Philobiblon: Wandering women

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Wandering women

Always nice to discover new prominent women in an unexpected area, so I was pleased to explore the story of two Indian mystics, Mahadeviyakka and Mirabai, introduced on my email book group.

Mahadeviyakka follows rather closely that path of Christian saints, of suffering for her beauty (somehow "saints" are never plain, as I've commented before), but she eventually becomes so with god and nature that (like many male devotees) she walked around naked, covered only by her hair, although this attracted somewhat more attention than the men got.

Her response:

"Fools, while I dress
In the Jasmine Lord's morning light,
I cannot be shamed --
What would you have me hide under silk
and the glitter of jewels?"

Mirabai is rather nicely labelled in one essay as the rebellious Rajput. After an arranged marriage she refused to submit to her in-laws' rule, and after her husband and then father-in-law died she set out as a wandering mystic. A solid-looking bibliography.

I'm not big on poetry, but I am rather taken with hers. Try the lovely The Wild Woman of the Forests.


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