Merta, Rajasthan, India
|Philosophy||Sant tradition of the Vaishnava bhakti movement|
Meerabai (Mira Bai) was a Hindu mystic poet and devotee of Krishna. She was one of the most significant Sants ("true" or "saints") of the Vaishnava bhakti movement. Some 1,300 pads (poems) commonly known as bhajans (sacred songs) are attributed to her. These are popular throughout India and have been translated and published worldwide. In the bhakti tradition, they are in passionate praise of Lord Krishna. In most of her poems, she describes her unconditional love for her Lord and promotes Krishna bhakti as the best way of life because it helps us forget our desires.
Popular beliefs about her life, which has been the subject of several films, are often pieced together from her poetry and stories recounted by her community and are of debatable authenticity, particularly those that connect her with the later Tansen. On the other hand, the traditions that make her a disciple of Guru Ravidas in Chittor, her association with Tulsidas and later interactions with Rupa Goswami in Vrindavan are more likely to be true.
Meera was a Rajput princess born about 1498 in Kudaki, Rajasthan. Her father, Ratan Singh, was the youngest son of Rao Duda, ruler of Merta, and son of Rao Jodha ruler and founder of Jodhpur.. Ratan Singh belonged to the Rathore clan.
Meera's mother, Veer Kumari, died during child birth when Meera was around seven. Meera was then sent to her grandfather, Rao Duda and father's older brother, Rao Viram Dev at Merta where she was educated.
At about 7 years of age, she became obsessed by a Murti (image) of Giridhar Gopal, Krishna, owned by a holy man and was inconsolable until she possessed it and kept it all her life. In one popular belief, Meera viewed a wedding procession of a bride-groom and asked her mother about her husband. In response, her mother showed her a representation of Krishna and told her that he was her husband.
In 1516, when she was eighteen years old, her uncle, Rao Viram Dev arranged Meera’s marriage to prince Bhoj Raj, the son of Rana Sanga of Chittor. She was not happy with her marriage as she considered herself already married to Krishna. She went to live in Chittor accompanied by her childhood friend, Mithula, who stayed with Meera till the end.
Her new family did not approve of her piety and devotion when she refused to worship their family deity, Tulaja Bhawani (Durga).
In 1521, Meera's husband, Bhoj Raj died in battle. Rajputana had remained fiercely independent of the Delhi Sultanate, the Islamic regime that otherwise ruled Hindustan after the conquests of Timur. But in the early 1500s, the central Asian conqueror Babur laid claim to the Sultanate and some Rajputs supported him while others lost their lives in battle with him.
Her father-in-law, Rana Sanga respected and protected Meera Bai but died a few years later and Meera was then persecuted by the rest of her in-laws. She found Krishna to be her only support and resisted the wishes of her in-laws to give up her worship. Her grief turned into a passionate spiritual devotion that inspired in her countless poems drenched with separation and longing.
Meera's love for Krishna was at first a private thing but at some moment it overflowed into an ecstasy that led her to sing and dance in public with other who shared her religious zeal. She would quietly leave the Chittor fort at night and join Satsangs (religious get-togethers) in the town below. This behavior did not fit the expected behavior of a Rajput princess and widow.
Her brother-in-law, the new ruler of Chittor, Vikramaditya, was reportedly a cruel youth and strongly objected to Meera's devotion, her mixing with commoners and her lack of feminine modesty. Vikramaditya made several attempts to kill Meera and her sister-in-law, Uda bai, is said to have spread defamatory gossip.
There are a number of popular beliefs asserting that Meera's brother-in-law Vikramaditya, who later became king of Chittor, after Bhojraj's death, tried to harm Meera :
- He mixed poison in the prasadam or charna-amritam of Krishna and made her drink it. But by God's grace, Krishna changed it to Amrit.
- He pinned iron nails in Meera's bed, but, again by God's grace they turned into rose petals. As she explains in one of her couplets 'शूल सेज राणा नै भेजी, दीज्यो मीरां सुलाय/सांझ भई मिरां सोवन लागी, मानों फूल बिछाय'
- He put a snake in a flower basket and told her that it was a gift from him to her Lord Krishna, but when she opened it she found a garland or an image of Krishna. This episode is referred to in her poems.
At some time, Meera declared herself a disciple of the guru Raidas ("guru miliyaa raidasjee").
She left Chittor and went to Merta where she was still not satisfied or accepted and left for the centre of Krishnaism, Vrindavan. She considered herself to be a reborn gopi, Lalita, mad with love for Krishna. In popular belief, she expressed her desire to engage in a discussion about spiritual matters with Rupa Goswami, a direct disciple of Chaitanya and one of the foremost saints of Vrindavan at that time who, being a renunciate celibate, refused to meet a woman. Meera replied that the only true man (purusha) in this universe is Lord Krishna.
She continued her pilgrimage and "danced from one village to another village, almost covering the whole of north India". One popular belief has her appearing in the company of Kabir in Kashi, once again causing affront to social convention.
She is thought to have spent her last years as a pilgrim in Dwarka, Gujarat. In 1546, Udai Singh, who had succeeded Vikram Singh as rana, sent a delegation of Brahmans to bring her back to Mewar. Reluctant, she asked permission to spend the night at a temple of Krishna. The next morning she was found to have disappeared. According to popular belief, she miraculously merged with the image of Krishna.
Meera's songs are in a simple form called a ch' (verse), a term used for a small spiritual song, usually composed in simple rhythms with a repeating refrain, collected in her Padavali. The extant versions are in a Rajasthani and Braj, a dialect of Hindi spoken in and around Vrindavan (the childhood home of Krishna), sometimes mixed with Rajasthani.
- That dark dweller in Braj
- Is my only refuge.
- O my companion, worldly comfort is illusion,
- As soon you get it, it goes.
- I have chosen the indestructible for my refuge,
- Him whom the snake of death will not devour.
- My beloved dwells in my heart all day,
- I have actually seen that abode of joy.
- Meera's lord is Hari, the indestructible.
- My lord, I have taken refuge with you, your maidservant
Although Meera is often classed with the northern Sant bhaktis who spoke of a formless divinity, there is no doubt that she presents Krishna as the historical master of the Bhagavad Gita who is, even so, the perfect Avatar of the eternal, who is omnipresent but particularly focused in his icon and his temple. She speaks of a personal relationship with Krishna as her lover, lord and master. The characteristic of her poetry is complete surrender. Her longing for union with Krishna is predominant in her poetry: she wants to be "coloured with the colour of dusk" (the symbolic colour of Krishna).Her style of literature is mainly Rajasthani mixed with Brij language. But one can also see a hint of Gujarati as well as Punjabi in her writings.
In many regions of Rajasthan, bhajans of Meera are still common in religious night gathering known as 'Ratijuga '(रातीजौगा) organized by women. Tune and lyrics of a very popular Hindi song 'Rang Barse Bhige Chunar wali, rang barse'(movie: Silsila (film), Music:Shiv-Hari, Lyrics:Harivansh Rai Bachchan ) which is generally played on Holi in urban areas of northern India, are taken from a folk bhajan. However, the lyrics are slightly altered to mold the song into appropriate context of the movie script. First few lines of the original bhajan are
- "Rang barse o meeran ,bhawan main rang barse.
- Kun e meera tero mandir chinayo, kun chinyo tero devro..
- Rang barse o meeran ,bhawan main rang barse"
This popular bhajan is sometimes used as a dance song. Meera is also a common figure in wall paintings.
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Aliston and Subramanian have published selections with English translation in India. Schelling and Landes-Levi have offered anthologies in the USA. Snell has presented parallel translations in his collection The Hindi Classical Tradition. Sethi has selected poems which Mira composed presumably after she came in contact with Saint Ravidas. and Meera Pakeerah.
Some bhajans of Meera have been rendered by Robert Bly in his Mirabai Versions (New York; Red Ozier Press, 1984). Bly has also collaborated with Jane Hirshfield on Mirabai: Ecstatic Poems. Dr Prayag Narayan Misra has presented more than 20 devotional poems—available online in both Hindi and English languages.
Composer John Harbison adapted Bly's translations for his Mirabai Songs. There is a documentary film A Few Things I Know About Her by Anjali Panjabi. Two well-known films of her life have been made in India, Meera (1945), a Tamil language film starring M. S. Subbulakshmi, and Meera a 1979 Hindi film by Gulzar. TV series, Meera (2009–2010) was also based on her life.
J. A. Joshi has written a novel "Follow the Cowherd Boy" published by Trafford Publishing in 2006. Meera Bai's life has been interpreted as a musical story in Meera—The Lover…, a music album based on original compositions for some well known Meera bhajans, releasing 11 October 2009.
Sagar Arts, the creator of mythological and historical serials such as Hatim Aladin, Chandragupta Maurya, Prithviraj Chauhan, Dwarkadheesh, Jai jai jai Bajrangbali, Mahima Shani Dev Ki, Ramayan etc., created a serial on July 27, 2009 – January 29, 2010. Younger Meera was played by Aashika Bhatia and elder Meera was played by Aditi Sajwan.
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- FAQ - What is 'Follow the Cowherd Boy'? - YouTube
- FAQ - What prompted me to start writing 'Follow the Cowherd Boy'? - YouTube
- 'Follow The Cowherd Boy' Book trailer - YouTube
- Follow The Cowherd Boy - Zarna Joshi : Trafford Book Store
- Vandana Vishwas: Home
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mirabai.|
- Mirabai at Kavita Kosh (Hindi)