Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Story of Meera Bai

Meera Bai (also known as Mira) was one of the foremost exponents of the Prema Bhakti (Divine Love) and an inspired poetess of North India. She is regarded as an incarn
ation of Radha.

This is the story of the daring princess Meerabai, who revealed the secret of true happiness.

Meerabai, the great devotee of Krishna, who discovered that true wealth, lies not in the palaces of kings but in the hearts of the Lords devotees

Around 500 years ago, the Indian kingdom of Rajasthan was a land of warriors and sages, sadhus and kings. One such king had a daughter, the princess Meerabai, who saw beyond such things as riches and war.

She was born in Samvat 1557 or 1498 A.D. in the village Kurkhi, in Marwar, near Merta, a fortress-city, founded by her grandfather Rao Dudaji, about 40-50 miles north-east of Ajmer near Rajasthan. Meera was the daughter of Ratan Singh Ranthor and the grand-daughter of Rao Dudaji of Merta.

When she was four years of age, she manifested religious tendencies. As a child, she adored the cowherd god, Krishna, an image of whom she treated as a doll.

One day, while watching a wedding procession Meera asked her mother, "Dear Mother, who will be my bridegroom?"

Caught by surprise and unsure what to say, Meera mother smiled, and half in jest and half in earnest, pointed towards the image of Sri Krishna and said, "My dear Meera, this beautiful image is your bridegroom, her mother replied, "He is Lord Krishna."

From that moment on, child Meera began to love the idol of Krishna very much. She spent much of her time in bathing and dressing the image. She worshipped the image. She slept with the image. She danced about the image in ecstasy. She sang beautiful songs in front of the image. She used to talk to the idol.

Sadly her mother died when Meerabai was only four or five years old. As her father was away much of the time, she was then sent to be raised at her grandfather's house.

Other members of the family were also inclined towards Vaishnava practices, and in this environment Meerabai's own religious sentiments could grow freely.

Along with her general education she received lessons in music and dance too. She acquired a good mastery over them. She must have been especially proficient in music. The sweet musical quality of her songs is rarely found in the lyrics of other poets. This melody is the main reason for the immense popularity of her songs.

Meera had been worshipping Krishna right from her childhood. Nobody in her parents home had come in the way. If anything they actively encouraged it.

As she grew up, Meerabai's love for Krishna only strengthened. One night, she dreams that she and Krishna are married and for Meerabai, this is true also in her waking life. She lives as if she is Krishnas bride. She was passionately attached to the idol of Giridhar Gopal, a form of Lord Krishna and would refuse to be parted from it. Meera's mother died when she was ten year old. She then came to live with her grandfather who died in 1515. Her father's elder brother Vikram Deo who succeeded to the throne arranged her marriage with Prince Bhoj Raj, the eldest son of Rana Sanga of Chitter.

The marriage was celebrated with great pomp and grandeur in 1516. It seems Meera had placed the idol of Sri Krishna by her side even on the bridal seat. The royal family, which had the custom of placing a sword representing the bridegroom by the bride's side, might well have allowed this. This marriage raised Meera to a very high social status as the ruler of Chitter was considered to be the leader of the Hindu princes. But as soon as she came to live with her husband, her devotion to Sri Krishna began to cause displeasure among the members of her husband's family. It may seem strange that one should regard God as the husband and behave accordingly. But it is not a new thing in the Bhakti cult. There are several types of Bhakti (devotion). They are classified according to the relation that exists between God and the devotee. If God is regarded with parental affection, it is called as one's own dear child 'Vatsalya Bhava' (or the devotion of a parent to a child). The relation between Yashoda and Krishna is a good example of this type.

Instead of this, if a devotee considers God as his Master and firmly believes that he lives only by that Master's Grace and owes everything in life to Him, the relation would be that, which exists between Master and servant, It is called Dasya Bhava' (devotion of a servant to the Master). The relation between Hanumaan and Sri Rama is an example of this. When God is taken for an intimate friend, it is called "Sakhya Bhava' - the devotion of a friend to a friend. The friendship of Sri Krishna and Kuchela is of this type. When the relation between God and the devotee is one of love and of the intimacy that exists between husband and wife, it is called 'Madhurya Bhava'. This is considered the highest form of devotion.

The devotee is the wife and God is the husband. A wife serves her lord in several roles. She looks after him with affectionate care like a mother; she stands in attendance with respect and obedience like a servant; she treats him with sweet familiarity like a friend. In 'Madhurya Bhava' the devotee's relationship with God is exactly that of the wife with her husband. Though Meera had firmly believed even from her young age that Sri Krishna was her Lord, there is nothing to show in real life that she neglected her husband. As an ideal wife she might have returned his love and affection. But under no circumstances was she prepared to forget her Sri Krishna. In the entire world nothing was greater to her than that love. She loved to sit before the sweet little image of Sri Krishna, sing about Him in her sweet voice and dance. That was her life. She was born for only that. How could she give it up? But to others in her husband's house this looked like impertinence. It made them hate Meera. Everybody at home advised the obstinate girl to mend herself. She listened to their words calmly. In fact she would do whatever else she was asked to do; but, if she was told to forget Krishna, she could not bear it.

In the view of others, her intense devotion was nothing but a craze. When they made sure that she would not budge whatever they might say, they grew indifferent towards her.

Day by day she went on spending more and more time in the company of monks and other holy people, meditating upon Sri Krishna. At last Bhoj Raj got a temple built exclusively for her near the palace. (Some say that this temple was meant to divert the large number of Sadhus who came to the palace.) Anyway this provided Meera with a place where she could worship Sri Krishna in freedom. She used to spend the whole day in song and dance there. "When the whole world is asleep I, being away from my Lord, keep awake. Likewise some one else separated from her lover sits in a luxurious mansion stringing pearls, I know. Counting the stars I spend the whole night. When will dawn the hour of happiness for me? It is only after Giridhar, the Lord of Meera, comes that this suffering will end," so she sang in great joy. Her own people who had seen her sing, dance and go into ecstasy had concluded that she had gone mad. But the monks respected her as a great saint. The number of those who came to be blessed by her sight increased. She was revered among the people as 'a great saint', and as the 'Radha of Kaliyuga'. The prestige of the royal family of Chittore stood very high. What a disgrace to such a renowned and noble family that the wife of the prince went on singing and dancing with monks! Besides, she had insulted her husband's family by not worshipping Mother Kali. Such were the thoughts that crossed the minds of many in her husband's house. They were angry and had nothing but contempt for her. But Bhoj Raj had immense love for her. Therefore no one had the courage to say anything against her. There were no children from this marriage. Sadly, Bhoj Raj passed away in 1521. He had been wounded in a battle in 1518, and the wounds proved fatal. Within about six years of her marriage Meera had become a widow. She was only twenty-three then. The only link Meera had with the world had snapped. There was no one to care for her. Meerabai was left vulnerable to the hostility of her conservative male relatives, and that this hostility increased as Meerabai became visibly detached from the affairs of the world and her obligations to her in-laws.

Overstepping all propriety, she would descend from the Sisodiya palace, into town, where she would consort with sadhus and low caste bhaktas in local temples; and apparently danced before the image of Krishna.

Her in laws were enraged. She was suspected of consorting with spies. There were three attempts to kill her. It has been suggested that a much younger male relative, Vikramajita, is supposed to have locked her into a room, but when that failed to bring Meerabai to her senses, he attempted, unsuccessfully, to then poison her.

It has been suggested that her relatives expected her to commit Satiâ, or self-immolation, after the death of her husband; indeed, in one of her poems Meerabai wrote, "sati na hosyan girdhar ghanshyam mhara man moho ghananami", "I will not commit Sati. I will sing the songs of Girdhar Krishna."

Branded as mad, she had already suffered everybody's contempt. But this apathy of her own people only strengthened her devotion. More than ever she clung firmly to her Lord Krishna.

Sometime around 1538 Meerabai arrived in Vrindavan, where she spent most of the remainder of her life before moving, shortly before her death, to Dwarka.

A group of Brahmins come to Meerabai, and tell her of the destruction of their city, the brave death of Uda and others whom she loved. They beseech her to return to the city and be their queen. Though she does not want to go, she agrees to leave if it is Krishna's will.

It is said that Krishna himself could not bear their separation, for the next morning, when the Brahmins return to the temple, they find only Meerabai's shawl. Finally, the union of Meerabai and Krishna is complete.

It is Meera's bhajans or devotional lyrics through which she conveys her intense love or Krishna, that have immortalised her story as his "bride", which also lends credibility to Radha's love for the historical Krishna.

Meera's songs are inimitable, as sober and sincere expressions of deep love that is thoroughly spiritual in character. The songs are a class by themselves and will remain our prized possession. Her odes and hymns are so rich, sweet and inspiring, not because of any high rhetoric or dexterity of language, but because they are characterised by a tenderness and simplicity of feeling as genuine outpourings of a heart completely dedicated to God.

The vocabulary of human love used in them is simple and familiar, drawn from human situations that we come across in our day-to-day life, mostly connected with the 'affairs of the heart'.

And yet they strongly appeal to us, especially to those who are themselves devout and have got a good ear for music. Most songs pierce to the heart and convince us of Meera's supreme devotion to Krishna. They unmistakably convey to us that she knows her lord, for sure, to be the indwelling Master and the only object of her worship, not the mere image she is fondly attached to.