krishna image

Bhakti poets—who were in some cases lower-caste Hindu women—and their audiences drew emotional sustenance from these verses, which expressed a pure devotion to Hindu deities. Their poetry, written in local languages beginning in the 6th century in South India and the 12th century in North India, attracted large audiences among the marginalized in Hindu society, such as women and “untouchables.”

Here Mirabai (ca. 1498–ca. 1546), famous devotee of Krishna, speaks of the depth of her longing for her Lord, a longing that has left her physically weak and visibly ill. The doctor is called in to examine her condition, yet Mirabai already knows what the cause of her “illness” is, as well as its cure: to be caressed by her Lover’s lips, to experience fully the love of the Divine, and only thus be fully made well.

Source: “I am pale with longing for my beloved.” In Women Writing in India, 600 B.C. to the Present. Vol. 1. Edited by Susie Tharu and K. Lalita. New York: The Feminist Press at The City University of New York, 1991.


“I am pale with longing for my beloved;
People believe I am ill.
Seizing on every possible pretext,
I try to meet him ‘by accident.’

They have sent for a country doctor,
He grabs my arm and prods it;
How can he diagnose my pain?
It’s in my heart that I am afflicted.

Go home, country doctor,
Don’t address me by my name;
It’s the name of God that has wounded me,
Don’t force your medicines on me.

The sweetness of his lips is a pot of nectar,
That’s the only curd for which I crave;
Mira’s Lord is Giridhar Naagar.
He will feed me nectar again and again.”