The fifteenth century saint-poet Kabir’s extempore outpourings of songs and couplets numbering thousands have been hailed widely for their deep spiritual fervour and poetic quality. They are widely read with rapture and regard by old and young alike in India.
Some of his poems were translated into English by Tagore in 1915 and later by a among the English-speaking people at home and abroad.
Kabir’s couplets which are considered as rich gems for their spiritual message and worldly wisdom have not been rendered into English so far. Here is rhymed English verse translation of three hundred of them from a wide cross-section of the multifaced genius’ utterances. Under each verse have been given a few lines in prose to help the reader grasp the underlying import of the message of the saint-poet.
T have been asked to write a foreword to the series of Kabir’s
Dohe rendered into English by Mr. Gananath Das.
Kabir had no schooling—formal or informal but he was a
born saint-poet. He transcended the bounds of religion, rose
to greatest heights in his spiritual thoughts and broke into
spontaneous lyrics and bhajans. Kabir’s apparently simple
dohe contain the essence of the great of philosophical ideas. The
level of divinity in him is clearly reflected in his dohe and
bhajans. Both of these abound in narration of elevating ex-
periences of his life and illustrate his anxiety for generation of
devotion for God in the common man. Kabir’s mortal body,
as the popular belief goes, was claimed both by the Hindus and
the Muslims for performance of the last rites but the same
vanished and a beautiful flower full bloom was found at the
The translator often fails to convey the true meaning of the
original writing. It is particularly so when the theme is based
upon divine experience or deep religious sentiments. Mr. Das
has done a neat rendering of the dohe. This has perhaps been
possible as he has got a clear insight into the corridors of
divinity and is possessed of sufficient command over the
Kabir’s dohe have a direct appeal to the heart. Familiar and
common place illustrations and references bring about an
immediate impact on the reader. In today’s world of fallen
standards of life sans religion, Kabir’s doke in English medium
would reach a larger spectrum of readers and help in genera-
tion of an adequate metabolic force.
I hope the series will receive universal appreciation and
provide encouragement to Mr. Das to devote his full attention
in retired life to this neglected wing of life today.
Sant Kabir has been acclaimed as the most outstanding of the
saint-poets of Bhakti cult (devotion) and mysticism of 15th
Century India. He was born at Varanasi (Banaras) in the year
1389 just six hundred years ago from now.
According to a legend a new born fair child was noticed afloat
a giant lotus leaf in the Lahara Tala lake on the outskirts of
Varanasi by a Muslim couple, Niri and Nimma by name. They
were childless and being attracted by the fair, playful child
they considered the foundling as God's gift, and picked it up
and reared it as their foster-child.
This child grew up to be the celebrated saint Kabir and was
acclaimed as such throughout the world for the large number of
his utterings of Dohds (couplets) and bhajanas (devotional songs)
of great spiritual fervour and poetic quality.
Young Kabir spurned the idea of having formal education.
He was convinced that all that one needed to learn was the
letters that composed ‘Rama’, the name of the deity he adored
and worshipped. There was no need to learn the entire alphabet,
much less the books written in it. Hedeclared he would not
touch paper and ink. Thus he remained illiterate.
He gained his deep insight and wisdom from the book of life
and extensive contact with saints and seers of various faiths over
a number of years. Varanasi being an important seat of spiritual
practices attracted leaders of various faiths. Thus Hindus flocked
in great numbers there and the members of its various sects—viz.
Vaisnavas, Saivas, Saktas, Ganapatyas, Yogis, Natha-panthis,
Tantrikas, etc. So did the followers of Sifism, Buddhism, Jainism
and other religions. Saints and seers in large number visited
Viranasi continuously. Some of them made Varanasi their head-
quarters, establishing their monasteries, mosques, or temples
dedicated to their respective Gods. Kabir had the benefit of Jong
association and communion with them, association that enrich-
ed his innate spiritual faculties.
Kabir, according to alegend, was born of a Brahmin widow
who abandoned her new born child onthe Lahara TAla lake.
Growing up inthe foster parents’ home he imbibed knowledge
of Islamic faith and ethnics. In his youth he was attracted by the
liberal outlook of the famous spiritual leader, Ramananda, who
had set up a monastery on the Ganges and drew persons from
different sects for spiritual guidance. Kabir was fortunate to
have him as his preceptor and was able to enrich his spiritual
faculty by his able and generous guidance.
Although Kabir accepted Gosvami Ramananda as his pre-
ceptor, he did not join the community of the preceptor’s cult,
or for that mattev, any cult whaisoever. Kabir’s devotion for
the Lord is qualified, nay, dominated by love. Thus he says:
Devoiion without love for the Lord
Tf held as devotion
You do so out of insolence
Wasting your life anon. [Elsewhere]
And, as a devout lover of the Lord he wondered—
Deep and strong is not my love
Nor have I a beauteous face
Ido not know my Beloved’s ways
And if I can get His grace. 
It is said that Kabir was influenced inthis respect by the belief
of the Vaisnava cult of the Hindu faith and also the Sifi cult of
the Islamic faith in both of which devotion to the Lord is suffus-
ed with love for Him. To that extent Kabir is seen to have
dcviated from the pure Bhakti cult of his preceptor, Ramananda.
Kabir was born at a crucial juncture in Indian history when
Muslim rule was gaining ground in the country, simultaneously
with the spread of Islam. Hinduism was on the wane. There were
frequent clashes and feuds between the two communities on
account of misunderstandings arising out of petty quarrels and
also due to differences in religious practices of the two faiths and
rigid orthodox views on both sides.
Kabir by his innate talent was able to bring about a synthesis
of both the great faiths, taking the best from each. He also took
note of the weak points of both the faiths and through his dohds
and songs tried to help restore understanding and tolerance
between the two communities instead of engaging in futile feuds
over inessential matters of detail relating to their respective
faiths and differences of caste, creed, community, colour, clime,
languages, ctc.—matters which Kabir considered as irrelevant.
He succeeded, to a great extent, in this effort at allaying the
misunderstanding between the two communities by focusing
their attention on the fundamental principles enunciated by both
the faiths, viz. love and devotion to the Lord, love of fellowmen,
compassion for all beings, and the moval principles of good and
noodle living which are identical in both cases.
Soon Kabir started attracting a crowd of admirers and follow-
ers by his songs and couplets which he composed and recited
extempore to the accompaniment of his musical instrument,
Tambura. These verses were imbued with deep spiritual fervour.
Many of them were full of wisdom and showed them how to
lead a pure and happy life. Kabir composed his verses in the
common language of the people. His similes and metaphors
were homely and natural. There was nothing artificial or learned
about them. The result was that his verses made an instant
appeal to the common people of his time. Kabir had not only a
fine sense of music but was endowed with a melodious voice
which lent charm to his songs and couplets.
Kuabir’s admirers and followers would learn his couplets by
heart and sang them with feeling and devotion alone and in
company. That is how the songs and couplets saw the light of
day and have come down to us. This is also why we notice some
variations in the language of the dohds and songs collected from
Kabir has been credited with the authorship of several
thousands of bhajanas (songs) and dohds (couplets) which effort-
lessly flowed from his lips. Some three hundred of the songs
have found place in the holy Granth Saheb of the Sikh faith.
His diction aad style are distinctly his own. Most of the original
couplets have been taken from the works of Dr. Ram Kumar
Verma, Dr. Sham Sunder Das and Acdarya Hazari Prasad
Dvwedy. Professor Ram Kumar Verma has this to say about the
genius of Kabir in his well-known work "Kabir, Biography and
‘‘Kabir has been acknowledged as one of the greatest pocts
who has given the minutest details of the whole history of
human thought which is amazing and amusing to contemplate
upon. The poet does not write but utters and his speech scores
much above the authority of all scholarship of written thought.
In short Kabir was ‘not of an age, but for all times’."
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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