Mirabai was a Rajput princess; she was born around the start of the 16th century in a small village in Kudaki, India. She was the only child of Ratan Singh, the younger brother of the ruler of Merta. Considered royalty, her education included politics, government, music and religion. From an early age she was drawn to and devoted to Sri Krishna in a form of worship that was considered to be a particularly mystical form of Hinduism called Bhakti. According to this tradition, one approached one's god through pure love and, there were no restrictions of caste, color, or gender. Many Bhakti followers willingly gave up their worldly life and families to became wandering teachers.
At a very young age, Mirabai was married to Prince Bhoj Raj...a pre-arranged marriage. The Prince was the eldest son of a very influential Hindu family, and the marriage placed Mirabai in a very high social status...but the young wife cared very little for worldly goods and pleasures and showed no interest for the family's gifts of jewels and silks. Although she served her husband dutifully, her evenings were spent in devotion and singing to her beloved Krishna...in the company of the Bhaktas. Her new family did not approve of her devotion; they wanted Mirabai to worship their family deity, the Goddess Durga. After only three years of marriage, the Prince died of battle wounds; the family tried to get Mirabai to commit Sati, the practice of voluntary suicide, but she refused. From that time onwards, Mirabai became the victim of the worst persecution by her husband's family who began spreading malicious gossip and creating great physical hardships for the young widow But, no matter what they did, they could not undermine Mirabai's unwavering devotion and love for Krishna.
By now her saintly fame was spreading far and wide for after her husband's death, her devotional practices became even more intense; she could often be found singing and dancing herself into a frenzy...even in such public places as temples. Soon the young widow had attracted a following of devotees from all social groups and castes. But, the relentless torments and hostility from the family was beginning to interfere with her life of devotion and contemplation. and secretly, with her followers, she slipped out of the palace and escaped and set out on a pilgrimage, traveling around to places that were associated with the life of Krishna; her popularity grew, and even before she arrived at a site, people would gather around singing her songs. They began to look at her as an incarnation of Radha.
It is through Mirabai's hundreds of poems that we get to know this young woman who lived in a time and place when the sexual virtue of women was so fiercely guarded. On two occasions her husband's family tried to kill her, but she was miraculously saved each time. Her own family disowned her, but even that did not stop her. Today, her life resonates in the hearts of many in India for her words express a type of female liberation.
"With my tears,
I watered the creeper of love that I planted;
Now the creeper has grown spread all over,
And bourne the fruit of bliss.
The churner of the milk churned with great love,
When I took out the butter,
no need to drink any buttermilk.
I come for the sake of love-devotion;
seeing the world, I wept."