Tracing the myth of Mirabai

painting of Mirabai Indian woman poet singer mystic Rajashtan

Painting of Mirabai by GR Sharma

Cultural expedition to walk in the footsteps of Mirabai

THANKS TO an explorers grant from Kensington Tours, I will be walking in the footsteps of a legend, and joining the Kensington Explorers-in-Residence Series. This Series allows travellers to celebrate the great tradition of global exploration while following accomplished modern day explorers on their expeditions to the most fascinating places in the world.

I will be travelling in north India in October 2014 to walk in the footsteps of Mirabai. She was a 16th century Rajasthani princess, a composer of devotional songs and a mystic who fought against convention to give voice to her spiritual yearnings. She travelled widely in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh in north India, and I will be tracing her life through her journeys.

Mirabai’s life has relevance today because her story parallels the struggle many women have to live a fulfilled, creative life — when society pressures them to settle down, marry and devote their lives to their domestic obligations and “duties.”

Photo credit: GR Sharma

A symbol for women trying to gain their voice today

Mirabai was  known for the incomparable beauty of the poems and bhajans she composed and sang in devotion to her beloved god, Krishna. Born in Rajasthan in 1500 AD, she was married against her will to a prince of Chittor, near the fabled city of Udaipur. Her life was marred by persecution as she struggled to manifest her ardent desire to compose, sing and pursue spiritual studies. Though she was renowned for her talent, her family felt she was bringing dishonour by not behaving the way a courtly lady should — and they tried to poison and drown her.

Mirabai and Krishna, IndiaMirabai escaped and travelled widely, journeying across country to Vrindavan and Mathura, playground of Krishna, and to Dwarka in Gujarat, site of an important Krishna temple. Eventually, a deputation of men from Chittor found her in Dwarka, but before they could abduct her, she disappeared while singing in the temple. All that was found was her sari, draped around the Krishna murti.

Many legends swirl around the myth Mirabai. It was said a sadhu (holy man) gave her a tiny statue of Krishna when she was a child, and that was when her love for the god was born. It was said she survived attempts to take her life through divine intervention: poison turned to nectar, a bed of blades turned to petals. It was said Emperor Akbar came to hear her, in disguise as a sadhu.

Today, Mirabai is considered one of the great female saints of India and her songs are still sung. Moreover, there have been hundreds of songs composed in her honour and there are festivals devoted to her that take place around the time of Dusshera in Rajasthan. She is still very much alive today in the hearts of Indians.

Mirabai India poet singer

The route and itinerary

My plan is to create a four-week itinerary and travel the region around the time of the Mirabai celebrations in October 2014, concluding with a week spent at Rohet Ghar, near Pali. Rohet Ghar is a heritage hotel with a prestigious writer’s pedigree: among other notable writers who stayed at Rohet Garh — like Patrick French, Simon Winchester and Geoffrey Moorhouse — William Dalrymple wrote City of Djinns here and Bruce Chatwin wrote Songlines.

The places and events I want to visit on my cultural expedition include:

  • Mirabai temple in Vrindavan, U.P.
  • The festival in her honour, taking place this year on October 7-8 in Merta
  • Mirabai temple and museum in her hometown, Merta, Rajasthan
  • Mirabai temple at Chittogarh Fort
  • Udaipur and Pali, Rajasthan
  • Krishna Temple in Dwarka, Gujurat, where she has said to disappear
  • Rohet Garh Heritage Hotel, near Pali, for a writer’s retreat

map Rajasthan Mirabai India

Mirabai’s poetry

Mirabai’s poetry was unique in her day — much more straightforward, emotional, honest and vulnerable. The strength and power of her words stand to this day, a testament to her courage, love and talent.


Nothing is really mine except Krishna.
O my parents, I have searched the world
And found nothing worthy of love.
Hence I am a stranger amidst my kinfolk
And an exile from their company,
Since I seek the companionship of holy men;
There alone do I feel happy,
In the world I only weep.

I planted the creeper of love
And silently watered it with my tears;
Now it has grown and overspread my dwelling.
You offered me a cup of poison
Which I drank with joy.
Mira is absorbed in contemplation of Krishna,
She is with God and all is well !

It is extremely difficult to find a parallel to this wonderful personality – Mira – a saint, a philosopher, a poet and a sage. She was a versatile genius and a magnanimous soul. Her life has a singular charm, with extraordinary beauty and marvel.” – Swami Sivananda


Do not leave me alone, a helpless woman.
My strength, my crown,
I am empty of virtues,
You, the ocean of them.
My heart’s music, you help me
In my world-crossing.
You protected the king of the elephants.
You dissolve the fear of the terrified.

Where can I go? Save my honour
For I have dedicated myself to you
And now there is no one else for me.

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24 Responses to Tracing the myth of Mirabai

  1. vivek February 25, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    Good insight..about Mirabai…knew very little before reading this…
    vivek recently posted..Green Chilli PakoraMy Profile

  2. Anne February 25, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    This is really wonderful. Can’t wait to follow along!

  3. Mica February 25, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    How incredible for you! What a spiritual and personal journey you’ll undertake. I look forward to reading about it as I knew very little about Mirabai.
    Mica recently posted..Friday Snapshot: Australian KookaburraMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward February 25, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

      Yes, good observation: It seems like a travel journey now, but I am sure it will deepen into a spiritual journey …. as all good journeys do, in my opinion.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Tea and sympathy in DarjeelingMy Profile

  4. Yara Coelho February 25, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    Wow, so interesting, I didn’t know anything about Mirabai. I’m curious to know more about your adventures!
    Yara Coelho recently posted..Sweet Zurich – A Swiss chocolate tour Extravaganza!My Profile

  5. Shalu Sharma February 25, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    Mirabai was certainly one great character. Some of her bhajans are out of this world. One of them is the “Payo ji maine” absolutely divine (not sure if she wrote it). Another one is the Aisi “Lagi Lagan” sung by Anoop Jalota.
    Shalu Sharma recently posted..Religious tourism in IndiaMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward February 25, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

      I have listened to a few, and read some of her poems. I will be listening / reading a lot more as time goes on. I will check those two out, thanks so much!
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Tea and sympathy in DarjeelingMy Profile

  6. Dilip Kumar February 25, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

    Hello Mariellen, It sure will be a thrilling experience! While following the steps of Meera Bai you will learn various other aspects of the life of the people on the route too.

    • Mariellen Ward February 25, 2014 at 11:58 pm #

      Yes, you are right Dilip, I am sure this journey will open up so many new things for me, and introduce me to many new people, ideas, traditions. It will truly be an adventure in every way.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Tea and travel with a modern day explorerMy Profile

  7. Arti February 27, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    Her devotion and love towards Lord Krishna is legendary. I so love her bhajans, especially ‘Mere Toh Girdhar Gopal, Dusro Na Koi’ You will have an amazing time, and you are quite lucky to retrace the trail! Happy Travels Mariellen 🙂
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  8. alison abbott February 28, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    Congratulations Mariellen. I was so impressed when you put your goalsand wish list out there and am thrilled to learn that this has come about for you. I’m sure it will be a trip of great growth for both you spiritually and Breathe Dream Go. I look forward to reading about your travels and learning more about Mirabai.

    • Mariellen Ward March 1, 2014 at 11:43 am #

      Thanks Allison, wonderful to have others along for the journey with me 🙂 I do think there is a lot of power in putting what you want “out there” … especially if it is in line with what the universe wants for you!
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Tea and travel with a modern day explorerMy Profile

  9. Amrita March 1, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    Wonderfully written! Mirabai remains the symbol of ultimate devotion to Krishna. Gr8 that U r getting a chance to be on a trail for her! Hope U find a lot of joy n peace n continue to inspire the world with ever greater charm.
    Amrita recently posted..A Fateful MisunderstandingMy Profile

  10. Frank March 16, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

    What a powerful woman!
    Frank recently posted..Best Time To Visit Jaco, Costa RicaMy Profile

  11. Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life) March 27, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    Wow!!! This sounds, AMAZING!!!!!

    I love love loveeee Mirabai and share her love for Lord Krishna.

    Extremely excited to hear about this! Let me know if you stop by Nagpur!

    Lots of love and best wishes <3 Lauren x
    Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life) recently posted..10 moments in India I wish I could have caught on cameraMy Profile

  12. PRASHANTH RAJ March 29, 2014 at 1:53 am #

    i HAVE FIRST TIME HEARD ABOUT HER IN MY SCHOOLING and I became a fan of her !. By the way nice article dear! 🙂
    PRASHANTH RAJ recently posted..jaya nama samvatsara ugadi 2014 Panchangam Free downloadMy Profile

  13. SaravanKumar April 15, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    That was in detail about Mirabhai

  14. Rutavi Mehta June 10, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    I have been reading and visited almost all places mentioned about Mirabai.. She was a strong and warm woman in the life of people. The temple in Chittorgarh depicts her life and her thoughts over God.. Im glad that being India and when international visitors loves to come and take back some learning from our Indian culture..

    See you in India 🙂

  15. Kara July 29, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    What a cool grant! Can’t wait to hear about it later this year.
    Kara recently posted..Postcard from New York CityMy Profile

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