29 October, 2020

Mirabai, 1498-1557

I Go The Other Way

Photo By Alamy
Mirabai, 1498-1557

Across north India, the brief season of spring weather erupts with the  festival of Holi—a no-holds-barred celebration in the villages and city streets. Water-sprays everywhere, children throw coloured powder at each other, and soggy T-shirts and kurtas abound. It’s a holiday some girls experience as an equalising moment, a rare chance to play freely with boys. Other girls, though, view Holi warily—as a celebration that gives cover to sexual harassers. It’s a charged moment in the gender politics of Indian life, and in many communities the soundtrack to that experience is Rang barse, as performed by the Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan in a film from the 1980s.

The only atypical thing about this song is the strong-willed woman it celebrates: she’s over 500 years old. The film lyricist based it on a centuries-old song about Mirabai, a mystic poet of spiritual love and longing who lived during the 16th century and is today one of India’s most revered female saints.

She was born Mira, into an elite and conservative...



To read this piece, and more such stories in India's most exciting and exacting magazine, plus get access to our 25-year archives goldmine, please subscribe.

More from Sunil Khilnani

Latest Magazine

November 02, 2020

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section