Although a majority of Hindustani classical vocal compositions are sung in the Braj language and are Vaisoava in content, the role that this musical, poetic, and religious culture has played in the evolution of the art tradition has remained relatively under-discussed. I uncover a repertoire of liturgical songs (kīrtan) that have been performed and recorded as canonical compositions of classical lineages (gharāna), in which the transformation of form, style, and context in the courtly environment rendered the medieval, Braj-based, Vaiṣṇava poet, poetic content, and temple ritual use anonymous, unrecognizable, and irrelevant. In doing so, I propose that this geographical and culture area and its liturgical practices be foregrounded in our view of history, both as a source for composition and as a pre-modern, stylistic core for the latterly evolved, classical tradition.

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