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Meerabai (Meera) was a Rajput princess born about 1498 in Kudaki, Rajasthan, India. Her father, Ratan Singh, was the youngest son of Rao Duda, ruler of Merta, and son of Rao Jodha ruler and founder of Jodhpur. Ratan Singh belonged to the Rathore clan.
Meera’s mother, Veer Kumari, died during child birth when Meera was around seven. Meera was then sent to her grandfather, Rao Duda and father’s older brother, Rao Viram Dev at Merta where she was educated. Her new family did not approve of her piety and devotion when she refused to worship their family deity, Tulaja Bhawani (Parvati).
In 1521, Meera’s husband, Bhoj Raj died in battle. Rajputana had remained fiercely independent of the Delhi Sultanate, the Islamic regime that otherwise ruled Hindustan after the conquests of Timur. But in the early 1500s, the central Asian conqueror Babur laid claim to the Sultanate and some Rajputs supported him while others lost their lives in battle with him.
Her father-in-law, Rana, respected and protected Meerabai but died a few years later and she was then persecuted by the rest of her in-laws. She found Krishna to be her only support and resisted the wishes of her in-laws to give up her worship. Her grief turned into a passionate spiritual devotion that inspired in her countless poems drenched with separation and longing.
Meera’s love for Krishna was at first a private thing but at some moment it overflowed into an ecstasy that led her to sing and dance in public with others who shared her religious zeal. She would quietly leave the Chittor fort at night and join Satsangs (religious get-togethers) in the town below. This behavior did not fit the expected behavior of a Rajput princess and widow.
Meera’s spiritual songs are in a simple verse, usually composed in simple rhythms with a repeating refrain, collected in her Padavali. The versions are in a Rajasthani and Braj, a dialect of Hindi spoken in and around Vrindavan (the childhood home of Krishna), sometimes mixed with Rajasthani.
The characteristic of her poetry is complete surrender. Her longing for union with Krishna is predominant in her poetry: she wants to be “coloured with the colour of dusk” (the symbolic colour of Krishna). Her style of literature is mainly Rajasthani mixed with Brij language. But one can also see a hint of Gujarati as well as Punjabi in her writings.
Her noted songs include, Hari Tuma Haro, also sung by M S Subbulakshmi and Sanson ki Mala Pe sang as a qawwali by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and picturised by Maduri Dixit in the 1997 Hindi film Koyla.
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