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Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Kabir

Born in Kashi in Kaliyuga's 46th century ( i.e. in 15th century A.D. ), Mahatma Kabir has been a famous saint, poet and social reformer. He was born probably from Hindu parents but he was brought up in a Muslim family. He became a disciple of Swami Ramananda. Devotee of Nirguna Brahma ( The Supreme being surpassing all qualities ) Kabir was of a carefree nature and frank in speech. He criticized sharply, old stereotyped social customs and conventions, idol-worship, untouchability and caste and community differences. He preached to search and find God in one's own inner being and condemned strongly the practice of indulgence in one's getting enmeshed into the clutches of maya by involving oneself in the gross worldly attractions. Opposing external ostentations he showed the way of true mental worship. The collection of Kabir's poetic compositions is known as Bijaka ( Invoice or Bill of purchase ) and contains couplets ( dohe ) and many line verses divided into three sections -

1. Sakhi ( Eye-witness observations ),

2. Shabda ( Words, revelations ) and

3. Ramani ( Verse about Rama ). A religious sect - Kabir Panth - came into existence after his death.

Kabir was born in India in 1398 AD. He lived for 120 years and is said to have relinquished his body in 1518. This period is also said to be the beginning of Bhakti Movement in India.

A weaver by profession, Kabir ranks among the world's greatest poets. Back home in India, he is perhaps the most quoted author. The first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev, is said to be Kabir's disciple. The Holy Guru Granth Sahib contains over 500 verses by Kabir. The Sikh community in particular and others who follow the Holy Granth, hold Kabir in the same reverence as the other ten Gurus.

Kabir ranks among the world's greatest poets. In India, he is perhaps the most quoted author, with the exception of Tulsidas. Kabir has criticized perhaps all existing sects in India, still he is mentioned with respect by even orthodox authors. Vaishnav author Nabhadas in his Bhakta-Mal (1585) writes:

hindU turuk pramAn ramainI sabadI sAkhI
pachchhapat nahiN bachan sabahiN ke hit kI bhAkhI

[His "ramaini" "shabda" "sakhi" (sections of his "Bijak") are accepted by Hindus and Turks alike. He spoke without discrimination for the good of all]

He lived perhaps during 1398-1448. He is thought to have lived longer than 100 years. He had enormous influence on Indian philosophy and on Hindi poetry.

His birth and death are surrounded by legends. He grew up in a Muslim weaver family, but some say he was really son of a Brahmin widow who was adopted by a childless couple. When he died, his Hindu and Muslim followers started fighting about the last rites. The legend is that when they lifted the cloth covering his body, they found flowers instead. The Muslim followers buried their half and the Hindu cremated thier half. In Maghar, his tomb and samadhi still stand side by side. Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Kabir
Kabirdas (1440 - 1518)

A gadfly to the unthinking orthodox among Hindus and Muslims, Kabir was a darling of the truly devout of both the communities who, on his passing away, claimed his body which was miraculously turned into flowers with each party claiming a portion.

A Hindu child brought up by a Muslim weaver Niru and his wife Nima, Kabir sought to break the barriers between Hinduism and Islam by going into the heart of religion. He was more than convinced that when it comes to any scripture, "the letter killeth" and that the so-called pandits and Maulavis who miss the "spirit" unwittingly turn themselves into hate merchants.

Even as Socrates in his times tried to expose the ignorance of the sophists and earned their wrath, Kabir who lived from 1440 to 1518 AD exposed the follies of the divines who swore by text books and survived many attempts on his life.

In his time, Arabic and Sanskrit were the chief languages of religion and the masses knew little of them. Kabir's dictum was: `Few men are qualified to become scholars but all are required to be good. Hence association with the good, Satsang, is a positive way of forging good character than learning by heart scriptural passages without having any idea of their real import.'

Kabir's spiritual urge manifested itself even when he was a boy and it was by using a stratagem that he managed to get initiated in "Rama" mantra by the great saint Ramananda who eventually declared him as the dearest of his disciples.

It is said that Kabir, in the pre-dawn hours, stretched himself on the steps of a bathing ghat in Ganga where Ramananda had his bath every day. On realising that he had unwittingly stepped on the body of someone, Ramananda uttered "Rama, Rama," which became for Kabir the sacred mantra.

Ramananda was taken to task for initiating Kabir by both orthodox Muslims and Hindus but when Ramananda understood Kabir's depth of sincerity he embraced him and prophesied that he would make a mark in his life.

From then on it was a triumphant spiritual ascent for Kabir who ranks high among the religious reformers India has ever produced. In his own time, Guru Nanank, Dadu and several other spiritual leaders acknowledged Kabir's greatness and in later times, Rabindranath Tagore is among the literary giants who have sought to spread Kabir's message.

There are well-known Kabir Panthis with followers from among Hindus and Muslims.

The details of Kabir's life are mixed with legends - some say he married one Loi and brought up two adopted children Kamal and Kamali, that Emperor Sikandar Lodi, angered by Kabir's refusal to salute him tried to get him killed by drowning, burning and other means of torture before finally acknowledging Kabir's greatness.

One thing is certain. Kabir's precious teachings are a legacy of the nation and will continue to inspire those who seek the kernel of religion and not the husk. Kabir is said to have given up his body at Maghar in Gorakhpur District at the ripe old age of 78.

Kabir says: To associate with a Sadhu is like sitting near a seller of perfumes; though he does not sell you anything, you still enjoy the perfume.

No act of devotion can equal truth; no crime is so heinous as falsehood; in the heart where truth abides there is God's abode.

(Source: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan)

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Published on: 2003-01-31 (8110 reads)

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