02 August, 2021

Everyone Can Follow Him

Kabir’s mystical poetry enthrals newer generations. This simple, unpretentious translation, with helpful commentary, is a model publishing effort too.

Everyone Can Follow Him

The rise and rise of Kabir in the twentieth century constitutes perhaps the biggest turnaround in the Hindi literary canon. In a book titled Hindi Navaratna (Nine Gems of Hindi) published in 1910, Kabir was not included, but when this caused a controversy, he was admitted into the second edition of the book in 1924. Kabir has ever since firmly held his place as one of the four great Bhakti poets of Hindi, together with Tulsidas, Surdas, and Meera.

In recent decades, in fact, with the emergence of an Anglophone, godless ‘secular’ middle-class, Kabir has achieved a kind of apotheosis that might have shocked him. At condolence meetings for the dear departed in this upper social class, his bhajans and sakhis (i.e., dohas or couplets) are now sung with a new-age piety. He who castigated all rituals observed by both Hindus and Muslims has himself become part of the final ritual of human life. People who would balk at the Bhagavad Gita being reci­ted now reverently nod when Jheeni jheeni beeni chadariya is...

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