Mirabai’s devotional songs about Krishna are very popular across all parts of India. Mira is to the Hindi speaking world, what Andal and Lalleshwari are to the Tamil and Kashmiri worlds respectively. This post traces Mira’s journey from being born as a Rajput princess in Rajasthan to being transformed into a mystical poetess saint, and a gopi (female devotee) of Lord Krishna in Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh.
Mira was born to the Rajput Raja Ratan Singh of Rajasthan. When Mira was about 3 years old, Sant Ravidas gifted Ratan Singh with a beautiful statue of Lord Krishna, with his flute. Ever since Mira set eyes on the statue, she was extremely attracted to Lord Krishna, and she played with the statue all the time. Slowly, with her mother’s teachings, Mira learnt about the greatness of Lord Krishna and became devoted to him.
One day, Mira saw a marriage procession on the streets and asked her mother who her groom would be. Her mother playfully told Mira that the person in the statue, Lord Krishna was in fact Mira’s chosen groom. Mira took this very seriously and her devotion to Krishna increased multifold. Throughout her life, Mira maintained the same youthful devotion and loyalty to Krishna, who was her eternal lover and husband. Soon after her mother’s death, her father arranged Mira’s marriage to Prince Bhoj Raj, the son of Rana (king) Sangha of Chittor.
Mirabai loyally served her husband Bhoj Raj, but she was never very involved in the day-to-day activities of the palace. She used to be constantly immersed in thoughts of Krishna and seemed very distant from normal marital life. She worshipped her Krishna idol for several hours everyday, and occasionally neglected the worship of the family goddess Durga, because she was already committed to the worship of Lord Krishna. This made her other family members very jealous and her sister-in-law in particular was always waiting for an opportunity to plot some evil for Mirabai.
Everyday Mirabai would sing and dance for Krishna, in bliss in her room in the palace. Sometimes she would go to the temple and dance to her Krishna there. News about her devotion to Krishna had spread far and wide already, and many sadhus and saints would visit her at the temple to seek blessings and inspiration and to listen to her wonderful songs.
One day, her mother-in-law and her sister-in-law gave her a bag and told her that there was a garland for Lord Krishna at the temple. Mirabai happily took the bag to the temple, not knowing that there was actually a very poisonous snake inside the bag, that would bite her, the minute she put her hand inside to take out the garland. But at the temple, singing a beautiful song to Krishna, she put her hand in the bag, and lo! the poisonous snake had turned into a beautiful garland. The plotters were shocked to see this miracle. However, it did not deter them trying more and more pranks on her, but they always failed. Lord Krishna always protected Mira.
One day, when Mira was talking to the Krishna idol in her room, her sister-in-law was spreading word that Mira had invited other men to her room and was talking with them. This greatly angered her husband, and he rushed into her room, with a sword in his hand, ready to kill her. But all he found was Mira immersed in trance, talking to her beloved Krishna. So he did not kill her.
Meanwhile, the Mughal king Akbar, had heard a lot about Mirabai and wanted to get her blessings, but did not want to go to Chittor because Rana Sangha of Chittor was his arch rival. So Akbar and his court singer, Tansen disguised themselves as sadhus and secretly visited Mirabai when she was singing at the temple. Akbar was so taken in by her beautiful songs, that when he touched her feet, he left a priceless necklace at her feet as an offering. Unfortunately, the necklace revealed Akbar’s visit to get Mirabai’s darshan, and this extremely angered Bhoj Raj. He ordered Mirabai to go and drown in the river and commit suicide. Even this did not affect Mirabai. Still blissfully hugging her Krishna statue, Mirabai left for the river.
Just when she was about to jump into the river, the statue transformed into the real and handsome Lord Krishna himself, and he told Mira that she should not jump into the river but instead go to Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, where she can happily be a gopi and worship Lord Krishna with all other devotees and live blissfully. Lord Krishna assumed the form that Mirabai always wanted to see Lord Krishna in – the form of her beloved lover. When her beloved ordered her to go to Vrindavan, she decided to go there. She wrote to the great saint, Goswami Tulsidas who resided at Vrindavan, asking for advice and clarification from the incident that happened at the river, when she was about to jump in. Tulsidas wrote back saying “The only relationship worth respecting, is one’s relationship with God. It is alright to disregard orders from any other relative, if God himself has said so.” This reply cleared Mira’s conscience and she traveled to Vrindavan.
In Vrindavan, Mira not only worshipped Lord Krishna to her heart’s content, she also came across several saints and sadhus who accepted her as a disciple and imparted many spiritual teachings. One particular saint Rupa Goswami refused to accept her as a disciple and speak to her, because she was a woman. But Mira merely said, “In this universe, there is but one man – Lord Krishna. Every other living being is only a gopi that dances around Krishna”. Hearing this elevated spiritual thought, Rupa Goswami accepted Mirabai as his devotee.
Mirabai’s spent the rest of her life in Vrindavan. Her husband Bhoj Raj and her other evil relatives felt bad about abandoning Mira, and even tracked her down and Vrindavan and came to seek her forgiveness and take her home to Chittor. She forgave them happily, but refused to go home. She insisted in staying back at Vrindavan, were her lover Lord Krishna lived. She wanted to stay close to her beloved, so that she may continue to worship him day and night. During her stay at Vrindavan, Mira composed many beautiful bhajans (devotional songs) and sung them to Lord Krishna. Many of her songs were mystical and deeply spiritual. She died of old age at the feet of her beloved Lord Krishna in Vrindavan.
Even today, Mirabai’s bhajans are very popular among Krishna devotees. Across the country, several singers have used Mira’s bhajans and rendered them in different styles and tunes. Another touching redition of Mira’s bhajan by can be found in the link below:
पग घूँघरू बाँध मीरा नाची रे।
मैं तो मेरे नारायण की आपहि हो गई दासी रे।
लोग कहै मीरा भई बावरी न्यात कहै कुलनासी रे॥
विष का प्याला राणाजी भेज्या पीवत मीरा हाँसी रे।
‘मीरा’ के प्रभु गिरिधर नागर सहज मिले अविनासी रे॥