Biography of St. Kabir :-
Though there is no clear evidence to lead you to the fact that when this Great Hindi Saint was born in, yet there are some facts and contemporary readings that take Historians to say that Kabir Das was born in the year 1440. It is said that Kabir was born Lahartara village of Varanasi to a poor Brahmin widow and she left him with the fear of stigmatization by the society at a secluded place. Then a Muslim weaver couple (Julaha), named Niru and Nima brought the abandoned boy at home as they did not have any child of their own. Thus, Kabir was born to a Hindu and brought up by a Muslim family. Kabir was trained to weaving his traditional way to livelihood and he did it forever.
Kabir balanced his livelihood and spiritual learning. Later, when he grew older he went to St. Ramananda for knowledge as the poor weavers did not have any resource of their own to send him to any educational institution. Thanks to old Indian Educational System of Ashrama where no fee was charged from poor and every one was given a fair chance to learn. Besides it was also ensured by the teacher that no type of bias should exist at Ashrama. The great teacher Ramananda or say St. Ramananda taught his disciple all he could and trained him to be a spiritual being. Kabir had a great respect for his Guru as he says himself:
Guru Govind dou khade kake lahu pay
Balihari guru apne govind diyo batay
Unlike educational system of modern era at that time education was focused on learning not much writing and copying. But it does not mean that writing was not institutionalized. So Kabir Das got knowledge but he himself was not able to write throughout his life. As he says himself;
“Masi Kagad chuyo nahi, kalam gahi nahi hath.”
“I have not touched ink and paper, not held pen.”
He preached about real knowledge and divine, the evils crept into the society and much more that is still relevant. He was never a proponent of religions. Though people try to divide him in Hindu and in Muslim Kabir never identified himself as Hindu or Muslim. He taught his followers that there is no religion and god exists in all living being either you believe in Hinduism or Islam or Christianity or any other.
As reflected in lines:
“Na mai mandir, na mai maszid,
Na kaabe kailash mein..
Moko kaha dhundhe re bande mai to tere pas mein”
“I’m not in temple, not in mosque, not in Kaaba (Pilgrimage of Muslims) or Kailasha (Pilgrimage of Hindus), where are you searching me I’m near you.”
Birth Anniversary of Kabir : It is considered that the great poet, Saint Kabir Das, was born in the month of Jyestha on Purnima or Full Moon in the year 1440. That’s why Saint Kabir Das Jayanti or birthday anniversary is celebrated every year with great enthusiasm by his followers and lovers on the Purnima of Hindi month of Jyestha that falls in May or June.
Teachings of Kabir Das : The period after 13th century was a new wave of Bhakti movement all around India as common folk was fed up with Brahmanical traditions and complex rituals. This was the age when India saw intermingling of various faiths be it Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Sufism, Siddhas or Yogis. This tradition rejected all orthodox tradition. Most of the saints and poets used regional languages as medium of teaching. Kabir was also a child of this revival and some he learnt from his harsh life experiences. Language used by him is Awadhi, Braj, Rajasthani and many other regional languages as these were the best medium to reach to the people. Since Kabir was not educated so his language becomes hard to comprehend sometimes. Kabir preached Bhakti or devotion as only path to salvation. It is said that Kabir had followers from all walks of religions.
Kabir’s teachings were completely based on logic, beyond superstitions beyond customs, traditions and belief. He ridiculed all forms of external worship.
“Kabira dekho jag baura na
Hindu kahe Ram, Musalman rahmana
See kabir the world have gone mad
Hindus say Ram and Mussalman say Rahman”
He is called a poet of Nirguna branch of Hindi Bhakti poetry. Nirguna is a tradition of worshipping formless god. Bhakti itself is a way to salvation and can’t be compared to other paths to reach god.
To quote him:
“Pathar puje Hari mile, to mai puju pahar
Tate yeh chaki bhali, pisi khai sansar”
If god can be got through stone worship, I’ll worship mountain
The stone mortar is better, its grinded can eat world.
“Twenty four times the Brahmanas keep the Ekadasi fast
While the Quazi observes the Ramzan
Tell me why does he sets aside
Eleven months to seek spiritual fruit in the twelfth.”
Legend goes that when this great saint died Hindus and Muslims fought for his body but a Lotus flower emerged at the place where his body was kept.
Legends related to Saint Kabir : It is said that when St. Ramananda was not accepting him as his disciple then Kabir lay down on the stairs of River Ganges on River bank. Early in the morning Ramananda came to take bath and sleeping Kabir came under his feet. Ramananda felt guilty and accepted him his disciple as remorse.
About Kabir Matha :-
Kabir Matha is located in the way to Lahartara and Kabir Chaura in Varanasi. Neerutila or mound of Neeru was the house where parents of Kabir used to live. Now it has changed into the accommodation of students who come to study Kabir Das and incidents related to his life.
Philosophy of Kabir Das :-
Though Kabir did not have any Vedic knowledge, he was influenced by the revival that took place at his time. The religious uprisings gave birth many Saints of the time like Guru Nanak, St. Tulsidas, Chaitanya, Tukaram, Mirabai, Surdas who ridiculed existing traditions and mindless following of orthodoxy.
To quote him:
“Loot sake to loot le, Ram namki loot
Pache pacchtaega, jub pran jaege choot”
The period also saw emergence of Sufism. All the uprisings boycotted conservative preaching of religion and gave a new way of devotion to reach supreme.
“Dukh me sumiran sab kare, sukh me karena koy
Jo sukh me sumiran kare, to dukh kahe ko hoy”
“All remember god in sadness, but never in happiness
If we remember him in happiness, why will we be sad?”
St. Kabir incorporated teachings of all religions, the true essence of Islam and Vedas which is the foundation of all paths to salvation. Kabir rejected all the dogmatic thoughts of worship and advised path of selfless devotion to almighty. He advised to worship formless god, rejecting all idol worship. He said all the living being have god in them. The connection of Jivatma and Parmatma was never denied by even Vedas. He said that through salvation Jivatma and Parmatma both unite.
To quote him
Malin awat dekh ke kaliya kare pukar
Phoole phoole chun lie, kal hhamari bar”
It indirectly says
That death takes to some today and it will take you tomorrow.
Kabir gave a logical and reasoned path to religion which had lost its true principle up to the time. He taught the path which can be followed by all be it Hindu or Islam. Kabir’s life is also in one way far from all the dogma and close to humanity. He had no religion from childhood no rituals at adulthood and his demise was also in sharp contrast to any religious rites.
Poetry of Kabir Das :-
St Kabir had a unique creativity to say even the most complex in the simplest way. His teachings in regional languages were near all common folk and have a great influence still. He composed simple couplets which not only gave message but was lyrical and rhythmic at a time. His poetry reflects criticisms of contemporary religious sentiment, way to divine, self-introspection, ridiculous behavior of priests and pontiffs day to day life, laughable rituals and relations of teacher and student. Kabir was admired but he was insulted too by Brahmanas and Ulama at his time as they considered themselves the sole contractor of religion.
Kabir Ke Dohe : :-
"Bura jo dekhan mai chala, buran a miliyakoy
Jo man dekha apno, mujhase buran a koy"
"Nindak niyare rakhiye angan kuti chaway
Bin pani sabun bina nirmal kare subhay"
"Sab dharti ka gadkaru, lekhani sab banray
Sat sat samundar kimasikaru, guru gun likhanajae"
"Aisi bani bolie man ka apa khoy
Auran ko sital Karen apahu sital hoy"
"Mati kahe kumhar se tukyoron dhe mohe
Ek din aisa aega mai rondhugi tohe"
"Chalti chakki dekh kr diya kabira roy
"Do patan ke bich me sabut bacha na koy"
"Diwas gawaya khay ke, rat gawai soy
Hira janama moltha, kauri badle jahi"
"Kalh kare so aj kar aj kare so ab
Pal me parlay hoyagi bahuri karoge kab"
"Chima baden ko chahie, chotan ko utpat
kaha Vishnu koghat gayo, jo Bhrigumarilat"
"Sanch barabar tap nahi, Jhooth barabar pap
Jake hirday sanchhai, Take hirday aap"
"Pothi padhi padhi jag mua pandit bhaya n koy
Dhai akhar prem k padhe jo pandit hoy"
Legacy of Kabir Das :-
Though the great saint died he left behind a rich tradition that would always be grateful to him. He left behind a great tradition of devotion not only to god but also to humanity and reason of self. Kabir Das was a Bhakti Saint and the tradition started after him called Kabir Panth meaning Way of Kabir. His followers are called Kabir Panthis. They still follow the same method of wandering from place to place singing and chanting his compositions, preaching his teachings to folks and remembering their Guru. Kabir still resides in hearts of people of India. Even illiterate can be found to have heard of him. Though Kabir Das could not write himself he had a large number of followers and his followers managed to compile his teachings in one book Bijaka. Bijaka has teachings of Kabir Das. Kabir Das had a great creative and composing skill. His teachings called Sabad, meaning word and Dohe meaning couplets are compiled in several books. These books are; Kabir Grantha wali, Bijaka, PanchVaani. Some of his compositions are also found in Guru Grantha Sahib, the religious scriptures of Sikh. His teachings are as relevant in present age of religious atmosphere as it was at his times. Kabir ridiculed all Brahmanical traditions and conservative Islam.
Siddhapitha Kabir Chaura Matha and Its Traditions :-
Kabir Chaura Matha, the place associated with Kabir’s meditation and Samadhi is a historical place. IIt is said that Bhakti Parampara is incomplete without the mention of Kabir Chaura. Kabir Chaura Matha still works as a place of inspiration for later saints. Many of the followers and saints of Medieval India are said to have got inspiration from the place. St. Kabir is also called Sab Santan Sartaj meaning Crown of all saints. The weaving machine used by saint and Rudraksha wreath that he got from his Guru Swami Ramanada, Khadau, the wooden slippers and rust free tridents are the things preserved at Kabir Chaura Matha. Kabir has a great value in Indian tradition. His teachings helped common folk in their upliftment. The St. was not a great reformer but he reformed more than anyone can reform. His teachings brought out the poor ignorant masses in light and made them capable of getting knowledge without help of complex Brahmanical rituals. He gave a new hope of life to the downtrodden, to the suppressed and women. Kabir Chaura Muth keeps alive all the legacies of St. Kabir. Kabir gave a balanced way between devotion and social life. He insisted that there is no need to renounce world to get salvation. God only see the devotion.
At Kabir Chaura Muth devotees from across the world come to study thoughts, to find meaning of his couplets, to research on his teachings.
Significance of Well at Kabir Muth :-
As tradition says it, there was a well near ashrama of Kabir Das. A saint from South India came there. He was thirsty and asked Kamali, the disciple of Kabir to quench his thirst. Kamali told him the way to well. Saint Sarvananda came and wanted a debate over religion and philosophy with Kabir. But Kabir never accepted that debate. Instead he gave a written statement accepting his defeat. Sarvananda was very happy. When he returned to South India he showed that statement of Kabir to his mother. He was surprised to find that the statement has turned opposite. He then went back to Kabir Ashram and indoctrinated himself accepting St. Kabir as his Guru. For all his life he stayed there and kept alive the traditions of Kabir. It was he who recognized well as having divine sweetness in its water. Still the well is considered to be pious.
How to reach Kabir Chaura :-
Siddhapitha Kabir Chaura Muth Mulgadi is located around 18 km from Lal Bahadur Shastri airport, Varanasi. It is 3km awy from Varanasi Cantt Railway Station
One can hire auto from any corner of Varanasi City. Click here If need to hire private cab in Varanasi for Kabira Muth.
Why the King of Kashi(Varanasi) visited Kabir :-
Once, Kabir was invited to court of Kashi Naresh, Raja Virdev Singh Ju Dev as king was fond of company of great saints. Kabir Das reached the spot and as all did he poured water from his Kamandal on the feet of King. In India it is tradition that we wash feet of respectable persons in our life once we meet them and king was a respectable person for Kabir. When Kabir poured water the little water changed into large amount and started flowing in whole kingdom. The king wanted to know the reason and asked Kabir. Kabir replied that one priest’s hut was being burnt in Jagannath puri of Odisha and he had poured water so that it can reach there and save the priest. The king was not satisfied with the answer. He thought that how water poured in Kashi can put out fire in Odisha. He sent his servants to investigate the matter. The servants went and returned after verifying. They replied that St. Kabir was quite true. Now, it was king’s turn to feel guilty. King along with his wife went Kabir Chaura to get the pardon of great saint. He was pardoned. His statue is still there to remind us of the incident.
Samadhi Temple where Kabir Mediate :-
Samadhi in Hindi means long meditation. This Samadhi temple is located at the place where Kabir used to meditate. It is the place where saints still visit and feel enormous energy. It is constructed of Sandstones. As the legend goes, followers of Kabir fought among themselves for his dead body. Both Hindus and Muslims wanted to cremate it in their own traditional way. When the doors of Samadhi temple was opened it was found that there were two flowers at the place of his body which was distributed among both Hindu and Muslim group of followers.
Bijak Temple :-
Bijak Temple also known as KabirChabutara (platform)
It is the place where Kabir Das gave message of new reason to his followers. At this place his disciples compiled his teachings, Sakhis and Sabad in Bijak. This place has a great value for followers of Kabir.
“Kabiraterijhopadi, galkattoke pas
Jo karega so bharega, tum kyo hot udas”
Contributions of Saint Kabir to India :-
Saint Kabir left a tradition that India would ever cherish. Kabir changed the philosophy of traditional rituals and sacrifices. He had also criticized violence and animal sacrifice in any form.
“Bakari khati pat hai, taki khal nikhal
Jo nar Bakri khat hai, tinka kaun hawal”
“Goat eats only grass whose skni is tiered out.
What will happen to those who eats goat”
An atmosphere that debarred India of Intellectual Progress was transformed by not only Kabir but also by Bhakti cult. This tradition gave Bhakti as a path that could lead devotees to loving deity without performing elaborate ritual.
A new idea emerged as Bhakti teaches that devotion lay in sharing others’ pain.
“Sain itna dijie jame kutum samay,
Mai bhi bhukha na rahu sadhu na bhukha jay”
“O God! give me as much that my family can live
Neither I am hungry nor would gentle people go hungry.”
Another line says
“Bada hua to kya hua jaise ped khajoor
Pancchi ko cchaya nahin fall age ati door”
What’s the benefit of being big like palm?
Which does not gives shade to birds and its fruits are too far to reach.
The unique thing of Kabir was that his teachings could be sung and were handed down orally from generation to generation. Now they have become inseparable part of our culture and living. Kabir still draw his followers from all walks of life.,
A harmonious living between Hindus and Muslims was preached. Religious tolerance was left on communities not on Ulema and Priests. The greatest contribution was made to literature. Regional languages which have been neglected till now got prominence as the teachings of Kabir were mostly in local dialects. Though Kabir taught a lot that would inspire generations its vehemence is lost with time. Now we treat him as a Bhakti Saint and revere him immensely but do not practically follow his teachings. Still there is need to follow his teachings for better religious harmony.
Kabir never discriminated among rich and poor, respected and suppressed. He says
“Tinaka ka bahunanin diye jo payan tar hoy
Kabahuu diakhin pare peer ghaneri hoy”
He started a new cult that would be relevant for ages. Kabir struggled hard to reach to the masses as the Medieval Benaras was and is still dominated by Brahmanas. He taught not perform rituals and make minds free. Common folk of India still find him adorable and people follow him. You can hear Sakhis and Dohe from any part of North India by any person who do not have any formal education. He said that people need not renounce world to get salvation. Bringing up children and caring for needs of family is also necessary as hurting others is painful and one hurts family members after leaving them behind. Kabir attacked on dogmatic traditions but he never attacked anyone individually. It is this way that made him more popular. Kabir’s contribution to Indian culture is unparalleled. To summarize his philosophy;
“Lali mere lalki, jit dekhu tit lal
Lali dekhan mai gai , mai bhi ho gai lal’’
The light of my loving (god)
That I find it everywhere
I went to see the light of divine
I too turned into light
Religious Faith of St. Kabir : Though he gave a message to the world that can be found in many religious principles as all the religions are made to propagate the same thought of humanity, Kabir himself did not have any religious faith. In his words
To quote him
“Jub main tha tab Hari nahin, ab Hari hai toh main nahin
Sab andhiyara mit gaya, Jub dipak dekh yamahin”
When I was there god was not, when god came I was not
All darkness vanished, when I saw light (enlightenment).
He was an opponent of Sanyasa or Renunciation. To him, it was a way to run away from responsibilities. To him, religion was a way to ideal life which is rarely possible. But we can live on the principle of “Do your best.” He lived like an ascetic renouncing all desires for himself but bearing responsibilities as well.
He gave the principle of harmony and mutual cooperation. Such principles helped masses to overcome their grief.
Kabir was a Hindu or Muslim: A debate :-
No one goes to claim an ordinary person but all religions claim for great personalities. Hindus claim Kabir as their own on the basis of their origin and Muslim claim theirs on the basis of upbringing. But Kabir had only one religion that is Humanity, the supreme one.
Though fanatics divided him in Hindu and in Muslim, he was never divided in his faith. His Hindu and Muslim claimers have constructed a temple and a mosque at the place of his demise which has changed into pilgrimage of both. All can enter in both.
Spiritual belief of Kabir Das
Though Guru or teacher of Kabir gave him the Guru Mantra (master chant) of Rama as his god he always prayed his own formless god. To quote him
“Nirgunanam japahu re bhaiya
Avagati ki gati likhin ajaiya”
“Chant the formless god
No writing can change the bad end to good one”
Kabir understood well that Rama and Rahima are the different paths that lead to one destination that is god.
Death of Kabir :-
St Kabir died by going into a Samadhi. He chose his place of death himself to break the myths. He chose Magahar, a place near Luchnow to die as the people at that time believed that those who die at Maghar would never get a place in Heavens. Magahar is 240 kms away from Lucknow. He died in the year 1575 on Magh Shukla Ekadashi of the Vikram Samvat that is followed by India officially. It was believed that those who die in Kashi have a place in Heavens. Though Kashi was a birth place of Kabir he left it to die in Magahr because he wanted to eliminate the superstition that had crept into people’s mind.
Kabir said himself at the time of his death-
Jo Kabira Kashi mue, to Rame kaun ni hora
If one can get salvation on dying in Kashi (Varanasi) then what’s the need to worship Lord Ram
Not only teaching of this great saint but also his life that was far from all ritualistic traditions is an inspiration to all.
There is a cave near his Samadhi in Magahar and shows his last meditation. There runs a trust, Kabir Shodh Sansthan which works as a research foundation that promotes research on works of Kabir. The trust also runs educational institutions to promote harmony and to give a chance of learning to the underprivileged.
Mysticism in Poetry of Kabir Das :-
Kabir never aimed to be reformer or a great saint. It is his uniqueness that made him great. His concept of Bhakti was a combination of Hindu Bhakti and Islamic Sufism. He told masses to be honest and leave all the dogmatic rituals and sacrifices. Though Kabir is revered today he faced oppositions from Hindu and Islamic Priests. Kabir gave a balance to Karma, the deeds and the Dharma, the righteousness. He told God is one and can be got through Bhakti.
His philosophy was same as Lord Buddha, Mahavira, Muhammad and Vedas taught the principle of righteousness. But he was more close to the hearts of people because of his simple and local language that was simpler than Sanskrita which could not be got by masses. As people at that time were not as educated as today it was tough to give them learning of Vedas in Sanskrit and Kabir made a great influence because of subtlety of language. His teachings crossed all barriers made at that time in the name of Dharma.
Compilations of teachings of Kabir :-
Kabir Das did not write himself but composed himself. His teachings called Sabadsakhis and dohe are compiled in Bijak, Rekhtas, Vasant and Holy Agams. His compositions are very simple and subtle. His teachings are a hard satire on orthodoxy. He had a beautiful creativity to say big in small. His dohe and sakhis are on day to day life of human being that has made life complex. If noticed that can eliminate all the suffering that human has created himself.
This nation would ever pay tribute to its most loved and spiritual saint, Saint Kabir