The pristine Meerabai kneels down in the worship of Her Lord Krishna. This Krishna temple was Her sacred precinct within Her oppressive sasuraal. The lifelike idol of the tribhanga murari is indicative of the life-affirming powers of Meerabai’s prayers.
Meerabai is clad in a white and gold lehenga, unusual colours for a sadhvaa. She has set down Her ektaara right next to Krishna and is now devoting Herself to His shringar. Pooja-samagri and a pothi lie next to Her on a marble stool-top.
The luxuries of the palace of Mewar’s ruling dynasty is palpable in this painting. A superbly architectured precinct for the stubborn new daughter-in-law. A beauteous maid engaged to attend to Her every whim. Hints of a traditional Indian garden outdoors, sensually conducive of the divine.
Clad in white, a saint’s attire, one who has relinquished the world, the symbol of purity, Mira, a virgin as also wedded, one in the world as also beyond it, with no jewels on her person except a pair of ear-rings and a few beads on her neck and feet – a yogini’s ornaments, is seated on the ground opposite the image of Krishna. Close to Krishna’s image lies her ‘ektara’ – lyre with single string, accompanying her when she sang. Multi-stringed lyre was not her instrument for she did not see anything beyond one, her Lord, she sang for. In her life as in the painting one string defined Mira’s single-minded devotion. On a chowki on her right lies, besides a water jug and bowl, a manuscribed folio, perhaps one of her songs devoted to Lord Krishna, praising his beauty or revealing her pain of separation and yearning to unite with him. With a tray of fruits in her hand, from behind her is appearing a young woman, a harem inmate attending on her, or one of her sakhis or devotees, for even during her life Mira was the object of both, deep detestation and as deep devotion.
Mira’s image revealing her marital status truly defines her being. She had discovered in marriage love’s essential dimensions – formal and intrinsic, and hence, her utmost poetic imagery and devotional idiom, particularly in its bonds that tie the two together, resulting union and its delight, as also the separation and its pangs. In her songs, and in the life that she led, she presented herself as her Lord’s virgin, bride, humble servant, one willing to live the way he liked – all the idioms of marital life. She considered herself as her Lord’s eternal consort, His virgin in sojourn till He allows her to meet and unite with Him in inseparable unity. Marriage had such significance in Mira’s life perhaps because it was an event of marriage that transformed the human-born Mira into a spiritual legend. A neighbourhood girl’s marriage procession, which Mira saw when still a child, led her curious mind to ask her mother as to where was her groom and when he would come to take her home. A few days back an ascetic had left at Mira’s house an idol of Krishna after he saw in Mira’s eyes exceptional love for it. Mira’s mother lifted the idol and giving it to Mira said that that was her groom. Mira’s adolescent mind believed it and since then she took Krishna as her husband. As reveal her songs, she was married to Him in every birth, and in every birth she yearned for him in love and was thus ever his spouse and ever his maid.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain
specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of
numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the
curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New
Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of
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