Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lend an ear to all the Kabirs out there

It seems there are many Kabirs out there. It’s a bit baffling, given that not much is known about the life of the late-15th, early-16th-century mystic immortalised through his songs. His birth, parentage, upbringing and faith have for long been matters of fierce debate among academicians. Of a more recent vintage is his appropriation by diverse sets of people.

The poet who defied categorisation is today a rallying point among jhola-swinging anti-communalists, guru-seeking devotees, head-shaking classical concert-goers, and even a sect that calls itself the Kabir Panth.

In his songs, Kabir refuses to draw a line between ‘Bismil’ and ‘Bishambhar’. He rubbishes man-made divides, draws the divine closer to the devotee, and instructs on meditative methods. As such, many of his ideas recur among sects as far-flung as the Nathpanthis, Ramanandis, Sahajiyas, Bauls, Sufis, Sikhs and the Nirguns.

“That’s the beauty of Kabir,” says Shabnam Virmani, who has been leading the Kabir Project at Bangalore’s Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology for seven years. She is aware of the distortions that occur when various groups “own and inhabit” the works, as well as “the beauty of an oral tradition” that blends across divides.

Full report here Hindustan Times

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