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This article explores the life and influence of Indira Devi Niloy (1920–1997) who in 1949 began to encounter the sixteenth-century saint–poet Mirabai during her meditative trance states. She would recount songs, stories, and teachings that the saint gave to her as well as scenes from Mirabai’s life that she witnessed as an observer and at other times experienced directly as a participant. Their ongoing relationship would have a tremendous influence on Indira Devi as well as her guru Dilip Kumar Roy (1897–1980) and the increasingly international community that grew up around them. Their interactions and Indira Devi’s reports in turn would also significantly influence the reception and perceived continuing relevance of Mirabai as both inspiration and authorization for women’s self-realization. Additionally, Indira Devi’s own story reveals a mode of female guruhood, with a distinct absence of identification with shakti or divine incarnation, a more egalitarian model for the guru–disciple relationship, and an alternate bhakti mode of male–female collaborative leadership with Roy. Further their experiences with Mirabai offer insight into the ongoing engagement of women and men with such influential women of the past, the intersubjective nature of the traditions that surround them, and what Mirabai’s message might be for women (and men) today.


This article was originally published in Religions, volume 15, in 2024.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.