Meerabai – Song 2


A reading of Song 2 in Hindi by Subhash Jaireth

Translations, improvisations and interpretations


Listen, Mother, I have found Govida, the cowboy, in the dusty Marketplace and bought him in an auction. Although some say that I paid too much for him others see it as a bargain. Young Krishna, going for a song. Who wouldn’t be off of it. Its not often that you get a God up for sale downtown. So I bagged him. Still, you know what the locals are like – many of them say that I bought him on the sly. But that is not true. I bought him fair and square and above board. People say that he is dark-skinned like a berry. While others say that he is more like a ghost. No matter, for me he is a wonderful being without a human value. These commentators think they are wise and all-knowing. But they have to see Govida through the prism of the supernatural. Because it is only then that his holiness and peace are revealed. He is, afterall, Krishna, the chosen one, who watches over us. I am Meera and I plead with Lord Krisna to reveal himself to me in all his glory and meet the challenge of union that he promised in an earlier existence. Only then will my life be whole.

Translated by Maurice Corlett

What inspired me to write my prose poem about the Meerabai Song Two was that she was known for her work singing in the temples. And it seems she had a colloquial way to deliver her message. Not for her the high falutin language of the royal court from where she had come. So I wrote my piece as close as possible to how I interpreted the text. Hopefully, it reads as a work that has a certain amusing charm. And that Meerabai would appreciate that.


Mai re main to liyo govindo mol

I made an offer, Mother, and I have won my Lord!

Whether free or proxy bid, no one will know,
for the tablas of their tongues have lost control.

Whether I paid crores more than I could afford,
Govinda is my treasure, more to me than gold.

People argue whether he is dark or fair
but I say he’s my priceless gem and can’t be sold.

They think that they know better but I do not care,
I only ask each one to gaze with open soul.

Meera begs her Lord to show her all his faces
and grant the bliss of bathing fully in his praises.

Translated by Hazel Hall

I tried to work on the subtext behind Meera’s words in Song 2. Working with melodies and rhythms of voice and text and using slant rhyming, I created lines suitable for light North Indian songs and dances such as bhajans, thumris and ghazals. Hopefully I’ve expressed some of Meera’s joy, devotion and intention.


Oh Mother, I got Govinda at an auction!

Some say I had a bidder, some say I was there
And the gossip-drums roll on through the air

Oh Mother, I got Govinda at an auction!

Some say he was cheap, some say too dear
But I know the deal was more than fair

Oh Mother, I got Govinda at an auction!

Some say he’s dark, some say he’s pale
But I say he’s a priceless jewel

Oh Mother, I got Govinda at an auction!

Those fools, they think that they’re so wise
But to see, you need to open your eyes

Oh Mother, I got Govinda at an auction!

If he’s true to the time he gave his word
Then Meera begs to see the face of her Lord

Oh Mother, I got Govinda at an auction!

Translated by Matt Hetherington

I have tried to stay as close to the literal meaning of the original, while still giving something of its musicality, which is obviously quite different.  I’ve kept the repeated refrain as it’s sung, as this seems to supply a grounding quality.


Mother, I have won Govinda in an auction.
Some say I bid openly, the others through
a proxy, and the gossip drums beat and roll.
Some say, I bid to high, the others too low
but I know he is worth his weight in gold.
Some say, he is too dark, the others too pale
but for me he is my single priceless gem.
They think they know all and everything,
but I ask them to open their eyes and look.
Meera pleads her Lord to show his blessed
face, and keep the promise he last made.

Translated by Subhash Jaireth

Translating the love songs of Meerabai into English presents a challenge, and the challenge lies in achieving the right balance between the meaning, mood and the soundscape of these intensely sonorous songs.

As I began translating them, I first tried to reproduce their end-rhyme pattern in English. But I soon discovered that the such a translation sounded laboured, contrived and unnatural. This forced me to focus on the rhythm instead, and to use rhyme flexibly and floatingly. In my translation I have tried my best to preserve the number of lines. In a few songs this hasn’t been easy because the language of the original is so precise and measured that I needed more words to convey the meaning and the mood.

Note: This translation was previously published in rain clouds: Meerabai, translations by Subhash Jaireth (Recent Work Press 2020).


Mama! I outbid my rivals—Govida is my prize.

Some say I went in open-eyed, some blind.
The gossips gather, the murmur intensifies.

They say I paid too much—or too little,
as if I could not trust my own eyes!

They think him too dark-skinned—or too fair.
For me, he glows like sapphire.

The gossips think they know so much.
I say, ‘tear the veil from your eyes!’

But in private, I beg he show the face,
speak again the words that fed my desire.

Translated by Penelope Layland

I have preserved the rhyme pattern of the original Hindi in both these translations, but have taken some liberties with the imagery, seeking equivalents that I hope evoke the sense if not the particularity of the Meerabai’s original songs.


Mother! I have weighed my choices and taken Govinda to my heart (Triolet 2 for Govinda)

Mother, listen, I’ve found my love
It’s Govinda, forget all the others.
Don’t listen to the gossips, I’ve made my move
Mother, listen, I’ve found my love
I’ve looked around, he’s without price, a cut above
any other black or fair potential lovers
Mother, listen, I’ve found my love
It’s Govinda, forget all the others.

Govinda, I choose him
He is a promise for eternity
He is a perpetual incarnation
Govinda, I choose him
He is a priceless gem
if only others could see
Govinda, I choose him
He is a promise for eternity

Translated by Sandra Renew

I have chosen to improvise on Meerabai’s work using the triolet form. This form requires that the language is stripped right down so that the message to be sung in the temple is very direct and explicit, allowing the promotion of both rhythm and mood, keeping the tonal quality of the original piece.

Related links

Meerabai – Song 1 (a reading in Hindi and translations, improvisations and interpretations)

Translating Love Songs of Meerabai, an introduction and overview by Subhash Jaireth (translation workshop leader)

Songs of Meerabai (1498-1556), an introduction by Sandra Renew (Not Very Quiet founding co-editor)

About the translators who participated in Subhash Jaireth’s translation workshop for Poetry on the Move (September 2020)


We gratefully acknowledge Recent Work Press for allowing us to republish the introduction, ‘Translating Love Songs of Meerabai’, and Song 2 translation by Subhash Jaireth. Both were published previously in Rain Clouds: Meerabai (Recent Work Press 2020).

© 2020