Kabir Das was a saint and poet who was born in Kashi, which is situated in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The information available about Kabir Das is contrasting and differs in opinion because the sources of the information are scanty. These sources include Adi Granth, Khajinat al-Asafiya, and Bijak. Some of the other sources are Dabistan-i-Tawarikh, Nabhaji, written by Mohsin Fani, and Bhakta Mal, respectively.
Born: 15th Century (Kashi)
Birth and Early Years
There are several versions of the story of the early years of popular saint-poet Kabir Das. A version stated that Kabir was miraculously born. Kabir's mother was a brahmin who went on a pilgrimage with her father to an ascetic. The ascetic was impressed by her, and giving his blessings, he said that she would soon bear a son. After Kabir Das was born, his mother abandoned him as she was unmarried, and having a child would bring dishonor to their family. After that, Nima, a Muslim who was the wife of a weaver, adopted Kabir. Another version stated that the ascetic described that the birth of Kabir would be unusual. Therefore, he was born from the palm of his mother. However, in both versions, he was adopted by Nima.
The story of Kabir and other biblical legends is similar in many aspects. These characteristics of Kabir's life made him an extraordinary human being. His name was chosen by a Qazi who searched for a suitable name in Quran and found 'Kabir', which means 'Great' and is often used to describe the 'God' himself.
Kabir wanted to become a disciple of Ramananda in order to satiate his spiritual curiosity. He thought that if he knew the mantra, then it would be easier to become his disciple. Kabir approached Ramananda while he visited the ghats in Varanasi and discovered his mantra, which was 'Ram'. Afterward, he was accepted as the disciple of saint Ramanand. According to the Khajinat al-Asafiya, he learned from several other saints such as Sufi Pir and Shaikh Taqqi. Hence, the influence of Sufi is seen in his philosophy.
It is believed that Kabir married Loi; later, they had two children named Kamal and Kamali. However, some versions state that Kabir remained unmarried or married twice, but there is no source to find out which belief is correct. We could only relish the philosophical knowledge that is shared by Kabir Das through his poems.
Kabir was deeply into spirituality and firmly believed in 'Ram'. However, he was not a devotee of Ram as an incarnation of Vishnu. He believed that there is one absolute God who is beyond time and space and is formless without any attributes. According to Kabir, God is knowledge, and God in Shabda (Word). Kabir was strongly inspired by the Upanishadic non-dualism and Islamic monism. He was also influenced by the Vaishnava Bhakti tradition, which emphasizes complete surrender to God. He did not believe in the caste distinction based on the caste.
Kabir raised his voice against the caste distinction and often criticized Hindus and Muslims for their idol worship rituals. Complete devotion is what is required to achieve God. All his beliefs and ideologies can be found in his poems. His poems and spirituality were indistinguishable. Kabir's poems are a mirror of his thoughts and knowledge. While Persian and Sanskrit were dominant North Indian languages, Kabir preferred to write in different languages. As a result, his work is available in a mixture of different languages such as Hindi, Bhojpuri, Khari Boli, Marwari, Persian, Punjabi, and Urdu.
Despite Kabir's writings being decades old, his poems have survived to date. These were spread orally and are easy to remember because of the language used. Kabir's poems are popular because of their simple language and deep meaning. He also wrote 'Doha' (couplet) and long songs. These are used in combination with music and made even more popular.
Influence of Kabir and his Death
Inspired by his teachings, People started following Kabir's path. People of Kabir Panth (the path of Kabir) believed that Kabir was their guru in the path of salvation. People believed so much in him that, after his death, Hindus and Muslims had a conflict. Hindus and Muslims wanted to cremate and bury, respectively. Kabir had traveled widely throughout his life and died while he was in Maghar city in Uttar Pradesh.