MIRABAI

In the tradition of Ramanujacharya (c. 1017-1137), there was a saint by the name of Swami Ramananda. Born in Prayag/Allahabad, Swami Ramananda inspired devotion in many devotees, including Kabir (c. 1399-1515, born in Benares/Varanasi/Kashi), Dhanna Bhagat (born around 1415 in Rajasthan - in a Mirabai bhajan, Dhanna Bhagat is described to have grown food grains without seeds due to his devotion), and Ravidas. Ravidas was born in Mandur (near Kashi) to a cobbler family on Magh sud 15, Samvat 1456 (1399 AD). Since he was born on a Sunday, he was known as Ravidas (Raidas in Hindi or Rohidas in Gujarati). Throughout his life, Ravidas dedicated himself in devotion to the moorti of Vishnu Bhagwan that he used to carry with him. He passed away in 1519 in Chitor. His devotional life inspired many, including two Rajput queens: Zalibai and Mirabai.

Mirabai was born in the 16th century in Medta (in Marwar, Rajasthan) in the royal family of Ratan Singh. Mirabai's mother gifted her with a moorti of Krishna Bhagwan before passing away while Mirabai was still young. Mirabai was soon wed to Prince Bhoj Raj, son of Rana Sanga of Chitor (capital of Marwar). Mirabai however remained interested only in devoting to Krishna Bhagwan and listening to saints and devotees. Her family did not appreciate this devotional life, so she would leave the home and offer worship and sing in public temples. When the prince died fighting Mughal invaders, the king wanted Mirabai to walk into her husband's funeral pyre. But Mirabai said that she was wed to Krishna Bhagwan and was not a widow. When Rana Sanga died, the young new king (Vikramajita or Vikramaditya) also opposed Mirabai's devotional life, so Mirabai was finally forced to go to her uncle's kingdom in Medta.* Mirabai's bhajans describe the ways the king tried to kill her including by serving her poison. When Mirabai's uncle was forced to leave Rajasthan, she set out on a pilgrimage to Krishna Bhagwan's holy sites in Vrundavan, Mathura, etc., finally reaching Dwarka. By now, news of her spiritual state had spread far and wide and even her family respected her devotion. Mirabai spent the last years of her life at Dwarka where she passed away.

Thus, renouncing all familial and royal ties, Mirabai spent her life in devotion to Krishna Bhagwan. Mirabai's bhajans depict her devotional life, her longing for God, her overflowing love for God, and her experiencing God in her heart (whom she calls "Giridhar Gopal" in her bhajans). Though she faced great adversity, she remained in the highest state of bliss due to her relationship with Krishna Bhagwan. To this day, the hundreds of bhajans (about 150 of which are in Gujarati) she has written help devotees experience the manifest presence of God.

*It is said that Mirabai wrote to Tulsidas and asked, "All my relatives trouble me, because I move amongst saints. I cannot carry on my devotional practices in the house. I have made Giridhar Gopal my friend from my childhood." And Tulsidas replied, "Abandon those who do not worship Sita-Rama as if they are your enemies, even though they are your dearest relatives. Prahlad left his father Hiranyakashyap; Vibhishan left his brother Ravana; Bharata left his mother Kaikeyi; Bali left his guru Shukracharya; the Gopis left their husbands - in order to attain God. The opinion of holy saints is that the relation with God and love of God alone is true and eternal - all other relationships are unreal and temporary."

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