Kabir Saheb had appeared during the 15th century in Kashi (also Banaras or Varanasi), India. During those times, conflict was highly prevalent amongst the people; especially between the people of the two major religions of India at the time; the Hindus and the Muslims. In order to restore peace between these two groups, Kabir Saheb had appeared.
Aadee Naam Nih Akshar, Akhil Patee Kaaranam;
So Pragate Guru Roop, To Hans Ubaaranam. The Primal Name which cannot be expressed or described by letters, the Master of the Universe; That had manifested in the form of a Guru in order to free the Souls of devotees.
(Mool Sandhya Path)
Pragatya Darshan (Appearance)
Gagan Mandal Se Ootare, Satguru Purush Kabeer;
Jalaj Maanhi Paudan Kiye, Sab Peeran Ko Peer. Satguru Kabir Saheb came straight from the skies; He settled in a lotus flower, and became the Master of the Masters.
On an early Monday morning on the day of Jyeshta Purnima of the 1455th Vikram year of the Hindu calendar, a light had appeared from the skies. Above the Lahartaaraa Lake in Kashi, this light transcended and fell upon a lotus flower and manifested into a baby. A student of Swami Ramanand, Gosaaee Ashtanand had been graced by this beautiful sight and had gone to tell his Guru the very next day. When Gosaaee Ashtanand had asked his Guru about the happenings of the previous day, Swami Ramanand explained to him that the explanation to this phenomena would be revealed to the world very soon. On that very day, a newly-wed Julaaha couple had stopped near the lake; they were none other than Neeru and Neema.
Kali Kali Anant Alee, Gunjit Gunjit Thakiti Bhaye;
Mor Maraal Chakor Tahaan Sab, Aan Talaab Ko Gheralaye. Countless buds swirled in harmony such that bees became tired of humming;
Peacocks, flamingos and partridges all gathered together around the lake.
Chaudaahsau Pachapan (1455) Saal Geeraa, Chandravaar Ik ThaatThae;
Jeth Sudi Barasaayatagi, Pooranamaasee Tithi Pragat Bhae. In the year 1455 (Vikram Samvat), on a Monday;
On the full-moon day of the month of Jyesth (May/June), He appeared.
Ghan Garaje Daamini Damake, Boodon Barasen Jhara Laag Gae;
Laihar Talaab Men Kamal Khile Tahaan, Kabeer Bhaan Prakaash Bhae. The clouds roared, lightning flashed, rain drops continuously poured;
In the Lahartara Lake, where a lotus bloomed, the light settled into the form of Kabir Saheb.
Neeru – Neema
At that point, Neeru and Neema, a newly-wed Muslim couple, had been passing by the lake. The two were known to be Julaahas (of the weaver caste). They had stopped to rest, Neema went to wash her face by the bank of the lake. Upon reaching the lake, she heard the noise of an infant crying, she called upon her husband. Hesitant at first, the two went to investigate to find the sound coming from a baby in a lotus flower! Being moved by the sight of this baby, they decided to take him home.
Gawanaa Lekar Neeroo Aayo, Trishaavant Bhaee Tisakee Naaree;
Jal Piyan Gaee Baalak Dekhaa, Bhaybheet Bhaee Manamen Bhaaree. Neeru arrived with his newly-wed bride (Neema) who fell thirsty;
As she went to quench her thirst, she saw a baby and became astonished.
Naam Kaaran (Naming Ceremony)
Upon reaching home, they decided to bathe and clean the baby and name him. They called upon local Qazis (Muslim priests) and Pundits (Hindu priests) to name him. The Pundits, refusing to name the child of a Muslim couple, did not bother to give him a name. The Qazis opened the Quran, only to find four names in the book: Kabir, Akbar, Kubra and Kiberia; all four too glorious to be given to the child of a poor weaver. They closed the book and tried searching again only to find four new names even more glorious for the child; Jinda, Khinjar, Peer and Haq. Upon searching again and again, they were stunned to only find the same names. The Qazis became scared and said:
“This is the work of the Devil! In the name of God, this child must be killed!”
On hearing this, Kabir Saheb sang this shabd:
Ab Ham Aveegat Se Chali Aaee, Mero Bhed Maram Nahin Paaee.(Chorus) I have come from the place of no Return; no one knows of this secret of mine.
Nahin Ham Jaane Garbh Baseraa, Baalak Hoy Dikhaawe;
Kaashee Shahar Jangal Bich Deraa, Tahaa Julaaha Paaye... I know not of dwelling in the womb, I have manifested in the form of a child;
Amidst the jungles surrounding the city of Kashi where the Julaaha (weaver) found me.
Hate Videh Deh Dhaari Aae, Kaayaa Kabeer Kahaaye;
Yugan Yugan Ke Bichhude Hansaa, Raamaanand Samujhaaye... Being body-less I have come in the form of a body named ‘Kabeer;’
Being separated for ages from the Hansaas (Souls), the sage Ramanand recognized this plight.
Agle Janam Ham Kaul Kiyaa Thaa, Tab Neeru Griha Aae;
Saat Din Ki Bachiyaa Mangaaye, Taako Doodh Duhaaye... Fulfilling my promises from my last birth, I have come to the house of Neeru
And drunk the milk of a seven day calf.
Nahin Mere Hadh Chamaa Nahin Lohu, Ham Satnaam Upaasee;
Taaran Taranaa Abhay Pad Daataa, Kahen Kabeer Avinaashee... My body is not made of bones flesh or blood, I come from Satyanaam;
Kabir, the Eternal, says: He who fearlessly treads on the path to the Ultimate attains Liberation.
Hearing this, the couple decided to name him ‘Kabir;’the Great.
The Seven day Calf
Many days had passed since Neeru and Neema had brought home the baby Kabir; each day, they grew evermore worried as the child would not eat anything despite its seemingly growing healthier each day.
Paanee Se Paidaa Naheen, Shwaasaa Naheen Shareer;
Ann Ahaar Kartaa Naheen, Taakaa Naam Kabeer. His body is not made of the five elements; His body needs no food to sustain itself, He is Kabir.
Being hopeless, Neeru decided to go to Swami Ramanand for advice. Although Swami Ramanand was a Hindu priest and Neeru a Muslim, the whole of Kashi had heard of his great prophecies and oracles and so Neeru decided to try his luck. On reaching Swami Ramanand’s hut, the Swami already knew of Neeru’s plight and had seen a vision. In his vision, he had seen the baby Kabir drinking the milk of a week-old calf. He instructed Neeru to acquire a seven day old calf and bring it home for the child. Neeru did just that and then brought Neema to see the calf for herself when they found the baby Kabir drinking the milk of the calf! On beholding this miracle, the couple became very surprised and the word spread quickly in the city of Kashi of the wondrous child.
Julahaa Chit Ativyaakul, Raamaanandpahan Jaay;
Swaamee Baalak Paayaoon, Ann Paanee Nahin Khaay… Being worried, Neeru went to Swami Ramanand;
“Oh Swami! I have a child who neither eats nor drinks.”
Raamaanand Tab Dhyaan Dhari, Neeroo Bachan Sunaay;
Saat Dinaa Kee Bachiyaa, Baalak Drishti Kaaraay… After reflection, Swami Ramanand told Neeru;
“Get a seven-day calf and bring it to your child.”
Tatachhan Taake Than Chel, Taahi Piyaavahu Jaay;
Dayaavant Prabhu Hovahin, So Puni Bhog Lagaay… “Milk the calf, he will drink of this milk;
By the Grace of God, his hunger will be fully satisfied.”
Chali Ghar Baachi Laaiyaa, Baalak Drishti Karaay;
Tatachhan Taake Than Chale, Kaashee Acharaj Aay… Neeru went home with a seven-day calf and brought it to his child;
As this calf produced milk, the whole of Kashi was awe-struck.
From a very early age, Kabir Saheb had been highly interested in attending religious gatherings and would often put forth questions before Pundits and Mullahs. He would say to the Mullahs:
Kankar Pathar Jod Ke, Masjid Laye Banaaee;
Ta Chadi Mullah Bang De, Kyaa Behra Huaa Khudaaee. Building a mosque from rocks and stones; The Mullah climbs upon it and calls for God at the top of his voice; Is God deaf?
The Mullahs would tell him:
“You will become a very great Kaaphir (infidel)”
And Kabir Saheb wittily replied:
Galaa Kaat Bisamil Karain, Te Kaaphar Beboojh;
Aur Nako Kaaphar Kahain, Apanaa Kuphar Na Soojh. Foolishly, you kill animals taking the name of God;
You call others Infidels, how can that be?
To the Pundits he would say:
Pathar Pooje Hari Mile, To Main Pooju Pahaar;
Tante Te Chakki Bhalee, Pees Khay Sansaar. If by praying to stones you will attain God, then I better pray to the mountains; Would they not be of better use as millstones to grind grains and feed people?
They would often leave his questions unanswered taking him to be the illiterate son of a poor weaver, unsuited for the company of pious Mullahs. The Hindu priests would regard him as a Niguraa (one without formal Guru in Hindu tradition) with no place in religious discussions nor in religious or spiritual pursuit. Kabir Saheb then took it upon himself to find himself a Guru.
Initiation by Swami Ramanand
Recognizing his wisdom, Kabir Saheb had chosen to make Swami Ramanand, a highly influential leader in the Hindu Vaishnava community at the time, to be his Guru. He knew that if he could make such a great leader his Guru, the Pundits could no longer ignore his questions. However, Swami Ramanand was such a devout Hindu that he would not even talk to any Muslim; in fact, it is said that he would only interact with Muslims through a white curtain. Knowing that the Swami would never become the Guru of a child of a Muslim couple, Kabir Saheb had decided to make a plan.
On an early morning, Kabir Saheb assumed the form of a baby at the banks of the Panchganga Ghaat, where Swami Ramanand used to perform his morning prayers. He was walking off the banks when his foot hit the head of the baby who then began to cry. The sage bent down to pick up the baby when his maalaa (rosary) fell atop his head. Putting his hand on the baby’s head, the Swami said:
“Do not cry my child, instead, say ‘Raam Raam’ (Lord, Oh Lord)”
After this incident, Kabir Saheb walked the streets saying “Raam Raam” and began to frequent with the Pundits and other disciples of Swami Ramanand, proclaiming himself to be a student of Ramanand. The Muslims, being puzzled said:
“What has happened to the child of Neeru? Being a Muslim, he chants ‘Raam Raam.’”
To clear the confusion, the Muslims and the students of Swami Ramanand had Kabir Saheb brought before him. Swami Ramanand had his curtain set up and asked Kabir Saheb:
“When have I made you my disciple? What is this nonsense?”
Then Kabir Saheb explained to him that he had given his talisman when the maalaa fell upon him, given his blessing when he rubbed his head (as a baby) and given his updesh mantra (first teaching of the Guru to the disciple) when he told him to say “Raam Raam.” Swami Ramanand removed his curtain and looked at Kabir Saheb.
“I had seen a child at the river bank, you are much too old to be the same child” he said.
Then Kabir Saheb performed a miracle; he manifested in the form of the child and told Swami Ramanand
“I am in fact the same child which you had met Oh Guruji”
Swami Ramanand understood the Kabir Saheb was no ordinary disciple and accepted to become his Guru.
Journey to Maghar (the dry Ami River)
When Kabir Saheb decided it was time for his departure from this world, he decided to fulfill his promise to the Nawab of Maghar, Bijali Khan Pathan, by visiting his kingdom. At the age of 120 years, Kabir Saheb made a journey along with all his disciples and devotees to the city of Maghar. However, there was said to be a curse on the city of Maghar, that whosoever should die there would be reincarnated as a donkey. This deeply concerned the devotees of Kabir Saheb. They had tried again and again to convince Kabir Saheb to remain in Kashi instead as it is said that death in Kashi ensures one’s salvation.
One of Kabir Saheb’s acquaintances, who was said to have been a scholar from the Maithil region, tried to persuade him to remain in Kashi to which he replied:
Logaa Tumaheen Mati Ke Bhoraa;
Jaun Paanee Paanee Manh Miligau, Tyaun Dhuri Milai Kabeeraa.(Chorus) Oh people! You are simple-minded;
Just as water mixes with water, so the body goes back to dust.
Jau Mithilaa Kaa Saanchaa Vyaas, Tor Maran Ho Magahar Paas… Being a true scholar from Mithila, you should not be afraid of dying in Maghar.
Magahar Marai So Gadahaa Hoy, Bhal Parateetu Raam Son Khoy… If one believes that dying in Maghar, he will be reincarnated into a donkey, then he has lost faith in God.
Magahar Mare Mana Nahin Paave, Anate Mare To Raam Lajaave… If a self-realised person cannot attain liberation by dying in Maghar, then dying elsewhere he will bring shame to the Lord.
Kaa Kaasee Ka Magahar Oosar, Hriday Raam Bas Moraa;
Jo Kaasee Tan Tajai Kabeeraa, Raamahin Kavan Nihoraa… Whether it is the holy Kashi or the barren Maghar, the Lord dwells in my heart;
If I am to die in Kashi (in order to be liberated), then what is my obligation to God?
(Beejak, Shabd 103)
In many such compositions, Kabir Saheb expressed his disapproval of such superstitions, he explains to his devotees in the following shabd:
Lokaa Mati Ke Bhoraa Re;
Jo Kaasee Tan Tajai Kabeer, Tau Raamahin Kahaa Nihoraa Re.(Chorus) Oh people! You are simple-minded;
If I must die in Kashi to be liberated, then what is my obligation to God?
Tab Hamen Vaisaa Ab Ham Aise, Ihai Janam Kaa Laahaa;
Jyoon Jal Main Jal Paisi Na Nikasai, Yoon Dhuri Milai Julaahaa… Before you were in one form and now in this form as a result of this human birth;
Just as when sugar is dissolved in water it cannot be separated, similarly, the weaver (Kabir’s body) shall go to dust.
Raam Bhagati Pari Jaakau Hit Chit, Taakai Achiraj Kaahaa;
Gur Prasaad Saadh Sangati Jag, Jeete Jaaee Julaahaa… He who is devoted to the Lord benefits greatly, this is a mystery; By the Grace of the Guru and the company of saintly people, the weaver (Kabir) leaves this world victoriously.
Kahai Kabeer Sunahu Re Santo, Bhrami Pare Jini Koee;
Jasan Kaasee Tas Magahar Usar, Hirdai Raam Sat Hoee… Kabir says: “Listen oh Sants, do not have doubts; Be it the holy Kashi or barren Maghar, the truth is that the Lord dwells in the heart.”
(Kabeer Granthaawalee, Pad Dhanaashree 402)
(See also: Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Dhanaashree 3, Ang 692)
Upon arrival in Maghar, Kabir Saheb and his devotees decided to rest by the Ami River. The river was said to have been dry, bringing a severe drought to the land. On seeing this, Kabir Saheb thought to perform a miracle to fix this problem as his devotees were very thirsty from their long journey. Kabir Saheb summoned the clouds and called them to Maghar; there, where the land had been barren for years and not a single drop of water had rained, there were finally showers of nectar-like waters. All the devotees and the people of Maghar rejoiced as the drought had finally been brought to an end by Kabir Saheb and the Ami River was once again flowing as mighty as ever.
Depature from this World
As Kabir Saheb stayed in Maghar, a small hut was built for him by his devotees; there, his disciples came to visit him. As the news reached the Nawab of Maghar that Kabir Saheb had come to his kingdom, he immediately went to visit him to seek his final blessings. All his devotees had assembled near the hut and were hearing the final words of Kabir Saheb, amongst them included the Raja, Veer Singh Baghela. When he decided it was finally time to depart, Kabir Saheb entered his hut. His devotees were grief stricken, the issue was then raised, ‘What shall become of his body?’ All the Hindu devotees agreed that the body should be cremated and disposed of as per Hindu tradition, likewise, all the Muslim devotees thought to bury the body as per Islamic tradition. A clash then arose between the Hindu and Muslim followers of Kabir Saheb, each party lead by Raja Veer Singh Baghela and Nawab Bijali Khan Pathan respectively.
Dohu Or Krodhaa So Yodhaa Bade Hain, Apne Jo Apne So Pranape Ade Hai;
Tak Taas Niyaraan Yah Baan Gahure, Kabeer Kabeer Kabeer Kahure. The defendants of both sides were enraged and ready to attack each other;
Give up this rivalry and recite ‘Kabir, Kabir, Kabir.’
(Kabeer Chaaleesaa 28)
The devotees fought relentlessly, each adhering to their respective faiths, forgetting the teachings of their Sadguru. Their fight was only ended by the sight of a bright light, indicating that there, at the age of 119 years, 5 months, and 27 days, on the 11th day of the month of Maargasheersha (or Agahan, November/December) in the 1575th year of the Vikram Samvat calendar, Kabir Saheb had finally departed.
Samavat Pandrahasau Pachhattar (1575), Magahar Gyaan Nidhaan;
Maagh Sudi Ekaadashee Tithi Ko, Jag Se Antardhyaan.
In the year 1575 (Vikram Samvat), Maghar was blessed;
On the eleventh day of the month of Maargasheersha, He disappeared from this world.
The devotees remembered their Sadguru and his teachings and instead of fighting, went to look inside his hut. There, they found Kabir Saheb’s shroud, but as they lifted it, they had found that he had performed one last miracle; underneath the shroud was a heap of flowers instead of a body as they had expected to find. Just as Kabir Saheb entered this world in a flower, he had left it with flowers. The Hindu and Muslim devotees decided to divide them equally amongst themselves and performed their final rites accordingly. There, where Kabir Saheb’s hut was built, a samaadhi and a mazaar (Hindu and Muslim tomb) were built side by side by his Hindu and Muslim followers respectively.
Dekho Ughaaree Vahaan Hai Vaha Naaheen, Kehi Kaaja Na Larate So Marate Vrithaahee;
Tab Aaye Dou Deen Dekho Na Ahure, Kabeer Kabeer Kabeer Kahure. “Lift the shroud and see he is not there, why are you wasting your time fighting and killing each other?”
Then both parties came to realise the futility of their actions, recite ‘Kabir, Kabir, Kabir.’
Sthoola Ghar Phoola Aghraan Bhaaree, He Bramha He Peera Ratnaa Pukaaree;
Sunee Deen Baanee Tehi Darasha Bahure, Kabeer Kabeer Kabeer Kahure. In the stead of His (Kabir Saheb) body there lay a large heap of flowers, They praised him: ‘Oh Brahma (Lord), Oh Peer (Master);’
Fortunate were those who had heard his teachings and had been in his company, recite ‘Kabir, Kabir, Kabir.’
(Kabeer Chaaleesaa 29-30)
(See also: Paath Sangrah, Ratna Stuti, 10) (See also: Shree Sadguru Granth Sahib of Garibdas, Raag Maaroo 8)
Although Kabir Saheb has left this world, his teachings remain with us in the form of his compositions and today, his legacy lives on through his devotees and followers.
Ham Na Marain Marihain Sansaaraa, Hamm Koon Milyaa Jiyaawavhaaraa.(Chorus) I will never die, the whole world will perish; I am blessed with Immortality.
Ab Na Marau Maranai Man Maannaa, Te Mooe Jini Raam Na Jaanna… I will not die unlike those who follow their own Mind; those who have not known God will die.
Saakat Marai Sant Jan Jeevai, Bhari Bhari Raam Rasaaian Peevai… Those who are devoid of faith will perish while Saints live on as they drink of the Nectar of God.
Hari Marihain Humhoon Maihain, Hari Na Marai Hamm Kaahe Koon Marihan… If God will die then I too will die; if God never dies then why would I?
Kahai Kabeer Man Manahi Milaawaa, Amar Bhaye Sukh Saagar Paawaa… Kabir says: “I’ve merged into the Supreme, I enjoy Immortality in the Ocean of Bliss.”
(Kabeer Granthaawalee, Pad Gauree 43)
Je Ko Marai Maran Hain Meethaa, Guru Prasaadi Jinaheen Mari Deethaa.(Chorus) Those who have seen death by the Guru’s grace find it to be very appealing.
Muwaa Karataa Muee Ja Karanee, Muee Naaree Surati Bahu Dharanee… The actions and the doers both die, the desires in which you are engrossed will also perish.
Moowaa Aapaa Moowaa Maann, Parapanch Leyee Moowaa Abhimaann… Both the Ego and the Mind perish; deluded Pride also succumbs.
Raam Rame Rami Je Jan Moowaa, Kahai Kabeer Avinaasee Hooaa… Kabir says: “That person who is constantly connected to the Lord will not perish.”