness Rajmata GaYdtrideviji Sahiba, Lt. Col. His Highness Maharaja
Sawai Bhawani Singhji Bahadur, the Chairman and other members of the Trust for according
permission to publish this facsimile as the 6th book in the 'Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Memorial
Series' in order to make the original text available to interested scholars.
Special gratitude must be expressed to Dr. Ken Bryant of. the University of British Columbia,
Department of Asian Studies, Canada, who is an initiator to this publication. During the last
decade ho, in collaboration with Dr J. S Hawley of the University of Washington, has maja an
extensive search for Sur.agar manuscripts dating prior t'1 1764 V. S. (1707 A. D.). In view of the
sanctity olhis purpose h~ was allowed t.o take photographs of all such mlnuscripts pressrvad in
the collection of our Museum exce"pt the present one which was on the' restricted list. It is due to
his urging and devoted pursuance that this man~script has becom. an objact of world intarest. Dr.
Bryant and Dr. Hawley are inclined to indude all these manuscripts of this collection in the preparation
of a critical edition of b'ursagar. All these ara, I think, of no less importance for the readers in
solving the textual controversies in the Sur.agar and in making an approach to tho original readings
of the compositions.
Dr. A K. Das, Director of the Museum, deserves all thanks for his personal, active andsincere
interest taken in bringing out this publication in its present form.

I have to thank Pandits R. G. Pacholi and G. L. Sharma who have been assisting me in
my work.
All my superiors and colleagues who have p3Tticipated in these efforts also deserve to share
the blsssings of the great saint who composed and sang with highest spiritual intuition for his 'true
friend', Gopal.*

Go.palilarayan Bahura

• In Vedic terminology the word "T is used for Q,l\6i51, "the Heavens above the 'l:~'1f: and 1;1f: regions
of the Universe. The Prote~tor of the Heavens, the all·pervading Supreme Spirit is called 'flQT<'f •
. His abode is known as .jT<'fT'I', cherished by the devotees.

. , OF THI:

, 1. In pursuit of the Sursagar
Kabir, Mira, Tulsi, Sur : these four devotional poets o"f medieval Hindi maintain in the twe-
ntieth century a popularity which no modern poet of the region is likely to match. "Sur is the Sun,"
proclaims the well-known couplet, "Tulsi the Moon, and Keshav Das all the stars in the sky; the
poets of today are but fireflies, flickering now here, now thera." 1 The inclusion of Keshav in such
august company may occasion a certain amount of debate, but Sur's position is indisputable. His
in name is known to many millions of persons; his poetry is read in schools and colleges across North
India; his songs of praise,for Krishna are. sung by Vaishnava devotees in homes and temples throughout
the subcontinent_ Half a dozen editions of his poems are curre'ntly in print; , many scores of book-
length studies of his poetry have been published. not only in India, but as far afield as France, East; i
and West Germany, and the united States.' Yet in spite of this breadth of popular and scholarly· .
interest, there is surprisingly little agreement on the facts of Sur's life' and work. While there is
in general agreement that Sur lived durin\! the sixteenth century, the various dates suggested for his
birth range over half a century, and those given for his death cover half a century again' While all
authorities agree that Sur spent m~st of· his life in the region near Mathura, Vrindaban and Agra-
the region most closely associated with S':!r's chosen deity, Krishna, and the region whose dialect,
Braj Bhasha, Sur employed in his. verse-the exact location of the poet's birth, and indeed all the
particulars of his early life, are matters for dispute and cohjecture.' All agree that he was blind-
but contraversy is unending over the question of whether h9 was blind from birth.' All agree that
the poet maintained some affiliation with the sect of the great Vaishnava philosopher Vallabhacharya-
but at least one scholar has questioned whether Sur was ever, actually Vallabha's disciple, as claimed
ms by tradilional accounts! Sorne scholars believe that Sur once visited the court of the Emperor
r~. Akbar; others believe the visit never happened; while still others belfeve Sur to have been in regular
attendance as a poet in the Emperor's employ.'

the truth is that we have always lacked contemporary evidence: the events of Sur~s life
appea.r not to have been rec'HdeCl many decades after his death and reports of those events come
down to us clouded by the imperfections of human memory, and clouded as well by the very intensity
of the reverenc. which later chroniclers felt toward th9 poet's memory, Much the same problems have
long existed with regard to his poetry. No autograph copy of any poem by Sur exists, nor is there
reason to believe that any ever existed: Sur, so far as wa know, 'never wrote anything, The tradition
which he inherited was largely an oral one: his art was that of the extemporaneous performer" and
his poetry-like many of the ",texts" of medieval Hindi-appears to have been transmitted orally
from singer to singer, and written down only occasionally and incidentally. There is no evidence to
suggest that anyone sat at Sur's side, transcribing his creations. Those manuscripts which have come
down to us from the period of a centUry or ,so after his death app,ear to be (With a very few excep-
tions) collections made independently'of one' another. Each early manuscript which has survived
differs from all the others in profound ways,' Each presents a different set of poems, with something
like a fifty percent overlap between any two manuscripts being characteristic, Even those poems
which are shared ,by two manuscripts are generally presented'in radically different orders. Some
manuscripts follow the' approximate sequence of the events of Krishna's Iifa: of these, some are
divided into titled, sections-:-"childhood", "the onset of love", "the pain of sElparation", etc,- but
never with the same system of sections for any two manuscripts. Others are divided, not by t~,eme"
but bytheraga to which each verse is to be performed, Still others (like the Fatehpur manuscript)
show no concern for sequence whatsoever, verses apparently having been written down as they
happened to Occur to the memory of the pomp!'er (or, as in this case, compi/ers).'

True, even in' the earliest strata olthe Sur tradition there exists a core of widely,popular
verses 'which' occur in most (but not in all) of the surviving manusciipts, But here too, variety is the
rule; and It is not simply ,that variety Which results, in a ~ritten tradition, from a scribe's errors in
copying, Rather, it is the product of the individual imaginations of generations of singers, improvising
and embellishing on verses which they learned from their predecessors, An example is in order. The
following are' the variants of a single line from three of the earliest manuscripts:

Siiradasa yau rahT vif~han.rmanu'!' phed vanii ga~hi (Bikaner, V,S. 1681)
Suraiasa p/'abhu drsli su<fha- nidhi m~nahu pheri hanay gadht (Jaipur, c. V.S, 1690)
.t ' . .

suraiasa svam;" avalo/Wla manahu pheri barukha ga~hi (Bikaner, V.S. 1695)
If we are able to discover which is the "original" it is likely that we shall find that some of the
variatio'ns, lose much of its quality, while others may even improve upon it; and of course the possi-
bility also exists that, given three recorded variants of a poem, Sur himself might have sung all three,
on three differnt days-and recorded by three different pens.
Itis misleading, then, to think of the poems of Surdas as constituting a "text" in the way
that, say, the Ramcaritmanas of Tulsidas is a text. While those poems are now known collectively
as the Sursagar-the "Ocean ofSur"--it is clear that, like most oceans, this one was fed by a number
of tributaries. In some case~, poems on'ceattributed to other lesser poets have in time been absorbed
into the Sursagar as we shall see in a moment, the Fatehpur manuscript itself gives us a fascinating
glimpse of this process in action. In other cases. different versions of the same poem have, after a
century or so of independent growth and transformation, emerged as independent poems, thus
increasing the number of verses included in subsequent manuscripts. Ina great many cases, we can
only surmise that performers taking the original work of Surdas as their inspiration, have .improvised
works employing themes and styles similar to his, and then have modestly credited the original Sur
with their composition. At each stratum of the growth of the tradition, we find the changing tastes
of the age, or regional variations in preference for different themes, resulting in amplification and
emendatidnof one or another' section of the corpus; we find, for example, additional poems on the
military themes of Krishna's later life emerging in the Rajput states, at the same time that the more
erotic aspects of the loves of Radha and' Krishna show greater elaboration in manuscripts from the
Braj heartland. '
Vet while the tradition appears to have added material constantly, only rarely were earlier
verses discarded. Poems which appeared once tended to 'surface again and again, being omitted by
some manuscripts but presented by others (an observation to which we shall return shortly). The
result is an enormous text, much of which is undoubtedly of recent composition, but in which the
"original" core is still likely to exist, and may still be recoverable. In short, the result is that noW-
standard work, the Nagari Pracharini Sabha's edition of the Sursagar containing some 5,000 peoms
in two volumes. The Sabha'S/edition was a momuental work of scholarship, and has been an invalu-
. able aid to \Jeneratlons of students; but it suffers from one great weakness--an inescapable'weakness,
given the state of Sur scholarship at the time it was published. The Sabha edition of the works of
this sixteenth-century poet was based almost entirely on eighteenth-and-nineteenth-century m.nus- ,
cripts. The oldest manuscript consulted by its editors was dated V.S. 1753 or 1696 A,D.--more than
a century after the death of the poet.'·

It IS only during the past twenty-five years that scholars, both in India and abroad, have
undertaken systematic photography and examination of those few manuscripts which have come down
to us from the seventeenth century. While the results of that research are still only partiallyavail-
able,l1 they have already cast considerable doubt on the authenticity of much of the Sabha edition
The manuscripts of the seventeenth century p~esant a c:>nsid~rably different text' from thosa of the
eighteenth and nineteenth. Is it not likely, then, that Sixteenth-century manuscript might present a
different text again 7

2_ The Fatehpur Menuscript : Age and its significance

We now appear ,to halle, for the first tima, just such a manuscript before us, a manuscript
which may well have been written during the poet's own lifetime; and yes, it is different. Indeed,
the reader who is familiar with Surdas primarily through the standard published editions of t~e
Sursager may find that the differences seem greater than the similarities. The, word Sursagar is
conspicuously,absent; the manuscript is headed simply, Surdasji ka pad-"poems of Surdas." Instead
of the 5,000 verses of the printed editions, the manuscript contains barely 400, and a third of those
have affixed to them the names of other poets. The mordern text is divided into twelve sections,
paralleling the afwndhas of the Shagavata Purana, a Sanskrit text of which the Sursagar is commonly
said to be a Braj translation; the manuscript, on the other hand, is ,essentially an informal collection
of verses, showing no regard for any principle of sequence beyond the frea associations of the
compiler's mind. Finally-and for some; perhaps painfully-we will search in vain through the present
manuscript for some of the very poems, and many of the scenes and episodes, which are most popu-
larlyassociated with Sur's name: for,example, maiyi mai nahi makhana khayo and charana kamala
bandau hari rat are nowhere to be found in the Fatehpur manuscript; 'neittier is there a single verse on
the'a' 'iila. or the stealing of-the Gopis, clothes, or the slaying of Kaliya, or the marriage of Radha
@nd Krishna,
------ - ----

Faced with a manuscript bearing so few of the familair landmarks, I suspect that some may
be tempted to discount its value, preferring to believe th3t it is, at best, an insignificant fragmant
of a larger text or, at worst. that its colophon is erroneous or falsified. One such reaction has
already been registered. Parbhudayal Mital, who examined the mlnuscript briefly in 1962, published
a summary of his findings in the Nagari Pracharini Patrika." He expresses considerable disappJint-
ment with regard to the manuscript's size, its lack of order, its deemphasis of several of the best-
known portions of Sur's work ( in particular the poems of Krishna's childhood and youth), and its
failure to exhibit either of the two best known titles Sursagar or Sur padavali. Mital concludes
that the manuscript may not be as old as its colophon claims; and that, in any case, there is little
of interest in the manuscript but the date.
Vet if we examine the other existing manuscripts of early date, We find that th. Fatehpur
manuscript conforms,in each of the areas named by Mital, to what we know of the history of the
text: the Fatehpur manucript is precisely what We would expect a sixteenth-century manuscript to
be, given the evidence of manususcripts from the seventeenth century. The name Sursagar, for
example appears to have become widespread sometime around V. S., 1730 ( 1673 A. D. )-almost a
century later than the date of the Fatehpur manuscript. Of the' six avail3ble Sur manuscripts which
predate 1730, only one bears the name Sur~agar(whereas of the five whose dates most closely follow
1730. there is only one which is /10/ a "Sursagar".)13 The now-traditional arrangement of poem into
twelve skandhas in an even later development, appearing first in a manuscript dated V. S. 1753 (1696
A. D.)." Evidently the first &tructure to emerge was a division by raga, which then gave way to a
loose ordering by episode; the next stage was a tighter episodic ,structure, Wilh sec lion headings
for each category of episode-and finally, tha twelve-skandha format mJdelied on the Bhagavata
Purana. In general, then, earlier manusuripts are less structured than later ones; it comes as little
surprise to find the earliest of all with no clear structure whatsoever.
A similar trend holds with regard to size of manuscript 1 later manuscripts tend to be larger.
No early manuscript has anything approaching the now-standard 5;000' verses. Th. largest manus-
cript predating V. S. 1750 contains 1400 verses; the largast predating V. 5 1700 contains 800; the
two whose dates most closely follow that of Fatehpur ( V. S. 1681 and. 1695) both have less Ihan
500; and then comes Fatehpur itself, with something less than 300 padas by Sur. Finally, the reader
who searches anxiouly for maiya- mal nahi maknana khayo or charima kamala bandau had ral will do

----- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - _ . _ - - - - - - - - - ----- -


no better in manuscripts of the seventeenth century; neither verse emerges until more than a century
after the Fatehpur date.
Mital's general reservations, then, prove insupportable in light of the evidence of other
manuscripts; so do his objections with regard to specific verses. He notes that the Fatehpur manus-
cript begins with the verse d.khi rt dekhl ananda kanda, wh,reas other famous manuscripts-he
claims-begin either with charana kamala bandau ha'; ,at
or with bra}a bhayall mahara ke pUla. Vet
as we have seen, the first of these verses appears in no early manuscript; and while the second does
indeed begin two of the six earliest [llanuscripts, the remaining four begin with a wide variety of
verses. Mital further observes that the manuscript's concluding poem, bharosau kanha kau hai moM,
is in the Sabha edition, relegated to an appendix containing verses of doubtful authenticity, Vet ins-
pection of the other manuscripts shows that same verse is present in three of the six earliest manus-
I cripts-dated V, S. 1681,1695 and 1697 (1624, 16~8 and 1640 A. 0,), all more than half a century
earlier than ihe,earliest employed by the Sabha,
Mital is correct in observing that some of sur's most famous poems-notably those on thG
childhood of Krishna-are "under-represented" , by comparison with the ~odern, Sursagar in the
Fatehpur manuscript; but here again', it is wishful thinking to hold the manuscript, rather than the
published editions, at fault. On the c3ntrary, the relative paucity of poams on tha most popular
episodes might ,in itself be cansidered a crude indicator of a manuscript's antiquity, An interesting
(i/exasperating) principle is at work h3le, Thamore popular an episode has grown to be, tlie more
it will have been "inflated" OVer the years-that is, the more new ( and from our viewpoint, spuri-
o,u~) verses on the episode will have been added to the total; and thus the mora the episode will
appear to be deflated in earlier manuscripts. The principle is confirmed by examination of the seven-
teenth-century man\lscripts; pr~dictably, it is still more pronounced in this, the sale sixteenth-
century collecticn. For example; the single most popular segment of Sur's work has long been his
poems on the childhood of Krishna; on the opposite end of the spectrum of modern popularity are
poems 9f the last phase of Krishna's life, that spent in Dvarka, The latter have been almost ignored,
largely because they play minor roles in the ritual and liturgy of, the popular religious movements of
the Bra} heartland; they are episodes, after all, which occurred outside of nla}. Thus, if we examine
the Sabha edition of the Sursagar we find four tim s as ma,ny child poems as Dvarka poems. In the
early manuscripts, on the other hand, the two categories are nearly equal in sizB, and In the Fatehpur
manuscript, it is the Dvarka verses which are slightly more numerous•.
There is another indicator of antiquity, derived from examination of later strata of the manu-
script tradition, which i.s applicable to the Fatehpur manuscript. We have already observed that,
throughout the history of the Sursagar, new verses continue to emerge. In any late manuscript,
there will be some verses w~ich no earlier manuscript displays. On the other hand, we have observed
that the Sursagar tradition,rarely throws anything away; poems which have once entered the "pool"
of verses ascribed to Surdas tend to surface again and again, even though they may be omitted by
individual manuscripts. There is thus a baSic dissymmetry between '.'old" and "new" manuscripts:
", poems found in the former will, by and large, be found in the latter, but the converse is not necess-
arily true.

I It is possible to quantify this dissymmetry, albeit in a very rough and ready way. It we
examine all existing manuscripts prior to a particular date, we find that there is a certain number .
of verses in any given m~nuscript which are unique-that is, they are found in no other manuscript
in the set. If the mode,l described above is realistic, we should except the proportion of "unique"
verses to be lower in manuscripts from the earlier strata than from the later.
r While we may imagine any number of special cases which would require refinement of the
g model, the results in this case are surprisingly straightforward. The following is a tabulation of the
'e percentage of unique verses in the nine oldest independently-compiled" manuscripts:
, !
V,S. 1639 6% V.S. 1734 28%
V.S. 1681 9% . V.S. 1698 31%
~.1~072~ ~S.17ll 3.%
V.S. 1697 21% V.S. 1763 36%
lis V.S. 1695 27%
·d, Only one manuscript (1734) appears significantly out of place. The two ends of the sp~ct­

. - rum are clearly marked: the F,tehpur manuscript shows, by a considerable· margin, the smallest
ne proportion of unique verses (6%); indeed, the only other manuscript showing . less than 20% is that
:he dated 1681-the oldest butlor Fatehpur itself.

-No one' of tne indiciltots of antiquity discussed above'is In itself conclusive~there are, after
all, late manuscripts which are stnall or unordered or untitled-blit the cumulative weil/ht of evidence
leaves little room for doubt. The Fatehpur manuscript gives every, evidence of being as old as its
colophon claims. The colophon itself bears double witness: examination of an ephemeris for the Year
V.S. 1639 confirms that the,12th of the suklapaAsa of the month j yes/ha did indeed, fall on a Sunday,
and under the,visakha naksQrrQ a consistency which effectivelY rules out an accidental error in
recording the' date ( and which would'require, for an intentional 'error', a scribe with an unusually
keen de,votion to detail l·
3. The Fatehpur Manuscript: Families and Affinities
The Fatehpur manuscript is the earliest existing'collection of Sur's pcems; but it must be
remembered that there is no reason to assume it an exhaustive collection. It allows us to' say that
the poems it contains were known in this form ( pcssibly amon'g other f9 rms as well l, and were
attributed to Surdas, during the poet's lifetime; this is more than can be said with confidence of any
other set of poems. And yet there were undoubtedly other verses of equal authenticity, some of
'which escaped this manuscript to be preserved in others, and some of which are ,lost entirely. It
would be a mistake to treat the manuscript as a single early coliectioncontaining all of Sur's poems,
an original and authoritative Sursagar. I think it doubtful that any such document ever existed;
certainly it does not exist today.
Is the value of the manuscript restricted, then, to the pedigree it provides for the twc-
hundred-odd poems it contains 7 By no means. In the absence of an 'original' Sursagar, we must
apply the tools of textual criticism to the task of reconstructing as many as possible of ihe poems of
the 'original' Surdas: the prime resources which enable that task will be those few early manuscripts
which have survived the centuries; and the Fatehpur manuscript may well prove the most valuable
resource of all.
The process of reconstruction requires a more detailed understanding than we have at
, present of the history of the manuscript tradition. We need to know such things as how the manus-
cripts are related to one another; when the major changes in the text occurred; whether the links
, between one stage and the next represent,written or oral transmission. What the Fatehpur manus-
cript provides to such an inquiry is an anchor in Sur's ,own centurYI if the Fatehpur manuscript can
be assigned a place in the network of relationships among other manuscripts, we may be able to
orient the entire network in time more precisely than was possible before, when the earliest known
manuscript was dated forty years-two generations-after Sur's death.

Such reconstruction will take time, and it would be idle to attempt here to predict the out-
come in any detail. A single example may be useful to illuJtrate the sort of problem to which the
Fatehpur manuscript may provide solutions. :

It is possible to establish, through collation of poems irom manuscripts other than Fatehpur,
the existence of two quite distinct families of manuscripts, two more-or-Iess independent lines of
transmission. The basis for their separation appears to be geographical. The largest family we may
call the "Western", since it appears to consist of manuscripts written ,at various sites in Rajasthan.
The second. "Eastern" family appears to have developed in the BraJ-mandal itself: the oldest
re member of the family, dated V. S. 1698 (almost sixty years later than Fatehpur), 'was written in
IY Mathura, as was another ea'rly ( but undated) manuscript in ihei family; a slightly later descendant
of ( 1733) was written by a scribe from Gokul. 16
The apparent independence of tha families ( at least in thair earliest strata) is crucial: if
further research confirms that each family developed in relative isol,ation from the other, it may be
possible to argue that those poams ( and varian ts of poems) which both families share, must have
existed. at, the time the families went their separate
, . .
ust But when was that 7 Just how early did the" tree ': of tha Sur tradition sprout a Rajasthani
; of branch,7 Until the appearance of the Fatehpur manuscript,the best guess would have baen around
ipts V. S. 1681-the date of the earliest then-known member of the Western family. Now, however, we
,ble may be able to push the date of th3t saP>ration b3ck more than forty years, into the poet's Ii,fetime.
While the evidence so far examined is very scanty-collation of ten versesfrom the Fatehpur manus-
a at cript with their counterparts from other manuscripts-Fatehpur's p~siticn in the genealogical 'tree'
nus- ot.manuscripts appears to fall immediately between that of the earliest previously-known member
links of the Western family, and that of the earliest mamber of the Eastern family. That is, the earlias\
inus" ~Vata of the tree appear to look something like the followingl- '
: can
, .....1.....
.......... j
V.I. '63'

V.S. ,,,.

If collation of ,the remainder of the verses in the manuscript confirms this structure-and
confirms the independence of the' lines as well-then it wO\lld seem that the separation of the families II
must have occurred before V. S. 1639, during the p:>et's lifetime: an,d in that case, it may be possible , l
to establish that th'lse poems which are shared by, say, both the Bikaner manuscript and the Mathura
manuscript ( or by certain other pairs of manuscripts from the early strata of the two families) must
themselves date from the lifetime of Sur.
Even if such arguments prove possible, of course, there remain ma,jor questions to which no
single manuscript can provide the answers. What does it mean to say that there were two independent
lines of development 7 Are we to assume that, at the same time one group of poet·singers was
embellishing on the received text in the Braj,mandal, another set was independently developing the
po,etry in another direction in Rajasthan 7 There is evidence 'to suggest that this is the case: as
suggested above, the Western manuscripts show a certain fondness for the "militant" themes (Rama,
Krishna in Dvarka ), whereas the Eastern> branch expands on the 'erotic themes ( Radha·Krishna, rasa·
lila ). But who, then, were the Western singers 7 Were they attached to the, Vallabhite gaddis or to
the Rajput courts 7 Were ,they really Bra} speakers at all, or do the poems exclusive to the West~rn
manuscripts demonstrate linguistic difterences from the eastern 7
The Fatehpur manuscript promises both to answer some of our old questions, and to lead
us to formulate new ones. All this is specifically with regard to the poems of Surdas; , but it must be
remembered that the same manuscript also contains some hundred and fifty poems by other poets;
it will undoubtedly prove to be the oldest source for some of these poems as well. In some cases,
the manuscript may even allow poems to be returned to their rightful authols: there are, for ex-
ample, two poems here ascribed to Paramanandadas which later tradition ascribes to Surdas-but
which the mcdern printed edition of the ~aramanll'ndsagar omits entirely."
The Fatehpur manuscript is, in short, an extraordinarily important document for a number of
reasons I first, for providing us with the oldest collection of Sur's poetry in existence; second,for
contributing to the task of reconstructing the history of the, Sur-tradition as a whole; and third, for
displaying a miniature cross-section of the work of Hindi poets popular in the sixteenth century, The
oldest manuscript of Sur's poems will now become the most available as well: the Museum's decision
to publish the entire document in facsimile means that scholars will have access tc all the information
it contains-not only the' contents', but also orthography marginal and interlinear insertions, and
other potentially important points of detail. We owe a great debt to the Museum, its Director, its
librarian, its staff, and its Trustees for this unprecedented publication; we owe a still greater debt
to the Maharajas of Amber and Jaipur for thair 'foresight in preserving over the centuries this soia
survivor from the days of the poet Surdas himself.
1. sura sura tulas; aasi udugana k~sava dasa
t ,~ba ke kay; khadyota sama jaha taha karata prakasa.
,2. See for example Jagannath Das Ratnakaret ai, eds., Sursagar, Nagar; Pracharini Sabhli,
Kashi, 1955 (2 vols.); Mataprasad Gupta,ed., Sursagar, Agra, 1979 (one volume published to dale);
Jawaharlal Chaturvedi, ed., Sursagar, Calcutta, 1965; Balmukund Chaturvedi, ed., Sursagar,
Mathura, 1974; Dhirendra Varma, Sursagar-sar, Allahabad, 1974.
o 3. See for example Hazariprasad Dwivedi,'Sur-sahitya, Bombav, 1961; Harbanslal Sharma,
S!lr aur un ka sahitya, Aligarh, 1958; Ramchandra Shukla, Surdas, Varanasi. 1948; Brajeshwar'
" Varma, Surdas: jivan aur kavya ka adhyay~n, Allahabad, 1950; Charlotte Vaudeville\ Past'?tale,'
parSour-Das, Paris,1971; Natalija Sazanova and Roland Beer, Krishnayana: das hohe Lied des
Gottes Krishna, eine Auswahl aus dem zehnten Buch des Sursagar. Leipzig, 1978; Janardan'
Misra, The Religious Poetry of Surdas, Konigsberg, 1939; Kenneth Bryant, Poems to the
ChIld-God: Structure~ and Strategies in the Poetry of Surdes, Berkeley, 1978.
4. Dates given fol his birth range from 1478 A.D. (Brajeshwar Varma and others) to 1530 A.D.
(Charlotte Vaudeville); for his death, from 1563 (Ramchandra Shukla) to 1610 A.D. (Vaudeville).,
For summ~ries of the various positions sea Brajeshwar Varma, pp. 2-4; Sharma, pp. ,23-24'-
33.34; Vaudeville, pp; 29-39.

5. See Sharma, pP. 21-23.

6. Brajeshwar Varma, pp. 12-13; Sharma, pp. 27-29.
7. Vaudeville, pp. 38-39.
B. Vaudeville, pp. 35-40.
9. The major sources of information' on Sur manuscripts are the following: Jawaharlal ,,
Chaturvedi, Surdas; adhyayan samagri, Mathura, 1959; Mataprasad Gupta, "Sursagar ki
bhumika," Bharatiya sahitya 13: 1-2, 1968, PP. 43-94; Udayshankar Shastri, "Sursagar ki
samagri ka samkalpan aur us ka sampadan," Bharatiya Sahitya 17: 1-2,1972, pp. 73-103; John
S. Hawley. "The early Sursagar and the Growth of the Sur Tradition," Journal of the American'
Oriental Society 99:1 (1979); Kenneth Bryant, "Toward a critical editi6n of the Sursagar," in
Winand Callewaert, ed .. Early Hindi Oevotional Literature In Current Research, Leuven, 1980,
pp. 5-16. Earlies sourceS ,in the century .( primarily the Nagari Pracharini Sabha's !(.hoj
Reports of 1902 and subsequent years, and the introduction to the original 1936 edition of the
Nagari Pracharini Sabha's Sursagar) are now too out of date to be of much use.

Most of the statements concerning manuscripts made in this and subsequent paragraphs
are based on examination of .those manuscripts originally listed by Hawley in his JAOS article. This
list-which is, reproduced in brief below-includes all those early manuscripts whose exhtence
\-I~l'Vley and I \lave been able to verify over the past six years I
- 1. -Ms. no. 49, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh Museum, Jaipur (dated V. S. 1639)
2. Hindi ms. no. 1,57; Anup Sanskrit Library, Bikane~ (dated V. S. 1681).
3. Ms. no. 6732 (2); Maharaja Sawai Man Singh Museum, Jaipur (bearing an acquisition
stamp dated V. S. 1718; on basis of internal evidence, probably written about V.S.1690)
4. Hindi ms_ no, 149, Anup Sanskrit Library, Bikaner (dated V. S. 1695).
J. Hindi ms. no. 575/2396, Rajasthan Oriental Research Institute, Udaipur ( dated
V.S. 1697).
6. Ms. no: 3538, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh Museum, Jaipur (entered A. H. 1075, or
V, S. 1722),
7. Ms. no. 1979, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh Museum, Jaipur ( dated V. S. 1733),
8. Ms. no. 3387(1), Maharaja Sawai Man Singh Museum, Jaipur (dated V. S. 1734).
9. Ms. no. 76/220, Allahabad Municipal Museum (dated V. S, 1743).
IO.Hindi ms. no. 3335. Rajasthan Oriental Research Institute, Kota (dated V. S.,1758).
11. Hindi ms. no. 133/1954, Rajasthan Oriental Research Institute,Udaipur (dated V,S.1763).

10. Jagannath Das 'R atnakar' at aI., ads., Sursagar, Varanasi, 1936, p. 2.
11. The research of Dr. Mataprasad Gupta is appearing posthumously under the editor-
, ship of Udayshankar Shastri ( see notes 2 and 9 above). To date, the first one-eighth of the corpus
1 01 the Sabha edition has appeared in the new edition by Gupta, with a complete critical apparatus.
n A second critical edition is currently in preparation by Hawley and myself (see articles by Hawley
and Bry.ant in note 9 ).
"'2. Prabhudayal Mittal, "Sur krit padon" kis ab se prachin prati", Nagari Pracharini Patrika
6713 ( 1962 ).
13. See note 9. Of the first six, the only one named" Sursagar .. is number 5 ( Udaipur
1S "1697 ); of the last five, the only one not so named is number 8 (Jaipur 1734).
is 14. It is generally agreed that the earliest manuscript to follow the skandhalmaka order is
ce that recorded in the introduction to the 1936 Sabha edition ( see note 12 ) as belonging to Keshavdas
$hah, dated V. S. 1753. The manuscript itself is no longer available.

15. The model assUmes that each neW manuscript is a new compilation, rather than a copy
bl one ( or more) existing manuscripts;' that is, it assumes that each compiler draws on oral, rather
than written, sources. While a radical departure frol]1 conventional models of textual criti.cism, the
assumption appears to be appropriate fcr most early manuscripts in the Sur tradition I signs of manus-
cript-to-manuscript copying are surprisingly rare during the first century after Sur's death. There
are two conspicuOus exceptions in the later part of our sample, and these have been omitted from

the tabulation above.

(1) The first half of the manuscript·dated V.S. 1733 is an exact copy of that dated A.H. 1075
(V.S. 1722). Tabulation of the 1733 ms. is currently unavailable, but it is obvious what the
effect of such tabulation would be: the V.S. 1722 manuscript, being replicated in ,its entirety in the
1733 copy, would show no unique verses at all. (2) A manuscript dated V.S. 1743 replicates large
portions-but not all-of that dated 1695. If this mal'luscript is included in the tabulation, the

result is as follows: V.S. 1698 27%

V.S. 1743 14% 28%
V.S. 1639 5% 18% V.S. 1734
9% V.S. 1690 7 31%
V.S. 1681 1697 20% V.S. {1722
V.S. 1690 10% V.S. V S. 1763 36%

Predictably, both 1695 and 1743 show greatly lowered percentages of unique verses, It
should be noted, however, that the most important statistic; for our purposes-the ranking of the
1639 (Fatehpur) manuscript-is unchanged. In fact .. while the assumption of independent compila-
tion demands caution in employing any such metric, the ranking of the Fatehpur manuscript proves
stable under a variety of manipulation. Most significantly, we can omit from the tabulation the two
manuscripts most .closely related to Fatehpur ( i. e. sharing with it the greatest number of verses)
without 'affecting the basic ordering I even without the 1681 and 1697 manuscripts, the 1639 ms.
shows the smallest proportion of unique verses by a substantial margin.
16. Ms. 7, footnote 9 (abnve).
17. Folio 26, pada 74; foliO 14, pada39. The edition of the Paramanandsagar is that
edited by G. N. Shukla ( Aligarh, 1958).
University of British Columbia