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Kabir and the Bhakti Movement:

Context: Sant Kabir Academy and Research Centre Swadesh Darshan Yojana was inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind at Maghar in Uttar Pradesh. 

Key Points about Kabir: 

  • According to popular belief, Kabir was born in Varanasi and lived between 1398 and 1448, or till 1518. He was from a ‘lower caste’ weavers community of the Julaha caste, a group that had recently converted to Islam.
  • Kabir’s life is the epitome of human virtue. His teachings are relevant even after 650 years. His life was an ideal example of communal solidarity.
  • Kabir synthesized Islam and Hinduism. He targeted the rituals and practices of both Hinduism and Islam and dismissed the sacred authority of both Vedas and the Quran.  
  • A religious community known as ‘Kabir Panth’ was founded by him and the members of this forum are referred to as ‘Kabir Panthis’.
  • Kabir Das’ ideologies were greatly influenced by Vaishnava saint Swami Ramananda who accepted Kabir as his disciple.

Key Points about Kabir and his Bhakti Movement: 

  • The Bhakti movement began in the 7th century in South India; the movement began to spread across north India in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was characterized by devotional songs to God in vernacular languages, with many preaching for abolishing the Varna system and Hindu-Muslim unity. They emphasized an intense emotional attachment with God.
  • One school within the Bhakti movement was the Nirguni tradition, and Sant Kabir was a prominent member of it. In this tradition, God was understood as a universal and formless being.
  • Many of the Bhakti movement saints came from the lower to artisanal middle classes. Kabir was a ‘low caste’ weaver (Julaha), Raidas was a leather worker, and Dadu was a cotton carder. Their radical dissent against orthodoxy and rejection of caste made these poet-saints extremely popular among the masses, and their ideology of egalitarianism spread across India.

Kabir’s teachings continue to shape various religious discourses in India today. In the Sikh tradition, he is seen to have influenced Guru Nanak; for Hindus, he is a Vaishnavite (devotees of Vishnu) and is revered by Muslims as a Sufi saint. Several of Kabir’s verses and songs form a vital part of the Guru Granth Sahib.

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