I know only Krishna: Mirabai’s exemplar of devotion

Mirabai in her reverie

“ It is extremely difficult to find a parallel to this wonderful personality, Mira, a saint, a philosopher, a poet and a sage” , Swami Sivananda had said.

The devotional poet saint in the sixteenth century India, Mirabai, was a noble born, daughter to Ratan Singh Rathore of the Medda state of Rajasthan. Long before she was married to Raja Bhajraj of Udaipur, since childhood, she had her utmost faith and love devoted to Lord Krishna. She was a celebrated Bhakti Saint and her influence in Bhakti poetry has been profound. Her biography is very fluid historically as is the case with most ascetic figures. It will be fallible to ascertain which hagiographical legends are accurate and which are just exaggeration and folklore.

The transcendental nature of Mirabai’s devotion was infamous. She would always be drowned in the reveries and musings of Krishna. Such was her devotion, that she openly declared her disregard for family traditions and societal conventions. Times were such that, she being a Rajput princess, wasn’t allowed to step out of her bowers. The ideal wife was one whom even the rays of the sun could not touch, but Mira cared not even a bit for this code of conduct. Her deep devotion to Krishna had filled her with unflinching self-confidence. Unmindful of all restraints, she would seek the company of saints and sages and dance before the Krishna image installed in the temple. Once she was widowed, she repudiated to perform Sati, ( the rite of self sacrifice by burning in the pyre of one’s demised husband), because she had accepted Krishna as her spouse. The royal family found her untraditional ways highly humiliating. Legend has it that she was sent a cup of poison to kill her, but the attempt became futile. As was her habit, she had offered the poison to her lord and then drank it, miraculously after which she was unharmed. The idea of women’s independence and futility was considered untenable in the medieval period but the dauntless Mirabai broke all shackles. She had no illusion regarding the futility of public opprobrium.

Mira emanated her soulful devotion through the words of her Padavali, which is a collection of ‘padas’ (verses). ‘I know only Krishna’, originally called ‘Mere toh Girdhar Gopal’, is one such pada where Mira narrates the chronicle of her infallible love of Krishna. The unitary reason for her existence is solely for Krishna. She has renounced her family, all her relationships, and every other shelter. She thrived in the shadow of Krishna and the only thread of bond she cares about is that of her as a devotee to Krishna. She was subjected to public ignominy but she attained her peace and contentment in the company of saints. She found salvation in her devotion, while the superficial worldly affairs grieve her. The tears of forlorn love have watered and strengthened the creeper of love : “ I have reared love’s creeper with my tears.”

Born a princess, she opted for a life of a mendicant and wanderer living a life of austerity and impoverishment, victim to all sorts of pillory, to be one with her muse, her lord. She has been “one churning curd to get precious ghee.” She mocked the Rana’s attempt to send her poison which she drank with voluntary zeal. This tale bruited in every yard. She was bound in love to her lord, her only essence of love; why would she care for public infamy.

“That’s all that’s real for me, let what will be, be.”

In Swami Sivananda’s words, “ The lover and the beloved become one. The devotee and God feel one with each other and still maintain a separateness in order to enjoy the bliss of the play of love between them. This is oneness in separation and separation in oneness.”

An amateur writer who is in a constant dilemma between accepting reality and drowning in her surrealistic reveries.