Meera Bai or Meerabai (1498 – 1547) was a Rajput princess of Mewar, Rajasthan. She was an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna and amongst the first exponents of Prema Bhakti or Divine Love. As an inspired poet, she used to sing in vraja-bhasha (mixed with Rajasthani), in praise of Giridhara Gopala. At a very young age, she had developed in her heart the most intense love and devotion for Giridhara Gopala.
Meera Bai is regarded as an incarnation of Radha. She occupies a sacred place in the history of Indian culture for her passionate and persistent spiritual devotion, against all odds. Meera Bai is equally revered for her poetic genius. Her unflinching devotion to Lord Krishna is rendered in all her songs. Her odes and hymns are characterized by tenderness and simplicity of genuine outpouring of a heart completely dedicated to god. Many legends have gathered around the name of Meera Bai.
Childhood, Youth and Education
Meera Bai was born in 1499 A.D. in Kurkhi. She was the daughter of Merta’s Ranthor, Rana Ratan Singh. Merta was a small state in Marwar situated between Ajmer and Jodhpur. The place was long ruled by the Ranthors who were ardent worshipers of Lord Vishnu. As a child Meera was closest to her grandfather, Rao Duda. She was mostly raised and nurtured by him in the fortress town of Merta. She acquired her customary education in tandem with her other royal counterparts. She thoroughly studied ancient Indian scriptures, classical music and fine arts. Meera was an extremely courageous princess and she quickly picked up the art of archery, fencing, horse riding and driving chariots. She was also taught to wield weapons in case of a battle.
Meera grew up in an ambiance of complete Krishna consciousness, which molded her into an ardent Lord Krishna devotee. As per historical records, at the age of five, she was gifted a vigraha (statue) of Lord Krishna by a mendicant saint named Raidas. Meera instantly fell in love with the image and started spending most of her time with it assuming it to be real. She danced about the idol in ecstasy. She sang beautiful songs and talked to the idol as well. She was always present in all divine discourses in the palace; most of them were on Krishna Leela and Bhagvatam. It is also said that Raidas initiated Meera into the practice of Nada Yoga or Shabd.
An interesting incident occurred when Meera was just four years of age. Once, Meera spotted a well-dressed bridegroom in a marriage ceremony. Upon watching this, Meera asked her mother innocently about who would be her bridegroom. Meera’s mother, in both jest and earnest, pointed towards the idol of Giridhara Gopala and said that Lord Krishna – the most beautiful groom – was going to be her bridegroom. Soon after, Meera’s mother passed away. As Meera grew up, she started believing that Lord Krishna would come one day to accept her as his beloved consort. The benign influence of her grandfather, Rao Duda’s, wisdom; the pain of her parent’s death during her early childhood; and her conviction that she was Giridhara Gopala’s beloved, provided a unique resolve to her character.
Meanwhile, Rana Sangram Singh, better known as Rana Sangha, the most influential king of Mewar, approached Meera’s grandfather Rao Duda. Rana Sangha asked Meera’s hand in marriage with his son, Bhojraj (famous as Rana Kumbha or Kumbha Rana). Rana Kumbha wanted to marry Meera because of her virtues and Rao Duda accepted the proposal with pleasure.
On the other hand, it was impossible for Meera to marry any human as her heart was filled with thoughts of Giridhara Gopala. However, she abided by her loving grandfather’s word and finally consented to the marriage.
It is also believed that Giridhara Gopala intervened in her dreams to counsel her that if the gopis could perform their duties to their families and still remain devoted to their Gopala all the time, she also could do the same. The Lord also advised Meera to perform all her duties and assured her that he would never leave her. Meera thus got married to Rana Kumbha in the year 1513 when she was less than 14 years of age.
Meera was a dutiful wife. She left for Mewar with her husband Rana Kumbha. She obeyed her husband’s commands. Scholars opine that Rana Kumbha himself was a great devotee of Giridhara Gopala and also wrote a treatise Rasipriya and a grammatical piece Sangitarajam on Jayadeva’s inspirational work Gita Govindam. Rana Kumbha had always felt that Meera’s unconditional love for Giridhara Gopala and his devotion to the Lord through his works had brought them together. It is ironical that Rana could disregard this fact in the years that followed.
Every day, after winding up with her household duties, Meera would rush to the temple of Giridhara Gopala and would dance, sing and worship before the deity. Unfortunately, Rana Kumbha’s mother and other jealous ladies of the locality did never understand the way Meera expressed her boundless love to Lord Krishna. Meera’s mother-in-law compelled Meera to worship goddess Durga which Meera declined outright as she had already devoted her life to Giridhara Gopala (Lord Krishna).
Once, Meera’s sister-in-law Udabai conspired against innocent Meera and planned to defame her. She misinformed Rana Kumbha that Meera was secretly in love with someone else. Udabai also fallaciously alleged that she had caught Meera talking to her lover in the shrine, and that she would confirm this if he accompanied her one night. The ladies further jabbered that Meera, by her demeanor, had brought a great disgrace to the reputation of the Rana’s family of Chittore.
In the interim, a sober relative of the Rana counseled him to calm down and verify the information otherwise he would forever repent for his hasty behavior and its consequences. Despite being advised to enquire into the allegation carefully, the enraged Rana went with his sister to the temple at midnight. Rana failed to anticipate that out of sheer jealousy the ladies had concocted scandals against Meera to incite him and ruin their conjugal life. When Rana broke open the door and rushed inside the temple, he found Meera alone in her elated mood, singing and talking to the idol. Meera directed Rana towards the idol of Lord Krisha and addressed the Lord as ‘Nanichora’ who had stolen her heart and saying so she reentered into the trance state.
The immoral ladies of the Chittore palace vilified that Meera was quite candid with Sadhus. Meera, however, was unaffected by such scandals and continued to invite them in Krishna kirtan at the temple. When questioned about her marital duties, Meera always used to respond that it was Giridhara Gopala or Lord Krishna to whom she was married.
Meerabai and Tulsidas
There were many instances in Meera Bai’s life when Lord Krishna saved her from heinous plots conspired by those who wanted to steal her riches. Though Meera had no intentions of acquiring those riches and was oblivious to her surroundings and was fully engrossed in her devotion to Lord Krishna. Once, Meera was delivered a basket with a cobra inside and a letter that it contained a flower garland. Meera opened the basket after her meditation and found a lovely idol of her Giridhara Gopala wearing a garland. In another instance, she was sent a cup of poison by her brother-in-law with the note that it was nectar. Meera offered it to her Giridhara Gopala and consumed it as his prasad. To everybody’s surprise, the poison turned into nectar! Again, in one such incident, the bed of nails that was sent to her transformed into a bed of red roses when Meera reclined on it.
When the torture and scandals became unbearable, Meera sent a letter to Goswami Tulsidas, asking for his advice. Meera Bai put her query to the poet-saint that simply because she had been constantly tortured by her relatives, she couldn’t abandon her Krishna. Further, to add to her woes, she was unable to carry on with her devotional practices in the palace. She confided to Tulsidas that she had made Giridhar Gopala (Lord Krishna) her friend ever since her childhood and was bound to him which she found impossible to break.
Tulsidas thereafter in his reply suggested to Meera that it was better to abandon those who couldn’t understand her and who did not worship Rama or Shyama, even though they were her dearest relatives. Tulsidas, in his letter to Meera gave relevant examples like how Prahlada deserted his own father; Vibhishana left the company of his brother Ravana; Bharata abandoned his mother; Bali disowned even his Guru; the Gopasthrees of Vraja left their husband and family to get to Lord Krishna. Their lives were all the more contented for having done so. Through this, the great Tulsidas reflected on the universal fact. He made clear that one’s relation with god and his love for god are the only two rudiments that are factual as well as eternal. All other human relationships are short-term and illusory.
Meera Bai inculcated within her the purest form of devotion i.e. Anuraga and Ragatmika Bhakti for Lord Krishna. Her published works are as follows –
Sweet on My Lips: The Love Poems of Meerabai – by Meerabai
Devotional Poems of Meerabai by Meerabai, A.J. Alston
Says Meera: An Anthology of Devotional Songs of Meera, India’s Greatest Woman Poet: by Meerabai, translated by Vijay Munshi
Some of the quoted messages by Meera Bai are shared here:
“Don’t forget love; it will bring all the madness you need to unfurl yourself across the universe.”
“My Mission in Life is to help humanity return home to god, raise the consciousness of the planet, and so bring liberation and world peace.”
Meera Bai’s Departure
Meera finally left her in-laws place and started off on her journey in search of eternal bliss and reunion with her Giridhar Gopala. In the later years, Meera once again met her Guru, Sage Raidas at Brindavan. The sage is believed to have lived till 118 years. She often visited the slum areas just to be in the satsang of Guru Raidas. The satsangs were her inspiration and answer to many queries and controversies which she fought and conquered in her life.
She wandered about Brindavan performing Oonchavritti and worship at Govinda Mandir which has since become legendary and is now a great pilgrimage centre for devotees from across the world.
A repentant Rana Kumbha came to Brindavan to see Meera and begged for forgiveness for all his wrongdoings. He begged that Meera must return to the kingdom and assume her role as the queen. Meera kindly replied to Rana that her life had always revolved around Krishna and she belonged to him since time immortal. Rana Kumbha, for the first time, truly understood Meera’s exalted morale and bowed down to her in reverence. After the incident, he promptly left Brindavan as a refined soul. Following this incident, Rana Kumbha always remained a good husband to Meera till his death.
Later, from Brindavan, Meera proceeded towards Dwaraka. There she remained engrossed in the image of Lord Krishna at the Ranchod temple. The best guess of the time of death of Meera Bai is said to be 1547 A.D.