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.”

The possibility of Bahinabai’s Vedic training, or training in Hindu religious hymns, comes to the fore in her 17th-century poetry, in that she consistently refers to the Vedas and their regulations on married life. In this abhanga, a song that accompanied women’s work, readers become aware of Bahinabai’s anguished decision-making process. The Vedas are clear on the duties of women toward their husbands, particularly women’s deference to their husband’s wishes. But Bahinabai is called to a different life, a different object of affection and duty than her husband, namely, reverence and affection toward her teacher, the low-caste poet-saint Tukaram. Bahinabai’s husband initially scorned Tukaram and stressed the invincibility of the Vedas and Vedic rituals over and against Tukaram’s message of devotion over ritual.

Source: McGee, Mary. “Bahinabai: The Ordinary Life of an Exceptional Woman, or, the Exceptional Life of an Ordinary Woman.” In Vaisnavi: Women and the Worship of Krishna. Edited by Steven J. Rosen. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.


“To leave a husband is against the teachings of the Vedas, and
thereby one can never acquire the supreme spiritual riches.

At my door there seemed a great serpent hissing at me. How could I
live under such conditions?

It is the teaching of the Vedas, that one should not neglect one’s duty,
but my love was for the worship of God (Hari).

Says Bahini, ‘I was in a sea of troubles. How can I describe the
increasing anguish of my heart!’“
(Abhanga 62)