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Mirabai: A Woman Who Lived to Love God

-  Anuradha Dutta

Can love truly be divine? Can it make the beloved become one to their loved ones? When love becomes bhakti or is bhakti itself the purest form of love? A simple name ‘Mirabai’ is the answer to all these questions. She was a 16th-century Hindu mystic poet and devotee of Shri Krishna. She is a celebrated Bhakti saint, particularly in the North Indian Hindu tradition. She was venerated as Sant Mirabai.
Sant Mirabai was born in Samvat 1557 or 1499 A.D. in the village Kurkhi, near Merta, a small state in Marwar, Rajasthan. At that time Merta was ruled by the Ranthors, who were great devotees of Vishnu. Her father, Ratan Singh, was the second son of Rao Dudaji, a descendent of Rao Jodhaji Rathor, the founder of Jodhpur. Mirabai was raised by her grandfather. As customary with royal families of Rajputana, her education included knowledge of scriptures, music, archery, fencing, horse riding and driving chariots. She was even trained to wield weapons. At a very young age of just four years, she manifested her deep devotion to Shri Krishna. Once she saw a marriage procession in front of the palace and spotted the well-dressed bridegroom. She asked her mother, who will be her bridegroom?
Mirabai’s mother smiled, and half in jest and half in earnest, pointed towards the image of Sri Krishna and said, ‘My dear Mira, Shri Krishna - this beautiful fellow - is going to be your bridegroom’.
Soon after, Mirabai’s mother passed away. As Mirabai grew up, her desire to be one with her Shri Krishna grew intense and she believed that Shri Krishna would come to marry her. After some time, she became confident that Krishna was to be her husband. She began to love the idol of Shri Krishna very much. She worshipped the idol. She danced in front of the idol. She sang beautiful songs in front of the idol. She even used to talk to the idol. Time passed on and Mirabai reached her teenage years.  
The tales of her beauty and piousness spread far and wide. Rana Sangram Singh, also known as Rana Sangha, the powerful King of Mewar, approached Rao DudaJi for Mirabai’s hand in marriage to his son Bhojraj (also known as Rana Kumbha or Kumbha Rana). Bhojraj wanted to marry Mirabai for her pious nature and divine intent. Rao Duda Ji agreed to this union. Although, Mirabai could not bear the thought of marrying a human being when her heart was filled with thoughts of the creator himself, her Shri Krishna. Unable to defy her grandfather’s decision, she finally consented to the marriage. Mirabai was married to Rana Kumbha in 1513 AD, before she turned 14. After her marriage, she left for Chittorgarh, Mewar with her husband.
Mirabai was a very dutiful wife. She obeyed her husband implicitly. After her household duties were over, she would go to the temple of Shri Krishna, worship, sing and dance there every day. Legends state that the image would get up, embrace her, play on the flute, and talk to her. Rana’s mother and other ladies of the palace did not like the ways of Mirabai. A conspiracy began to defame the innocent queen. But she never deterred from her prembhakti. She was persecuted in various ways by the Rana himself and his relatives.  But it is said that Sri Krishna always stood by the side of Mirabai. There are stories that tells of an incident when Rana sent a cobra in a basket to Mirabai with the message that it contained a garland of flowers. Mirabai was meditating at that time. After finishing her meditation, she opened the basket and found a lovely idol of Sri Krishna and a garland of flowers inside. Then the Rana sent her a cup of poison with the message that it was nectar. Mirabai offered it to Shri Krishna and took it as his prasad. It became real nectar for her. Then the Rana sent a bed of nails for Mirabai to sleep on. Mirabai finished her worship and slept on the bed of nails. But the bed of nails transformed into a bed of roses.
When the torture and scandals continued, Mirabai sent a letter to Goswami Tulsidas and asked for his advice. She wrote, ‘Simply because I am constantly tortured by my relatives, I cannot abandon my Krishna. I am unable to carry on with my devotional practices in the palace. I have made Giridhar Gopala my friend from my very childhood. I feel a total bondage with him. I cannot break that bond’. 
Tulsidasji sent a reply: ‘Abandon those who cannot understand you and who do not worship Rama or Syama, even though they are your dearest relatives. Prahlada abandoned his father; Vibhishana left his brother Ravana; Bharata deserted his stepmother; Bali forsook even his Guru; the Gopasthrees, the women of Vraja, disowned their husbands to get to their Krishna. Their lives were all the happier for having done so. The relation with God and the love of God are the only elements that are true and eternal; all other relationships are unreal and temporary’.
Her fame spread across the kingdoms. One legend state that once Akbar and his court musician Tansen came in disguise to Chitore to hear Mira’s devotional songs. Both entered the temple and listened to Mira’s soul-stirring songs to their heart’s content. Akbar was really moved. Before he departed, he touched the holy feet of Mirabai and placed a necklace of emeralds in front of the idol as a present. Somehow the news reached the Rana that Akbar had entered the temple in disguise, touched the feet of Mirabai and even presented her a necklace. The Rana became furious. He told Mirabai, to drown herself in the river and never show her face to the world in future, for she has brought great disgrace on his family”.
Mirabai obeyed her husband. She proceeded to the river to drown herself. The names of Shri Krishna “Govind, Giridhari, Gopal “were always on her lips. She sang and danced in ecstasy on her way to the river. When she was about to plunge into the river, someone grasped her from behind. She turned and saw her beloved Shri Krishna. She fainted. After a few moments she opened her eyes. Shri Krishna smiled and spoke to her “My dear Mirabai, your life with this mortal husband is over now. You are free. Be cheerful. You are mine. Go to the bowers of Vraja and the avenues of Brindavan. Seek me there, my child. Be quick”. He then disappeared.
Mirabai obeyed the divine call. She walked barefoot on the hot sandy soil of Rajasthan. On her way, she was received by many ladies, children, and devotees with great hospitality. She reached Brindavan. She went about Brindavan begging for her food and worshipped in the Govinda Mandir which has since become famous and is now a place of pilgrimage. Her devotees of Chitore came to Brindavan to see her. Even her husband Rana Kumbha came to meet her in the disguise of a mendicant, revealed himself and repented for his previous wrongs and cruel deeds. Mirabai at once prostrated before her husband but politely declined his request to return to Chitoreand be the queen once again. 
However, at his request, Mirabai returned to Mewar. Rana Kumbha agreed to her wish that she would reside in the temple of Shri Krishna but would not restrict her movements and wanderings. After some time, she returned to Brindavan, and then went to Dwaraka. Legend states, in 1547 AD on Shri Krishna’s Janmashtami at the temple of Shri Krishna, Mirabai got dissolved into the idol of Sri Krishna.
We hear tales of many noble born princesses and queens, how is it that the queen of Chitore alone is still remembered with reverence? Is this on account of her beauty? Or for the fact that she was a very good poet? 
It is on account of her renunciation, devotion to Lord Krishna and God-realisation. She had the beautiful cosmic vision. She saw Shri Krishna in in all beings, in everything. A saint, a philosopher, a poet, and a sage, she was a versatile genius and a pure soul. Despite being a princess and a queen, she chose a life of poverty, austerity, Tyaga, Titiksha and Vairagya. She lived a life of perfect renunciation and self-surrender. Though she was a delicate young lady, she embarked the perilous journey on the spiritual path amidst various difficulties. Mer songs infuse faith, courage, devotion, and love of God. She had Raganuga or Ragatmika Bhakti. Shri Krishna was her Prananath. She just immersed herself in the love of Giridhar Gopal. 
Centuries passed. The air of Virndavan, the sandy soil of Rajasthan and the very hearts of the god seeking souls still swells with the humble and melodic hymns of Meerbai while seeking refuge at the lotus feet of Sri Krishna , the creator; the Supreme being.