Kabir is my favorite poet and philosopher. I love reading him. He gives me the essence of Indian philosophy wrapped in Bhakti tradition in his easy-to-understand poetry. So, this time at the Lucknow book fair, I picked up two more books on Kabir. Finished reading the smaller one as soon as I was home. Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein is a small drama wrote by celebrated writer Bhisham Sahni.
Dramas are supposed to be performed by the actors and enjoyed by the audience. Thankfully, it has been written in a way that you can easily visualize the scenes. Based in Kashi, scenes are spread across the weaver’s quarters or Basti, Ghats of Ganga, and markets of Kashi.
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Through 4-5 scenes, the writer tries to bring alive the life and times of Kabir. He brings in his lineage as someone born to a Brahmin widow. But adopted by the newlywed weaver couple Neeru and Neema. He brings out his care-a-damn attitude when he keeps saying what he wants to say without worrying about the consequences.
His emotional side is brought out through a scene that shows his wedding with Loi who decides to leave and then return to him. His friends like Raidas who was a poet like himself, feature in many scenes of their Satsang. Satsang, it seems was their way of protesting by singing what they are told not to.
Read More – Who is Kabir?
The key focus though is to say that Kabir abhorred both the dominant religions of his time – Hinduism and Islam. There are scenes that depict violent fights between different Akhadas of Varanasi. Now, I know that Kabir followed Bhakti Path. That too Nirakar Rupa, where there is no need for any Murti or form. He did dislike the organized religion that was becoming more of a business than leading people towards the divine. He did question the practices that were beyond his understanding. Like shouting at the top of one’s voice or killing animals and then preaching compassion.
The essence of India’s ancient scriptures
However, his works talk about the essence of India’s ancient scriptures. Some scholars like Hazari Prasad Dwivedi say he followed the tradition of Nath Yogis. Some others say that he follows the Bhakti as defined in Narada Bhakti Sutra. Did read the latter. I can stay with some authority that he draws a lot from there, including his famous examples like – Sweet in the mouth of a dumb person.
I am not sure if the incidents that Bhisham Sahni writes of Kabir being regularly beaten are true or writer’s imagination. Did he really meet Sikandar Lodi and have that conversation – I doubt. If he had met the emperor, the experience would have come in some of his works. I do not recall him mentioning meeting any emperor. Maybe I could be wrong but I don’t think I am.
I missed a scene between Kabir and his Guru. There is a mention of him touching the heart of Kabir and changing his thought process. I wish we could hear the conversation of Kabir with Ramananda, the biggest influence in his life, thoughts, and poetry.
Read More – Bhakti Upaji Dravid Mein by Kabir
The popular narrative around Kabir
I think this is one of those books that built the popular narrative around Kabir of someone who stood between Hindus and Muslims. While the truth is that Kabir was busy in his own Bhakti. Not really bothered about what the world was doing. His chosen path was Shabd or the name of Ram. These popular writers love to tell us that it is not the same Ram of Ayodhya. But they forget that even Tulsidas says that the Nirgun Ram is what we all need to chant and reach.
Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein is a quick and easy read that you can finish in an hour or so.
Good for those who do not know anything about Kabir. But if you know his poetry a little – skippable. That reminds me, there is hardly any poetry cited in this except a couple of popular ones. What is a book on Kabir without his timeless poetry?
Take your call.