By Swami Harshananda
Kabīr lived in CE 1440-1518 and was also known as Kabīrdās. He was one of the great leaders of the Bhakti Movement and a pioneer of Hindu-Muslim unity. He was brought up as an adopted child by the Muslim weaver couple Nīru and Nīmā who found him abandoned near a tank. He had a devotional and philosophical temperament from the childhood days. He cleverly managed to become a disciple of the great saint Rāmānanda of the Vaiṣṇava sect who later accepted him wholeheartedly. He had also come under the influence of Gosāi Aṣṭāvand.
His adoption of Hindu ways of life brought conflicts with the contemporary Muslim society. But very soon, everybody conceded that he was a saint who had transcended all the social and religio-cultural barriers. He was married to Lori and had a son, Kamāl who was also a saint.
Kabīr is believed to have passed away in Maghar, now in Pakistan. When the Muslim and Hindu community were quarreling over the disposal of the dead body, they found a heap of flowers below the shroud. This was equally shared by them to be disposed off according to their respective customs. This resulted in a Mandir and a Mausoleum side by side.
Preachings of Kabīr
Kabīr has composed hundreds of songs mostly in the Avadhi and Bhojpurī languages. They are the compositions containing natural outpourings of the heart of a saint of a realized soul. His philosophy as reflected in these songs may be summarized as follows:
- God is one only for all the people of the world
- There is no need to worship him through symbols and idols
- The path to God is open to all without any distinction of caste, color or sex
- The path of devotion is universal and equally open to the Hindus as well as the Muslims
- Guidanace from a competent guru is a must in the spiritual path
- All devotional literature must be in simple local vernaculars
The followers of Kabīr gradually evolved into a separate sect known as ‘Kabīrpanthis’ within the Hindu fold. Scholars opine that Kabīr had influenced Guru Nānak (CE 1469-1539) and Dādu (CE 1544-1603). These are the two more well-known teachers of the Bhakti Movement.
Works by Kabīr
Kabīr’s compositions have been compiled into a work called Bijak, as early as CE 1570. His works are now available in the following forms:
- Kabīr Sāhabkī Sabdāvalī
- Kailranke Pad
- Kabir Vacanāvali
- Kabīr Granthāvalī
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore