Mori to Giridhar Gopala doosro na koi

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Anupama Nair

These are the words of a great saint Meera Bhai, who was a great devotee of my Lord Krishna. She lived and died for the Lord. Her entire life is a life of devotion and proved the “power of faith”. Most folklores about Meera Bai mention “her fearless disregard for social and family conventions, her devotion to Krishna, her treating Krishna as her husband and being persecuted by her in-laws for her religious devotion. Hindu temples, such as in Chittorgarh fort, are dedicated to Meera Bai's memory. Legends about her life, of contested authenticity, have been the subject of movies, comic strips and other popular literature in modern times”.

Meera Bai was born in 1504 at Chaukari village in Merta District of Rajputana state. Merta was a small state in Marwar, ruled by the Rathores, who were great devotees of Lord Vishnu. Her father, Ratan Singh, was the second son of Rao Duda ji, a descendent of Rao Jodha ji Rathore, who was the founder of  the city of Jodhpur. Meera Bai was raised and nurtured by her grandfather. Her education included knowledge of scriptures, music, archery, fencing, horseback riding and driving chariots as was customary for a princess of her time. However, Meera Bai grew up amongst an atmosphere of total “Krishna consciousness”, which was responsible in molding her life in the path of total devotion towards Lord Krishna.

When she was just four years of age, she revealed her deep devotion to Krishna. It is said “Meera Bai watched a marriage procession in front of her palace . The young child, spotted the well-dressed bridegroom and asked her mother innocently, “Dear mother, who will be my bridegroom?” Her mother smiled, “and half in jest and half in earnest, pointed towards the image of Sri Krishna and said, “My dear Meera, Lord Krishna is going to be your bridegroom”. As Meera Bai grew up, her love for Krishna grew intensely and she believed that Lord Krishna would come to marry her. When she grew up, she became firmly convinced that Krishna was to be her husband.

It is said “Meera was a soft-spoken, mild-mannered, gifted, sweet, and sang with a melodious voice. She was one of the most extraordinary beauties of her time” with her fame spreading to several kingdoms in the country. Rana Sangram Singh, or Rana Sangha, the powerful King of Mewar, approached her grandfather for her hand in marriage to his son Bhojraj known as Rana Kumbha. Bhojraj expressed his desire to marry Meera for her pious nature and devotion. However, “she could not bear the thought of marrying a human being when her heart was filled with thoughts of her Krishna”. But unable to go against her grandfather’s word, she finally consented to the marriage. She left for Chittorgarh, with her husband.

Every day, Meera would go to the temple of Lord Krishna, “worship, sing and dance before the idol of her beloved Lord Krishna daily”. However, the other ladies of the palace did not like the ways of  Meera because they were worldly-minded and jealous. Meera Bai's sister-in-law Uda Bai made a plan to defame Meera and told her brother that Meera was having an affair and heard her talk to a man in the temple. The enraged Kumbha ran with sword in hand towards Meera, but as luck would have it Meera had gone to her Krishna temple. A sober relative of the Rana counseled him, “Rana! You will forever repent for your hasty behavior and consequences. Enquire into the allegation carefully and you will find the truth. Meera bai is a great devotee of the Lord. Remember why you sought her hand. Out of sheer jealousy the ladies might have concocted scandals against Meera Bai to incite you and ruin her”. Kumbha calmed down and accompanied his sister who persistently took him to the temple at dead of night. Rana Kumbha broke open the door, rushed inside and found Meera alone in her ecstatic mood talking and singing to the idol.

The Rana shouted at Meera, "Meera, show me your lover with whom you are talking now". Meera replied, “There he sits my Lord who has stolen my heart". Then she went into a trance. She stood unruffled in the face of accusations from the Royal Family. When questioned about her marital responsibilities, Meera responded that it was Krishna to whom she was married. At her reply, Kumbha Rana was heart-broken, but still remained a good husband to Meera until his death.

After his death, Rana's relatives began persecuting Meera in various ways, even though Meera had no desire for the throne. Meera was then sent a basket with a cobra inside and a message that the basket contained a garland of flowers. Meera, opened the basket and found a lovely idol of Sri Krishna with a garland of flowers. The relentless Rana then sent her a cup of poison with the message that it was nectar. Meera offered it to her Lord Krishna and took it as his Prasad. It was real nectar to her. The bed of nails that the Rana sent transformed into a bed of roses when Meera slept on it.

It is said, Meera sent a letter to Goswami Tulsidas and asked for his advice. She wrote, “Simply because I am constantly tortured by my relatives, I cannot abandon my Krishna. I am unable to carry on with my devotional practices in the palace. I have made ‘Giridhar Gopala’ my friend from my very childhood. I feel a total bondage with him. I cannot break that bond".

Tulsidas then sent a reply “abandon those who cannot understand you and who do not worship Rama or Shyama, even though they are your dearest relatives. Prahlada abandoned his father, Vibhishana left his brother Ravana, Bharata deserted his stepmother, Bali forsook even his Guru, Gopis the women of Vraja Bhoomi, disowned their husbands to be with their Krishna. Their lives were all the happier for having done so. The relation with God and the love of God are the only elements that are true and eternal — all other relationships are unreal and temporary”.

The turning point in her life occurred when Akbar and his court musician Tansen came in disguise to Chittor to hear Meera's devotional and inspiring songs. By then Meera became famous across the country. Akbar had always wanted to listen to her songs. “Both entered the temple and listened to Meera's soul-stirring songs to their heart's content. Before he departed, he touched the holy feet of Meera and placed a necklace of priceless gems in front of the idol as a present. Somehow the news reached the Rana that his enemy Akbar had entered the sanctum sanctorum of the holy temple in disguise, touched the feet of Meera Bai and even presented her a necklace. The Rana became furious and told  Meera Bai, “drown in the river and never show your face to the world in future. You have brought great disgrace on my family”.

Meera Bai decided to obey the words of the King. She proceeded to the river to drown herself. The names of the Lord “Govinda, Giridhari, Gopala” were always on her lips. She “sang and danced in ecstasy on her way to the river”. When she raised her feet from the ground, a hand from behind grasped her and embraced her. She turned behind and saw her beloved Giridhari. She fainted on seeing her Lord. After a few minutes she opened her eyes. Lord Krishna smiled and gently whispered: "My dear Meera, your life with your mortal relatives is over now. You are absolutely free. Be cheerful. You are and have always been mine."

Meera then walked barefoot on the hot sandy beds of Rajasthan. On her way, many devotees received her with great hospitality. She then went to the city of her lord, Brindavan and worshipped in the Govinda Mandir there, which has since become famous and is now a great place of pilgrimage for devotees from all over the world.

A repentant Rana came to Vrindavan to see Meera and prayed that he may be forgiven for all his cruel deeds. He requested Meera to return to his kingdom assume her role as the queen once more. Meera said that Krishna is the only King and my life belongs to him. The Rana, for the first time, truly understood Meera's exalted state of mind and prostrated before her in reverence. He then promptly left Vrindavan a changed soul.

Jiva Gosain was the head of the Vaishnavites in Brindavan. Meera wanted to have a darshan of Jiva Gosain. He declined to see her and told her that he would not allow any woman in his presence. She said "everybody in Brindavan is a woman. Only Giridhar Gopala is Purusha. Today I have come to know that there is another Purusha besides Krishna in Brindavan". Jiva Gosain was ashamed  and went to see Meera and paid her due respects. She was immersed in ‘satsang’ all the time. Meera returned to Mewar and Rana agreed to her request that she would reside in the temple of Krishna but would not restrict her movements and wanderings. From Mewar, she once again went to Brindavan, and then to Dwaraka. This time the Rana accompanied her.

On ‘Krishna Janmashtami’ at the temple of Lord Krishna, there was much happiness all around “The light of the lamps, the sound of the bhajans and the energy from the devotees' ecstacy were filling the air. With Tamburi in one hand and cymbals or chipla in the other the great ‘tapasvini’ was singing ecstatically with her Giridhar Gopala smiling in front of her closed eyes. Meera stood up and danced with her song 'Mere Janama Maran ke sathee', and when the song ended, Meera rose up abruptly, stumbled and fell at the flowers on the feet of Giridhari. She said “Oh, Giridhari, are you calling me, I am coming”. When Kumbha and the rest were watching in awe, “there was a lightning which enveloped Meera and the doors of the sanctum sanctorum closed on their own. When the doors opened again, Meera's saree was enveloping Lord Krishna's idol and her voice and the flute accompaniment were the only sounds that could be heard”. She became eternal and one with her Giridhar Gopala.

The question that remains is so many queens have come and gone, but why is the Queen of Chittor, alone remembered till today? Is it because of her grace and beauty? Is it because of her great poetic skills and her singing? The answer would be no. It is because of her renunciation, her love to her Lord and she drank the “Krishna Premrasa”. It is rightly said “she lived for her Lord, She conversed with Krishna. She ate with Krishna, her Beloved and she lived only for him”.

In 1945, there was blockbuster film Meera Bai starring Bharat Ratna, M.S, Subba Lakshmi as Meera Bai. The introduction of the film was made by the Sarojini Naidu the “Nightingale of India”. I do not know how many times I have seen the movie, and the Meera Bhajans, sung in the melodious voice of Subba Lakshmi is an experience I cannot forget. My favorite song is “Giridhara Gopala, pala Giridhar Gopala”. Jai Sree Krishna.

(At the outset, it was Sri Ganesha, Mata Saraswati, my Guru  who inspired me to write this article. I am only an instrument and it was my Giridhar Gopala who came as thoughts in my mind, which got converted into words).

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