Couplets From Kabir (Kabir Dohe)

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Item Code: NAT508
Author: G. N. Das
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9788120815254
Pages: 132
Other Details 8.50 X 5.50 inch
Weight 220 gm
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Book Description

About the Book

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 site.

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 English language.

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. [47]

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 different sources.

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 Philosophy":

‘‘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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