Kabir, a revolutionary saint

D R Bhagat
Kabir is regarded as one of the great and a revolutionary saint of Bhakti Movement. His utterances and writings had a great effect on the minds of the people who were otherwise dominated by religious preachers teaching them meaningless rituals and dogmas. He was the only unique saint whose birth and death both are cosmic events. He appeared on a lotus flower in a pond named Lehar Tara near Varanasi and left the world without leaving his body behind. He was brought up by Neeru and Nima who were poor Muslim weavers. For naming ceremony his foster parents went to a religious priest to ask for a name of the child. The priest opened his religious book and searched his name. The name suggested was Kabir which was not considered as a proper name for the son of a poor weaver as Kabir was a holy name. So he again searched for another name and after trying thrice, the name suggested was the same. From his very young age he was attracted towards spirituality and preferred to remain in the company of saints. His parents put him in their ancestral trade of cloth weaving. It was the time of Muslim rulers in India. Muslims were threatening Hindus and after committing atrocities on them were after to convert them into Islam. Those who did not toe to their Dharma were even killed. Casteism was on the rise which had divided the Hindu society and there was no harmony among the Hindus also due to the caste factor.
Kabir was a great mystic poet and social reformer. His verses were direct revelation of truth and full of spirituality. The language of his verses was straight forward and understandable by common man. He believed in simple life full of purity. His philosophy was as simple as his life. He was against false rituals of both Hindus and Muslims which had no relevance with the enrichment of human soul. In his writings and utterances he satirically denounced Pandits and Mullas who were preaching dogmas and thus won the hearts of poor people who were the victims of their exploitation. In one of his couplets, he says
“Pandit aur masalchi dono sujhat nahin,
auron ko Karen chandna aap andhere mahin”
This couplet means that both Pandits and Mullas are guiding the people but they are themselves in the dark. He says that Hindus are preaching that Ram is in temples while Muslims say that Allah is in mosques. He says that if God is in temple or in a mosque, then who is looking after the entire world outside. Both Hindus and Muslims were fighting for having superiority of their religion over the other. One of his couplets reads as under,
“Hindu kahe mohe ram pyara turk kahe rehmana,
aapas mein doe lari mue marm na koi jana”
He upheld the religion of love only. Kabir was initiated by Ramanad at the very young age of 11. A controversy erupted over his initiation as the persons of low caste were not eligible to be initiated as per Hindu tradition. But Kabir with his own spiritual thoughts and devotion was endeared to Ramanand. Even Ramanand was convinced with his spiritual and revolutionary thoughts. Ramanand was a Vaishnavi Brahman who believed in idol worship and practiced rituals. But as per Kabir these rituals were unnecessary. One day Ramanand was celebrating the death anniversary of his guru. He needed milk to be offered to the deceased through ritual. He sent Kabir to bring some milk. Kabir went to bring the same and returned very late without any milk. His guru asked him the reason of so late and also returning without milk. Kabir said that he saw a dead cow and offered her grass so that he could milk it after she eats the grass. Ramanand asked him angrily whether he thought that dead cow can eat grass and give milk. Kabir replied guru ji, when the dead cow can’t eat grass and give milk then how a dead person can drink milk. On another occasion to celebrate the death anniversary of his ancestors Ramanand got prepared some rice and put them before the crows so that the food reaches to his ancestors. Kabir said that since the crows have eaten the rice how it can reach to your ancestors. Ramanand gradually began to appreciate the truth behind the utterances of Kabir and understood the futility of rituals and started treating Hindus and Muslims alike. This was not liked by orthodox pundits who excommunicated him.
Kabir did not believe in false narratives. He said that the water of Ganga is no more holy than the water of any other river and Benaras is no more holy than any other city. Once he brought water from Ganga in his wooden pot to serve it to a thirsty Brahmin sadhu who refused to drink water as it was brought by a low caste person and hence was polluted. He said that if the water of Ganga is itself polluted by the touch of a low caste person, how it can purify others. He did not divide God in narrow sections of religions. He vehemently opposed the idol worship and caste system preached by orthodox pundits. He said nobody is high or low by virtue of his birth as all of them are the creation of the same Almighty God. He further said that human beings can’t be categorized as good or bad only their actions can be categorized so.
“Unche kul mein janmya karni unch na hoye”
He said that whole world is victim of ‘Maya’ or attachments, whether it is gainful or painful none is going to think over it. He also denounced 24 Avtaras and said he who takes birth and dies is not a God.
The literary work on Kabir and his life are the subject matter of research of many scholars. His greatest literary work is Kabir Bijak which was composed by his two disciples Dharam Dass and Surat Gopal. This is a collection of poems of Kabir’s universal view of spirituality. Other great works are Kabir Granthawali, Kabir Parachai and Anurag Sagar. His verses have been given the place in the holy book of Sikhism Guru Granth Sahib along with the banis of other saints. Among the poets of medieval period, the most literary work has been done on Kabir. Rabindra Nath Tagore, a nobel laureate in literature has translated his 100 poems in English which were published in 1915. Literature on Kabir has been translated in some foreign languages also. It was first translated by Marco Della Tomba (1726-1803) in Itallian language. In 1832, H.H.Wilson (1786-1860) a British author translated it in English and also translated by Heriat in French. French-American author in his book “The Genius of India” published in 2001 has titled him as a National Poet.
In those days, it was believed that one who dies in Kashi, he straightway goes to heaven and one who dies in Maghar shall go to hell.To give the last blow to this orthodoxy, Kabir went to Maghar in Gorakhpur during his last days and one day disappeared from this mortal world without leaving his body behind. His legacy is being carried forward by many spiritual organizations like Radha Soami, Sahib Bandgi and Sant Mat along with Kabir Panthies. The philosophy of Kabir has a universal and all time approach.