Celebrating Kabir

22 02 2012

As I was reflecting on and blogging about current affairs, like last week’s Campus Crusade fiasco, Kabir kept coming to me as an example of a gadfly who did more than just challenge. Kabir is an Indian saint from around the late 1300s (or early 1400s). He was born Muslim but apprenticed under a Hindu guru. He was a gadfly to both sides. Kabir is a wonderful mix of sarcasm, wisdom and compassion and he expresses that wonderfully in his simple and lyrical poetry. I idolise him for that.

Reading about Kabir, I discovered that Shabnam Varmani has directed an enlightening four part documentary about him and written an article about her journey. If you are new to Kabir, I think that’s not a bad place to start. The account of her experiences and reflections is liberally peppered with Kabir’s verse and an accompanying translation.

Below is Kumar Gandharva’s rendition of Kabir’s Ud Jayega. Kumar Gandharva was a Hindustani classical singer from perhaps the 40s (I couldn’t find much information about this). There’s an interesting parallel between his refusal to follow any of the specific lineages in Hindustani music and Kabir’s rejection of religious labels (both Hindu and Muslim). This particular poem, at least to me, has a haiku like feel to it and it’s enhanced by Kumar Gandharvas almost melancholic voice.

The Last Flight

Ud Jayega Huns Akela,
Jug Darshan Ka Mela
Jaise Paat Gire Taruvar Se,
Milna Bahut Duhela

The Swan Will Fly Away All Alone,
Spectacle of the World Will Be a Mere Fair
As the Leaf Falls from the Tree
Is Difficult to Find
Who Knows Where it Will Fall

Read the full lyrics