Meera Bai : Saint, poetess and rebel queen of Chittorgarh

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series The sprawaling saga of Chittorgarh Fort

Chittorgarh had exemplary men throughout its history. The stories of their bravery and loyalty is unmatched. I discussed a few of these men in my previous post. Its womenfolks were no less. I mentioned the loyalty and extreme sacrifice of Panna Dhai. I will write about its brave queens in my next post. But one woman stands out.

Yes, I am talking about Meera Bai.

The famous fort of Chittorgarh has many monuments, each associated with one or the other important person from its history and are witness to the events that had far-reaching consequences in Indian History. All of these monuments, people and events have one thing in common, unparalleled bravery. However one monument, a small temple stands out. Not that it witnessed any less brave events, rather because it has witnessed events and emotions not for the pride or battles but for the God. It is a small temple of Krishna, housed in Kumbhaswami temple complex, and is known not as Krishna temple but as Meerabai’s temple- Meera Ka mandir.

Kumbhaswami Temple that also houses Meera Mandir

Kumbhaswami Temple that also houses Meera Mandir

India is a country where religious tolerance and religious fastidiousness both are observed, existing side by side. Since time immemorial various people walked on the path of search and self-realization of God. Of these many didn’t follow a set path and ended up discovering a new path for themselves and the mankind. In their quest for finding the ultimate truth, these men and women broke established protocols, breached the boundaries of existing customs and rituals and were ridiculed in their own time and were uncomforted by the people surrounding them. Ironically, all of those who were rebuked in their time had a vast following after their death. Meera’s life was no different.

Meerabai was the daughter of Ratan Singh Rathore of Merta. Once while looking at a wedding procession she asked her mother who her bridegroom would be and her mother playfully pointed at the statue of Lord Krishna. Since that moment she devoted herself to Krishna. For her Lord Krishna was everything. A belief that also reflected in her famous bhajan mere to giridhar gopal, doosra na koi. She got married to Raja Bhoj (eldest son of Maharana Kumbha) of Sisodia clan of Chittor in 1516. Sisodia rulers worshipped Tulja Bhawani(Durga) and at that time there was no Krishna temple for the royals. Meera was an ardent Krishna Bhakt and she used to visit local Krishna Temples. The poetess-queen used to forget her complete self when she was in deep prayers to Lord Krishna and in her ecstasy would start singing and dancing in the streets and in the temples.

Meerabai

Meera as popularly depicted

Her singing, dancing and losing her complete self among the masses created a furor and brought embarrassment to the royal family. Some jealous family members of the royal family conspired against her and tried to malign her character. Even with all malicious character assassination Bhojraj understood, loved and had faith on his pious wife. He got this temple constructed so that Meera could pray in the fort itself and avoid accusations, allegations and conspiracies.

Meera Mandir

Meera Mandir

Meera’s personal life was full of tragedies. Her parents died when she was young and even her loving and protective husband died in 1521 when she was still in her twenties. Meera refused to commit sati as was the tradition in those days, and this angered her in-laws family even more. They made her more and more uncomfortable. At least two attempts made on her life are alluded to in her poems. Once a poisonous snake was sent to her in a basket of flowers, but when she opened it, she found an image of Krishna; on another occasion she was given a cup of poison; she drank it without any harm. Even after these trials on her life, Meera did not give up her love and devotion for Krishna. Her love was transformed from mortal to eternal.

O my King, my father, nothing delights me more
Than singing the praises of Krishna.
If thou art wrath,
then keep thy kingdom and thy palace,
For if God is angry, where can I dwell?
Thou didst send me a cup of poison and a black cobra,
Yet in all I saw only Krishna!
Mira is drunk with love, and is wedded to the Lord!

I remember what one of our parents’ good friend who were Rathore from Merta, once told, “Because of all the tortures that Sisodiya clan inflicted upon Meera, since then, never a Rathore girl from this region is married to Sisodiyas.” A reflection of the past mistreatment meted out to Meera.

Meera Bai wrote many devotional bhajans for Lord Krishna in Brijbhasha and Rajasthani. Around one thousand poems are available now and many more are lost. These bhajans (devotional songs)are sung even today with great reverence throughout the country. These Bhajans are iconic form of folk devotional music. Her poetry has different colors of longing, separation, request, prayer, the joy of union, warning. It is simple, beautiful and gives the reader peace and joy and guidance.

Meera regarded Guru Ravidas as her spiritual Guru. This was another of her rebellions as she was a royal and he was a shoemaker by caste and profession. I wonder how many barriers and rituals she had to defy on her path to Krishna.

The enlightened saint, Guru Ramdas, propagated the message that caste has no meaning and its one’s own karmas that decide one’s fate. He also composed many bhajans. Some of these bhajans are also included in the “Guru Granth Sahib”.

अब कैसे छूटे राम, नाम रट लागी |
प्रभुजी तुम चन्दन हम पानी,
जाकी अंग अंग बास समानि |
प्रभुजी तुम घन बन हम मोरा,
जैसे चितवत चन्द चकोरा |
प्रभुजी तुम दीपक हम बाती,
जाकी जोति बरै दिन राती |
प्रभुजी तुम मोती हम धागा,
जैसे सोने मिलत सुहागा |
प्रभुजी तुम स्वामी हम दासा,
ऐसी भक्ति करै रैदासा |

( How can I give-up I reciting the name Ram.
Lord, if you are sandalwood, I am water;
With your fragrance in all parts of my body.
Lord, if you are a cloud, I am a peacock;
Looking for you like a chakora for the moon.
Lord, if you are a lamp, I am the wick;
With a light burning day and night.
Lord, if you are a pearl, I am the thread;
Together like gold and bracelet.
Lord, you are the master and I servant;
thus is the devotion of Raidas.)

One of the many incidents associated with him is that one morning some of his neighbors were going to take bath in the sacred Ganga and asked him also to accompany them. Guru Ravidas had promised to deliver shoes to one of his customers. So, he was not able to join them. When one of his neighbors persisted, then Guru Ravidas uttered his belief saying that: “मन चंगा तो कठोती में गंगा“. That is if your heart is pious then the holy river is right in your tub and you need not go anywhere else.

There is a small chhatri in front of Meera’s temple. It has guru Ravidas’ engraved foot print. As a respect to her guru, Meera once wrote:

Guru Milyaa Raidaasji …

Foot prints of Guru Raidas Ji

Foot prints of Guru Raidas Ji

Finally, Mira Bai left Mewar and returned to Merta, but finding that her unconventional behaviour was not acceptable there either, she set out on a series of pilgrimages. She moved to Vrindavan. By that time common man had realized that she was an enlightened saint. But the priests in Vrindavan still tried to put restrictions on her movements.

From Brindavan, Mira proceeded to Dwaraka. One night when she tried to visit a Krishna Temple, the temple priests stopped her. They told her that the temple is closed, Lord Krishna is sleeping and the doors would open only the next day. Meera started to pray in front of the temple. Suddenly the sanctum-sanctorum opened. In the state of elation, Meera ran inside. As she entered in, the doors got closed. When the doors opened, Meera was nowhere, only a small portion of her pallu was seen enveloping Lord Krishna’s idol. She was absorbed in the image of Lord Krishna and thus ended her earthly existence at the temple of Ranchod in 1546 A.D.

Meera showed how with love and devotion, mortals can merge with the eternal.

Her life reminds me of a urdu sher,

यह रियासतें, यह सियासतें, यह वजारतें, मेरे किस काम की,
मुझे उस फ़क़ीर की शान दे, कि ज़माना जिसकी मिसाल दे.

(These kingdoms, kingships and Prime-Minister-Ship is of no use to me, I want the glory of a faqir whom masses love, adore and see as an example).

My wife is a Meera bhakt. In our last visit to the fort she told me that someone used to sing melodious Meera bhajans in front of that small temple. I am not sure this practice is still followed. With respect to this great saint, I would like to end this part of my post on Chittaurgarh Fort with one of her bhajans and a soulful recitation of a Meera Bhajan by none other than Kishori Amonkar.

बरसाई बदरिया सावन की,
सावन की मान भावन की.
सावन में उमग्यो मेरो मनवा,
भनक सुनी हरी आवाँ की..
उमड़ घूमड़ चहु दिससे आयो,
दामण दमके झार लावन की.
नान्ही नान्ही बूंदन मेहा बरसाई,
सीतल पवन सोहावान की
मीरा के प्रभु गिरधर नागर,
आनंद मंगल गावन की

Its English translation is:

It is raining in the month of Savan,
I like the rain coming down.
In Savan, my heart starts to pine,
I hear the sound of Hari coming.
The clouds have rolled in from all sides,
lightening occurs and it pours.
Tiny drops come from the clouds,
and I enjoy the cool breeze.
O lord of Mira, called Giradhar Nagar,
The cloudy season is for singing joyfully.

Series Navigation<< Chittorgarh Fort : A Treasure of History and MonumentsThe Legend of Maharani Karnavati and Humayun >>


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