A 500 year old love song that touches my soul.
During her life, Hindu poetess Mirabai wrote over 1300 bhajans, ‘love songs’ dedicated to Krishna. Their pure love and erotic symbolism transcend centuries and cultures.
I’ve told you about my fascination with Mirabai, one of India’s most beloved women. She was born in the 16th century and left her life as a princess to become a wandering poetess. By the time she died in 1550, she was considered a saint. People across India recited and danced to her poems, and they still do today.
Her life story is a great inspiration to me, but it’s her poems that really offer me a window to her soul. In her ‘bhajans’, she portrays herself as a lover of Lord Krishna, and her longing for him is insatiable and endless.
Take this poem:
The Dark One’s love-stain is on her,
other ornaments Mira sees as mere glitter.
A mark on her forehead,
a bracelet, some prayer beads,
beyond that she wears only her conduct.
Make-up is worthless
when you’ve gotten truth from a teacher.
the Dark One has stained me with love,
and for that some revile me,
others give honor
I simply wander the road of the sadhus
lost in my songs.
What really strikes me is the intimacy of these lines. The image of her being stained by her lover Krishna –who is usually depicted as being black or blue-skinned- , is incredibely erotic to me; as if her love for him permeates every pore of her body. Even if I don’t get all the mystic meanings of these sacred songs, they do open my heart. In this regard, Mirabai’s bhajans feel as fresh today as they must have felt when this amazing woman sung them herself over five centuries ago.
For a beautiful collection of her poems, read ‘Mirabai: Exstatic Poems’ by Robert Bly and Jane Hirshfield.
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