APRIL 2013
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Music

Song of Love: MYSTIC MEERABAI – Part I

Lavanya Dinesh

By Lavanya Dinesh

Meerabai or just Meera is one of the most iconic, celebrated, historic, spiritual, poetic and musical female figures in the sophisticated socio-cultural ethos of a vibrant India. The name Meerabai is synonymous with love and surrender. Meera is admired, revered and worshipped for being the most ardent devotee of her Lord and God Krishna whom she referred to as Giridhar Gopal. Meerabai is not just mere legend or some fictitious character but a living breathing poet-saint whose claim to fame lies both in her selfless service to the Almighty and also her prowess as an unparalleled mystic poetess whose lyrical bhajans or devotional compositions are sung and performed to this day, many centuries after her passing in 1557 at the age of 59.

The poetic, musical, devotional tradition of this beautiful blessed saint’s life, lyrics and bhakti are strongly embedded in Indian music, dance, literature, poetry, theater, painting, art, architecture, crafts, folklore and intellectual/philosophical consciousness. The artistic genres can be classical, semi-classical, folk, film, fusion, traditional or even modern. Mystic Meerabai’s songs of love of the Lord originally composed in the Hindi language dialects of ‘Braj’ and ‘Rajasthani’ have been translated into hundreds of other languages around the world.

Born a privileged princess into the royal family of Rathores of Rajasthan state, Meerabai was initiated early into the worship of Lord Krishna or ‘Krishna Bhakti’. Young Meera was enamored by an idol of the beautiful radiant Lord. Myths suggest that at the tender age of 5, Meera took to heart that Giridhar Gopal was her one true Lord and husband. The princess never let go of this intense love, selfless surrender and absolute abandon in the service of her Ghanashyam (Lord Krishna) until her last breath. After losing her parents early and growing up in the care of royal relatives, Meera was married off to Prince Bhoj Raj of Chittor when she turned 18. This Rajput kingdom was one of the last remaining bastions of opposition to the Islamic usurpers of the Mughal dynasty of Northern India who reigned from their capital in Delhi. Meera’s husband and in-laws gradually came around to accepting the fact that the princess was crazily, madly, deeply and spiritually in love with her Lord Giridhar. Everything worldly took a back seat to her ardent worship and lyrical praise of the Lord.

Meerabai’s fame and anecdotes of unyielding affection and desperate devotion to the Lord spread far and wide across the kingdom. Legend even suggests that Mughal Emperor Akbar along with his court musician Tansen (in disguise) visited one of Meerabai’s spiritual singing-dancing sessions where she worshipped and welcomed devotees from all over the realm to attend her regular bhajan-keertan (chanting of devotional hymns) marathons. Unfortunately, the princess endured many untimely losses like those of her husband and in-laws, which prompted Meera to compose poems of abandonment, separation and grief. Her passion and devotion to Gopal intensified under the new ruler – Meera’s brother-in-law and her remaining relatives’ relentless persecution as they disapproved of her liberal mingling with commoners and fellow-Sadhus (saints and holy men).

Several miracles have been attributed to mystic Meerabai’s life in her journey toward sainthood and soul’s ultimate amalgam with her Divine Deity. These colorful stories include various vile acts perpetrated by her envious brother-in-law, the new Rana or prince. The latter sent a poisonous snake as an offering to Meera’s Lord, which inexplicably transformed into a beautiful garland of flowers. Attempts to harm Meerabai’s life by feeding her poison (which turned into nectar) and laying a bed of poisoned nails (which miraculously changed into fragrant flower petals) are extraordinary anecdotes that illustrate the depth and power of mystic Meerabai’s unflinching devotion.

More to come in part II, including the beauty of Meera’s musical poetry.

Lavanya Dinesh, an accomplished performer and teacher of Hindustani classical vocal music, lives in Tampa. She regularly performs at musical venues in India and the United States. The singer has three album releases to her credit. She can be reached at lavanya@lavanyadinesh.com

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