Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kabir : the mystic saint

Kabir (or Kabir Das), one of India's most quoted poets and mystics is not easily categorized as a Sufi or a Jogi. He is both of these. Kabir is unusual in that he is spiritually significant to Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims alike. Kabir touches the soul, the conscience, the sense of awareness and the vitality of existence in a manner that is unequalled in both simplicity and style. He stands as a unique, saintly, yet very human bridge between the great traditions that live in India. Almost every hindustani classical vocalist aspire to sing the poetry of Kabir, sometime in his or her singing career. An entire raga, Kabir Bhairav has been dedicated to his work.

Kabir was born in Benares, India, probably around the year 1440. His birth itself is shrouded in mystery, some say he was the son of a Brahman widow, what is known though is that he was brought up in a family of muslim weavers. He was never formally educated and was almost completely illiterate. All of Kabir's recorded verses are in Hindi. The beauty of Kabir's poetry is that he picks up situations that surround our daily lives. Thus, even today, Kabir's poetry is relevant and helpful in both social and spiritual context. His lyrics are characterised by a free use of the vernacular, and is unfettered by the grammatical bonds of his day. It is this quality which has made his philosophy accessible to generations of Indians.

Kumar Gandharva - Ud Jayega Hans Akela :  (Download)

Ashwini Bhide - Chadar Ho Gayi Bahut Purani :  (Download)

Some of his dohas, as his two-line verses (couplets) are popularly called :

कबीरा खड़ा बाजार में, मांगे सब की खैर
ना काहू से दोस्ती, ना काहू से बैर।

साँईं इतना दीजिये, जामें कुटुम्ब समाये
मैं भी भूखा ना रहूँ, साधू ना भूखा जाये।

बुरा जो देखन में चला, बुरा ना मिलया कोई
जो मन खोजा आपना, मुझ से बुरा ना कोई।

माया मरी ना मन मरा, मर मर गये शरीर
आशा त्रिश्णा ना मरी, कह गये दास कबीर।

दुख में सुमिरन सब करें, सुख में करे ना कोये
जो सुख में सुमिरन करे, तो दुख काहे को होये।

चलती चक्की देख के, दिया कबीरा रोए
दो पाटन के बीच में, साबुत बचा ना कोए।

धीरे धीरे रे मना, धीरज से सब होये
माली सिंचे सौ घड़ा, ऋतु आये फ़ल होये।

ऐसी वाणी बोलिये, मन का आपा खोये
औरों को शीतल करे, आपहुँ शीतल होये।

जाती ना पूछो साधु की, पूछ लीजिये ज्ञान
मोल करो तलवार की, पड़ी रेहन जो म्यान।

माटी कहे कुम्हार से, काहे रोंदे मोहे
ईक दिन ऐसा आयेगा, मैं रौंदूगीं तोहे।

साधु ऐसा चाहिये, जैसा सूप सुहाय
सार सार को गही रहे, थोथा देय उडाय।

बड़ा हुआ तो क्या हुआ, जैसे पेड़ खजूर
पंथी को छाया नही, फल लगे अति दूर।

Early in his life Kabir became a disciple of the Hindu bhakti saint Ramanand. It was unusual for a Hindu teacher to accept a Muslim student, but tradition says the young Kabir found a creative way to overcome all objections. Not much is known about what sort of spiritual training Kabir may have received. He did not become a sadhu or renunciate. Kabir never abandoned worldly life, choosing instead to live the balanced life of a householder and mystic, tradesman and contemplative. Kabir was married, had children, and lived the simple life of a weaver.

Abida Parveen - Souun To Sapne Milun :  (Download)

Jagjit Singh - Dohe :  (Download)

Although Kabir labored to bring the often clashing religious cultures of Islam and Hinduism together, he was equally disdainful of professional piety in any form. This earned him the hatred and persecution of the religious authorities in Benares. Nearing age 60, he was denounced before the king but he was spared execution and instead, banished from the region. He subsequently lived a life of exile, traveling through northern India with a group of disciples. Legend says that he relinquished his body when he was about 120 years old. He died at Maghar near Gorakhpur, India.

One of the most loved legends associated with Kabir is told of his funeral. Kabir's disciples disputed over his body, the Muslims wanting to claim the body for burial, the Hindus wanting to cremate the body. But, when they lifted the burial shroud, they found flowers where the body had rested. The flowers were divided, the Muslims buried the flowers while the Hindus reverently committed them to fire.

Comments are welcome.


Anonymous said...

Dear Guptaji,
felt very happy to meet one more "Kabeer lover"! I had a programme "kahe kabeer" a few years ago. all 13 songs frome it are on my esnip account. Please visit it and listen the songs. they also can be downloaded. Your valuable comments are welcome. Thanks a lot for the beautiful blogspot you have created. My e-mail is Please do contact.
-Pramod Kale, Pune.

Anonymous said...

Indian Raga, you write eloquently, but there is something that troubles me. Perhaps an anonymous comment like mine would raise some thoughts among your readers: We discuss musical compositions here which are largely written in Hindi or in one of its vernacular. Then, should n't we make an effort to write our blogs in Hindi as well? Don't worry, I don't have an agenda, and I am not blaming you either. It is conceivable that many of us did not have adequate or good enough training in writing Hindi or simply have not written in Hindi in a while. But, now the technology has come to the point where we can actually use devanagari script on blogs like these, so perhaps now would be a good time to make a beginning.

indianraga said...

A very good thought indeed. Unfortunately, I am not good at typing Hindi. I wish keyboards on our computers included Devnagari script imprinted on them. Moreover, more than half of my visitors are foreign nationals. You will be surprised to know that people from faraway countries like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Germany, France, Netherlands, Japan and even China have great interest in our classical music.

Visit this link and you will know :

Some of these people have greater love for our music than many amongst us. Even these people are not fluent in English but they can understand whatever is written here. Don't you think I will be depriving them from enjoying this blog. Do you really want me to limit this joy to only Hindi reading visitors ? Take for example, if you are interested in Chinese music would you prefer a blog written in Chinese or English ?

What about our co-patriots in the southern part of our country who are not fortunate enough of being Hindi-literate. This will not prove myself being a Hindi lover but fanaticism. My purpose here is to introduce hindustani classical music to the world. This is my view, no disrespect intended. Believe me, I love Hindi as much as you do.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. I myself do not understand or speak Hindi but have great love and respect for Hindustani music. I've learnt many great compositions because of this blog. Thank you very much for being considerate of non-Hindi speaking people.

Anonymous said...

You keep a wonderful site. Please keep writing more, and about Kabir as well.

arvind batra said...

Hey, Thanks for uploading the udd jayega song.
Love it!

My personal small Kabir project is here

Veda said...

Kabir has been a favorite theme of mine.Thanks for the timeless classic by Kumar Gandharva.In fact every artiste worth the salt have tried their effort at the Nirguni Bhajans of Kabir.

Of them all I find the two volumes of Kabir by Neela Bhagwat released by NA Classical and the two volume CD by Pt. Chhanulal Mishra released by Devi Foundation to be exquisite apart from those by the late Maestro Kumar Gandharva and his better half Vasundhara Komkali.

Thanks for this beautiful postings on Indian Classical Music.

rajeev said...

Thank you for such a nice introduction on Kabir. From what I have gathered from a few websites is the concept that Kabir was much more than a poet or a saint. As you mentioned when Kabir died only flowers were found and there was no body there. Likewise Kabir appeared on this earth and was found by a muslim weaver couple. He was never born. It is coming out now that the knowledge given by Kabir actually has a very deep meaning. Kabir gives information through "Kabir Vani" about "creation of nature", birth of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiv and many more things. The following two sites cover a lot about Kabir and they actually regard Him as the Supreme God.
and Kabir Sahib. I have actually copied a couple of articles from these websites on to my blog
Thank you again for writing this post

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