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Release: Nov. 19, 2001

Hindu female saint Mirabai to be celebrated at UI Nov. 30-Dec. 1

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A two-day special program of events to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the birth of the famous Hindu saint, Mirabai, has been slated for Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at the University of Iowa. The multi-disciplinary celebration will feature a lecture series, film show, music and dance performances, all with the theme: "Mira: Re-Presenting a Radical Woman." The event is sponsored by the South Asian Studies Program (SASP) in conjunction with UI International Programs and all programs are free and open to the public.

"This celebration is an opportunity for exciting programming that simultaneously builds bridges with the School of Religion and women's studies department and with the School of Music and the Institute for Cinema and Culture," said Philip Lutgendorf, co-director of the South Asian Studies Program (SASP) and associate professor of Asian Languages and Literature in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The celebration begins with a lecture, "In Search of Mira: Multiple Representations of a Hindu Woman Saint," by Nancy M. Martin, an associate professor of religious studies at Chapman University, on Friday, Nov. 30 at 4 p.m. in Room 315 Philips Hall. Also on Nov. 30, the film "Meera," in Hindi with English subtitles, will be screened at 8 p.m. in Room 107 English-Philosophy Building. The 1979 film was directed by S.S. Gulzar, with music by Ravi Shankar and stars Hema Malini and Vinod Khanna.

On Saturday, Dec. 1, "Performing Mira: An East-West Celebration," featuring performances of music and dance, will be presented at 7 p.m. in Macbride Hall Auditorium. Mezzo-soprano Katherine Eberle, a member of the UI School of Music faculty, will perform "Mirabai Songs," a song-cycle based on lyrics of Mirabai as rendered in English by Robert Bly and set to music by John Harbison, a contemporary American composer. Eberle will be accompanied by the UI Center for New Music ensemble, directed by David Gompper. Also included in the program will be the dance drama "The Search for Eternal Love," performed by the Noopor Dance Troupe, directed by Jayeeta Sen, with music and script by Latika Bhatnagar. Based on Mira's quest for union with the Divine Beloved this dance will be performed in classical dance styles of India, combining elements of Kathak, Bharata Natyam, Manipuri, Kathakali and folk dances.

Mira or Mirabai is a 15th century Hindu saint. Born into a royal lineage and later married to a neighboring prince in modern-day Rajasthan, Mira is said to have cherished from childhood deep devotion to the flute-playing cowherd god Krishna. According to legend, regarding herself as Krishna's bride, Mira repeatedly defied her worldly husband and in-laws, incurring their wrath, abuse, and even attempts on her life. Miraculously saved by Krishna, she eventually abandoned her marital home to become a wandering mendicant, visiting the pilgrimage sites associated with Krishna's earthly career. These events are celebrated in the hundreds of songs that bear her poetic "signature," and which continue to be sung (and indeed, sometimes composed) in a variety of contexts.

As the only woman among the major pre-modern Hindi-language poets, Mira is both a celebrated and contested figure who has been invoked to serve a variety of agendas: as a symbol of Indian womanhood and proto-nationalism, as a radical resistor of patriarchy and class oppression, or even as a docile, self-effacing Hindu wife who managed to gracefully combine sainthood with domesticity.

For more information contact or special accommodations to attend any of these events, contact Lutgendorf at (319) 335 2157 or