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Quiz 3 Bhakti Poetry Total points 20

Please answer any two of the following questions. Each answer is worth 10 points. Quote from your
texts, cite your sources.

1) What are some of the characteristics of bhakti poetry that makes bhakti poets identifiable together as
a group of poets writing to express their bhakti similarly? If you can quote from poets as you make your
list it will be much appreciated (500-600 words)

Bhati poems or songs are written to show intimate and impassioned devotion to a personal god. There
are a multitude of voices that sing about the many faiths that exist in the world and to this date these
mystic poets continue to enthrall both readers and devotees. Even though most of the bhakti poetry
read and sang today was composed and sung several centuries ago in different lands and by people of
different faiths, there are some elements and characteristics that are common to most songs and
poems.

Since its inception, bhakti was radical in utterance and approach. Both the poems and the mystic poets
bypassed religious hierarchies and rituals and broke convention and sang in their own tongue to make
other aware, to dismantle devotion as a caste based or a class based privilege instead of conforming to
the power tongue of Sanskrit that was used in the courts and the temples. Akkamahadevi, also known as
Akka or Mahadevi was a bhakta from the southern region of Karnataka and a devotee of Shiva in the
12th century. Her poems reflect her intense, all-encompassing love for Shiva, whom she addresses as
Chennamallikarjuna. Through Shiva and Shiva alone is her love fulfilled; she spells out in most of her
poems that through separation from her lord white as jasmine is her heart broken. Although Shiv
plays many roles in her poetry, including that of her illicit lover, and then of her legitimate husband he is
always a constant figure of love and devotion.
In one poem, she writes about her of Siva. Her travels took her to various parts of India, where, traveling
naked and forlorn in search of her true love, that she burned in a flameless fire and suffered a
bloodless wound. Bhakti poets tried to convey their spiritual longing for the lord in terms of actual
physical pain. As ascetics and wanders who had naught but their own body, they reduced their
experiences of spiritual pleasure and pain to bodily ones to sing to those who had not yet achieved a
devotional state. In the early days, these poets sand against a backdrop of religious conflict. And
although the violence around them was fueled by a desire to convert they used their words and the
pain to bring for the love and desperation in their poetry. Chokhamela, prevalent in 14th century, Mahar
poet who wrote about his devotion to Vithoba. He was a dalit and was considered untouchable and
therefore spoke of the injustice suffered and his love for his lord.
Most of the Bhakti poetry includes gruesome imagery of pain and ecstatic one of worldly pleasure to
compare with the pain felt by the devotee upon being neglected or not loved by his lord and the
pleasure felt by him when they are accepted. Bhakti poets usually have an affectionate name by which
they address their lord and their love, Mahadeviakka calls Shiva , Lord white as jasmine and
Chokhamela calls his lord Vittu or Hari. They talk about the abuse that they face from the rest of the
society and how leaving the worldly pleasures and accepting their lord brought them inexplicable
pleasure.
3) Pick a bhakti poet we havent read in class, introduce that poet to me in a short biography (200
words) then analyze any two poems you pick to show what is special about the poetry and the
expression of bhav and bhakti for this poet. (500-600 words)
I am Married to the Eternal Husband

O my companion, saheli, I am married to the Eternal Husband.


I am now married to The Indivisible Husband

After having gone through eighty four lakhs birth and death cycles,
I have suffered a great deal in this ocean of samsara
worldly life and the samsari relatives are all terribly deceptive;
seeing and repeatedly experiencing this, I shiver. The entire family and those associated with them are
all selfish, yet now I am relieved from this deceptive world.

After taking this birth, I have suffered immeasurably having lived a married worldly life and
establishing a household. Yet, I am now very joyous in the company of saints,
and feel at peace having established in a single goal in this life, without doubts or confusion.

I have overcome the worldly thirst.

Meera Dance with Ankle Bells

Mira danced with ankle-bells on her feet.


People said Mira was mad; my mother-in-law
said I ruined the family reputation.
Rana sent me a cup of poison and Mira
drank it laughing.
I dedicated my body and soul at the feet of Hari.
I am thirsty for the nectar of the sight of him.
Miras lord is Giridhar Nagar; I will
come for refuge to him.

Meerabai was a 16th century indian royal whose existence to this date remains questioned.
There have been reporting and records of a woman who sang for Krishna but there is recorded
differences in all of such incidents, however, the following biography is an attempt to report the facts
that are commonly accepted. Meerabai was born in a Rajput family in the fortress city of Merta which
was created by her grandfather, Rao Dudaj. Her father, Ratan Singh and his family worshipped Vishnu as
the primary diety. Mirabai was born in Merta in 1498 (the exact date remains unknown). When she was
about four years old her mother died and Meerabai was educated by her grandparents. At an early age,
Mirabai became attached to an idol of Krishna, given to her (legend says) by a traveling beggar.
As a teenager she was married off to a Ranjputi prince of Mewar. Her in laws were upset by her choice
to spend her time in the temple of Krishna. She wrote to the poet Tulsi Das who advised her to leave the
comforts of married life and devote herself completely to her lord. Meerabais husband died only a few
years after she left. His family was mortified that she did not commit sati by burning herself on her
husbands funeral pyre and that she chose to leave and roam and write instead of living a widows
secluded life. Legend says that they tried to have her killed by mixing poison in her cup but miraculously,
absolutely nothing happened to her.
Meera explores and subverts the ideological content of the bidai or leaving in this poem by
resorting Rajput to her masterfully created antigenre. She has discovered that all worldly relationships,
her friends and family are all selfish. Her in laws and her family think that she ruined the family
reputation Meera avers how she found enlightenment in her union with the Lord and in doing so she
now sees the deceptive nature of her relationship with her natal family. She will come for refuge to
her lord Krishna after being shunned from her so called loved ones. According to the traditional bidai
songs, the daughters are looked upon as highly decorated objects of exchange taking leave from their
natal family. She looks at the life led so far as a life that she has suffered immeasurably having lived a
married worldly life and establishing a household . The trope of the woman leading a life of comfort
after being sent to a household of a higher caste and class standing is turned on itself. Meera looks upon
the woman leaving as a renunciation of the natal and patriarchal family to follow a self-chosen ideal. She
mentions that she has cut off all association with her families and is relieved from the deceptive
world. In overcoming the demons of her worldly pleasures Meera writes how she has now conquered
desire and dedicated my body and soul at the feet of Hari and conqured the worldly thirst within.
While this plays right into the familiar trope of the husband fulfilling the wishes of his partner, it can also
be seen quite paradoxically as Meeras detachment from the Rajput patriarchy and her attachment to
herself and her search for truth and meaning as an independent woman uninfluenced by the patriarchy.
This liberation from Marriage and family signifies nothing more than her dissent from her actual
patriarchal marriage.
In Meeras poetry, the patriarchal system of belief that dictates that women are prohibited from
the state of renunciation is replaced by a sense of fulfilment of self through self-alienation which Her
search for God through a magnitude of lifetimes signifies the practice of living ethically and the
principles of reciprocation within nature, accelerated by her Lord, Himself. She brings into play a
cooperation between her and her creator which is quantified not by materialistic pleasures or objects
mentioned in the mainstream bhajans such as gold or adornments, but her life and labour itself. Meera
expressed her joy in the company of saints feel at peace having established in a single goal (to stay
married with the Lord and unmarried with the worldly) in this life without doubts or confusion. She has
risen above the patriarchy, the commodification and the fetishization by her Rajput family. She has
given up material adornment but remains in the presence of wisdom and attains peace which brings her
closer to the Lord who had left her abandoned once. The metaphors of adornment and reciprocity bring
one to the understanding of how the material world and the conventions of satisfaction and fulfilment
are encoded in Meeras poems.
There are no prescribed marks or objects of servitude to be worn, renunciation is key, and can
be followed by anyone. Meera turns the ideology of servitude around as she contravenes her own
principles, independent of service to any fellow human being and instead begs for service to oneself and
ones Lord. She has chosen to get married to The Eternal Husband (Krishna), and that in itself goes
against the Rajput patriarchy which dictates that a woman marry whomsoever is chosen for her by her
natal family. Meera enters servitude by separating herself from it and thus, once again, in a highly
paradoxical manner uses rhetoric to introduce a sense of feminism and equality in her poems.

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