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Bridal Mysticism: Story of Meerabai
by Jyotsna Kamat
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Saint Mirabai (1547-1614 A.D.)
As the more famous (than Andal or Akkamadadevi) of the female saints of India, Bhakti Mira or Mirabai can be considered as one of the foremost mystics of the world. Worldly comforts never attracted these mystics. They have left beautiful songs and hymns to posterity which are sung to this day.
To Andal, Akkamahadevi and Mira, the soul was the eternal bride and the Lord their eternal Bridegroom the eternal Bridegroom . All the three excelled in the life of renunciation and divine realization. They lived in entirely different regions, wrote in their respective language in different age and Milieu, but became legends in their lifetime itself, by the austere life and single purpose of pursuit of God and finally divine attainment. This life is extremely difficult irrespective of gender to practice and attain salvation.
Mirabai was a princess of Rathod clan and belonged to Medath of Rajasthan. Rana Ratan Simh was her father. (Rana is the word for "Raja"). Even from childhood she exhibited spiritual traits. She was passionately attached to the idol of Giridhar Gopal, a form of Lord Krishna.
Refusal to Commit Sati and Marriage to Krishna
She was married to crown prince of Chittore. But shortly after, her husband Bhojraj and father-in-law Rana Sangh died. Mira refused to commit Sati, as was the practice among Rajputs. She was by conviction wedded to Giridhar Gopal, and death of "earthly" husband had no meaning to her. She spent all her time in praying, meditation, singing and dancing before her beloved idol, installed in the palace premises. The place started attracting many devotees, wandering saints and spiritual seekers. Mira found great solace in their company.
But this strange behavior was not acceptable to royal household and the ruling king, her brother-in-law. They thought of various modes of diverting her attention and save the glare of public. (Rajput women then and even now (year 2001) observe strict purdah) .Some songs of Mira reflect the agony and persecution she had to undergo. But her Giridhar Gopal always proved her savior.
"The Rana sent Mira a basketful of flowers with a snake inside. Mira absorbed in worship, put her hand into the basket to take flowers. Oh God! The snake had changed into a Saligrama! (Saligrama is a small round shaped black stone from the Gandaki river in Himalayas and is worshipped as a symbol of Vishnu).
Determined to kill Mira, the Rana sent a cup of poison. She prayed to Gopal and drank it. The poison turned into nectar. The Rana got a bed of sharp nails and Mira was made to lay down on it. But the nails turned to flowers. Mira was saved from all these dangers by none other than her Lord. Now intoxicated with immense love, she wanders all over in search of her Lord, dedicating herself to him entirely" she sang.
When many plots failed to kill Mira, it is said that Rana, the new king, cursed her "Why shouldn't this ignoble woman drown herself and die?"
Mira came to know about this wish and thought it would be a great relief to her royal relations if she put amend to life by jumping into the river. But in the nick of time divine voice addressed her. "It is a great sin to kill oneself... go to Brindavan."
So she undertook pilgrimage to Brindavan. It is considered sport field of Lord Krishna. Brindavan, a sacred place, was abode to several holy men. Jeeva Goswami had taken a vow never to see a woman--even her shadow! So, disciple of Goswami stopped her. "The Swamiji will not see any woman."
Mira laughed. "I though the only Man in Brindavan is Shri Krishan. now I see, there is a rival to him!"
In the Bhakti cult the love of the wife for her husband is said to be the best form of devotion. Hence all devotees in this world are women and God is the only man. In Brindavan the only man was supposed to be Krishna and other men and women were gopis, as gender distinction did not exist among real Bhaktas. If a devotee really felt as a gopi, he could never refuse to see another woman devotee. If anybody thinks himself a man it amounts to being a rival to god.
Mirabai's words stung Goswami and he at once understood the hidden meaning. He came out from cottage, bowed to the great lady and escorted to the hermitage.
From Brindavan she went to Dwaraka singing and praying. "I discovered the great secret in uttering the name and learnt it was quintessence of sastras. I reached my Giridhar through prayers and tears."
She gave many helpful suggestions to spiritual aspirants. "Oh my mind! You must do spiritual practice and worship.
"To love and live for Him" was the central theme of her songs. "Without pure love, the darling son of Nanda cannot be attained."
It is said that Mira got merged into the idol of Krishna in the temple of Ranchod at Dwaraka.
More than 400 songs ascribed to Mira known as Padas (lyrics) have been collected. She herself set tune to her songs and sang in soul-stirring divinely sweet voice. "Rag Govind" and "Rag Mira Malhar" are her creations. All her songs could be set to music easily and have become immensely popular throughout India, an indication to national solidarity established through Bhakti and through music.
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