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Merta, Rajasthan, India
|Philosophy||Sant tradition of the Vaishnava bhakti movement|
Merta, Rajasthan, India
|Philosophy||Sant tradition of the Vaishnava bhakti movement|
Meerabai (Rajasthani:मीरां बाई) (c. 1498 – c. 1557 AD) (alternate orthographies: Meera, Mira, Meeraan, Meeran Bai; the word 'bai' in Rajasthani is an informal term commonly used to refer a sister or sometimes a girl) was a princess Hindu mystical and a devotee of Lord Krishna from Rajasthan. She was one of the most significant figures Sant 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 published in several translations worldwide. In the bhakti tradition, they are in passionate praise of Lord Krishna. In most of her poems she has described her unconditional love for her Lord. She has tried to give the message that Krishna bhakti is the best way to live life as it helps us forget our desires and this in turn helps us attain moksha (liberation).
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 Guru Ravidas in Chittor, her association with Tulsidas and later interactions with Rupa Goswami in Vrindavan are consonant with the usual account of her life.
Meera, a Rajput princess was born in Kudki (Kukari), a little village near Merta City which is presently in the Nagaur district of Rajasthan in northwest India. Her father, Ratan Singh, was the youngest son of Rao Duda ruler of Merta and belonged to the Rathore clan. Rao Duda was son of Rao Jodha ruler and founder of Mandore.
As a child Meera became deeply enamored by a statue of Giridhar Gopal, Lord Krishna, owned by a holy man; she was inconsolable until she possessed it and kept it all her life. (Some myths say that Meera saw a wedding procession of a bride-groom and asked her mother about her husband, then her mother took her in front of the deity Lord Krishna and told her that He was her husband.) Then she was around seven years old. She was highly influenced by her father as he was a worshiper of Krishna.
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. It is here that she received her education.
Her uncle, Rao Viram Dev arranged Meera’s marriage, in 1516 when she was thirteen, with 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 mate, 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).
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 AD the central Asian conqueror 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 1521 AD) was only one of a series of losses Meera experienced. Her father-in-law, Rana Sanga respected and protected Meera Bai. However; he also died after a few years and Meera was then persecuted by the rest of her in-laws. She found Krishna to be her only support and rebuked the instructions of her in-laws to give up her worship of Giridhar Gopal. Her grief turned into a passionate spiritual devotion that inspired in her countless poems drenched with separation and longing.
Meera's love to 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 and other religious folk. She would quietly leave the Chittor fort at night and join Satsangs (religious get togethers) in the town below. Her brother-in-law, the new ruler of Chittorgarh, Vikramaditya, was a cruel youth who strongly objected to Meera's devotion, her mixing with commoners and carelessness of feminine modesty. Vikramaditya made several attempts to kill Meera. Her sister-in-law Uda bai is said to have spread defamatory gossip.
According to some myths Meera's brother-in-law Vikramaditya, who later became king of Chittor, after Bhojraj's death, tried to harm Meera in many ways, such as:
There are many more in a similar vein.
At some time Meera declared herself a disciple of the guru Ravidas ("guru miliyaa raidasjee"). After unbearable torture she left Chittor. First she went to Merta where she was still not satisfied and after sometime 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 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, "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. It is said that Mirabai disappeared into the Dwarkadhish Murti (Image of Lord Krishna) in front of a full audience of onlookers.
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.
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
This popular bhajan is sometimes used as a dance song. Meera is also a common figure in wall paintings.
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Alston 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.
Osho has given a commentary on Meera's bhajans.
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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