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Reappraising Meera: Introducing New Perspectives

Anup Beniwal

Edited by Pallav
Adhaar Prakashan, Panchkula, 2007, pp. 395, Rs. 450.00


As a ‘text’ Meera has undergone continuous mutation with time; she has virtually been rendered into a discursive palimpsest. The exigencies of nationalism—the need of legitimacy, authenticity and a consequent search for native nationalistic roots—necessitated the appropriation of Meera as an icon of/for secular/spiritual India; she became an integral sub-text of passive, semi-spiritualized struggle against the colonialists. In Indian literature, especially during the high tide of cchayavad, Meera was adopted/adapted and invoked as an icon of romantic yearnings and mysticism. This literary invocation, when fed into the dynamics of latter day freedom struggle, epitomized the inner recesses of the soul of the nation, and Meera became its inspiring deity. With independence Meera became a symbol of religious syncretism and feminine ethos. However, with demystification of India as a nation, Meera too acquired a commensurate personality; she symbolized both a sense of rebellion and a poignant devotion to an ideal gone sour. Meera, in short, became a malleable icon, a representation that suited every mould: a feminist icon, a nationalist model, a split personality, a medieval saint poet and a social rebel. Her inherent interpretive malleability makes her an enigma that needs continuous appraisal and reappraisal. Apparently rooted in the wisdom that perspective shifts and counter shifts constitute the staple of academic scholarship, Pallav’s book, Meera: Ek Punarmoolyankan, an edited collection of essays on Meera, is yet another addition to this process of ‘knowledge-expansion.’ This anthology is an important academic attempt to resurrect and reinvent Meera in a way that mirrors and impinges on the changing contours of culture and politics in our times.   The anthology contains twenty-eight critical essays/comments on Meera. The essays are a mix of new and the old, originally written and translated into Hindi, written by veterans and the budding literary critics in/of Hindi. Uneven in merit, but variegated in scholarship, the thrust of the essays in this collection, nevertheless, is to historicize Meera as a woman and a poet not only within her spatio-temporal context but also from the vantage point of the contemporary hindsight. Thematically the essays of this anthology fall into five broad groups: (1) Essays that trace the evolutionary trajectory of Meera, the women and poet, within the larger context of the Bhakti Movement; (2) essays that approach Meera as a poet and concentrate on the poetics and politics of her poetry; (3) essays that bring to bear ...

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