Meerabai Hindu Mystic, मीराबाई (c.1498 - c.1547)

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About Meerabai Hindu Mystic, मीराबाई

Meerabai (मीराबाई) (c.1498-c.1547CE) Meera; Mira; Meera Bai, was an aristocratic Hindu mystical singer and sahajiya (apasampradaya) devotee of lord Krishna from Rajastan and one of the most significant figures of the Sant tradition of the Vaishnava bhakti movement.

A Indian Hindu mystic and teacher famous for her devotional poems and songs, Meerabai was forced into an unhappy arranged marriage at a young age, and spent every free moment worshipping Krisha, a popular Hindu deity, through prayer, meditation, and composing her own poems in his honor.

When she was widowed, she refused to commit the ritual suicide that custom demanded, instead becoming a solitary woman traveler and spiritual seeker - highly unusual for the time. She lived at various temples, eventually achieving acclaim as a poet, singer and teacher.

Some 12-1300 prayerful songs or bhajans attributed to her are popular throughout India and have been published in several translations worldwide. In the bhakti tradition, they are in passionate praise of lord Krishna.

Details of her life, which has been the subject of several films, are pieced together from her poetry and stories recounted by her community and are of debatable historical authenticity, particularly those that connect her with the later Tansen. On the other hand, the traditions that make her a disciple of Ravidas who disputed with Rupa Goswami are consonant with the usual account of her life.

Meera's temple to Krishna at Chittorgarh Fort, Rajasthan Meera, a Rajput princess was born in Kudki (Kurki), a little village near Merta, which is presently in the Nagaur district of Rajasthan in northwest India. Her father, Ratan Singh Rathore, was a warrior of the Rathore clan, the son of Rao Jodha of Mandore (1416-1489 CE), founder of the city of Jodhpur in 1459.

As an infant Meera became deeply enamoured of an iconic idol of Krishna owned by a visiting holy man; she was inconsolable until she possessed it and probably kept it all her life. Her mother was supportive of her religious tendencies but she died early.

Meera’s marriage was arranged at an early age, traditionally to Prince Bhoj Raj, the eldest son of Rana Sanga of Chittor. However her new family did not approve of her piety and devotion when she refused to worship their family deity and maintained that she was only truly married to Krishna.

The Meera Museum in Merta City

The 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 16th century CE the central Asian concquerer Babur laid claim to the Sultanate and some Rajputs supported him while others ended their lives in battle with him. Her husband's death in battle (in 1527 CE?) was only one of a series of losses Meera experienced in her twenties, including the death of her mother. She appears to have despaired of loving anything temporal and turned to the eternal, transforming her grief into a passionate spiritual devotion that inspired in her countless songs drenched with eroticism and separation.

Meera's devotion to Krishna was at first a private thing but at some moment it overflowed into an ecstasy that led her to dance in the streets of the city. Her brother-in-law, the new ruler of Chittorgarh, was Vikramaaditya, an ill-natured youth who strongly objected to Meera's fame, her mixing with commoners and carelessness of feminine modesty. There were several attempts to poison her. Her sister-in-law Udabai is said to have spread defamatory gossip.

At some time Meera declared herself a disciple of the guru Ravidas ("guru miliyaa raidasjee") and left for the centre of Krishnaism, Vrindavan. She considered herself to be a reborn gopi, Lalita, mad with love for Krishna. Folklore informs us of a particular incident where 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 saint of Vrindavan 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, "danced from one village to another village, almost covering the whole north of India". One story has her appearing in the company of Kabir in Kashi, once again causing affront to social mores. She seems to have spent her last years as a pilgrim in Dwarka, Gujarat.

Poetry

Meera's songs are in a simple form called a pada (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 dialect of Hindi, Braj, a dialect of Hindi spoken in and around Vrindavan (the childhood home of Krishna), sometimes mixed with Rajasthani, and in Gujarati:

That dark dweller in Braj Is my only refuge. O my companion, worldly comfort is an 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 focussed 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).

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 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.

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