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Kabir das, poet, singer and founder of Sant Religion, India
(1398 – 1518)
Scholars are of varying opinions about the birth, place of birth, life, death and works left by Kabir das, one of the greatest names in Indian culture and literature. He was poet, singer, and the founder of Sant religion, and the term 'Kabir' denotes 'a great man'. This religion was a combination of the tenets of Islam and Hinduism, which he tried to use for the Islam-Hindu friendship and the brotherhood of all men; and also to oppose superstitions and unreasonable practices. Kabir lived in Kashi, (Benaras) the most famous center of Hindu pilgrimage in India. In the 14th century and his works marked the beginnings of what is known as the bhakti movement in the Hindi literature.
Kabir did not have any formal education. I have not touched ink or paper, nor have I held a pen, he says in a couplet of his. He was a weaver, and he calls himself so in some of his works. He lost his parents – some say his mother was a Brahmin widow- early in life. The legends are that he was brought up by non-Hindus. He claims in his poems that he is neither a Hindu nor a Muslim. His forthright criticism of the conservative superstitions and foolish customs earned for him a large number of enemies. One of the first references to Kabir is available in Bhaktamala (A.D. 1500) wherein some valuable information about his early life is available. Grandha Sahib, the holy book of Sikhism, too mentions Kabir and carries some of his poems.
Kabir's poems, though simple in words, were pregnant with powerful thought, and the impact was irresistible. They worship the four-armed god, but I worship a god with numerous arms – he said in one of his poems. In another poem he asked – The Turks have their mosques and the Hindus have their temples; but where there are no mosques and no temples, who is the wielder of power? Another poem innocently declares – if a dip in the Ganges brings liberation from earthly life, the lowly frog should have attained this liberation several times a day! Kabir's god was not in the idol, nor in the temples or mosques; but it is the absolute knowledge. It has no shape, and no face, not even a symbolic form; but it is like the fragrance of a flower, it is not to the left or to the right or above or below, but it is the quintessential essence of absolute bliss – he declares. He wrote in a mixture of common dialects, in which one can find Hindu, Urdu, Persian words, and words and expressions used in the dialects such as Bhojpuri, Punjabi and Marwadi. The villagers the north west of India celebrate his poems generation after generation.