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RAMI (c. 1440)

Rami was a Vaishnava poet and a figure of Bengali legend as the low-caste lover and muse of the Vaishnav poet Chandidas. Chandidas himself is the subject of some controversy as there seems to have been more than one poet of that name. In the legend Chandidas is said to have seen Rami washing clothes in a pond and become so overwhelmed that he braved the ostracism of the village, quit his job as a priest to wander with her and sing songs of love in the Vaishnav tradition. Several attempts have been made to historicise this legend, including the finding of an anthology ascribed to Rami, but so far no conclusive evidence has been found to prove she really existed. The love lyrics ascribed to the washerwoman-poet are frank, courageous and uninhibited. A few lines from one of them: What can I say, friend?

I don’t have enough words!
Even as I weep when I tell you this story,
My accursed face breaks into laughter!
Can you imagine the cheek of the sinister men?
They have stopped worshipping the Devi
And have started tarnishing my reputation.
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