Songs of Meerabai (1498-1556)

Image of Meerabai with musical instrument.

Not Very Quiet is pleased to present a mini-magazine of translations, improvisations and interpretations of two songs of Meerabai, a sixteenth-century Rajasthani mystic poet, singer and dancer.

NVQ’s mission is to provide space to highlight the work of women poets and Meerabai’s work is worthy of consideration in our contemporary world where violence against women and family violence make women’s space unstable and uncertain.

Meerabai composed her songs so that they could be sung aloud, in temples and in praise of the Hindu god Krishna. All ten translations/interpretations attempt to capture the soundscapes of her songs by using flexible rhyme and syllabic arrangements. And all, to a greater or lesser extent, accentuate the translator’s voice.

We, at NVQ, recognise that in translating and interpreting Meerabai’s work, today’s poets impose a huge cultural weight onto the original writing – which comes from another time and place. Understandings of gender, religion, race and how language is used, is both particular to specific places and times, as well as universally understood across centuries.

The translations, improvisations and interpretations of two of Meerabai’s songs show a range of uniquely individual approaches and outcomes arising from grappling with this complexity.

We are grateful to Subhash Jaireth for his brilliant translation workshop, which received a Canberra Critics Circle Award in 2020, and for his overview and introduction, ‘Translating Songs of Meerabai’, and to Recent Work Press for granting permission to republish it here.

Sandra Renew, Founding Co-Editor
Not Very Quiet


Translating Love Songs of Meerabai, Subhash Jaireth

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

Meerabai – Song 2 (a reading in Hindi and translations, improvisations and interpretations)

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).

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© 2020