Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mirabai... A great saint and devotee



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.

Mira was born around the start of the 16th Century in the Chaukari  village in mirabaiMerta, 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.

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.

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 powerful, but he was also very interested in different religious paths. The problem was that he and Mirabai’s family were the worst enemies; to visit Mirabai would cause problems for both him and Mirabai. But Akbar was determined to see Mirabai, the Princess – Saint. Disguised in the clothes of beggars he travelled with Tansen to visit Mirabai. Akbar was so enamoured of her soulful music and devotional singing, that he placed at her feet a priceless necklace before leaving.

 However in the course of time Akbar’s visit came to the ears of her husband Bhoj Raj. He was furious that a Muslim and his own arch enemy and set eyes upon his wife. He ordered Mirabai to commit suicide by drowning in a river. Mirabai intended to honour her husbands command, but as she was entering the river Sri Krishna appeared to her and commanded her to leave for Brindaban where she could worship him in peace. So with a few followers, Mirabai left for Brindaban, where she spent her time in devotion to Sri Krishna. After a while her husband became repentant, feeling that her wife was actually a real saint. Thus he travelled to Brindaban and requested her to return. Mirabai agreed, much to the displeasure of the rest of her family.

However soon after Mira’s husband died;( fighting in battles with the Moghul emperors). This made the situation even worse for Mirabai. Her father in law, Rana Sanga, saw her husband’s death as a way to be rid of Mirabai. He commanded her to commit Sati. However Mirabai, with the inner direct assurance of her beloved Sri Krishna, said that she would not do this. Her real husband, Sri Krishna had not died.

After this experience her family continued to torture her. They restricted her movements and sought to make her life as uncomfortable as possible. Yet in the face of all these trials and tribulation she remained detached from her physical suffering. There was nothing that could disturb her inner connection to Giridhara (epithet of Sri Krishna as young cowherd boy). It is said that twice her family tried to kill her, once through a venomous snake and once through poisonous drink. On both occasions it is said Mirabai, protected by the Grace of Sri Krishna, came to no ill harm.

However the relentless torments and hostility interfered with her life of devotion and contemplation on Krishna. She sought the advice of learned men and Saints. They advised her to leave the palace and return to Brindaban. Secretly with some followers she slipped out of the palace and escaped to the holy city of Brindaban. In Brindaban Mirabai was free to worship Giridhara to her heart’s content. She would spend her time in singing bhajans and in ecstatic communion with Krishna. Like a true Bhakti she worshipped God wholeheartedly. The riches of the world offered no attraction to Mirabai; her only satisfaction came from her single minded devotion  to Sri Krishna. Her soul was ever yearning for Krishna. She considered herself to be a Gopi of Vrindaban, mad only with pure love for Krishna.

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