Return of the Classical Musical Session and the Male Singer Clad in a Sari:
Maijbhandari Songs from Chittagong on Video CD

Hans Harder

What happens when a traditional genre of popular devotional songs is put on Video CDs? Such processes usually go hand in hand with commercialisation. They are therefore often viewed, both by external observers and by exponents of the traditions concerned, as an erosion of the respective tradition’s substance and cultural meaning. This is not necessarily so, I want to argue with reference to a tradition of Sufi songs from Bangladesh. In Maijbhandar, a Sufi shrine complex in rural Chittagong, Video CDs have been produced for about ten years until date. Here, too, signs of a commercialisation are out of the question. At the same time, however, the Video CD is seen to be a medium that helps almost extinct performative conventions to surface again, in our case a specific type of samāʿ mahfil (musical session) and the trans-dressing of male singers.

The new mausoleum of Syed Ahmadullah Maijbhandari at MaijbhandarMaijbhandari songs (māijˡbhāṇḍārī gān) are well-known in present-day Bangladesh but hardly noticed abroad, not even in neighbouring West Bengal. Secondary literature in foreign languages is very scarce and consists in a handful of research articles by anthropologists and folklore researchers.[1] In Bengali, most of the literature on Maijbhandar comes from authors who are themselves associated with that tradition.[2] This neglect is surprising if one considers that Maijbhandari songs number probably more than 10,000 at present and thus qualify as one of the largest Bengali song traditions, comparable to Baul songs about which there is a good amount of literature.

Maijbhandari songs derive their name from Maijbhandar, a Sufi centre some 30 km north of Chittagong, the main harbour city of Bangladesh. Basically a small village, Maijbhandar is the home of a family of saintly personalities, and physically characterised by a number of imposing mausolea (cf. fig. 1-3). Syed Ahmadullah Maijbhandari (1829-1906) first gained the reputation of a powerful and miracle-working saint in the 1880s, and a cult started to build up around him. This also involved the composition and presentation of songs in praise of Ahmadullah. Syed Gholam Rahman Maijbhandari (1865-1937) succeeded him and became a maḥğūb pīr, a spiritual master in permanent trance. Mention also needs to be made of Syed Ziaul Haq Maijbhandari (1928-88), a prominent 20th century saint, and of Syed Shafiul Bashar Maijbhandari, a recently deceased and very popular Maijbhandari pīr. The lasting popularity of these and other deceased saints and many more practising spiritual guides in Maijbhandar today make it one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the region.


The mausoleum of Syed Gholam Rahman Maijbhandari (‘Baba Bhandari’), Maijbhandar

Fig. 03

Maijbhandar is known for, and actively propagates, its appeal not only to Muslims, but to all religious denominations – ‘irrespective of religion and caste/class’ (dharmajātinirbiśeṣe), as the slogan goes. Moreover, Maijbhandaris derive themselves from Qādirī spiritual descent, but started to profess a ṭarīqa or Sufi order of their own in the early 20th century, the Maijbhandari ṭarīqa. Exponents of the movement have been very active, in the span of the last 100 years, in producing a sizeable amount of theological treatises dealing with Sufi doctrine as well as hagiographies narrating the lives of the major Maijbhandari saints. The most popular branch of Maijbhandari text production, however, is to be seen in the songs.

Maijbhandari songs

As mentioned in the beginning, there is a huge production of Maijbhandari songs.[3] What makes these songs noteworthy beyond their numbers is their richness in topics. Many of them, as one would expect of a song tradition around a holy place, are glorifications of Maijbhandari saints or pilgrimage songs. There are, however, also more unlikely ingredients. A subcurrent usually labelled biccheder gān (‘songs of [love in] separation’) conventionally has a female lover as the lyrical self, and betrays the imprint of bhakti traditions, especially kṣṇabhakti which was a dominant field of text production in pre-modern Bengali literature.[4] Another section of Maijbhandari songs comes under the category of dehatattver gān (‘songs on secrets of the body’) and expresses the mystical quest, in parallel to many Baul songs, in tantric imagery and as a path towards the divine lover residing within one’s own body. When explaining these elements, it does not suffice to hint at the fact that there have been Hindu song writers in the Maijbhandari tradition as prominent as Ramesh Shil, even if this well-known ‘folk poet’ has had a great influence on subsequent authors. It is much more reasonable to view them as integral parts of a floating mystical idiom in and beyond Bengal that was not too uncommon before the impact of Islamic reformism made itself felt, and makes the Maijbhandari tradition one of the areas of resilience to this impact.

As regards performance situations of Maijbhandari songs, the ancient-most appears to be the presentation before the living saint or in a circle of co-disciples. There are indications that such presentations took place in the early 20th century and probably before. A more formal setting that also appears to go back to the late 19th century is that of the samāʿ mahfil, the ‘audition’ or, more colloquially speaking, ‘musical session’ familiar from many strands of Sufism and especially in the Chishtiyya order.[5] To these may be added other types of situations, such as the informal presentation at ʿurs festivals in Maijbhandar, or Thursday night meetings at the numerous branches of the Maijbhandari movement in many parts of Bangladesh. Groups of pilgrims or adherents bring their instruments (and of course amplification device these days) and play and sing through the night. A recent additional performance situation is the concert: some singers of Maijbhandari songs are all-rounder professionals who are hired for various occasions and present Maijbhandari songs along with their usual repertoire. Today, however, the most common performance situation is the reproduction of recordings. Audio Cassettes and CDs are constantly played at the handful of music shops at the darbār (Persian for ‘court’, a common appellation of saintly Sufi mausolea and their surroundings), in pilgrimage busses, in private houses etc.

Musical sessions (samāʿ mahfil) on Video CD

The production of Video CDs has been booming in the last few years and has become the state of the art in the mediatisation of Maijbhandari songs. There are such videos featuring established singers of pre-VCD times (Kalyani Ghosh, Abdul Gafur Hali, Shimul Shil, and also prominently Ahmad Nur Ameri whose videos are the focus of this article), but also by new artists (Sharifuddin, Alauddin Ameri, Shahjahan Ali).[6] As far as I have been able to verify, these videos usually use audio tracks produced in studios, but always have external settings for the visual part, often featuring scenes from the darbār. This, of course, raises the question how the darbār is staged in these videos, and in which way traditional performance situations of the types mentioned above are employed in this process. A detailed analysis of these issues is not the scope of this article and would require further research on a broader basis of sources, but some preliminary observations may be ventured here.

Two basically distinct modes of address are very common in the communicative set-up of Maijbhandari songs. In one of these, the lyrical self addresses the audience (whether the actual audience, an imagined group of co-disciples or a general public to be brought to the track) and ‘advertises’ the saint or spiritual guide to them as the proper destination of their wishes, spiritual longings etc. In the other, the living or deceased saint is addressed directly by a lyrical self either glorifying his personality and deeds, or asking for attention, imploring the saint, crying for his mercy etc. Mostly, single songs cannot be strictly assorted to one of these modes only, but switch between them.[7]

The Video CD recordings make use of both these situations. The first one does not require much refiguring but translates quite smoothly into the video mode: there would typically be a singer, standing or sitting alone or in a group of dancers, other singers and musicians, who directly faces the screen-watcher and thereby treats him/her as a mere extension of the audience within the performed scene. The second is slightly more complicated. Here, one typically finds a singer facing the deceased saint’s mausoleum with the side or even back turned to the audience, thus assigning it to a lateral perspective as witnesses of an interaction of singer and saint. The actual performance situations may occasionally allow such a lateral perspective, but usually would not do so intentionally,[8] whereas in the videos, this is promoted to a typical situation.

In addition to (and in combination with) these two situations, the videos, of course, use a much larger repertoire of visual designs that are specific to the video medium. Cuttings from live recordings of crowds at ʿurs festivals, focussing on the saints tomb or architectural features of his mausoleum, close-ups of the singers and their audience, especially in enraptured state, etc. are devices very commonly used in these video tracks. Interestingly, also the bhaṇitā (colophon), traditionally featuring the author’s name in the last verse of a song as a sort of signature, is occasionally represented in VCD recordings of songs by authors who are still alive. In an example, song writer Abdul Gafur Hali joins the singer physically, thus leaving a visual signature in the video.[9]

My particular point, however, is with a type of samāʿ mahfil that seems to be mostly extinct and is closely connected with the practice of ḏikr.[10] According to a prominent member of Ahmadiyya Manzil, one of the factions of the Maijbhandari movement, this constitutes the most suitable, ‘classical’ performance situation of Maijbhandari songs. This samāʿ developes from the group ḏikr that takes place after the Friday prayer and similar occasions. The liturgical prayers (milād, qiyām, munāğāt) after the maġrīb and ʿišāʿ prayers and the ğumma namāz include two loud ḏikrs that are recited collectively: one being the beginning of the fātihā, the Quranic confession of faith (Lā ilāha illā Llāh, ‘There is no God except God’), and the other the well-known Allāhu. Both rely on the notion of energetic centres in the human body (laṭīfa, pl. laṭāʾif); these are joined and set into vibration by the ‘circulation’ of the auspicious wordings through them in the course of the ḏikr. These ḏikrs are to be kept in motion silently until, at the end of the prayers, the music sets in. The music helps the ḏikr to acquire strength and build up long-lasting tension. This performance situation was said to be rare these days, and during my fieldwork I did not witness a single session of this type.

On a recent VCD, however, Ahmad Nur Ameri’s Semā o jikir śāne hayˡrat kebˡlā (‘Music and ḏikr [session] to the glory of Haẓrat Qibla’)[11], we find something coming very close to it. The recording starts with a solo recitation of Arabic formulas in praise of Allah and the Prophet. In a linguistic transition typical of many parts of South Asia, this is followed by a solo recitation of praise of the saint in Urdu, interspersed with Persian. Thereupon follows a group chanting of the šahada, the full Islamic confession of faith, and this merges into an accompanied group chanting of the two above-mentioned ḏikrs: first lā ilāha illā Llāh and then Allāhu. This increases in emotional fervour, and builds up to a collective shouting of this ḏikr with instrumental accompaniment. Only when this has built up properly does the singing of a Maijbhandari song set in, still with shouts of Allā-hu, Allā-hu in-between the lines. The following six cuttings from that clip show the stages of this build-up from the first ten minutes or so of the performance.
[Play video track 1]

This remodelling of what was portrayed as a classical performance situation in six initial steps uses the original location in front of Syed Ahmadullah Maijbhandari’s mausoleum (mazār / rawḍa šarīf) and features a group of adherents to the respective branch as well as local faqirs. The singer and his group are the centre of the camera eye which, however, turns very frequently to the saint’s tomb, the mausoleum and architectural details. In the ḏikr part, camera direction plays with the words that are being recited by closing up on Arabic writings of lā Ilāha illa ‘Llāh and Allāhu on the walls of the mausoleum, in the rhythm of the ongoing chanting of these very phrases.

Use of a central location on the spot, unity of space and time, and the staging of a group of actual adherents to the darbār in their usual attire lend this representation a particularly high degree of verisimilitude: the watcher is to decode the recording as an actual samāʿ mahfil at Maijbhandar. On closer analysis, there may be a certain displacement as regards the location: typically, such an ‘integrated’ ḏikr and samāʿ performance would take place directly in the respective mausoleum and not on the stairs of a near-by Manzil; and thus the location of the screening seems artificial. Even then it is clear that the attempt here was to represent truthfully an ideal-type performance of Maijbhandari songs in their specific spatial and ritual framings. Given the fact that the person who had outlined this ideal setting to me during my fieldwork is one of the heads of the Maijbhandari faction on whose precincts the session was performed, it is not unlikely that the darbār authorities had their say in the design of the video. However this may be, and before discussing the issues of mimesis and authenticity that this example brings up in greater detail, I want to add another interesting revival of a traditional motif in the following section.

The Virahini on VCD

As mentioned above, one of the subcurrents in the Maijbhandari song tradition focuses on love in separation, a rather old motif in South Asian literatures. The virahinī or female lover in separation from her beloved vents her feelings and pines away for her beloved. Such songs can be seen as a heritage of Krisnaite bhakti, but have been a part of Sufi imagery for quite some time and far beyond Bengal. An example in point is the 18th century Punjabi Sufi Bullhe Shah.

In Maijbhandari songs, early and mid-20th century song writers such as Maulana Abdul Hadi, Bajlul Karim Mandakini or Abdul Jabbar Mimnagari have authored texts such as the following:

I have given you my heart [prāṇ] and become a crazy woman,
Thinking [you] excessively mine, I have given my heart gratuitously.

The people say: ‘Don't give your heart’, but I have given it to you.
Did I know before that you would keep me pushed into distance?
From now, I have learnt the tortures of love [praṇaẏ].
If I survive, save me, I have fallen into danger.
The weak woman [abalā] is that Mimnagari, don't put my simple heart [prāṇ] into chains.
You are mine and I am yours, this is what I have thought to myself.[12]

In this song, the lyrical self presents itself as a pāgˡlinī, a crazy woman, worn out by the torments of mostly unfulfilled longing. The love is against the social conventions and people’s advice, unconditional and existential, a matter of surviving or dying. It entails the expulsion from society, as implied by the term pāgˡlinī in this case. The colophon, moreover, signals an unusual equation in that the male author of the song professes to be identical with the female protagonist. These few items are the typical inventory of ‘songs of separation’ and are made to undergo manifold variations in the hands of different authors. The erotic aspect of the female lover, in particular, is sometimes much more explicit, e.g. when the self proclaims to be waiting on a bed adorned with flowers as in a wedding night, etc.

While it is known that in some kṣṇabhakti traditions, such ‘trans-gendering’ does not remain confined to the textual level but is actually performed, and male devotees dress up as female gopīs,[13] this does not seem to be the case in Maijbhandar. Only one single event of this kind was reported to me as a childhood recollection by a very aged person. According to this account, Maulana Abdul Hadi, a prolific song writer and devotee of Syed Gholam Rahman Maijbhandari, once presented a song to his spiritual master while wearing a sari. This scene, my interlocutor emphasized, was witnessed as something very funny by the audience including himself. After this event, which must have taken place in the 1930s, there are no evidences of any similar happenings. Broadly speaking, then, such trans-gendering in Maijbhandar has remained confined to the level of texts and has not been translated into practice.

What, then, would a present-day director of a video CD shooting do with a text like the one quoted above? What one might expect is an actual woman wandering through the wilderness, with more or less explicit reference to Radha. But the following recordings of well-known Maijbhandari singer Ahmad Nur Ameri are even more accurate in their mimesis of the song’s communicative design, as the following cuttings demonstrates: (Video tracks No. 02 and 03)

The songs of these videos are Cintāẏ cintāẏ āmār jīban yāẏ (‘My life passes in worries’, author: Dr. Kashem) and Āmār hdāsaner milan bāsan śūnya kariẏā (approx. ‘Emptying the vessel of uniting in my heart’s abode’, author: Abdul Gafur Hali), and are addressed to Syed Ziaul Haq Maijbhandari (1922-82). Without going into the lyrics in detail, it should suffice here to say that the saint is viewed as a beloved who has gone into hiding after ‘teaching [the female lyrical self] love’, as it is put in Cintāẏ cintāẏ. In both tracks the singer Ahmad Nur Ameri himself is dressed up as a woman. In Kon·bane rahiẏācha lukāiẏā the white sari he wears seems to signal widowhood.[14]  He sits in isolation or walks through a rural landscape which is conveniently marked by rural labourers crossing by. His maʾšūq (‘holy beloved’) – as an absence that has to be made visually present somehow – turns up repeatedly in a collage as the (mental) picture of the saint’s tomb;[15] and just like in the videos where the singer addresses the saint, the ‘lateral mode‘ with the audience as onlookers from the side is quite dominant.

As hinted above, such trans-gendering is a traditional feature in a number of South Asian devotional traditions, including certain strands in Sufism. Carla Petievitch has recently dealt with pre-colonial trans-gendered Sufi poetry in her book entitled When Men Speak as Women: Vocal Masquerade in Indo-Muslim Poetry.[16] Here, even the vocal masquerade consisting of men assuming the identity of women is portrayed (and probably rightly so) as a threatened species of poetry. In our video example, however, we find not only vocal masquerade but a very literal one. It is unlikely that the video director was aware of the Maulana Hadi episode related above, and the video thus seems to be motivated by a very literal reading of the lyrics. It is thus even possible to conjecture that what appears as a re-enactment of a traditional feature of South Asian religiosity to an external observer was not meant to be such, but just an innocent new interpretation of the textual gives.


However this may be, from an external viewpoint both cases analysed here are noteworthy (and in the virahinī example even somewhat spectacular) attempts to revive extraordinary performance situations and conventions. It seems interesting, by way of conclusion, to investigate in which way these video performances are mimetic, and how they claim authenticity.

As regards this latter term, it seems important to stress that the infatuation with authenticity does not seem to be an entirely Eurocentric phenomenon but is something of concern also in comparatively remote, rural settings such as Maijbhandar where the impact of such international issues may be deemed quite weak. The Bengali language (as probably most other languages anywhere, for that matter) has sufficient lexical resources to thematise this issue, such as āsal-nakal (‘true-false’) or svābhābik-ktrim (‘natural-artificial’); the terms anukaraṇ/anukti, moreover, come close to ‘imitation/mimesis’ and have their history as tools of aesthetic analysis.[17] This has been playing out within the tradition of Maijbhandari songs for decades: in the evaluation of song productions, e.g., the term ādi, ‘original’, is occasionally employed to distinguish between more and less ‘authentic’ instrumentations, performances etc. Similar criteria can be expected to go into the evaluation of Video CDs, even if, unfortunately, I do not have any evidence.[18]

Both performances are not creative stagings out of the void, but can be shown to be mimetic of certain underlying scripts; and their inherent logic would make them claim authenticity to the degree they manage to be faithful representations or realisations of those scripts. The ideas of authenticity that underly these two recordings are, of course, located on different levels of representation. In the samāʿ mahfil case, what is at stake is the truthful depiction of a ‘classical’ performance situation. The video is mimetic of a particular and rare type of performance situation, and the watcher of the video is pointed towards an actual performance; he/she witnesses a musical function at the darbār. But not just mimetic description is at stake, but actually a normative prescription: the authenticity claim in this case is that the video truthfully records an ideal-type performance as it ought to take place at Maijbhandar, even if it rarely does. So the authentic here comes with a didactic purpose.

In the second case, i.e. the two instances of trans-dressing, an authenticity claim would have to be formulated very differently. For one, there is no true performance situation underlying the representation: the old idea of an abandoned female lover singing in the wilderness is a literary trope with a very low degree of verisimilitude, and the accompanying musicians have obviously no place in the depicted world of these clips. But, on the other hand, the videos are very faithful not to any contemporarily practised performance tradition, but to a textual script, i.e. the respective lyrics of the songs. With all their artificiality, they reveal a ‘truth’ regarding the communicative design of the songs. One might even go as far as to claim that they make use of a special privilege of art, namely to picture an event that has no ontological status in any social setting (and would moreover be considered taboo) in order to bring out the emotional truth inherent in the song. If the realisation of the video may seem amateurish and somewhat crude in the context of international video production, this daring mise-en-scene nevertheless needs to be appreciated; and one may even want to draw a line back to Sanskrit aesthetics with regard to kāvya in which ‘bending the story line to bring out the emotional truth’ was considered a legitimate procedure.[19]

Therefore, the question whether the video CDs analysed in this article hang on to a Eurocentric, transculturally transmitted authenticity cannot be answered in any facile way. On first sight, the samāʿ mahfil screening would seem to come close to an ethos of documentary, even ethnographic authenticity that could be ascribed to transculturally transmitted epistemological premises, but even that does not hold once the didactic function enters the picture.

It goes without saying, to conclude, that this interpretation is very fragmentary with regard to Maijbhandari song videos in toto. The recordings analysed here certainly are exceptions, and a whole-scale evaluation of this production, including the mode of production of these videos,[20] would seem to yield different results and probably show a trend of folklorisation of a religiously framed tradition together with a very feasible commercialisation. However, the scope of this short article is to demonstrate that a new medium such as video CDs ought to be judged in its own right as an art form with its specific possibilities. It may lead to further commercialisation, but also has the capacity of reviving features that were almost extinct before – quod erat demonstrandum in this context.

[1] Lauri Harvilahti, “Divine Yearning. The Folklore of Bangladesh’s Mystics”, Temenos 34 (1998): 41–51; Peter J. Bertocci, Peter, “A Sufi Movement in Bangladesh: The Maijbhandari tariqa and its followers”, Contributions to Indian Sociology 40, 1 (2006): 1–28. Cf. also Hans Harder, Der verrückte Gofur spricht. Mystische Lieder aus Ostbengalen von Abdul Gofur Hali (Heidelberg: Draupadi Verlag; 2004), which focuses on one particular author of Maijbhandari songs but also gives a survey of Maijbhandari songs in general. My recent monograph, Sufism and Saint Veneration in Contemporary Bangladesh: The Maijbhandaris of Chittagong (London: Routledge; 2011) hopefully furnishes a comprehensive analysis of this song tradition, along with other aspects of the Maijbhandaris and Bengali Islam in general.

[2] This applies also to Selim Jahangir, author of two thick books on the Maijbhandari saints and the Sufi culture at Maijbhandar: Selim Jāhāṅgīr, Māijˡbhāṇḍār sandarśan (Ḍhākā: Bāṃlā Ekāḍemī; 1999) and idem, Gāusul Āzam Māijˡbhāṇḍārīr śata barer āloke (Māijˡbhāṇḍār: Āñjumāne Mottābeẏīne Gāuche Māijˡbhāṇḍārī; 2006). His adherence to one of the fractions of the Maijbhandari movement led to his first book being prohibited.

[3] More than 4,000 songs are available in print at present, and if we count oral traditions as well as texts of recent recordings that have never been printed, unpublished songs, and the steady addition of new songs, it is save to estimate that Maijbhandari songs run into five digits.

[4] I refer to the genre of Baiṣṇab padābalī (‘Vaishnava verses’) to which there were also contributions from Muslim authors. Cf. Yatīndramohan Bhaṭṭācārya, gālār baiṣṇab-bhābāpanna musalˡmān kabir padamañjuā (Kalikātā: Kalikātā Biśvabidyālaẏ; 1984).

[5] For an introduction to the history of samāʿ and the debates about it, see Jean During, “Musique et rites: le samāʿ”, in Les Voies d’Allah. Les ordres Mystiques dans l’Islam des origines à aujourd’hui , eds Alexandre Popovic and Gilles (Paris: Fayard; 1996), 157–72.

[6] I have about a dozen videos in my collection, most of them by Ahmad Nur Ameri and Shimul Shil. The ones I engage with in this article are: Āhˡmad Nūr Āmirī, Chemā o jikir śāne Hayˡrat Kebˡlā (Amins: Chittagong; no year) and Āhˡmad Nūr Āmirī, Śāntir doẏār Jiẏā Bābā (Amins: Chittagong; no year).

[7] These are, of course, not exhaustive. Another mode that could be added occurs usually in biccheder gān and has a female first-person lamenting to a female friend (sakhi).

[8] Except one type of samāʿ mahfil, in which the singers present to the pīr present in the assembly and only indirectly to the audience. I have not witnessed such performances in front of mausolea though, but only with living spiritual masters.

[9] Āhˡmad Nūr Āmirī, Śāntir doẏār Jiẏā Bābā (Amins: Chittagong; no year), track 7.

[10] Literally meaning ‘mentioning’or ‘remembrance’, ḏikr entails the repetition of formula usually containing the names of God, may be performed silently or loudly, and can be accompanied by fist beats on the respective positions of the laṭāʾif (see below).

[11] Ḥażrat is a honorific appellation preceeding names of holy Islamic personalities, and qibla (Arabic) usually denotes the direction of prayer facing Mecca/the Kaʿba, but is also used as a suffix to saintly names (often as qibla kaʿba) in order to highlight their importance. Reference in this VCD is to Syed Ahmadullah Maijbhandari (1829-1906), founder saint of the Maijbhandari movement.

[12] Mo. Ābˡdul Jabbār Śāh·Mimˡnagarī (1999): Pañcaratnagītikā. Karimˡgañj (Mymensingh), S.M. Najˡrul Isˡlām; 2nd edn; 1st edn 1988; Nr. 9.

[13] For an example, cf. Singer, Milton (1966): ‘The Radha-Krishna Bhajans of Madras City.’ In: Singer (ed.): Krishna: Myths, Rites, and Attitudes. Honolulu, East-West Center Press; 90–138.

[14] This, at first sight, seems to contradict another feature in the video, the garland of flowers. The two can be reconciled if interpreted in the context of death as reunion with the beloved which, for saints, is very directly expressed in the notion of ʿurs (‘marriage’, used for the death anniversaries of saints).

[15] This symbolism is enhanced by the underlying belief that the saint remains present, alive and even active at his tomb – a belief that is constitutive of saint veneration in Islam.

[16] Carla Petievich, When Men Speak as Women: Vocal Masquerade in Indo-Muslim Poetry (New Delhi: Oxford University Press; 2007).

[17] I contend that these terms serve a genuine debate on matters of authenticity and mimesis without having been superceded with the European word field of authenticity – even anukaraṇ, for which such a supercession seems likely in certain domains.

[18] My fieldwork proper ended in 2001 when VCDs were only announcing themselves on the market, and I am therefore not in touch with whatever debates or evaluations of VCDs may be around in present-day Maijbhandar.

[19] Sheldon Pollock, “Sanskrit Literary Culture from the Inside Out”, in Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia, ed. Idem (Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2003): 39-130; 58; the reference is to Bhoja’s pratisaṃskāryetivtta (texts whose plots require emendation).

[20] Which seem to be done very fast, probably at the rate of one day per VCD, judging from the samples I have seen.