Dharmadas Saheb was a wealthy bania (merchant) of Bandhogarh (Bandhavgarh) and one of the prime disciples of Kabir Saheb. He was a very religious Hindu who performed rituals, worshipped idols and observed fasts in order to seek the Lord; however, all his attempts had been futile. It is said that Dharmadas Saheb and his wife, Amini Mata had gone on pilgrimage to the holy city of Mathura when they first encountered Kabir Saheb. The two had observed a fast and had set up a fire in which to cook the food to break their fast. As the food was being prepared, Dharmadas Saheb had noticed that the fire had been set up on an anthill and had burnt many of the ants. He told Amini Mata:
“We cannot offer this tainted food to our gods and break our fast, it has become unholy; distribute it amongst the Sadhus.”
The two distributed the food they had prepared among Sadhus and Sages when they happened to serve it to one Saint who had told them:
“You do not bear the burden of your own sins yet expect me and these pious Sadhus to do it for you?”
The Saint happened to be none other than Kabir Saheb himself. Dharmadas Saheb and Amini Mata ignored him and went on to feed other Sadhus but Kabir Saheb’s words were still resonating in Dharmadas Saheb’s mind. He thought to himself:
“How could this Saint have known that the food had been tainted? I must find him”
Dharmadas Saheb went on to look for Kabir Saheb, having searched everywhere, Dharmadas Saheb was in despair:
Shabd Dhwani Prabhaati
DhoondhDhoondh Main Haaraa Sadguru, Milaa Na Darash Tumhaaraa.(Chorus) I have searched and searched again and again, Oh Sadguru, but I have not found You.
Raameshwar Jagadeesh Dwaarkaa, Badrinath Kedaaraa;
Kaashee Mathuraa Aurr Ayodhyaa, Dhoondhaa Giri Girinaar… I have searched in all holy places, viz. Rameshwar, Jagdish, Dwarka, Badrinath,
Kedarnath, Varanasi, Mathura, Ayodhya and Girnar.
Poorab Pashchim Uttar Dakshin, Bhatak Sab Sansaar Ho;
Arasat Teerath Me Phiri Aayaa, Darash Hetu Bahubaar Ho… I wandered the whole world, East, West, North, and South; I also went on 68 pilgrimages just to find You.
Jap Tap Vrat Upawaas Kiye Bahu, Sanyam Niyam Achaara Ho;
Bhaee Na Bhent Naath Swapanehu Mah, Asa Kah Bhaagya Hamaara Ho… I have partaken in fasts, penance, and counted sacred beads following the strict guidelines in discipline; Even in my dreams, I could not find You, how unfortunate I am.
Din Nahin Chain Rain Nahin Nindiyaa, Vyaakul Hai Tan Saara Ho;
Ab To Dharamadaas Ko Keeje, Darashan De Bhavapaara Ho... Neither do I find peace in the day nor sleep at night, my whole body is restless;
At least now, grace Dharmadas with your vision so he can attain salvation.
Dharmadas Saheb decided to devote his time and wealth to the service of Saints. Being pleased with Dharmadas Saheb’s devotion, Kabir Saheb had granted him his darshan (vision) and appeared before him and Amini Mata. The two were very happy on seeing Kabir Saheb and arranged for his stay at their home. Both Dharmadas Saheb and Amini Mata had become disciples of Kabir Saheb and went on to spread his teachings, the successors of Dharmadas have established the ‘Dharmadasi’ branch of the Kabir Panth and continue to spread the teachings of Kabir Saheb.
Sarvanand/Sarvajeet (Suratigopal) Saheb
On a trip to South India, Kabir Saheb had met with a pious lady who became his disciple. The lady had told him of her son named Sarvanand; she said:
“Oh Saheb, my son, Pundit Sarvanand, had become proud in his knowledge of scriptures and holy texts. He challenges Sages and holy men in debates and defeats them, calling himself ‘Sarvajeet’ (victorious over everyone/conqueror of all). His pride has grown and must be shattered, what can be done?”
Kabir Saheb told her to have her son sent to him. She told her son:
“Oh son, you call yourself ‘Sarvajeet’ but you have not yet defeated everyone; there is still one Saint who lives in Kashi, Kabir Saheb. Only after giving me written proof that you have defeated him shall I call you ‘Sarvajeet.’”
Pundit Sarvanand agreed to go to Kashi to meet with Kabir Saheb, he loaded his bull-cart with scriptures and holybooks and went to Kashi. On his way to Kabir Saheb’s hut, he met Kamaali who was drawing water from a well. He asked her:
“Which is the way to Kabir Saheb’s hut”
To which she replied:
Kabeer Ka Ghar Shikhar Par, Jahaan Silahalee Gail;
Paanv Na Teeke Pipeelikaa, Pandit Laade Bail. “Kabir Saheb’s home is at the top of this mountain, the road to which is very slippery; An ant cannot even crawl on this road but this Pundit brings a bull-cart.”
He could not understand what Kamaali had meant to say, he told her:
“I do not understand what you mean to say. Fill this pot with water and send it to Kabir Saheb, return to me and tell me what he says.”
Kamaali brought the pot to Kabir Saheb and told him that Pundit Sarvanand had come to see him. Kabir Saheb dropped a needle into the pot and told her to send it back to Pundit Sarvanand. She brought the pot back and the Pundit had seen the needle in the pot. On seeing this, Pundit Sarvanand was confused as to what this meant, he asked Kamaali to bring him to the hut of Kabir Saheb. On reaching, he told Kabir Saheb:
“I had sent this pot filled with water because like this pot, full of water, I am full of knowledge. But why have you dropped this needle into the pot?”
Kabir Saheb explained to Pundit Sarvanand:
“I have dropped this needle because just as this needle penetrates the water in this pot, my knowledge pierces through yours (is superior).”
Pundit Sarvanand was impressed, he said:
“We shall see who is superior; my mother has sent me to challenge you in a scriptural debate of holy texts, I shall only leave with written proof that I have won this debate.”
Kabir Saheb told him:
“Oh Pundit, I am illiterate and am not learned in holy texts, you can assume that you are victorious as I cannot read, prepare your victor’s note, I shall put my thumb print as proof for your mother.”
Pundit Sarvanand happily wrote on a piece of paper ‘Sarvanand has won and Kabir has lost’ and had Kabir Saheb put his thumb print and left to go home. He showed his mother the note, she smiled and asked her son to read the note for himself; he read:
“Sarvanand has lost and Kabir has won”
He thought that in haste he must have written the wrong thing; he went back to have the note written again only to come back and read the same thing. He then understood that he had in fact been defeated by Kabir Saheb. Accepting his defeat, he became a disciple of Kabir Saheb and was renamed ‘Suratigopal.’ He went on to spread the teachings of Kabir Saheb and had established a math at Kabir Chaura. Today, the successors of this math have been highly influential in keeping the teachings of Kabir Saheb alive.
Madangopal (Madan) Saheb
To propagate the Panth and enlighten his devotees, Kabir Saheb continued to appear again and again to his disciples, revealing to them his teachings and steering them towards the True Path. One such devotee was Madangopal Saheb of Jaunpur (U.P., India). By the grace of his Guru, Radhapati Saheb, Madan Saheb was blessed by the appearance of Kabir Saheb who imparted to him his divine knowledge. Madan Saheb was an ardent disciple and sought to spread the teachings imparted unto him through poems and compositions. After his demise (Bhojpur, Bihar, India, 1861), his disciple, Doolampati Saheb, established a gaddi at Baraiya (Jaunpur, U. P., India) and continued to spread the teachings of the Panth. Today, this gaddi has become influential and the disciples of this math have published books and preserved the teachings of Kabir Saheb.
Loi Mata was a disciple of Kabir Saheb, there are many accounts of her encounter with Kabir Saheb. In one account, it is said that at the age of 30, he had encountered Loi Mata who was at the age of 20. One day, Kabir Saheb had gone on a journey and had stopped to take rest with other Sadhus. He and the Sadhus were approached by Loi Mata who served them food and did sewa (service). Since she was alone, the Sadhus then asked her of her parents and family. Loi Mata told them:
“I have no mother or father, I had been found as a baby in a bundle of cloth near the banks of the river nearby by a Saint. Having been found in a bundle of cloth, he had named me ‘Loi’ (cotton, cloth) and he had raised me. Now that he has passed away, I devote myself to the service of Saints.”
Loi Mata then eventually became a disciple of Kabir Saheb and continued to serve Saints and Sages. Other accounts state that Kabir Saheb himself had found Loi Mata as a baby wrapped in cloth and named her Loi. Although her origin is somewhat unclear, much controversy surrounds her relationship to Kabir Saheb. Some say that she was the wife of Kabir Saheb; however, it is clear from Kabir Saheb’s works and compositions that he was a celibate and advocated to his disciples the practice of celibacy. Though he is often described as a ‘Grihasta Sadhu’ (‘Grihasta;’ the stage in life associated with responsibilities of family life and home), this does not mean that he lead a family-oriented life but rather that as a ‘Grihasta’ he lived in a home and earned a living unlike other Sadhus and ascetics who lived off of alms and charity. His opposition to this practice is evidenced by the many of his saakhees:
Maangan Marna Samaan Hai, Mat Koee Maango Bheekh;
Maangan Se Marna Bhalaa, Yeh Sadguru Kaa Seekh. Begging is like dying, let no one beg for charity/alms; Death is better than begging, this is the teaching of the Sadguru.
Other saakhees which evidence his opposition to leading family life and his teachings of celibacy are listed below:
Kabeer: – Ham Ghar Jaaliyaan, Apanaa Liyaa Mundaahaath;
Ab Ghar Jaakoo Naasakaa, Jo Chalai Hamare Saath.
Kabir says: “I have burned my house taking in my hand the torch;
Only they who dare destroy their own homes should come with me.”
Naaree Nirakh Na Dekhiye, Nirakh Na Keejai Daur;
Dekhatahee Te Vish Chadhe, Man Aave Kuchh Aur. Do not look at women and act on impulses; Just by looking, one becomes poisoned and in his mind bad thoughts come.
Jo Kabahoon Ko Dekhiye, Beer Bahin Ke Bhaay;
Aath Pahar Alagaa Rahai, Taako Kaal Na Khaay. Whoever you see, consider them to be a brother/sister;
Those who stay apart escape the traps of Kaal.
Gaay Bhains Ghodi Gadhee, Naaree Naam Hai Taas;
Jaa Mandir Men Yeh Basain, Tahaan Na Keejai Baas. As for the cow there is a buffalo and for the horse, a she-horse, for man there is a woman;
Wherein she dwells, do not reside.
It is to be noted that in many of Kabir Saheb’s works, women are portrayed as the temptress (Maya); however, this does not mean that women are not equal to men (in the context of immorality) but rather it is for the sake of literary purposes. Overall, it is clear that Loi Mata was a disciple and not the wife of Kabir Saheb since he was clearly celibate as evidenced by his literary works (see also: Kamaal, Kamaali).
Padmanabh Saheb, a disciple of Kabir Saheb, had been bathing in the Ganges River when he noticed a man attempting to drown himself in the river. He quickly approached and man asked him the reason for his suicide. The man told him:
“I am afflicted with bodily suffering and cannot seek contentment in life due to this. I have left my home to drown myself in this river so that I might seek contentment in the afterlife.”
On hearing this, Padmanabh Saheb thought of the teachings of his Sadguru and told the man:
“Do not end your life as this birth is very precious. Take three dips into the water chanting the holy name of the Lord, ‘Raam,’ three times and you will be relieved from your pain.”
Kabeer: – Soee Mukh Dhanni Hai, Jaa Mukh Kahiyai Raam;
Dehee Kis Kee Baapuree, Pavitra Hoigo Graam. Kabir says: “That mouth is blessed which utters the Name of the Lord (‘Raam’);
The body is purified and the village, sanctified.”
(Sri Guru Granth Saahib, Ang 1371, Salok 110)
The man did just that and miraculously, he was relieved of his bodily suffering. On seeing this miracle, Padmanabh Saheb approached his Sadguru and related to him the incident. When he heard this, Kabir Saheb told his disciple:
“Oh Padmanabh, by doing this today, you have diminished the power of the name of the Lord. You told the man to chant His name three times when in fact, simply chanting the first syllable of His name with devotion can release men from worldly bondage.”
It was then that Padmanabh Saheb had realized that he had not truly understood the glory of the name of God.
Tattva and Jeeva
In a small locality in Gujarat near the banks of the Narmada River lived two brothers, Tattva and Jeeva. The two brothers had devoted their lives to the service of Saints and Sages for years in hopes of finding the perfect Saint to become their Guru. In their yard, there was a dry branch from banyan tree; they decided that the charanamrit of their perfect Guru should be able to revive this dried branch. Alas, after having watered the plant with the charanamrit of so many different Saints and Sages, the tree remained dry.
After having tried time after time, the brothers stated to lose faith in the power of Saints and wise men and on hearing this, the Saints became worried that society too would soon lose faith in their wisdom. They arranged for five Sadhus to travel from Gujarat to Kashi convince Kabir Saheb, whom they had heard had performed many miracles before, to come to Gujarat and restore the image of Saints. Kabir Saheb had agreed to travel to Gujrat.
Kabir Saheb and all the other Saints and Sadhus who had come with him had reached the hut of the brothers, Tattva and Jeeva. On reaching the hut, the brothers welcomed the Saints with joy. The brothers washed the feet of Kabir Saheb and collected the charanamrit. As soon as they watered the dry banyan branch with the charanamrit, it started to sprout new green branches and flourished.
Tattvaa Jeevaa Ko Milaa, Dakshin Beech Dayaal;
Sookh Thoonth Haraa Kiyo, Aise Najar Nihaal. Meeting Tattva and Jeeva, He established the Panth in the South (Gujarat);
Seeing a dry branch transform into a lush green tree, they were blessed.
The brothers had finally found their Sadguru. They became the disciples of Kabir Saheb and happily continued to serve holy men with full faith as they used to; their faith in the power of Saints had been restored. From the same banyan tree, so many more banyan trees were produced, the vast expanse of these trees became to be known as ‘Kabir Vat,’ named after Kabir Saheb himself. However, many of the trees had been cut for the development of the surrounding areas, as a result, the Narmada River had flown around the forest, isolating it from the mainland. Kabir Vat is now a small island in the Narmada River.
Baghela (Vaghela) Dynasty
The Baghela dynasty (historically, Vaghela) was a dynasty of rulers which originated from Gujarat. They had taken control over numerous provinces, most notably, the princely state of Rewah (Rewa) which enclosed the famous fort of Bandhogarh (Bandhavgarh). The rulers of the Baghela dynasty are said to have had historical ties with Kabir Saheb and the Kabir Panth; in fact, it is said that some of the rulers of this dynasty were direct disciples of Kabir Saheb himself. There is no doubt of the association of this dynasty with the Kabir Panth; historical copies and commentaries of the Beejak and other scriptures are noted to have been the works of its rulers, furthermore, many Panthi texts make mention of the Baghela kings and rulers. Below are some rulers which are said to have been direct disciples of Kabir Saheb in Panthi tradition.
Veer Singh Baghela, King of Kashi
Maharaja Veer Singh Baghela, most likely the historical Maharaja Veer Singh Deo Vaghela (Maharaja of Bandhogarh 1500/1540) was one of Kabir Saheb’s most notable disciples. Although he was not in fact the King of Kashi, historical sources indicate that he likely ruled over an estate in or near Kashi and as such, he was an influential ruler, locally, during the time of Kabir Saheb. Having heard about the greatness of Kabir Saheb, Raja Veer Singh decided to have him invited for the inauguration of the royal palace. Kabir Saheb went to the new palace and was received by the King and Queen. They had washed his feet and received his charanamrit and prepared his asana (seat). The King and Queen offered him a beautiful fragrant garland of flowers and sought his blessings. The King then requested Kabir Saheb to bless his new palace, Kabir Saheb replied:
“Oh King, you have acquired a beautiful, lavish palace and you celebrate its inauguration with great pomp and splendor but seeing this I am afflicted with pity.”
The King inquired:
“Why is this so?”
Kabir Saheb replied:
“Oh Maharaja, this beautiful palace will be subject to decay and will eventually crumble; likewise, the person who has made it will also have to leave it one day.”
King Veer Singh and his Queen understood the teaching of Kabir Saheb and recognized his wisdom; as such, they became his disciples and took his blessings.
Raamchandra Singh Baghela, King of Bandhogarh
Maharaja Ramchandra Singh, (historicaly, Maharaja of Bandhogarh 1555/1592) was the grandson of King Veer Singh Baghela and the son of Maharaja Veerbhan Singh (Maharaja of Bandhogarh 1540/1555). He too is said to have been a direct disciple of Kabir Saheb. During one of his travels, Kabir Saheb had gone to Bandhogarh; one of the King’s men had heard the news of the arrival of the great Saint and informed the King. Upon hearing the great news, King Ramchandra Singh decided to have Kabir Saheb visit his palace. He sought out Kabir Saheb and invited him to the royal palace himself. On reaching the palace, the King and his Queen welcomed Kabir Saheb with great devotion, offering him a garland of flowers, washed his feet and received his chranamrit, and prepared his aasan (seat). King Ramchandra Singh and his Queen took the blessings of Kabir Saheb and became his devotees.
Bijali Khan Pathan of Maghar
Having heard of the greatness of Kabir Saheb, the Nawab of Maghar, Bijali Khan Pathan, decided to visit Kabir Saheb in his ashram. Upon reaching the asharam, he fell on the feet of Kabir Saheb and greeted him. He offered Kabir Saheb a garland of fragrant flowers, washed his feet and gifted him a dhoti. The Nawab then pleaded to Kabir Saheb:
“Oh Saheb, my kingdom is afflicted with sorrows. It has been cursed that whosoever dies there shall be reincarnated as a donkey. Furthermore, the river which once ran through the land has become dry and the land is now barren. Do grace my kingdom by visiting it one day; surely a great Saint like you will bring peace and prosperity to the land.”
Kabir Saheb reassured the Nawab and promised him to one day visit the city of Maghar. When Kabir Saheb decided to leave this world, he departed it from the city of Maghar itself and relieved the land of its curses.
Sultan Ibrahim Adham of Balkh Bukhara
Sultan Ibrahim ibn Adham (c. 718 – c. 782 / AH c. 100 – c. 165) was the ruler of Balkh, Bukhara (modern day Afghanistan); he was known to have been engaged in a materialistic and worldy life, entangled in this world’s illusions. He was often reproached by holy men and Saints who did not approve of his materialistic life and instead urged him to find God through the spiritual path. Having been blinded by his ignorance, he did not understand the warning of the wise men and took them to be frauds. The Sultan declared that all the holy men of the kingdom be brought to his palace and show to him the miracles of God; those who would fail were condemned to lead the life of a prisoner, grinding grains. One by one, all the Saints were brought before the Sultan and when they each failed to show him a miracle, they were sent to the dungeons to grind grains. Being tormented by the Sultan, the holy men prayed that a saviour should come to rescue them. Hearing their pleas, Kabir Saheb descended from the heavens to free the Saints. Taking the form of an old wise man, Kabir Saheb entered the court of the Sultan and was sent immediately to grind grains. On seeing the other Saints grinding grains, Kabir Saheb stood up and said:
“What a pity it is that such great men should have to turn these millstones.”
All the other holy men turned their attentions to him. Kabir Saheb lifted his walking stick and pointed it to the millstone and said:
“Oh stone, I command you to turn yourself and grind these grains.”
Having said this, all the millstones started to turn by themselves and Kabir Saheb disappeared. On seeing this, the King’s men went to inform the Sultan of the great miracle. The Sultan ordered the release of all the Saints and wise men immediately and understood this to be a sign of God. For having released the Saints and sages from bondage, Kabir Saheb had gotten the title ‘Bandichhod,’ meaning, ‘Releaser of Bondage.’ However, Kabir Saheb knew that the Sultan was still not convinced to adopt the path of Spirituality and that he would soon forget the incident. A celestial message was then conveyed to the Sultan, it said:
“Oh Baadshah, you are awake yet you are still unaware! Why is this so?”
In order to bring the Sultan on the right path, Kabir Saheb appeared to him again and again and revealed before him the many truths of this world. Ultimately, Sultan Ibrahim Addham of Balkh, Bukhara is famous for having left the comforts of his palace to become an ascetic, today, he is revered and respected by both Hindus, Muslims and Kabir Panthis for his acts of supreme devotion.
Bandichhor Kahaaeeyaa, Balakh Shahar Manjhaar;
Chhoote Bandhan Bhekh Kaa, Dhan Dhan Kahe Sansaar. In the city of Balkh, He (Kabir Saheb) came to be known as the ‘Releaser of Bondage;’
As the Sultan of Balkh severed his ties with his throne, the whole world praised Kabir Saheb.
(Mool Sandhya Path)
Solaa Sahas Sahelee, Turee Athaarah Lakkh;
Saaee Tere Kaarane, Chhodaa Shahar Balakkh. 16 thousand maids and 18 hundred thousand horses;
For his love of God, he renounced the throne of Balkh.
Sulataanaa Balakh Bokhaare Kaa;
Sab Taj Ke Liyaa Fakeeree, Allah Naam Piyaare Kaa.(Chorus) The Sultan of Balkh, Bukhara;
Renouncing everything he became an ascetic, a lover of the Lord.
Khaate Jaa Mukh Luqmaa Umdaa, Misaree Qand Chhuhaare Kaa;
So Ab Khaate Rookhaa Sookhaa, Tukadaa Shaam Sakaare Kaa… He who once used to eat all kinds of sweet delicacies in abundance;
Now he lives on simple foods, barely a mouthful in the morning and in the evening.
Jin Tan Pahane Khaasah Mal Mal, Teentank Nautaare Kaa;
So Ab Bhaar Uthaawan Laage, Guddar Ser Dash Bhaare Kaa… He who once used to be decked in sumptuous fineries;
Now he wears only rags to cover his body.
Chun Chun Phoolon Senj Bichhaaee, Kaliyaan Nyaaree Nyaaree Kaa;
So Ab Shayan Karain Dharatee Men, Kankar Naheen Bohaare Kaa… He who once slept on a bed of flowers of different kinds;
Now the rough ground has become his bed instead of the refined flooring of his palace.
Jin Ke Sang Katak Dal Baadal, Jhanda Nyaare Nyaare Kaa;
Kahain Kabeer Suno Bhaaee Saadho, Phakkad Huaa Akhaade Kaa… He who was once surrounded by guards and horses carrying his different flags;
Kabir says: “Listen Oh Saadhu, he has now become carefree.”
The revelations given to the Sultan by Kabir Saheb are numerous, below are only a few of these episodes.
The Camel Herder
One day, the Sultan was in his quarters when he heard a noise coming from his ceiling. Looking outside the window, he was astonished to find a man on the roof of the palace. He asked the man:
“Who are you? Where have you come from and why are you on my roof?”
The man replied:
“I am a camel herder from Balochistan and I have lost one of my camels. I have come to search for it on your roof.”
The Sultan told the man:
“You fool! How could your camel possibly be on the roof of my palace?”
The man then replied to the Sultan:
“Oh Sultan, as unlikely as it may be for my camel to have wandered onto your roof, I have more chance of finding it up here than you do of finding God in your worldly lifestyle.”
On having said this, the man, who was in fact Kabir Saheb, disappeared, leaving the Sultan with his thoughts.
One day, a traveller was outside the palace of the Sultan of Balkh. The King’s men had stopped him and called upon the Sultan to deal with him. The Sultan asked him:
“Why have you come here to trouble my men?”
The man replied:
“Oh Jahaapanah, I am a traveler and I am very tired from my journey. I am only trying to explain to these soldiers that they should allow me to stay in this inn for the night.”
The Sultan said:
“This is a very grand palace and you take it to be for an inn? You are mistaken.”
The man explained himself, he asked the Sultan:
“Oh Sultan, who had built this palace?”
The Sultan replied that his grandfather had built the palace. The man then asked:
“Who stayed in this palace after him?”
The Sultan replied that his father stayed, the man then asked:
“Who stayed after him?
The Sultan replied that he now stays in the palace. The man then asked who would occupy the palace after him and the Sultan replied that his son would. The man then explained:
“So many people have come and gone in this palace and more people are to come and go; no one has ever stayed in this palace so how then can it not be considered and inn?”
This man was in fact none other than Kabir Saheb himself but by the time the Sultan realised this, he had disappeared.