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Kabir Das and Communcation

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Abstract Kabir Das : Literature and Communication

Literature is the mirror of society and it is the reflection of the age, which it belongs to. Literature of any age and era shows the prevalent trend of the period when it was created and connects at its best to that era. The uniqueness of the literature of Saint Kabir is that it transcends all boundaries and limitations of time and place. In spite of the fact that his literature belongs to the period of 15th century it is still relevant, remembered, quoted and discussed with passion and fervor not only among the connoisseurs of art and literature but also among common man and youth. This article is an attempt to throw light on the various dimensions of Kabir Das’s literature and how it is still effectively communicated and in turn is used for effective communication. This paper contemplates on the varied aspects of kabir’s literature. Kabir’s literature is known for elements of mysticism, spirituality, concept of love, his objectivity in imparting moral education, his attack on vices of human behavior, hypocrisy and materialistic attitude. All these aspects are dominantly reflected in his literary works and are still relevant in today’s social scenarios which are well communicated in the form of his well remembered ‘Dohas’ and poetry. Hence, it is concluded that Kabir’s literature, in spite of being so old and classical is timeless and well applicable and connected with today’s era. His ‘Dohas’ makes an integral part of our day to day communication. Hence, it can be said that, Kabir Das has communicated with the society and is still communicating and will continue to do so through his literature which will never loose its relevance in any of the ages

Keywords: Kabir’s literature, mysticism, objectivity, value education, attack on vices of society, communicator, timeless.


जिन खोजा तिन पाइया गहरे पानी पैठ,
मैं बपुरा बूडन डरा रहा किनारे बैठ।

This famous ‘Doha’, explaining the importance of hard work, was tweeted by world’s most dynamic leader, and the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in June 2015. Not only the influential people like Modi but Kabir’s literature holds a prominent place in many of our lives. Specially, his timeless ‘Dohas’ can be seen being recited by people of all ages in a didactic manner as his ‘Dohas’ are deeply connected with the intricacies of human life. Children, mothers, elders, friends, teachers all can be heard reciting the ‘Dohas’ of kabir Das whenever they encounter the vices in the surroundings and they communicated the morality through his literature. His literature and lines are so popular among the people just because he used to write on real life incidences and issues which he used to experience which connected with common people very well and continue to do so. Kabir, himself was critical about his own writing and has written that:

"सब कहते कागद की लेखी
मैं कहता आंखिन की देखी ।"
(All say what is written in the scriptures, I say what I have seen by my eyes )

Literature, birth and early life

Kabir is a mystique poet and it is found so far that mystique poets write with greater objectivity. Because they are not subjective, unlike confessional poets, hence very little can be traced about their lives from their literature. Same is the case with Kabir. He was never personal in his poems and ‘Dohas’ and maintained higher objectivity and detachment in his writing. His writing majorly reflects mysticism, spirituality and philosophy and nothing personal about his life. Even details about his birth and death are debated among the historians. Some historians believe 1398 - 1448 as the period of Kabir while some others claim 1440 – 1518 as his era. His year of birth has been tried to be traced out by some historians by one of his own ‘Doha’ which is as follows:

pkSng lkS ipiu lky x, pUnzokj ,d BkB B, tsB lwnh oj lkEu dks tsB lqnh oj lkeu dks iwjuweklh frfFk izxB Hk;s

According to the first line of this Doha the birth year of Kabir can be traced back to 1456. The first line of the Doha “pkSng lkS ipiu lky x,+” means that after the completion of the year 1455 which means year 1456. Historians Dr. Shyam Sundardas and Acharaya Ramchandra Shukla also favors this finding.

Religion and Caste of Kabir

About his early life it is said that he was the son of a Brahmin widow of kashi. Because of the fear of society she left him on the banks of Lahartara pond. One childless Julaha couple took him from there and adopted him .This is made clear by his own lines

“rw czkge.k eSa dklh dk tqykgk”

Born as a Hindu Kabir was brought up in a Muslim family. Hence, Kabir was considered as an harmonizer of both the religions who attacked the vices of religious indifferences of both the communities. Kabir is widely believed to have become one of the many disciples of the Bhakti poet-sant

Guru and Family
Swami Ramanand in Varanasi, known for devotional Vaishnavism with a strong bent to monist Advaita philosophy teaching that God was inside every person, everything. Some legends assert that Kabir never married and led a celibate's life. Most scholars conclude from historical literature that this legend is also untrue, that Kabir was likely married, his wife probably was named Dhania, they had at least one son named Kamal and a daughter named Kamali. Some also say that he had a second wife named ‘Loi’ with whom he was most attached and about whom he has mentioned in some of his works. Kabir's family is believed to have lived in the locality of Kabir Chaura in Varanasi. Kabir Matha (कबीरमठ), a maṭha located in the back alleys of Kabir Chaura, celebrates his life and times.

Review of Literature

The Bijak of Kabir
Oxford University Press, 25-March-2002

Kabir is one of the world’s greatest poets whose poems and especially ‘Dohas’ are sung and recited by millions thought out North India for a half a millennium. In spite of being an illiterate he was an iconoclast who preached an abrasive, sometimes shocking, always uncompromising message that exhorted his audience to shed their delusions, pretentions, and empty orthodoxies in favor of an intense, direct, and personal confrontation with the truth. Thousands of poems are attributed to kabir but only few could survive over the centuries. This Bijak is an important collection of Kabir’s work and is highly sacred for those who follow kabir.

Devotional Literature of India: A Critical Study of the Poetry of Kabirdas, Tulsidas and Meerabai

Vijay Kumar Roy, March 2012
Writers Editors Critics; Mar2012, Vol. 2 Issue 1, p201

The contribution of devotional poet Kabir Das in the beginning and proliferation of Bhakti Movement of India is studied in this article. It examines how Saint Kabirdas' practical approach to devotion has affected the Bhakti Movement. It also explores the story of the love and devotion of Meerabai to the Hindu God, Lord Krishna, which became the most striking feature of her poetry. The common features of the poetical works of the three poets are also detailed.

Sant Kabir
Anjali Ranu, August 13 2006

In the study it is concluded that in spite of completely illiterate Kabir has given the best compositions in the history of world literature. In the the study, the writing style of Kabir has been evaluated that Kabir composed no systematic treatise, rather his work consists of many short didactic poems, often expressed in terse vigorous language in the form of Padas, Dohas, and Ramainis (forms of poetry in Indian languages). His lyrics are characterised by a free use of the vernacular, and is unfettered by the grammatical bonds of his day. Another beauty of Kabir's poetry is that he picks up situations that surround our daily lives.

Rare Literary Gems: The works of Kabir and Premchand at CRL (Centre for research Library)
Todd Scudiere, spring 2005, Vol. 25, Num.3

In this edition the works of two prominent masters of the Indian tradition: the mystic poet Kabir and the novelist and social activist Premchand. Regarding Kabir the author has concluded him as the great mystic poet that Muslims, and Sikhs alike, he espoused an array of their philosophical ideas. He promulgated a oneness with God, embracing the Hindu concept of jivatma (individual soul) as being directly linked to paramatma (universal or supreme soul). Kabir’s idea of loving God with devotion appealed to both Hindu Bhakti as well as Muslim Sufi concepts and practices.

Objectives of the study

1. To evaluate major elements of literature of Saint Kabir Das 2. To understand which aspect of his literature is communicated most among the people and how is literature is perceived 3. To study how literature of Kabir has communicated so effectively and strongly with people all through these ages and is still doing so 4. To evaluate the literary style of kabir 5. To evaluate the moral significance of his literature 6. To trace down the reasons of the popularity and relevance of his literature which is communicated even in modern age


1 The literature of Kabir mainly reflects and communicates the “theme of mysticism” and philosophy
2 Kabir’s literature has played a great role of imparting value education and communicating morals through his literature since many ages
3 Kabir’s work and literature can be compared with that of many other English literature poets and author
4 Literature of Kabir has communicated about the vices and hypocrisy of human life
5Kabir’s popularity mainly persists because of the themes of his works which are very well connected with human life.

Research Methodology

The primary data was collected from hindi blogs, books like ‘Kabir Granthavali’, social media sites, magazines. Based on this data, the method adopted for research is ‘qualitative’ i.e. the content analysis of the data collected by various sources. For this, firstly, ‘interviews’ of some people belonging to different socio cultural backgrounds were taken and also collected from different sources. Secondly, ‘observation’ of two ways of communication of Kabir’s literature was done i.e ‘face to face’ (verbal) and ‘mediated communication’ (social media). A keen observation on platforms and ways of communication of kabir’s literature was done.


After analyzing the three factors:

Firstly, the literature of Kabir ,
Secondly, the ‘interviews’ of people from various socio cultural backgrounds, and
Thirdly, the ‘observation’ of usage of Kabir’s Literature in verbal and in mediated communication especially social media;

it is found out that why Kabir is most famous communicator poet of India. Also it is observed that his literature is still communicated and popular among the people inspite of being so old and classical. And also why the literature of Kabir will continue to communicate and will neither die and nor become irrelevant ever.

1. Kabir’s mysticism invoked by Tagore

Kabir is a prominent mystic poet from India. His work majorly depicts the theme of ‘Mysticism’ apart form philosophy. most of his works and ‘Dohas’ are actually praise of God. It is said that Kabir lived for about 120 years in 15th century and it is said to be the beginning of ‘Bhakti movement’ in India. The most quoted poet of India, Kabir is revered by Sikh community and followers of Guru Granth Sahib as the other ten Gurus. In many of his ‘Dohas’ his mysticism is well depicted. One is as follows:

“nqbZ nqbZ yksPku ns[kk rj gfj fcu vnj u ns[kk ”

In this line Kabir has said that he has seen the entire world with his two eyes and he couldnot see anyone else apart from Bhagwan Hari, the Lord.

One of the greatest mystic poets of India Shri Rabindra Nath Tagore closely observed Kabir’s work and got inspiration from him. The outcome of which was ‘Geetanjali’ for which he got the Nobel Prize for literature and became the first Indian to achieve this honour. During his visit in 1912-13 to London Tagore also often invoked Kabir when speaking of the relationship between the individual and the divine. Tagore also often mentioned Kabir in relation to the Indian nation. For instance in his book Nationalism (1916), he discussed how racial harmony had been achieved in India, and again quoted Nanak, Kabir and Chaitanya to support this view.3 Tagore’s interest in Kabir was also influenced by his colleague Kshitimohan Sen (1880-1960). In his work Indian Mysticism, he described how he had been working on Kabir verses when he arrived in Shantiniketan in 1908, and when Tagore came to know of this, encouraged him to publish his work. Tagore’s One Hundred Poems of Kabir, a translation of verses by the medieval Indian saint Kabir has been continuously in print since it was first published and had a significant impact on popular images of Kabir in the West. Kabir can also be compared with William wordsworth the mystic poet of west. Where Wordswroth considered nature as his God and Kabir believed in the conscious as one’s God. The poetic bell that Kabir rang exclaimed that God is no where else but inyou, as there is smell in the flowers, and Kastooni in the navel of the deer -

"तेरा सांई तुझमें ज्यो पुहूपन में बास
कस्तूरी का मिरिग ज्यों फिर-फिर ढूंढे घास ।"
(Your God is in you as the fragrance in the flower. But you wander insearch for that smelling grass which in you resides as the Kasturi deer wanders for it.)

2 Kabir: A philosopher

A weaver by profession he ranks among the world’s greatest poet who has woven his lovers intact for centuries. He was an iconoclast who moved the people of his age and consecutive ages till now by his sharp and straight forward philosophical verses. Because of his practical and useful advices, in the form of ‘Dohas’, he had a great following of common people. Some are as follows:

“fuand fu;js jkf[k, vkaxu Nok,

fcu lkcqu ikuh fcuk fueZy djr lqgk; ”

In this Kabir is advising us to keep our critics near to us so that we may not require soap and water to clean ourself but the criticisms by the critic will more effectively purify us and our soul. In this Kabir is actually praising the habit of honest crictism rather than a fake appreciation which can ruin our character. Similary in another Doha he is asking us to first judge oneself rather that judging others as he says that if we will honestly start looking for faults then we might end up finding ourself as the most bad human of this world:

“बुरा जो देखन मैं चला बुरा न मिलिया कोय
जो दिल खोजा आपना मुझसे बुरा न कोय। ”

3. Kabir’s ‘Dohas’: “Value education and Creative Arts”

Following write-up is a paragraph of the article Titled “Value education and Creative Arts” written by the Principal of famous Tagore international School of Vasant Vihar Delhi, In the article, published in the website ‘’ in year 2014, the writer has mentioned about the creative methods of imparting value education to their students. For this they have experimented with merging literature, music and arts basing kabir Das’s ‘Dohas’.

“This year, we at Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi, encouraged our students to take an in-depth look at the Dohas of Kabir, which are a timeless reflection of the core values of our culture. The aim was to encourage a sustained understanding of India’s cultural heritage on one hand, and on the other, help students connect their daily lives, their emotions and their actions with the values ingrained in these dohas. Kabir’s profound insights span a wide range of themes of personal, social and spiritual relevance. Exploring the themes provided our students the warp and weft for a tapestry of introspection, self realisation and compassion. It also helped them recognise the Arts as a record of the triumph of the human spirit”.
Madhulika Sen, Principal of Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar, Delhi

The Theatre students of the school tried to understand the relevance of Kabir’s ideals in today’s environment. During the Hindi Diwas competitions, each House was given a doha to interpret. The students then wrote their own scripts and presented them as Nukkad Nataks, keeping with the spirit of Kabir’s connection with the common people. The Hindi department, inspired by the success of the Nukkad Nataks, introduced alternative methods of exploring Kabir in the classroom

“पोथी पढ़ि पढ़ि जग मुआ, पंडित भया न कोय,
ढाई आखर प्रेम का, पढ़े सो पंडित होय। ”

In the above Doha Kabir has emphasized on the value of love that its not education but love that makes man a true Brahman true son of God.

4. Bacon of India: Epigrammatic, misogynist, didactic and detached

Similar style and subjects: Apart from Tagore and Wordsworth Kabir Das’s work can be compared with that of the works of “Father of English Essays”, Francis Bacon, who was a 16th century essayist popularly known for his practical advises like Kabir used to give. Apart from the pratical lessons both can be compared because of their similar style of writing which is terse, lyrical and musical in quality famously known as epigrammatic style of writing. Like Kabir Bacon’s work also has teachings and advices related to practical issues of life like truth, friendship, beauty, books, studies etc. Some of the famous essays of Bacon are based on these topics on which Kabir has also written his ‘Dohas’. ‘Of Studies’, ‘Of Frienship’, ‘Of Truth’ are some of his essays. While some of Kabirs dohas on similar topics are as follows:

“कबीरा खड़ा बाज़ार में, मांगे सबकी खैर,
ना काहू से दोस्ती,न काहू से बैर”

In these lines Kabir Das is saying that in his entire life he wishes welfare of everyone and he wishes neither any friend nor any foe. Bacon had a simlian view that one must maintain balance in friendship. It should not exceed the limit as it might harm one, which is clear by his following lines:

“Friendship increases in visiting friends, but in visiting them seldom.”

The only difference both is that Bacon writes in a dogmatic manner while Kabir writes with full objectivity making him detached just like Geoffrey Chaucer who is a detached narrator and poet in his famous work ‘Prologue to Canterbury’. But it can be said that both have similar didactic style of telling the truth and of advising the reader.

Similar View regarding women: Both shared similar views regarding women for which both were also criticized by many feminists also. Where Kabir considered women as an obstacle in the man’s path of spirituality Bacon saw women more as an object of possession and born only to serve man and satisfy his needs. T

In his essay ‘Of Marriage and single life’, Bacon wrote

“Wives are young men's mistresses, companions for middle age, and old men's nurses”.

While kabir says:

Woman ruins everything when she comes near man;
Devotion, liberation, and divine knowledge no longer enter his soul.

--- Kabir, Translated by Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh

Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh states, "Kabir's opinion of women is contemptuous and derogatory". Wendy Doniger concludes Kabir had a misogynist bias. For Kabir, states Schomer, woman is "Kali nagini” (a black cobra), “ kunda naraka ka” (the pit of hell), “juthani jagata ki” (the refuse of the world). According to Kabir, a woman prevents man's spiritual progress.

5 Attacked vices of the society

Kabir can be compared with 18th century English poet Alexander Pope who in his world class classic and masterpiece ‘Rape of the Lock’ attacked the vices of then society and the manners, hypocrisy and materialistic attitude of people. Similarly, Kabir attacked the vices of human nature in his ‘Dohas’. The difference among the works were the inclusion of humour. While Pope’s poetry is bombarded with mock, satire and irony Kabir writes in a more straight manner excluding humour and satire foem it making it more humble and soft for the readers unlike pope whose poetry offers harsh mockery to its readers. Also the poetry of both the poets is marked with high intensity musical and lyrical atributes as both are written in heroic couplets. The work of Kabir can be kept in even high order than that of Pope as Pope’s work connects only with 18th century problems that too of the society of England, whereas Kabir’s preachings are universal and even today, his poetry is relevant and helpful in both social and spiritual context of any region and country. The beauty of Kabir's poetry is that he picks up situations that surround our daily lives which gives it a universal appeal.

6 Will never die: Everlasting Literature
“I have collection of some Cds of Kabir’s Poetry as it is pleasant to hear and I think his literarure will never die and will continue to communicate in all ages as his ‘Dohas’ are useful, practical and most important gives solutions to human problems and musical and pleasure to hear hence they are still popular among common people”. ---- Swapnil Sinha, CEO Servozo, BPO, Bhilai

According to Spiritual Guru:

“Whenever as artist crease some piece of art , humans accepts that creation with whole heart as that is the creation inspired by God’s Grace. All forms of art which is dedicated to the almighty are still alive. Latest Bollywood numbers comes and goes but everyone still remembers and recites the Dohas of Kabir Das these were both inspired by God and dedicated to God. ” - HH, Shri Nirmala Devi, Founder, Sahaj Yoga Published in spiritual magazine ‘Moksh’, December – 2009


It is concluded that:

1 Hypothesis 1 stating that the literature of Kabir Mainly reflects and communicates the the ‘theme of mysticism’ and ‘philosophy’ is accepted.
2 Through the example of imparting value education in creative manner in a school in Delhi using Kabir’s Dohas. It can be said hypothesis 2 is also correct.
3 After doing comparative study of Kabir’s work with that of various englsih poets and writers like William Wordsworth, Francis Bacon, Tagore, Alexander Pope hypothesis 3 can also be concluded as correct only.
4 Hypothesis 4 is although correct but will be considered incomplete as it is not only because of the practical themes on which kabir wrote that he is even popular today but because also because of its musical and lyrical quality his work is well communicated even today.

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Vaudeville, Charlotte, Kabîr Granthâvalî : (Doha), Vol. 1, Oxford University Press, 1957
Dass, Nirmal, tr. Songs of Kabir from the Adi Granth. SUNY Press, 1991
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Tagore , Rabindranath (Edited by Evelin Underhill), One Hundred Poems of Kabir: Translated by Rabindranath Tagore , University of Toronto Archives, 2005

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