kabir ke dohe
|| All about the great poet Kabeer ||
Kabir was born into a weaving class family in the city of Kaashi (Banaras now Varanasi). His teacher, Ramanand, was a great saint. Kabeer described himself in his poetry as illiterate and having never picked up a pen and piece of paper. He is credited with producing works. However, given that there was a long tradition of oral transmission of works on literature.
The poetries of Kabir are highly normalized; matter is subordinated to his desire to directly communicate his message. Kabir was more interested in the amelioration of social ills. His couplets in particular are simple and unadorned although not lacking in poetic beauty.
Kabir is renowned in north India for being a social and religious reformer, a progressive thinker and a poet of his times. His poetries are read for its acerbic critique of the religious and social conditions in his age as well as for its continued relevance in modern times.
Kabir’s work belongs to a tradition of poetry known as nirgunna devotional poetry. This is a form of devotional poetry in which the supreme spirit is not articulated in human terms. It is argued that nirgunna devotional poetry is founded on the path of knowledge (jnama marnna) whereas the other tradition, that of sagunna (with human characteristics) poetry is founded entirely on devotion to such objects as idols of the deity.
Kabir is recognized as a great spiritual teacher in a number of sects throughout north India. The main center for Kabir panthas (sects) is Banaras itself, Kabir’s birthplace. These sects are notorious for their staunch opposition to idol worship and their moral uprightness.
There are many apocryphal stories surrounding Kabir’s life, as very little was recorded during the age in which he lived. One of the most famous concerns his death and funeral. It is said that both Muslims and Hindus alike worshiped him. When his death was apparent he requested to be left alone. He went into a hut and covered himself with a cloth.
When Kabir died there was a bitter dispute over whether he should be cremated according to Hindu religious traditions or buried according to the Muslim custom. It is said that when Kabir’s remains were lifted up all that was present were flowers, one half of which were cremated and the other half of which were buried. Kabir’s final resting place is thought to be Magahar near Gorakhpur in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Kabir composed both bhajana (devotional songs) and dohas (couplets). These are well known all over the north of India. Kabir eschewed divisions of any sort, and is said to have attempted to engender a sense of harmony between the Muslim and Hindu communities.
Kabir espouses virtues of humility, devotion to a formless God, compassion for fellow human beings, a spirit of forgiveness and a gentleness and love in his poetry.
Kabir was influenced by Sufi sects of Islam as well as the Vaishnava culture of Hinduism. He is credited with the unique distinction of bringing about a synthesis between the two great religions prevalent at that time, Hinduism and Islam. Three hundred of his devotional songs have found their way into the Sikh holy text, the Guru Granth Sahab. His greatest virtue was his purity of mind.
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