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  • Kanhopatra
 
 

About Kanhopatra

Kanhopatra (or Kanhupatra) was a 15th-century Marathi saint-poet, venerated by the Varkari sect of Hinduism.
 
Little is known about Kanhopatra. According to most traditional accounts, Kanhopatra was a courtesan and dancing-girl. These accounts typically concentrate on her death when she chose to surrender to the Hindu god Vithoba—the patron god of the Varkaris—rather than becoming a concubine of the Badshah (king) of Bidar. She died in the central shrine of VithobaVithoba
Also known as Vitthal (meaning one who accepts innocent and gullible person)...
in Pandharpur. She is the only person whose samadhi (mausoleum) is within the precincts of the temple.
 
Kanhopatra wrote Marathi ovi and abhanga poetry telling of her devotion to Vithoba and her struggle to balance her piety with her profession. In her poetry, she implores Vithoba to be her saviour and release her from the clutches of her profession. About thirty of her abhangas have survived, and continue to be sung today. She is the only female Varkari saint to have attained sainthood based solely on her devotion, without the support of any guru, male Varkari saint, or parampara
 
Kanhopatra's history is known through stories passed down over centuries, making it hard to separate fact and fiction. Most accounts agree about her birth to Shama the courtesan and her death in the Vithoba temple when the Badshah of Bidar sought her. However, the characters of Sadashiva Malagujar (her alleged father) and Hausa the maid do not appear in all accounts.
 
Kanhopatra was a daughter of a rich prostitute and courtesan named Shama or Shyama, who lived in the town of Mangalvedhe, near Pandharpur, the site of Vithoba's chief temple. Apart from Kanhopatra, Mangalwedhe is also the birthplace of the Varkari saints Chokhamela and Damaji. Shama was uncertain about the identity of Kanhopatra's father, but suspected that it was the town's head-man Sadashiva Malagujar. Kanhopatra spent her childhood in the palatial house of her mother, served by several maids, but because of her mother's profession, Kanhopatra's social status was demeaningly low.
 
Kanhopatra was trained in dance and song from early childhood so that she could join her mother's profession. She became a talented dancer and singer. Her beauty was compared to the Apsara It means a female spirit and is almost comparable to angels. They are considered to be divinely beautiful females possessing supernatural powers. They are elegant and brilliant at dancing and sometimes seduce gods and men.(heavenly nymph) MenakaMenaka
In Hindu mythology, Menaka, or Menka  is considered one of the most beautiful of the heavenly Apsaras...
. Shama suggested that Kanhopatra should visit the Badshah (Muslim king), who will adore her beauty and gift her money and jewelry, but Kanhopatra flatly refused. Traditional tales narrate that Shama wanted Kanhopatra to marry, but Kanhopatra longed to marry a man who was more beautiful than her. Scholar TaraTara
In the Ramayana, Tara is addressed by Vali as the daughter of the vanara physician Sushena. Sometimes, verses are added in the Bala Kanda, the first book of the Ramayana...
Bhavalkar states that Kanhopatra's marriage was forbidden, as it was not socially acceptable for a daughter of a courtesan to marry.
 
Most accounts declare that Kanhopatra was forced into the courtesan's life, though she detested it, while some say that Kanhopatra firmly declined to become a courtesan. Some authors believe that she may have also worked as a prostitute
 
Sadashiva Malagujar, Kanhopatra's supposed father, heard of Kanhopatra's beauty and wished to see her dance, but Kanhopatra refused. Accordingly Sadashiva started to harass Kanhopatra and Shama. Shama tried to convince him that he was the father of Kanhopatra and thus should spare them, but Sadashiva did not believe her. As he continued his harassment, Shama's wealth slowly depleted. Eventually, Shama apologised to Sadashiva and offered to present Kanhopatra to him. Kanhopatra, however, fled to Pandharpur disguised as a maid, with the help of her aged maid Hausa.
 
In some legends, Hausa—described as a Varkari—is credited for Kanhopatra's journey to devotion. Other accounts credit the Varkari pilgrims who passed Kanhopatra's house on their way to the temple of Vithoba in Pandharpur. According to one story, for example, she asked a passing Varkari about Vithoba. The Varkari said that Vithoba is "generous, wise, beautiful and perfect", his glory is beyond description and his beauty surpasses that of LakshmiLakshmi
Lakshmi is a Hindu goddess who is regarded as the ultimate deity of wealth...
, the goddess of beauty.

Kanhopatra further asked if Vithoba would accept her as a devotee. The Varkari assured her that Vithoba would accept her as he accepted the maid Kubja, the sinful king Ajamila and the so-called "untouchable" saint Chokhamela. This assurance strengthened her resolve to go to Pandharpur. In versions of the legend where Sadashiva does not appear, Kanhopatra immediately leaves for Pandharpur—singing the praises of Vithoba—with the Varkari pilgrims or coaxes her mother to accompany her to Pandharpur.
 
When Kanhopatra first saw the Vithoba image of Pandharpur, she sang in an abhanga that her spiritual merit was fulfilled and she was blessed to have seen Vithoba's feet. She had found the unparalleled beauty she sought in her groom in Vithoba. She "wedded" herself to the god and settled in Pandharpur. She withdrew from society. Kanhopatra moved into a hut in Pandharpur with Hausa and lived an ascetic's life. She sang and danced at the Vithoba temple, and cleaned it twice a day. She gained the respect of the people, who believed her to be a poor farmer's daughter maddened by the love of Vithoba. In this period, Kanhopatra composed ovi poems dedicated to Vithoba.
 
 

 
 

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