President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated the Sant Kabir Academy and Research Centre Swadesh Darshan Yojana and paid tribute to the Bhakti saint, Kabir at Maghar (Uttar Pradesh). According to legends, Kabir is said to have departed from the mortal world in Maghar.
Bhakti movement and Saint Kabir –
- The Bhakti movement, which began in the 7th century in South India, had begun to spread across north India in the 14th and the 15th centuries.
- The movement was characterised by popular poet-saints who sang devotional songs to God in vernacular languages, with many preaching for the abolishing the Varna system and some kind of Hindu-Muslim unity. They emphasised an intense emotional attachment with God.
- One school within the Bhakti movement was the Nirguni tradition and Sant Kabir was a prominent member of it. In this tradition, God was understood to be a universal and formless being.
- Kabir’s compositions can be classified into three literary forms – dohas (short two liners), ramanas (rhymed 4 liners), sung compositions of varying length, known as padas (verses) and sabdas (words).
Historical and legendary accounts of Kabir –
- He was born in Varanasi and lived between the years 1398 and 1448, or till the year 1518 according to popular belief. He was from a community of ‘lower caste’ weavers of the Julaha caste, a group that had recently converted to Islam.
- He learned the art of weaving, likely studied meditative and devotional practices under the guidance of a Hindu guru and grew to become an eminent teacher and poet-singer.
- Kabir’s beliefs were deeply radical, and he was known for his intense and outspoken voice which he used to attack the dominant religions and entrenched caste systems of the time. He composed his verses orally and is generally assumed to be illiterate.
- He is also believed to be (but not on strong historical grounds) a disciple of the famous guru Ramananda, a 14th century Vaishnava poet-saint.
Kabir’s legacy –
- Kabir’s own humble origins and his radical message of egalitarianism fostered a community of his followers called the Kabir Panth. A sect in northern and central India, many of their members are from the Dalit community. Historians estimate that it was established in India between 1600 and 1650, one or two centuries after his death.
- Today, the sect exists as a large and distinct community, with various sects under different spiritual leaders. However, all regard Kabir as their guru and treat the Bijak as their holy scripture. The Bijak contains works attributed to Kabir and is argued by historians to have been written in the 17th century. Today, most of the followers continue to reject idol worship and are discouraged from praying at Hindu temples. The main festival of most branches is Kabir Jayanti, the birthday of Kabir which is celebrated every summer with collective feasts at the maths.
- Several of Kabir’s verses and songs form a vital part of the Guru Granth Sahib. Compiled in 1604, the text is the oldest written collection of Kabir’s work, according to Linda Hess, expert on Kabir studies.