I left off last time with a brief introduction to the context in which Mirabai lived: the cruel code of female honour that dictated the social norms of the time.
Mirabai was born in the year 1498 AD and was the daughter of a Ratan Singh of the Methya Rathore clan. Her natal family was vaishnavite – implying they worshipped the various forms of the God Vishnu. Legend has it that when young, the girl Mira considered herself married off to Lord Krishna, one of the avatars of Vishnu.
She was subsequently married into the Mewar family of Rajputs and was the wife of the heir apparent. Here too her devotion to Krishna was unparallelled. She refused to recognise any other man as her husband than Krishna. Soon after the death of the man she had married – Bhoj Raj, Mira left Chitor.
There are various reasons cited for this. Some say she was driven out by an angry father-in-law who even tried to poison her, some instead insist that she left on her own accord. From thereon, she intermingled with ascetics. It is said she danced and sang bhajans for her husband Krishna in temples, forests and streets. This was behaviour not quite fit for any ‘normal’ Rani.
The rest of her life was spent in a temple worshiping Krishna. Just as with Kabir, there are many legends surrounding her death as well. It is said she was absorbed into Krishna’s idol upon death.
Mirabai thus was a rebel in many ways. She subverted not only the harsh values considered proper with respect to a family, but also values relating to caste, clan, marriage. Even in the space of the Bhakti poets/ saints, she was a rebel.
Her acceptance of the people meant that the people accepted her wholeheartedly as well. In doing this, she acquired a new form of honour, not a sexist one by any yardstick, but a one that was more popular and populist. The love that the people gave her is unparallelled even today.