Although Mira Bai&’s life was constantly riddled with suffering, she remained undaunted and never stopped believing in Lord Krishna, writes pk chhetri

MIRA Bai was the daughter of Ratan Singh Rathore of Merta and granddaughter of Rao Dudaji, who was the fourth son of the founder of Jodhpur, Rao Jodhaji Rathore. They followed Vaishnavism and worshipped Lord Krishna. She was the only daughter of Ratan Singh and was born in Kurki in 1498 AD. Her original name was Pemal and was later named after a famous Sufi saint — Meera Shah — who had blessed her parents when they visited him to seek blessings for a child. Her grandfather brought her up because she lost her mother as a child and her father was always busy with warfare. Legend has it that she was devoted towards Krishna after her mother told her that she would be his wife.
   She was well educated and learnt the Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas from a pundit named Gajadhar, which wasn’t very common amongst Rajput ladies in those days. After her marriage, Gajadhar accompanied her to Chittor where Mira appointed him as chief priest of the Krishna temple that she had set up herself. Apart from being academically strong, she had also acquired some proficiency in music and poetry.
Rao Dudaji died in 1515 and since her father was still engrossed in warfare, her uncle, Rao Vikram Deo, assumed power and took care of her education and welfare.
   Her relatives wanted to marry her off but were unaware that she had already accepted Krishna as her husband long ago.
She was finally married in 1516 to Prince Bhojraj, the eldest son of Rana Sanga, who later fought Babur in a battle at Khanwa in 1527. This marriage ended as a political alliance because Bhojraj was a very ambitious man and wanted to expand his kingdom. Although he accepted her, his family members didn’t quite like her intense devotion towards Krishna and thought she neglected her family and husband.
   Though Bhojraj was heir-apparent to the throne of Mewar, he died before his father in 1518 and here began the ordeals in Mira&’s life. In her writings, Mira touted herself as a virgin and was childless. After the death of her husband, she devoted herself completely to Krishna and adopted a pious life spending most of her time among mendicants.
   Rana died a year after the battle of Khanwa after which his second son ascended the throne and was also killed in 1531. After this, Vikramjit succeeded the throne. It is pertinent to note that all those who liked Mira died. Vikramjit detested Mira&’s attitude as she hobnobbed with saints who weren’t as dignified as the royal family. Sometimes, she even danced out in the open. Back then it was impossible to imagine women step out of their homes. 
   Vikramjit tried his level best to stop Mira from joining such congregations but nothing could stop her from going out. People adopted every way to desist her from her path of devotion.
   Modern scholars disregard such details but it was true that Vikramjit spared no effort to persecute Mira. She then left her husband and sought shelter at her uncle&’s – Vikram Dev — residence in Merta. From then on, she remained in his company along with her cousin Jaymal until the King of Jodhpur expelled Vikram from his own territory in 1538.
   When Vikramjit&’s interference became extremely intolerable, she wrote a letter to Tulsidas — the distinguished composer of Ramacharitamanasa – and sought his advice. She wrote that she was tortured by her in laws for her devotion towards Krishna and was unable to break the attachment she had developed over the years. Tulsidas replied, “Those who do not hold Rama and Sita dear, shun them as your dire enemies, howsoever closely related.”
   After her uncle&’s defeat, she found no point in staying in Merta and became a wandering ascetic and proceeded to Vrindavan on foot. It is said that when she went to see Jiva Goswami, the famous teacher at Chaitnaya School, he refused to attend to her on grounds that she was a woman. Mira replied, “I thought that Lord Krishna was the only man in Vrindavan and the rest of the inhabitants were gopis. Now I’ve discovered that there&’s someone else here besides Lord Krishna who considers himself a man.” There is every probability that the story is unauthentic. But, it is true that Goswami was living in Vrindavan when Mira was said to have visited.
   There is very little information available about her life. From Vrindavan she went to Dwarka on the coast of Kathiawar, Gujarat and retired at the temple of Ranachod.
In the mean time, there were constant ups and downs in Chittor and Vikramjit was overthrown after being deemed as an unworthy king. It so happened that Vikram Deo recaptured Merta after which he invited Mira to return. But she politely refused.
   Vikramjit&’s successor, Rana Udai Singh, also wanted Mira to return to Chittor but she also turned down his appeal. After this Udai sent a couple of Brahmans to persuade her and on feeling irritated, she decided to leave Ranachod. Later, she died sometime in 1546 AD.
   Although her life was constantly riddled with sufferings, she remained undaunted and never stopped believing in Krishna. She composed her poems in Western Rajasthani, but they are also available in Braj bhasa.
   She is one of the best-loved poets of the Bhakti Movement because of her meticulous use of words and rhythm. Since her verses are highly lyrical and melodious, they are very popular in Northern India.
Guru Arjun Singh inserted one of her hymns in his collection of sacred writings. She is mainly popular for her padavalis because they are of high literary value. She composed them in Gujarati also, which were incorporated in Virat Kavya-Dohan.
   A striking quality of Mira&’s writings is that there is no erotic element, though she scrupulously describes the love of Krishna and gopis including Radha. She described the marriage bed as a symbol of mystical union with God. Apart from being a saint, she was a great historical figure who displayed exemplary courage to resist the feudal patriarchy and raised her voice against social oppression of women.

The writer is former joint secretary, government of West Bengal