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Childhood and Marriage of Mirabai

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 4:49 AM

Childhood and Marriage

I got up from my reverie and, with tears in my eyes, entreated my mother once again to recite the tale of this saint and she began:

Born in Samvat 1557 in far-off Marwar, in the village Kurkhi, this princess of Chitor, forsaking the pomp and glory of the palaces, started IN THE QUEST OF THE FLUTE-PLAYER barefooted, to tread the path that led to the Abode of Eternal Bliss. In the forehead of the little child shone the signs of future greatness, as she rose up startled by the sound of the marriage procession that passed below the palace of her father, Rao Ratan Singh, and peeping through the barred windows of the balcony and seeing the child-bridegroom dressed artistically, this baby of five cried out "Mother, and where is my bridegroom?" The mother smiled at the innocence of the child. She seemed to have read in her broad forehead the future greatness of her simple babe and replied (pointing to the little lovely idol of Lord Krsna that stood in the temple and was so much loved by the child), "Giradhara Gopala is thy bridegroom." Since then Gopala became a subject of special fascination to her. All her discourses were about this beautiful image. All her time was spent in bathing and dressing it. She worshipped it. She slept with it on a deerskin. She danced about it. She sang to it lovely songs. Its joys were her joys, and, when a slight ray of gloom was witnessed by her on its bright forehead, that would make her weep for hours, till she again saw a clear smile on the face that would captivate her heart. To everybody it became known that this mad girl seemed to read the expression of this idol, and to hold conversation with the seemingly mute Krsna.

Painting of MirabaiThus passed some years in patiently wooing her Beloved. From her childhood, therefore, she could know of no other love but that for her dear This could not be tolerated by the conservative, custom-ridden family, which like others would permit no such display of fancy and would scoff at those paroxysms of devotion, and sneer at the flow of tears. In their eyes these visionary dreams had no place in the practical life of the household. They mocked at it, as they saw things from a different angle. They soon thought of a way to take the maniac out of her madness for the Lord and relieve her of the divine intoxication. Therefore messengers were dispatched and great pains taken to find out a husband suitable for the princess. The fateful day arrived when her daily worship was disturbed by the music of the drum, by feastings, feedings, and a variety of ceremonies; for, this was the bridal procession that had arrived at Ratan Singh's palace. Mira was married to the heir of the mighty State of Chitor the cynosure of all Rajapata eyes and a terror to the conquering Moghuls. The husband was the valiant Bhojaraja, the eldest son of Rana Samga, whose name is writ large for all time to come in the annals of Rajasthan as the solitary figure that would own allegiance to nobody, but would rather experience all the hardships of life and would walk bare-footed on the burning sands of Rajaputana, with his hungry princes at his side and the midday sun overhead, and would patiently watch even the last particle of loaf, prepared from the bark of a tree, being snatched away from the hands of the famished children. But he would not budge an inch from the traditions of the Rajaputas, who could never recognize Muslim suzerainty. It is these people that bore the banner of Rajaputa chivalry. It was this blood that ran in the veins of the family into which Mira BIT was married. The son, Bhojaraja, the husband of this little saint, had inherited all the martial qualities of his ancestors. Any general would be proud of the physical appearance he bore, the valiant qualities he possessed. The blood of these Rajaputas has been the pride of India. But martial qualities have no place in the sphere of love, where humility is the ideal, and the lowly alone can attain to the highest pedestal. Vanity has no place there and pride is an outcast. How could this marriage then prove to be a happy one! But blessed is Mira who left no stone unturned to please her husband and see that his mandates were obeyed. She tried to give him no occasion for offence. She stood out a sublime figure of a devoted wife, an ideal that could be the boast of any Hindu lady. But in her love for Lord Krsna she could accept no compromise.

Mirabai With Krishna
To her that was supreme over all duties spiritual, moral or temporal. There she stood adamant in her virgin glory, guarding her rights with meticulous care. Beyond what was necessary, she recognized no vagaries in life. After finishing her household work, she would feel that all the time was the Lord's, and then she would go to her temple where sat the joy of her heart, the little image of Lord Krsna and start in the company of one or two devotees the nightlong ecstatic dances before her Lord and sing songs to Him. In her ecstatic moments, witnessing this exuberance of the heart and complete effacement of the self, the Lord would Himself appear. The little lovely idol that sat mute would get up, clasp His devotee to the bosom, play the melodious tunes on the flute to her, and hold long discourses. This was Mira's joy. This was Mira's life. Mira was born for it. This was what Mira could not give up. But this frantic display of self-surrender and utter recklessness of form and formalities greatly irritated the mother-in-law and other ladies of her husband's family. The mother-in-law, after giving her the usual lectures on the code of married life, and telling her that the discharge of domestic duties alone could lead to domestic happiness as conceived by the worldly-minded, told the innocent bride to bow to the family idol of Durga, the image of Gaud, the goddess of Sakti. But the young consort was too imbued with love for her dear Krsna to think of any other love. With tears in her eyes, in abject humility she fell at the feet of the lady and through sobs broke out.

Mirabai Painting"Mother, this head has already been dedicated to the lotus-feet of  Giradhara Gopala. Forgive, mother, it can bow before no other god or goddess now. Mother, do not press me anymore. Your threats and coaxings leave me unmoved." The mother found the daughter-in-law adamantine in her resolve. Though in her heart of hearts she blessed the girl for her pious determination and fearless love for the Lord, yet, to keep up appearances and follow the trodden track of social rules she admonished the bride. This had no salutary effect on Mira. Then came the turn of Uda, the sister of Bhojaraja, to come and plead with her sister-in-law to give up her obstinacy and yield. Yield this is a horrible term to the devotees of the Lord. The strong reply that the little MirĂ£ gave to her sister's scurrilous and offensive remarks soon aroused the wrath of Uda. She and her companions started a regular conspiracy against her to take her to task for her obstinacy and began to defame her. They went to Bhojaraja and told him that his wife held discourses with her paramours at dead of night in the temple. That they had themselves witnessed this tete-a-tete going on every night. That the Prince could convince himself by watching it for himself. That it was a matter for shame for the family and brought a great slur upon the fair name of Chitor that the wife of the heir-apparent should carry on such liaisons. The anger of the Prince knew no bounds, blood rushed to his cheeks, and, with a sword in his hand, he hurried into the apartments of his newly wedded wife to kill her and stop all these scandals. Mira fortunately was not in the room. The Prince was rushing like a maniac when some kinder soul came and pacified him, told him not to lose himself so soon, but should first satisfy himself of the truth of it, lest he may have cause to repent later on. He accepted the advice. He abandoned the idea for the time being and anxiously waited for the fateful hour of the night when he was to be called in to witness the love-scene.

Krishna and Mirabai
At dead of night the girls came to call the Prince, and provoked him by saying, "Shame on the family whose ladies carry on such love-intrigues. Go now and satisfy yourself of the daily nocturnal movements of your wife, who pretends to be a great lover of the Lord and who, in spite of the repeated requests of mother, would not bow to the goddess Sakti." The Prince rushed to the temple unable to control his passion any longer and there he found Mira fully absorbed in making her confessions of love to her Divine Beloved and making complete surrenders. Before Mira could finish her sentences he broke open the door and rushed towards her; but he was completely stunned when he saw no one else but Mira seated in an ecstatic mood, completely unperturbed by the entrance of the intruder and absorbed in conversing with the little idol that stood before her. But the eyes of the Prince could not discern the Lord behind the mask that He wore, screened as they were by the veil of Maya. He saw nothing else but the Idol. He caught hold of Mira and asked her with whom she was conversing. Mira, strong in the strength of her Beloved smiled, looked up to him and said, "See for yourself." He cried, "Show me thy lover. I am athirst for his blood." Pointing to the little image in the front, she said, "There He sits; shatter Him to pieces, if you can; there is the Eternal One who has always been stealing the butter of the Gopis in Vraja, sometimes stealing their clothes as they went down to bathe. But more than all He has stolen my heart and gives it not back. But I do not complain of it; for, therein lies my solace. See how He smiles at His mischief! No, He again assumes the old grim face. Beloved! smile once more as You smiled of yore ! Ah no, He feels I have given myself up to the Prince. No dear, no. Wait. Oh wait. Why are You parting so early? Pray, wait … (and Mira fainted away)." This was a queer experience for the prince, who hurried away. The other girls who had followed him stood aghast, and began to see things in a different light altogether. It was an unusual experience to them. Uda ran to kiss her sister-in-law the fainted Mira; but she was deterred from within; for, it was she who was partly responsible for the accusations against this goddess of piety in human form. The girls could not read the mind of the Prince as he left the place.

Henceforward the Prince felt that his wife had gone mad, and so he did not for some time trouble himself with the affair. But the world saw this through the eyes of scandal, and rumour went round that Mira had started mixing freely with the Sadhus, and various were the motives assigned to the act by dame rumour. But Mira was careless of these ignoble talks that were the topic of the day; unaffected she would go on singing her old song:—
  "Now none else but Him can I claim
                     as my own.
I forsook my father and my mother and
                  all those that were dear to me.
 In the company of the Sadhus I
 sacrificed my world and my modesty.
 I rushed to meet a saint when one
                                      Crossed my path
With tears I nourished the everlasting,
                                            Creeper of love.
In my search I met the deliverers-
The Saint and the Holy name.
 Thenceforward the Name within and the
 Saint overhead have lighted my path
To the Lord, the servant MirĂ£ has
                              Consigned herself.   
What cares she for the rumours that be
                           Current all round.!”  

She continued to mix freely with the Sadhus. The Prince, seeing her resolve as adamantine as ever, gave up his militant attitude, and got a temple especially constructed for her to carry on her devotional practices.

The news of the devotion of Mira for Krsna spread far and wide, so much so that the Emperor Akabara and his chief musician Tanasena were seized with the desire of seeing the wife of the heir-apparent of Mewar, whose songs, it was rumoured, were so full of genuine devotion for the Lord that He Himself appeared. They strongly yearned to hear the songs sung by Mira herself. But, fearing their lives were not secure in case they went in state, they disguised themselves as mendicants, and started incognito for Chitor. After a long journey, at last, they came to the temple of Mira, where her Idol sat mute and glorious, and bowed before the seat where Mira sat in devotion before her Lord. The new arrivals were transfixed at seeing the delicate, innocent and smiling face of the child of God, which seemed to welcome the new entrants and to shower her blessings upon them. Akabara would have rushed to prostrate himself at the feet of the devotee and disclosed his disguise; but he was kept back by Tanasena, who told him it would mean death to them if strict secrecy was not maintained about their identity. The Emperor then sat silently. As the devotees sat round Mira, she started singing her songs. When the moment arrived, she jumped up and started her ecstatic dances. The scene was so much enlivened that for the time being everyone forgot himself and saw divine shafts of light shooting forth from the idol and encircling Mira in a halo. Fragrance spread throughout. Some lost their consciousness, seeing Mira at the height of her emotions fall flat on the ground, absorbed in divine consciousness. When Mira recovered and wanted to go away after the day's prayers were over, Akabara rose from his seat and, with folded hands, approached Mira and entreated her to accept a little present of a necklace. Mira refused, saying that a servant of the Lord needs nothing and asks from nobody except the Lord Himself. But the Emperor humbly insisted, saying that it was an offering made at the lotus feet of the Lord Krsna, whose image stood before him, and that she should not refuse it. The name of Krsna this was the strongest and the weakest point in Mira made her thoughtful. When the thing came in the name of the Lord, she could say nothing but accept it. The necklace therefore lay at the feet of the idol. The Emperor, however, left the place with a heavy heart, steeped in reverence and love for the Lord. It was a great experience for the Emperor, and such occurrences were responsible for the tolerant nature and liberal views of the great Moghul. He was a great success in uniting the various factions; but, whatever the theologians may say, he failed in the domain of religion and spirituality. The reason is clear. He sought to reap by the sickle of knowledge the fruits of Devotion and wanted to experience with his intellect the divine thrills which are the very life of a lover of God. No such experiences and interpretations could lighten his path. He remained the Emperor, no doubt, of the green fertile fields of India that yielded fodder to the animals and nurtured the drosser element in man, the body. He could not reign over the human heart; for its king sits on a subtler seat and obtains that position as the result of a different kind of training, which is the outcome of years of penance, not the penance of body but that of desires. When humility becomes enthroned in the heart, then alone the goal is reached.

Mirabai Handing Bowl of PoisonWhen the news spread that the strangers of yesterday were the Emperor Akabara and his musician, Tanasena, and that the Emperor touched the feet of the blessed Mira, Prince Bhojaraja could not restrain himself any longer. Burning with anger, the words shot forth from his mouth like fire : "Could a Muslim dare approach a Rajaputa lady, even to make an offering and leave the soil of Rajaputana safe ! Fie on Rajaputas, who heard the news and did not take revenge!" The Rana could not thenceforth tolerate her living in a separate temple. He was determined to remove her from the world. He therefore went to Mira and severely reprimanded her for having permitted a Muslim to enter the temple. "Drown thyself in some river", he exclaimed, "and henceforth never show thy face to the world. Thou hast brought the greatest blot on the fair name of Rajaputana by allowing a Moghul to touch thy feet. Thou canst not deny the truth of it; for lo! there is the proof of it the necklace."

Sufficient for the day was the tragedy thereof. The mischief was done. Rajasthan was to lose her glory forever. The only divine being in it started on her pilgrimage of Love to the distant regions where diviner elements reigned, and for which holy mission the Creator had sent her a messenger. With the mandate of her lord she started, like a pilgrim bound on the errand of Love, which needed the sacrifice of her life.

Writer - Bankey Behari

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