The Language of the Mint

Hugh B. Urban

in Songs of Ecstasy

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780195139013
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199871674 | DOI:
 The Language of the Mint

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The collection of “Mint Sayings” (Ṭyāṅkśālī) for which translations are presented in this chapter was compiled in 1902 by Manulāl Miśra, a Kartābhajā author who tried to systematize this ortherwise wildly eclectic and confusing esoteric tradition of the Kartābhajās (a Bengali sect devoted to Tantra in colonial Calcutta). The sayings are intentionally obscure, enigmatic, and in a deliberately confusing form, and are clearly designed to mislead and befuddle the uninitiated outsider. They have no written commentary of their own and are intended to be transmitted in the secret oral context of a master‐disciple relationship. The value of the sayings does not appear to lie in their meaning or content; indeed, they often appear quite intentionally meaningless and absurd, but rather in their form and the ways in which they are exchanged. Miśra explains that the sayings are called “mint” sayings precisely because this secret discourse operates much in the same way as a physical mint. Just as a mint transforms ordinary metals into legal currency, so too the Mint language transmutes ordinary words into highly valued commodities, which can be exchanged in the secret marketplace, which is the Kartābhajā sect itself.

Keywords: Bengal; colonialism; eclecticism; India; Kartābhajā; language; Mint Sayings; sayings; secret discourse; sects; Tantrism; translations; Ṭyāṇkśālī

Chapter.  4161 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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