Bhakti Dravid Upaji – Kabir Saakhi

Kabir - Bhakti Upaji Drawid Mein

Kabir - Bhakti Upaji Drawid Mein


Bhakti Dravid Upaji, Laaye Ramanand
Prakat Kari Kabir Ne, Saat Dweep Nau Khand

भक्ति द्रविड़ उपजी, लाए रामानंद
प्रकट करी कबीर ने, सात द्वीप नौ खंड


Devotion took birth in the South, brought here ( to Varanasi) by Ramanand
Kabir made it omnipresent, in 7 continents and 9 Khandas

9 Khandas – Sun, Moon, Stars, Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Sound and Mind

Anecdotes of Kabir and his Guru Ramanand are very popular. The story goes that Kabir wanted to learn under Swami Ramanand, but he was not willing to take Kabir under his wings. Kabir tried every trick but failed.

One morning he went to the PanchGanga ghat where his guru used to go for taking bath every morning. He lied on one of the steps of the Ghat and as his Guru was climbing the stairs after his bath, while it was still dark in the morning. His feet touched Kabir and Ramanand blessed him as a reflex action. Kabir got up and said – now that you have blessed me – I am your disciple. Ramanand was impressed by the young Kabir’s devotion and his eagerness to learn and he took him under his tutelage.

Reading more – Finding Kabir in Kashi 

When Kabir refers to Ram in his poetry – he is referring to Ramanand, his Guru usually and to the Nirguna Ram. He is not referring to the historical Ram – Avatar of Vishnu. The poetry of Kabir displays an inherent understanding of the Indian scriptures like Vedas and Puranas. We can safely assume that he learned it from his Guru, Swami Ramanand.

Bhakti Dravid Upaji – This particular Saakhi talks about Swami Ramanand, indicating that he came from Dravid or South India. He was obviously living in Kashi – which has been the most revered pilgrim place for saints, sages and devout people.

Read More – Kabir by Hazari Prasad Dwivedi

I wonder if they shared a common language to be able to communicate. Kabir obviously spoke Awadhi, the local language of Kashi, as is evident from his works. What language did his Guru spoke is a mystery we do not know.

Further, this Saakhi talks about how Kabir spread the knowledge that he received from his Guru in all directions – be it the 7 continents of the earth or the 9 khandas of the universe.

In a way, it also tells us about the role of a disciple in taking forward the knowledge that one receives from his / her Guru. Spreading the knowledge would not essentially mean preaching it and spreading it but would also mean building upon that knowledge.

As we see that most of what Kabir says is from his first-hand knowledge and not necessarily what was passed on to him by his Guru. He tests that knowledge that he receives, he adds his own insights and then tells you what he experiences first hand. He does not tell you to follow what he says, but merely shares his insights – it is up to you to use them either as it is or experiment with them and build upon them.

Bhakti Dravid Upaji, also tells us that there was a communication that existed between North and South India 500-600 years ago. Knowledge was shared across and built upon and probably pursuit of knowledge was a clear goal that people had. To achieve this, they overcame any obstacles that might have existed. It also shows that the two regions were bound by the threads of common scriptures.

If you have another interpretation of this Kabir Saakhi, please share.

Who is Kabir?

Kabir - An Introduction

Kabir was a weaver poet who lived sometime in the late 15th early 16th century. This was the time of Bhakti movement in India. Politically the Islamic rulers were gaining ground across the country and Hindus were getting subjected to many atrocities. It led to the Bhakti movement when they all turned to God, singing his praises and seeking solace in him.

Kabir - An Introduction

Debate on whether Kabir was a Hindu or a Muslim will probably never get settled. Muslim couple Neeru & Neema who are buried in the Kabir Math at Banaras brought him up and Swami Ramanand was his Guru. His works show a deep knowledge of many disciplines including Vedic literature, anatomy, flora, fauna, philosophy and of course weaving.

Kabir’s poetry comes in various formats – Saakhis, Shabads, Ramainis, Ulat Bhashis, and Basant. Origin of the world Saakhi is Sakshi that means ‘as seen’. These are couplets that Kabir probably uttered when he saw something that sparked a thought in him. In most of these Saakhis, we see a visual and a thought or a pearl of wisdom combined together.

Since most of the works passed on in oral tradition, in various versions we find some her-pher of words. For example in poem Paani mein meen pyaasi – some people sing Mohe sun sun aave haasi and some people sing mohe dekhat aave haasi. Though the meaning and intention of the poem have not changed but the words sometimes change. While referring to himself Kabir often calls himself Das Kabir, but when he is sung now, Sant sometimes replaces Das.

When you hear the same poem being sung by Malwa and Rajasthani singers, common words are replaced by the local words and the same is true for urban singers who replace words by Sanskritized Hindi.

He is a Dhara or a flowing river– not a single person today. He started a thought process and many other streams have come and joined him. We would never know what he said and what was added to his poetry later, and that does not matter as long as the thought process is the same. His poetry is profound – but still folk and not classic.

Boond jo padi samudra mein, so jaane sab koi
Samudra samana boond mein, boojhe birla koi

Kabir – A Fakir

To me, first of all, Kabir is a Fakir. Now colloquially we understand Fakir as a beggar but the meaning of Fakir is really someone who is independent of anything he has or not has. Fakir is someone who in his capacity can have much but chooses to live with the bare minimum. He is not influenced by any societal pressures and hence is totally free in his thoughts.

Chah Gayi Chinta miti, Manuwa beparvah
Jinko kuchh na chahiye, wo shahan ke shah

Man Laagyo mera yaar Fakiri Mein…

What distinguishes Kabir from the rest of the poets is his Bhakti was Nirguna. All other poets were saguna poets, that means they saw God in some form or the other. Meera Bai and Surdas imagined God in the form of Krishna while for Tulsidas it was Sri Ramchandra. Kabir was potentially the only one who did not follow a form, his calling was without a form, but omnipresent in every human being.

Kabir constantly asked people around him to look inside them. He tries to introduce them to their inner divinity while they are always searching for it outside. This is nothing but the Advaita philosophy that says the Brahman is within you or you are Brahman. Do not go looking after the ultimate reality outside you.

Throughout his poetry, Kabir directly addresses the people around him, unlike other poets who talk to others through God. Kabir addresses the man straight and direct. He calls him Saadho – or a good person, Bande – or man, a friend, a brother – every time he established a relation between two human beings. He never addresses others as someone above him or below him except when he refers his Guru. He subtly through his address communicates the equality of everyone and it also comes across in many of his works.

He even looks at mundane things and establishes an equal relationship with them like when he says: Maati Kahe Kumhar se…he is saying it is just a cycle, today you trample the soil, tomorrow it will trample you and the cycle will go on. Today we may think we are powerful over others while it is just a matter of time that tables can turn and we may be on opposite sides. Equality of everyone and almost everything in the universe is a continuous theme in Kabir’s poetry. He also believes in the cyclic nature of relationships that keep changing hands but not many are able to see the cycle.

Maati kahe kumhar se, tu kya ronde mohe,
Ik din aisa aayega, mein rondungi tohe

Kabir garv na kijiye, ooncha dekh niwas
Kal paron punya letna, upar jamegi ghaas

Tinka kabhi na nindiye, jo paanv tale hoye
Kabhun ud aankh pade, peed gehri hoye

God is Inside Us

The biggest message that I could find in his poetry is that each one of us had God within us, and for every problem, the solution lies within us. He constantly and persistently pushes you to look inside you. He sometimes negates everything you do to reach that so-called God and then tells you that he is right inside you if you have faith in him.

Jaise til mein tel hain, jyun chakmak mein aag,
tera sayeen tujhme hai, jaag sake to jaag.

Bura to dekhan main chala. bura na miliya koi
jo man khoja aapna. mujhse bura na koi

Kasturi kundal base, mrig dhundat ban maahi,
Jyon ghat ghat raam hai, duniya dekhe naahi

Moko kahan dhoonde re bande, Main to tere paas mein….

Paani mein meen pyaasi…

As a corollary, he says to get Him clean yourself as Ganga cleans itself

Kabir Mann nirmal bhaya, Jaise Ganga Neer
Pacchhe Paachhe sab fire, kehat Kabir Kabir

Kabir’s poetry comes from his direct experience. Though he refers to Ved, Puran what he says is his own experience. He gives example from everyday life of his times. He lived as a worldly man, he worked and earned his living and he was a seeker. He did not live on the alms given by others so he understands the joys and pains of earning your own living. This indeed gives him complete freedom to say what he wants to say. He lives within the society so he can see it from within but at the same time, he is detached from it so he can be an observer also.

Tu Kehta Kaagaz ki lekhi, mein kehta hun aankhon dekhi…

Kabira khada bazaar mein, maange sabki khair
Na kahu se Dosti, Na kahu se Vair

Sai itna dijiye, Jaame kutumb Samaye
Main bhi bhookha na rahun, Sadhu na Bhookha jaye

Chalti Chaaki dekh Kar, Diya Kabira Roye
Do Paatan ke beech mein, Saabut bacha na Koye

Kabira teri jhompadi, galkatiyan ke paas
jo karega so bharega, to kyun bhaya udaas

kabiraa khadaa bazaar men, liye lakutiyaa haath
je ghar phookyaa aapno, chale hamaare saath.

Kabir on Guru

In a lot of his Sakhis and Shabads he asks you to go by your direct experience, to test what others are telling and not blindly believe what you are told, including the Guru – who he believes is the must get the Gyan.

Guru Gobind dono khade, kake laagoon Paon
Balihari Guru Aapne, Gobind diyo Dikhaye

Satguru mila to sab mile, na to mila na koye
Mata, pita, sut, bandhava, yeh to sab ghar hoye

Kabira te nar andh hain, Guru ko kehte aur
Hari roothe guru thaur hai, guru roothe nahi thaur

Bhes dekh na poojiye, Poochh lijiye gyaan,
Bina kasuati hot naahi, Kanchan ki pehchaan

Jaat na poochho Sadhu ki, Poochh lijiye gyaan
Mol karo talwar ka, padi rehen do myan

Efforless exploration of Self

He tells us to live effortlessly. Since he believes everything is within us, every force, every possible energy source, we need not make an effort to look for it. Sahajata – or effortlessness is another theme that repeats throughout his works. It shows that people were making the unnecessary effort even during the days of Kabir, but this is very relevant today as we are engaged in making an effort that we do not even understand why we are making. We are running even to stand in the same place. What we need is this sahajata in our attitude that would make our minds and hence our lives simpler.

Pothi Padh Padh jag mua, Pandit bhaya na koye
Dhai Aakhar prem ke , Padhe so pandit hoye

Mala kahe kaath ki, tu kyun fere mohe
Man ka manka fer de, turat mila dun tohe

Prem gali ati saankri, isme dau na samaaye
jab mein tha tab hari nahi, ab hari hai to main naahi

Challenging the Organized Religion

He denounces organized religion of any kind – he had the courage to speak against or question Islam when they were ruling the place and Hindus in their very Garh in Banaras. Sometimes he tells like a doting parent taking simple analogies and sometimes he hits you hard with his questions. He is always teasing the Pandits, Maulavis and all those who claim to be wise or gyaanis. His tone gets challenging most of the times as if inviting to prove him wrong.

Kaashi kaaba ek hain, ek hain raam rahim
Maida ik pakwaan bahu, baith kabira jeev

Sadhu bhookha bhav ka, dhan ka bhookha naahi
Dhan ka jo bhookha fire, wo to saadho nahi

Pani piyaway kya firo, ghar ghar mein hai vyari
Trishnavant to hoyega, aayega jhakh maari

paththar pooje hari mile, to main poojun pahad,
isse to chakki bhali, pees khaye sansar

kankar pathad jodi ke masjid leyi banaye,
ta chadhi mulla baang de kya bahra hua khudaye

Kabir refers to the human body as ghat or a clay pot again and again. It can be interpreted at multiple levels. Physically, it is made of earth and goes back and merges with earth. Metaphorically it is an empty pot and it is up to the human what he fills it with. What is a human is defined by what we will fill this pot with? He finally says for a human being everything is within this human body – the good, the bad, the ugly and even the God.

Jogi gorakh gorakh Karen, hindu naam uchharen
Musalman kahen ek khudai, kabir ko swami ghat ghat basai

Kabir soi peer hai, jo jaane par peed
Jo par peed na jaane, so kafir bepeer

Chanda jhalke yahi ghat maahi…

Kabir & Maya

Maya – is something Kabir calls the root of all evils, a dakini that can create illusions in which not only humans but even Gods get lost.  He says this world is nothing but the illusion created by Maya and to see the reality you need to get yourself out of the net of Maya or Mayajaal. While he talks about Maya, he also talks about each of us being all-alone and the need to understand this.

Avadhu, Maya taji na jaaye…

Ud Jaayega Hans Akela…

Kahat Kabir Suno Bhai Sadho

Kahat Kabir Suno Bhai Sadho

Finally, death is another theme in his poetry, but not as an end but as the only reality of human life. In fact, Banaras is called the city of death and a city that celebrates the death and we see the same thought process in Kabir’s work as well. He time and again talks about the momentary-ness of life like the water on an upturned pot…and hence no point in getting attached to it. He speaks of human nature with the perspective of death in place, of the futility of a lot of things that we do thinking we are going to live forever. He wants us to remember that ultimately it is the death that we have to embrace – like it or not and live our live keeping death in view.

Maali aavat dekh kar kaliyan kahe pukar
Phule phule chun liye, kaal hamari baar

Sadho ye murdon ka Gaon…

Come with me for an exploration of Kabir – a thought that is as simple as it can be and as profound as it gets.