Nancy M. Martin

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online June 2012 | | DOI:

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Mirabai (also known as Meerabai, Mira, Meera) is the most well known of the women bhakti (Hindu devotional) saints of India. According to tradition, this 16th-century royal devotee of Krishna was born in Merta in Rajasthan in the kingdom of Marwar and dedicated to Krishna from childhood, but married into the royal family of Mewar in Chittor, most say against her will. She refused to behave as a woman of her caste and class was required to do and instead fearlessly danced and sang for her Lord in the public space of the temple and kept company with holy men and people from all walks of life. The rana, the ruler of Mewar (identified variously as her husband, her father-in-law, or her brother-in-law), tried to stop her, in many accounts repeatedly trying to kill her for these transgressions. Most famously, he sent her a cup of poison in the guise of holy water, but she remained unharmed and undeterred. Ultimately, she departed to become a wandering religious leader, reportedly traveling to holy places associated with Krishna, including Vrindavan (the land of his youthful incarnation) and Dwarka (the capital of the mature Krishna’s kingdom), where she ultimately merged with his image. Though admired by devotees of many different branches of devotional Hinduism, she remains formally unaffiliated and is explicitly rejected by the followers of Vallabhacarya. If she is said to have a guru at all, she is most often associated with the extremely low-caste leatherworker saint Raidas (also known as Ravidas, Rohidas). She is known not only for her story, but also for the devotional songs of love and longing she is said to have composed. A multitude of stories have circulated about her as her fame spread across India, and an immense body of songs are attributed to her, with those that might have been composed by this individual woman inseparable from those composed by others in subsequent centuries in her name and style. She has come to inspire many, her popularity crossing the borders of caste, language, religion, culture, and time.

Article.  11750 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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