Mirabai was a great saint and devotee of Sri Krishna. Despite facing criticism and hostility from her own family, she lived an exemplary saintly life and composed many devotional bhajans. Historical information about the life of Mirabai is a matter of some scholarly debate. The oldest biographical account was Priyadas’s commentary in Nabhadas’ Sri Bhaktammal in 1712. Nevertheless there are many aural histories, which give an insight into this unique poet and Saint of India.
Early Life Mirabai
Mira was born around the start of the 16th Century in the Chaukari village in Merta, Rajasthan. Her father was Ratan Singh a descendent of Rao Rathor, the founder of Jodhpur. When Mirabai was only 3 years old, a wandering Sadhu came to her family’s home and gave a doll of Sri Krishna to her father. Her father took this is as a special blessing, but was initially unwilling to give it to her daughter, because she felt she would not appreciate it. However Mira had, at first sight, become deeply enamoured with this doll. She refused to eat until the doll of Sri Krishna was given to her. To Mira, this figure of Sri Krishna, embodied his living presence. She resolved to make Krishna her lifelong friend, lover, and husband. Throughout her turbulent life she never wavered from her youthful commitment. On one occasion when Mira was still young she saw a wedding procession going down the street. Turning to her mother she asked in innocence, “Who will be my husband?” Her mother replied, half in jest, half in seriousness. “You already have your husband, Sri Krishna.” Mira’s mother was supportive of her daughter’s blossoming religious tendencies, but she passed away when she was only young. At an early age Mira’s father arranged for her to be married to Prince Bhoj Raj, who was the eldest son of Rana Sanga of Chittor. They were an influential Hindu family and the marriage significantly elevated Mira’s social position. However Mira was not enamoured of the luxuries of the palace. She served her husband dutifully, but in the evening she would spend her time in devotion and singing to her beloved Sri Krishna. Whilst singing devotional bhajans, she would frequently lose awareness of the world, entering into states of ecstasy and trance. Go to that impenetrable realm
That death himself trembles to look upon.
There plays the fountain of love
With swans sporting on its waters.
(1) Go To That Impenetrable Realm
Conflict with Family
However her new family did not approve of her piety and devotion to Krishna. To make things worse Mira refused to worship their family deity Durga. She said she had already committed herself to Sri Krishna. Her family became increasingly disproving of her actions, but the fame and saintly reputation of Mirabai spread throughout the region. Often she would spend time discussing spiritual issues with Sadhus and people would join in the singing of her bhajans. However this just made her family even more jealous. Mira’s sister-in-law Udabai started to spread false gossip and defamatory remarks about Mirabai. She said Mira was entertaining men in her room. Her husband, believing these stories to be true, tore into her room with sword in hand. However he saw Mira only playing with a doll. No man was there at all. Yet throughout these hysterical slanders Mirabai remained unmoved by both the criticism and praise of the world. This infamy, O my Prince
Some revile me,
I simply follow my incomprehensible road
A razor thin path
but you meet some good people,
A terrible path but you hear a true word
Because the wretched stare and see nothing?
O Mira's Lord is noble and dark,
rake only themselves
over the coals
Mirabai and Akbar
Mira’s fame spread far and wide her devotional bhajans were sung across northern India. It is said that the fame and spirituality of Mirabai reached the ears of the Moghul Emperor Akbar. Akbar was tremendously...
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