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MEERA BAI (1498 -1546)

Meera Bai was a Bhakti singer, mystic and a rebel. The much loved daughter of Rana Ratan Singh, Meera was born in a village called Kurki in Mewar but lost her parents early and was brought up by her grandfather Rao Duda in the fortress city of Merta in Mewar. It is said that at the age of five she was given a vigraha, a statue of Lord Krishna, by a mendicant, and became firmly convinced that Krishna was to be her husband. In accordance with royal custom she was married in 1516 to Prince Bhojraj, son of Rana Sanga, ruler of the Sisodiya clan of Mewar. It was not easy for Meera to reconcile her worldly role with her divine longings. She remained firm in her convictions through many ordeals, and none could dissuade her from following her own way. She spent most of her time singing devotional songs in the palace temple.

In 1521 Bhojraj died, soon followed by Rana Sanga. Meera refused to lead the secluded life of a royal widow. She sang and danced with greater mystic frenzy. Her cymbals and her anklets were heard even in the temple on the outskirts of the city, a public place open to all devotees. Such insubordination had never been witnessed before.

The young prince Vikram was so jealous of her rising popularity and strong political connections that he tried to kill her several times. It is said that once a poisonous snake was sent to her in a flower basket, but when she opened it, she found an image of Krishna; on another occasion she was given a cup of poison, but drank it with Krishna’s name on her lips and was miraculously saved. Wearied of these undercurrents of hatred and intrigue, Meera went back to Merta. She was soon overcome by restlessness and is said to have left for Vrindavan. It is said that in Vrindavan she met and was inspired by Sant Raidas. She then went to Dwarka, the kingdom of Krishna. The legend goes that Rana Udai Singh, who had succeeded Vikram Singh, called her back. Reluctant, she asked permission to spend the night at the temple of Ranchhorji (Krishna). The next morning, it is believed, her spirit entered the deity and her lifeless body was found lying at its feet.

Meera Bai’s poems and songs, composed in Rajasthani, Brajbhasha and Gujarati, are eloquent with transcendental emotion. Together with Vidyapati, Surdas and Tulsidas, she is one of the most outstanding poets of that time. Her Rag Govind narrating her love for Krishna exemplifies the true spirit of the bhakti movement. She composed between 200 to 1300 prayerful songs called bhajans. For the peasants of the region where she lived, she is a symbol of resistance, both to the organised power of the State and the domestic tyranny of the husband. In words of Sri Chinmoy" Meerabai was a devotee of the high, higher, highest order. Among the saints of India, she is absolutely unparalleled. She composed many, many bhajans, which are prayerful songs to God. Each song Meerabai wrote expressed her inspiration, aspiration and sleepless self-giving.’

Rita Dalmiya
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