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Mira Bai

Mira Bai


Mira is regarded as an incarnation of Radha. She was born in Samvat 1557 or 1499 A.D. in the village Kurkhi, near Merta, a small state in Marwar, Rajasthan. Mira was the daughter of Ratan Singh Ranthor and the grand-daughter of Dudaji of Merta. The Ranthors of Merta were great devotees of Vishnu. Mira Bai was brought up amidst Vaishnava influence, which moulded her life in the path of devotion towards Lord Krishna. She learnt to worship Sri Krishna from her childhood. When she was four years of age, she manifested religious tendencies. Once there was a marriage procession in front of her residence. The bridegroom was nicely dressed. Mira, who was only a child, saw the bridegroom and said to her mother innocently, "Dear mother, who is my bridegroom?". Mira’s mother smiled, and half in jest and half in earnest, pointed towards the image of Sri Krishna and said, "My dear Mira, Lord Krishna—this beautiful image—is your bridegroom".

Mirabai, or Mira Bai or Meerabai, was a 16th century princess whose life is known more through legend than verifiable historic fact. The following biography is an attempt to report those facts of Mirabai's life which are commonly accepted.

Mirabai's Rajputi grandfather, Rao Dudaj, created the fortress city of Merta, where Mirabai's father, Ratan Singh, ruled. Mirabai was born in Merta about 1498. The family worshipped Vishnu as their primary deity.

Her mother died when Mirabai was about four, and Mirabai was raised and educated by her grandparents. Music was stressed in her education.

At an early age, Mirabai became attached to an idol of Krishna, given to her (legend says) by a traveling beggar.

At age 13 or 18 (sources vary), Mirabai was married to a Ranjputi prince of Mewar. Her husband died only a few years later.

His family was shocked that, first, she did not commit sati, burning herself alive on her husband's funeral pyre, as was considered proper for a Rajputi princess (rani). Then they expected her to remain secluded as a widow, and to worship his family's deity, the goddess Durga or Kali.

Instead of following these traditional norms for a widowed Rajputi princess, Mirabai took up enthusiastic worship of Krishna as part of the Bhakti movement. She identified herself as the spouse of Krishna. Like many in the Bhakti movement, she ignored gender, class, caste, and religious boundaries, and spent time caring for the poor.

Mirabai's father and father-in-law were both killed as a result of a battle to turn away invading Muslims. Her practice of Bhakti worship horrified her in-laws and the new ruler of Mewar. The legends tell of multiple attempts on her life by Mirabai's late husband's family. In all of these attempts, she miraculously survived: a poisonous snake, a poisoned drink, and drowning.

Mirabai returned to her home city of Merta, but her family also opposed her turning from traditional religious practices to the new Bhaki worship of Krishna. She later joined a religious community in Vrindaban, a place holy to Krishna.

Mirabai's contribution to the Bhakti movement was primarily in her music: she wrote hundreds of songs and initiated a mode of singing the songs, a raga. About 200-400 songs are accepted by scholars as being written by Mirabai; another 800-1000 have been attributed to her. Mirabai did not credit herself as the author of the songs -- as an expression of selflessness -- so her authorship is uncertain. The songs were preserve orally, and were not written down for a long time, which complicates the task of assigning authorship.

Mirabai's songs express her love and devotion to Krishna, almost always as Krishna's wife. The songs speak of both the joy and the pain of love. Metaphorically, Mirabai points to the longing of the personal self, atman, to be one with the universal self, or paramatma, which is a poet's representation of Krishna.

Mirabai was a "loyal wife" according to her people's tradition only in the sense that she devoted herself to her chosen spouse, Krishna, giving to him the loyalty she would not give to her earthly spouse, the Rajput prince.

Mirabai wrote her songs in Rajasthani and Braj Bhasa languages, and they were translated into Hindi and Gujarati.

After some years of wandering, Mirabai died at Dwarka, another place sacred to Krishna.

Mirabai's willingness to sacrifice family respect and traditional gender, family, and caste restrictions, and to devote herself completely and enthusiastically to Krishna, made her an important role model in a religious movement that stressed ecstatic devotion and that rejected traditional divisions based on sex, class, caste, and creed.

Selected Video

Payoji Maine

Climax from "Meera Shyam" (1976)

Kinu Sang khelu holi