Mirabai is regarded as an incarnation of Radha. She was born in 1502 in the village of Kurkhi in Rajasthan. She was the daughter of Rathan Singh Ranthor, who, along with his entire family, was a great devotee of Vishnu. Mira was brought up amidst Vaishnava influence which moulded her life on the path of devotion towards Lord Krishna.
When she was only four years old, Mira manifested religious tendencies and learned to worship Krishna.
One day, a marriage procession was passing in front of her house and she saw the well-dressed bridegroom. She asked her mother quite innocently, “Dear mother, who is going to be my bridegroom?” Mira’s mother smiled, and, half in jest and half in earnest, pointed to the image of Sri Krishna and said, “My dear Mira, Lord Krishna – this beautiful image – will be your bridegroom.”
The young Mira began to love the idol of Krishna intensely and spent much of her time bathing and dressing it. She worshipped the image, slept with it and danced around it ecstatically. She sang beautiful songs in front of it and talked to it.
Mira’s father arranged for her marriage with Rana Kumbha of Chitore. Mira was a dutiful wife and obeyed her husband’s orders implicitly. At the end of every day, when the household duties were over, she would go to the temple of Lord Krishna and worship him, sing and dance before the image. The little image would get up, embrace her, play the flute and talk to her. Mira’s mother-in-law was worldly-minded and jealous, and did not like the behaviour of Mira.
She tried to force her to worship Goddess Durga but Mira was adamant. She said, “I have already given my life to my beloved Lord Krishna.”
Her sister-in-law formed a conspiracy and began to defame the innocent Mira. She informed Rana Kumbha that Mira was secretly in love with others, and that she, with her own eyes, had witnessed Mira in the temple with her lovers. She said that she would reveal the lovers to him if he would go with her to the temple during the night. She further added that Mira through her present conduct had brought great disgrace upon the Rana family.
In the dead of night, Rana broke open the door of the temple and rushed inside. He found Mira alone in an ecstatic mood, and talking to the idol.
He questioned her, “Mira, with whom were you talking just now? Reveal to me your lover.”
Mira replied, “There He sits, my Lord, the Navichora who has stolen my heart.” She then went into a trance.
Mira was persecuted in various ways by the Rana and his relatives. She received the same treatment that Prahlad had received from his father Hiranyakashipu. Lord Hari shielded Prahlad, and it was Lord Krishna who always stood at the side of Mira.
One day, the Rana sent a cobra in a basket, with a message that it contained a garland of flowers. Mira took her bath and performed her worship. After finishing her meditation, she opened the basket and found a lovely idol of Krishna and a garland of flowers.
Another time, the Rana sent her a cup of poison with a message saying that it was nectar. Mira first offered it to the Lord and consumed it as his prasad, for it was real nectar to her. On still another occasion, the Rana sent a bed of nails for her to sleep on. That night, she finished her worship and slept on the bed of nails, when it was transformed into a bed of roses.
Once, King Akbar and his court musician, Tansen, came in disguise to Chitore to hear Mira’s inspiring devotional songs. Both entered the temple and listened to her soul-stirring songs. Akbar was moved and, before he departed, touched Mira’s holy feet and placed a necklace of emeralds before the idol as an offering. Somehow the news reached the Rana that Akbar had entered the temple in disguise, touched the feet of Mira, and presented her with a necklace.
The Rana became furious and ordered Mira to drown herself in the river, for she had brought great disgrace upon his family.
Mira obeyed the command of her husband and proceeded to the river to drown herself. The names Govinda, Giridhari, Gopal, were all the while on her lips. As soon as she raised her feet from the ground, a hand from behind grasped her; she turned around and saw her beloved Krishna. Mira went into a trance, but after a few minutes, opened her eyes and saw Lord Krishna smiling.
He said to her, “My dear Mira, your life with your mortal husband is now over and you are absolutely free. Be cheerful, for you are mine. Proceed immediately to the avenues of Vrindavan. Seek me there, my child. Be quick.” Then Krishna disappeared.
Mira obeyed the divine call immediately, walking barefooted on the hot sandy beds of Rajasthan. On her journey, she was received with great hospitality by women, children and devotees. She reached Vrindavan and found her Flute-Bearer there. Daily she begged for her food and worshipped in the Govinda Mandir, which has become a famous place of pilgrimage. The devotees of Chitore came to Vrindavan to see her, and even Rana Kumbha came in the guise of a mendicant. He revealed himself and repented for his cruel misdeeds. At once, Mira prostrated before him.
Mira wanted to have the darshan of Jivan Gosain, who was the head of the Vaishnavites in Vrindavan. However, he declined to see her, sending word that he would not allow a woman to be in his presence. Mira replied, “Everyone in Vrindavan is a woman. Only Giridhari Gopal is Purusha. Only today I have come to know that there is another Purusha besides Krishna.”
Jivan Gosain was put to shame and realized the greatness of Mira. At once he went to see her and paid her due respects.
Mira’s fame spread far and wide. Many princesses and queens have come and gone. Ranis, kumaris and maharanis have appeared on the stage of the world and vanished. Why is it that only the queen of Chitore is remembered? Is it because of her beauty or her poetic skill? No. It is due to her renunciation, one-pointed devotion to Lord Krishna and her God-realization. She came face to face with Lord Krishna, spoke with her beloved and ate with Him. From the core of her heart, she sang the music of her soul, the music of her beloved.
She experienced the supreme cosmic vision. She saw Krishna in the tree, in the stone, in the creeper, in the flower, in the bird, and in all beings. As long as the name of Krishna exists, so too will her name exist.
It is extremely difficult to find a parallel to the wonderful personality of Mira – a saint, philosopher, poet and sage. Her life has a singular charm with extraordinary beauty and marvel. She was a princess, but she abandoned the pleasures and luxuries incident to her high station and instead chose a life of poverty, austerity and dispassion. Though she was a delicate young woman, she entered the perilous journey of the spiritual path and underwent many ordeals with undaunted courage. Mira had a gigantic will.
Mira’s songs infuse faith, courage, devotion and love of God in the minds of listeners. They inspire aspirants on the path of devotion, producing in them a marvellous thrill and melting of heart.
Mira was fearless, joyful, amiable, graceful and elegant. She never cared about public criticism or scriptural injunctions. She did not perform ritualistic worship, she danced in the streets. Krishna was her husband, father, mother, friend, relative and guru.
The fragrance of Mira’s devotion wafted far and wide. All who came into contact with her were affected by her strong current of love. Her heart was a temple of devotion, and her face, the lotus flower of divine love. There was kindness in her expression, love in her speech, joy in her demeanour, power in her words, and fervour in her songs.
Mira’s mystic songs are a soothing balm to the wounded hearts and tired nerves. The sweet music of her songs exerts a benign influence on listeners, removes discord and disharmony and lulls them to sleep. So great is the power of love expressed through her songs that even the irreligious and absolute atheists are profoundly moved.
The name of Giridhari Gopal was always on Mira’s lips, and even in dreams she lived and had her being in Lord Krishna. Such an exalted state cannot be adequately described in words. Mira was sunk in the ocean of love.