That women have been the vessels of family and societal honour is nothing new. The practice in fact goes back as far as the mind can think. What is new, or at least news, is the many ways in which this honour code has been subverted or shown for what it was.
Among the many societies to operate on this honour code was the Rajput clans in the Rajputana states the seventh century onwards. These clans endowed what can only be called a distinctive character to the notion of female honour.
The Rajputs are considered by sociologists a martial race. Not only do the men have code of propriety here and codes dictating honour, women here too are expected to behave with fortitude, discipline, sacrifice, etc. The responsibility for the virtue of women lay with the Rajputs.
The state of Mewar, which was ruled by the Sisodiya clan, strongly linked the preservation of dharm to female virtue and honour. It is surprising then that the biggest ever violation of this dictate of proper feminine behaviour came from within the palace. It was actually Mirabai, the daughter-in-law of the Rana and wife of the apparent heir to the throne, Bhoj Raj who committed the biggest ever subversion of these dictatorial notions of feminine behaviour.
It is unfortunate though that we remember Mirabai today as solely a saint and mystic. Mirabai today has been – there is no other term for it – Bollywoodised. However, few know that the ardent Krishna devotee was a brave rebel.
I shall continue this with a sequel to this post, talking about the fascinating life and deeds of the unacknowledged Mirabai, with the hope that when we talk about Mirabai,we remember her for what she really was: a rebel saint.