Hindu Bhakti (Devotional) Stories Index
Bhakta Meera Bai
Stories of Devotees, Stories from Puranas, Stories from Hidu Mythology, Stories of Bhakthas, Stories of Alwars, Stories of Nayanars, Stories of Hindu Saints, Biographies of Hindu Philosophers, Stories of Hindu Sages, Stories of Hindu Gods and Goddesses,
One of the greatest devotees of Lord Krishna. The daughter of a prince and the daughter-in-law of a prince, she gave up every thing and faced persecution. Her songs live on the lips of people to this day.
Meera dedicated her entire life to God and endured all the difficulties of life. Awake or asleep, all the time she thought only of Sri Krishna. Thus Mira lives in the hearts of the people of India as the very embodiment of Bhakti (or devotion to God).
Even today people sing the songs of Mira whom, forgetful of everything, was in love with Giridhar Gopal and offered herself entirely to Him. 'Mira Bhajan' has developed into a unique tradition in Indian Music.
She was a princess. She lost her mother in her childhood. She married a prince, but she lost him also when she was young. Her husband's family objected to her worshipping Krishna. Even the king was against it. They attempted to murder her. But whatever happened, the same words lived in her heart and on her lips: 'Giridhar is the Lord and Mira in His servant.'
This is all that we know for certain about her.
People narrate several stories about Mira Bai's life. It is difficult to distinguish facts from fiction in such narration. Such stories get changed as they descend from generation to generation. It is not fair to dismiss all the stories as mere legend. Some details may be wrong but from these tales we can get at least a clear idea about achievements.
Mira was a devotee of Sri Krishna. She is worthy of being ranked with the mystic; poets. The mystics give no importance to their personal lives. They see only God in everything and forget themselves. That is why not much is known about them. Mira too has not said about her life. She has mentioned in some of her songs that she was from Medatha and belonged to the family of Doodaji. She has also described in her songs how she suffered at the hands of the Rana.
Sri Krishna's Idol in Child's Hands
There are no two opinions about the fact that Mira belonged to Medatha in Rajasthan. She calls herself in one of her songs a 'Medathani' (a woman who belongs to Medatha). She has also stated that she is a Doodajini (one of Doodaji's family) of the Rathod royal dynasty. There were several petty feudal states in Rajasthan. Medatha was one of them. Rao Doodaji was its Rana. Princes in Rajasthan were usually called Ranas. Rana Rao Doodaji had four children. The eldest was Beerama Dev and the youngest, Ratan Simha.
Ratan Simha was "a brave warrior. For a long time he did not have children. At last, by the grace of God, a daughter was born to him. She was named Mira. She was probably born in 1498. When she was only a child she lost her mother. At that time there were several kingdoms in India, some large and some small. Besides, it was the age of the Moghals. Wars were frequent. Since Ratan Simha, the father of Mira, had to spend most of his time in wars,the child had to grow up in the palace of its grandfather. Doodaji.One day a procession was passing in front of the palace. Mira was yet a small girl. People in the procession bowed to the Rana and proceeded.
It was a wedding procession. The bride- groom was very attractively dressed.
Mira saw him. He might have looked like a big doll to those innocent eyes.
"What is that?" She asked her grand father.
"He is a bridegroom," replied he. But the little girl could not quite understand the meaning of the word bridegroom.
"I too want one like that to play with. Please get me one" the girl said.
What could any one say to such a request of the child? It is but natural of children to ask for every new thing they see. Without a second word the grandfather brought out a lovely idol of Sri Krishna and placing it in her hands, said, "Look, my dear, here is your bridegroom. Take good care of him."
Mira got what she had asked for; what else did she care for? She played with that idol and behaved as if Krishna was her husband.
This is one story about Mira. There is nothing improbable in it. But it cannot be said for certain that this is what really happened.
One more story about how Mira got the idol of Sri Krishna is worth considering.
Rao Doodaji had much respect for monks and saints. Almost every day some monk or the other came to the palace as a guest of honor. Once a hermit called Raidas came to the palace. He was prominent among the disciples of Saint Ramanand who had spread the Vaishnava cult in North India. He had a beautiful idol of Sri Krishna. He used to worship it as his personal deity. Mira saw it and wanted it. She asked for it. She would listen to no
one. She was stubborn and insisted on having it. Who would be prepared to part with his personal deity just to pacify a child? The hermit left the palace after enjoying the king's hospitality.
Mira did not stop crying. She gave up food and drink and went on crying for the idol.
Next morning Raidas returned to the palace and placed the idol of Sri Krishna, so dear to him, in Mira's hands. Her joy knew no bounds.
Greatly surprised, "What is this?" asked Doodaji. The hermit said, "Last night Sri
Krishna appeared in my dream and said: "My beloved devotee is crying for me. Go and give the idol to her.' It is my duty to obey my Lord's command, that is why I came back running. Mira is a great person." So saying the hermit blessed Mira and went away.
This is another story. Some scholars say that this happened about the year 1501-2. There are also people who say that the sanyasi was not Raidas but somebody else. Mira herself has said in a song:
"My mind has become one with Hari. I can see my path clearly. My master Raidas himself has given me the pill of wisdom. The name of Hari has been deeply inscribed on my heart...
Thus Mira has clearly stated that Raidas was her spiritual master. So the story narrated earlier may be believed. The problem lies not so much in the story as in the name of Raidas mentioned in it.
Raidas, the disciple of Ramanand, was born in or about the year 1400. The story can be true only if Raidas lived for more than a hundred years. One other important point is that Raidas was a devotee of Rama. Therefore many persons do not believe that he had an idol of Lord Krishna. But it cannot be said that he never wor- shipped Krishna and that he did not have an idol of Krishna at all. Brindavana, Dwaraka, and the banks of river Jamuna, which are associated with Krishna's life, are places in North India. So naturally the people there were particularly devoted to Sri Krishna. In such circums- tances, it would not have been unusual even if Raidas had an idol of Sri Krishna.
Some scholars say that the hermit of this story was only a disciple of Raidas. It was a tradition to give the same name of the Guru to the disciple succeeding to the Guru's position. So this view may be correct.
Somehow or the other, the idol of Sri Krishna came to the great tiny hands of little Mira, as a gift from some holy man.
Sri Krishna became her companion all through her life.
The King's Daughter-in-law
Mira was brought up in the palace of her grandfather. 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 themain reason for the immense popularity of her songs.
Sri Krishna had already filled her heart.
After Doodaji's death, his first son, Beerama Dev, became the Rana. He thought of celebrating Mira's marriage. It was decided that she was to marry Bhojaraja, the crown prince of Chittore. He was the son of Rana Sanga. The marriage was celebrated with great pomp and grandeur in1516.It seems Mira had placed the idol of Sri Krishna by her side even on the bridal seat. The royal family, which had the custom of placing asword representing the bridegroom,by the bride's side might well have allowed this.
Mira had been worshipping Krishna right from her childhood. Nobody in her parent's home had come in the way. On the other hand, they had encouraged it.
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.
The family, which Mira entered, was renowned for bravery and heroism. Though the Rana had to face all alone the adversities of life, he bore them with courage but never accepted the Moghul rule in Rajasthan. Constantly fighting against the Moghals, he had held high the banner of Rajasthan's tenacity,courage and heroism. Such a man was her father- in-law. And his eldest son Bhojaraja was her husband. This brave spirit of Rajasthan was the pride of India.Bhojaraja, too, was a hero. His family had been from times immemorial followers of the Shakta cult; that is, they worshipped the Goddess of Power in the forms of Durga, Kali, Chamundi and Parvathi. They did not so much like the worship of Vishnu. Mira's mother-in-law, in particular, did not like it at all.
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 Hanumantha 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 inattendance with respect and obedience like a servant; she treats him with sweet familiarity like a friend. In 'Madhura Bhava' the devotee's relationship with God is exactly that of the wife with her husband.
Right from her childhood Mira had cultivated this kind of love for God. At the time of her marriage, she showed, in the presence of all people, that Sri Krishna was her husband. That became the conviction of her life. In her mother's home there was no hindrance to her devotion to Krishna. In fact it was only there this faith struck deep root in her heart.
Obstinate or Crazy?
Though Mira 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 Mira. Everybody at home advised the obstinate girl to mend herself.She listened to their words. She would do whatever else she was asked to do; but, it 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 Bhojaraja 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 Mira 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 1, 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 Mira, 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.
The prestige of the royal family of Chittore stood very high. How renowned and noble was this family!
What a disgrace to such a family if 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 Bhojaraja had immense love for her. Therefore no one had the courage to say anything against her.
But Bhojaraja passed away in 1521. He had been wounded in a battle in 1518, and the wounds proved fatal. Within about five years after her marriage Mira became a widow. She was only, twenty-three thins.
The only link Mira had with the world had snapped. There was no one to care for her. Branded as mad, she had already suffered everybody's contempt. But this apathy of her own people only strengthe- ned her devotion. More than ever she clung firmly to her Lord Krishna.
The Diamond Necklace Brings Grief
At home those who were opposed to her secretly till then, now began to talk about her openly. Fretting and fuming they said that the honor of the family had fallen to the dust. But she was known among the people as 'a great saint', and as the'Radha of Kaliyuga'. Many people deemed it a great fortune to see her and came to touch her feet in reverence.
Here is a story which a illustrates wide spread fame.
Akbar was a great Moghal Emperor. Tansen was a celebrated musician at his court. Tansen had seen Mira. Akbar came to know about Mira. He had heard that she had won the Grace of Krishna and that Krishna appeared before her when she sang in the ecstasy of devotion. So Akbar also wanted to see her. Both Tansen and Akbar decided to go to the place where Mira was living.
But it was not so easy for a MogulEmperor to go and see a Rajput lady in Rajasthan. It
was risky to go undisguised. Many of the Rajputs were hostile to Muslims. Though Akbar was able to make friends with quite a few of them, he had many enemies too. So according toTansen's plan bothentered Chittore in the guise of monks. Hindus do not harm monks. Moreover, the guise of ascetics made it easier for them to see Mira.
So,both Tansen and Akbar camedisguised as hermits to the temple where Mira lived.
At that time Mira was singing and dancing before Krishna. Her face was glowing like a lamp. Her voice was so sweet that the listeners stood amazed and thrilled. Forgetful of the entire world she was singing of Lai Giridhar and was dancing. Seeing Mira in that state, the Mogul Emperor was filled with wonder and devotion. He felt ashamed that he stood before such a saint in the false guise of a monk. He reproached himself in his mind.
"Tansen, come let us confess before this great saint who we really are and beg her to forgive us," said Akbar. "My Lord, if these people come to know that we are not really monks, just think of the conse- quence. If they find out that you, the Mogul Emperor, have come to see a Rajput lady, they will never allow us to go alive," warned Tansen.
Akbar was overcome with devotion and forgot himself in the song and dance of Mira.
The song and the dance ended, and Mira offered her salutation to Sri Krishna and sat down.
Akbar went up to her and bowed in salutation touching her feet. Then he took out a fine diamond necklace and was about to place it at her feet. Mira said, "Please don't do it. I do not take gifts of this kind."
"Mother, this I have brought as an offering to Sri Krishna. Pray accept it for Giridhar. I
cannot take back what I have brought for Sri Krishna.Please do not refuse,"implored the Emperor.
"All right, it is Sri Krishna's," said Mira and put it round the neck of Sri Krishna's Idol.
The necklace was dazzling. It caught the eye of every visitor. All wondered who could have given such a gift.
Some one identified it as belonging to Akbar.
Then how did it come there?
By and by the news spread: the great Mogul Emperor had come to the temple to see Mira and he touched her feet in reverence and offered a preciousdiamond necklace to Sri Krishna.
Rathan Simha the Second was then the Rana. This news reached him. He burned with anger. To him it was a question of the honor of the family. "A Mogul has not only stepped upon the sacred Rajput land but has gone back alive even after touching a Rajput lady. What a disgrace to the family!"
He thought that Mira herself, by leading the life of an ascetic, was responsible for it. So he began to harass her.
So goes the story. Historically viewed certain details are not correct. Tansen entered Akbar's court in 1562, that is, 15 years after Mira's death. If this story is true, Akbar could not have been on the throne at the time of the visit. Mira is said to have breathed her last in Dwaraka in 1547,when Akbar was only a five year-old child. But it is not certain that Mira died in 1547. There is also a version that Akbar was a crown prince when he met Mira Bai. Anyway, this is a very popular story about Mira Bai. Whatever the truth of the details, it must be true that later Mira wassubjected to terrible tortures.
The indignant Rana and his men ma several attempts to kill her.Mira accepted everything without protest. She came out of every danger safely.
The Rana never tried to kill her openly. May be he thought it was a sin to kill a woman and feared it, or he thought that such an act would enrage the people who loved her very much. When all his secret plots failed and Mira stood unscathed through all acts of violence, he cursed her, "Why shouldn't this ignoble woman drown herself and die?"
'I Have None but Giridhar Gopal'
Mira came to know about this wish of Rana. She too thought that it was right. If she were drowned it would be a great relief toher mother-in-law and her relations. And she too could join her Lord, Sri Krishna. It was the simplest solution. With these thoughts Mira went to the river.
Standing on the edge of the water she prayed in her mind to Lal Giridhar, Sri Krishna: "0, my Lord! Take me unto thy self."
She was about to jump into the river. But a voice seemed to address her: "it is a great sin to kill oneself. Don't do it, don't jump into the water. Go to Brindavan."
Brindavan was the place where Krishna spent his childhood. Mira set out for Brindavan. None troubled her there about family prestige. No codes of courtly conduct curbed her freedom. She was free from the constant fear of the Rana.
In happy abandonment Mira sang and danced before Sri Krishna: 'Mere tho Giridhar,Gopal, Dusaro na koyi' (Except Giridhar Gopal I have no one).
The Only Man In Brindavan
There is a fascinating story connected with Mira's life in Brindavan. There were many
saints in Brindavan. Jeeva Goswami was prominent among them.He followed a very strict vow. He would not allow even the shadow of a woman to touch him. So women could never go and see him. Having joined Chaitanya Dev's Bhakti Movement he was spreading the cult of Bhakti.
Having a high regard for saints and sages Mira went to see this great man. At the very entrance of the hermitage she was stopped by a disciple of Goswami. He said, "The Swamiji will not see anywoman."
Mira only laughed at this and said,"Ithought the only man in Brindavan is Sri Krishna.
Now, I see there is a rival to Him." These words pierced the heart of Goswami like a sharp pointed lance. He came out of his
cottage and walked up barefooted and conducted Mira into the hermitage with all honor.
This is the story.
In the Bhakti cult the love of the wife for her husband is said to be the best form of
devotion. According to this all are women in this world. God is the only Man. In Brindavan the only man is Sri Krishna. All the rest, the devotees, are Gopis. There is no distinction of sex among devotees. They should imbibe the feeling that God is their husband. If a devotee has this feeling he cannot obstinately refuse to see women. Knowing this, if he behaves with the presumption of being a man,it amounts to being a rival to God.
After leaving the palace Mira came in contact with many great men and famous poets. This strengthened her devotion and poetic talent.
The political condition in Medatha and in Chittore had changed very much. Nobody cared for Mira. Every one had branded her as a disgrace to the community. Her uncle, Beerama Dev, had to fight hard to retain his kingdom. He had no time to think of Mira. She, too, did not bother herself about these things. In a state of utter detachment she went on pilgrimage with saints. Finally she halted at Dwaraka. The temple of Ranchodji (another name for Sri Krishna) in Dwaraka became her shrine.
Though Mira was extremely popular, the royal families of Rajasthan hesitated to own her. The news that the Rana had been very unfair to Mira had spread. After Ratan Simha the Second was murdered, Udaya Simha was crowned. He thought that if Mira lived alone in the company of monks, it would bring a bad name to the royal family. So he requested her to return to Chittore.Having once suffered many tortures there, the pious Mira did not wish to return to that cage. There is an interesting tale about this.
Udaya Simha soon realized that Mira would not come back in deference to his words. He sent five Brahmins of Chittore to meet her.They requested herto return toChittore. Mira felt that if she went back to thepalace, the same old tale would be repeated. She was probably about forty-eight at that time. Even while her husband, Bhojaraja, was living it had been difficult for her to worship Sri Krishna in the palace. Mira had to shift to a temple. Now twenty-five years had passed since her husband's death. The royal family had even tried to murder her. So she had come to live in Dwaraka, far away from them all. She had resolved that she was related to nobody except Giridhar Gopal.
Was she to go back to that palace, to that prison? "I shall not come," she said.
It was the Rana who had sent the Brahmins. They dared not stand before him with dull face, without Mira. They implored, they entreated and they tried more than one way to persuade her.
"No," said Mira, "I shall not come." Then the Brahmins used their last weapon. "We shall not return without you," they said, "If you do not come with us,we shall fast here unto death."
Mira was in difficult situation. She did not like to go to Chittore. But she could not be
responsible for the death of these Brahmins. So she requested them to wait that night in the temple itself. She agreed to go to Chittore with them the next morning. The Brahmins felt very happy and stayed in the temple.
Where Is Saint Mira'
The day dawned. Mira was not to be found anywhere.
The Brahmins got scared. They searched for her. Other devotees and sanyasis also searched for her. But she was nowhere to be seen.
Only her dress was found lying in front of Ranchodji's shrine.
The devotees concluded that she might have got merged in her dear Lord, Lal Giridhar.
Even now devotees have the same belief.
There are people who do not believe this story. But there cannot be a more beautiful conclusion to the story of Mira's life. People who believe this to be true think it must have happened in 1547. Another Ponclusion is, that Mira did not die but escaped in disguise. But they cannot say anything about her life after this time. Nothing was heard of her anywhere. Among the stories people narrate about her this is none after this date. Therefore it is only appropriate to believe that Mira who had remained firm in the midst of all troubles realized at last the union with her dearest Lord.
The Drop of Nectar in the Poison
Mira's achievement in music is remarkable. She herself has set tunes to her songs and has mentioned the ragas. 'Rag Govinda' and 'Rag Mira Malhar' are her own creations. Mira's songs can easily be set to music. And this is why those songs have been on the lips of people for over four hundred years.
There are several compositions on record said to have been her work. But only the lyrics known, as Padas (songs of folk style) are important. So far more than four hundred such songs have been collected.
Mira's name is not mentioned in any of the royal chronicles of Rajasthan. No details of any kind can be found in the writings of contemporary historians. From all this, it is obvious that there was a deliberate attempt to wipe out her name from history. Some people had tried to kill her when she was alive. Probably they tried to prevent all mention of her in history. This would not be surprising. Jealousy and hatred make a man stoop to any mean act. The moving songs of Mira who had won the hearts of the people are still on their lips and so she lives still.
Those kings in power in those days not only hated her and treated her with contempt but also tried to expel her from the pages of history. Today while we look for material in books of history for Mira's biography, we have to ignore them. But Mira who had suffered their cruelty neither did not hate them in return nor showed any anger. Like a drop of sweet nectar preserved unspoiled even in the midst of poison, in the midst of hatred, violence and scandals, Mira fixed her mind on Lal Giridhar and sang in praise of him. We feel as if we hear Mira say with a smile, 'A devotee suffers any kind of hardship for the sake of his God, He never gives up his God. By minding his own business, he reaches his goal.'
Meera Sings thus, "I have no one but Giridhar Gopal. I gave up my mother. I gave up my father, and gave up all my kith and kin. I gave up my shyness in the company of sages. I ran eagerly seeking the saints but the ways and manners of the world came in the way. Then I shed tears. Those tears have kept the creeper of love alive. Saints and the holy name of Sri Krishna were the guiding lights I found along my path. Sri Krishna from within and the saints from without have illumined my path. My Lord, this slave Mira is yours. And you are the goal she wishes to reach. Let people gossip as they please. What does it matter?"