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Archive for October 30, 2011

Son comes before the mother~Kabir


Pahilaa poot pishairee maaee.
Gur laago chele kee paaee.

Ek achanbhou sunahu tumh bhaaee.
Dekhat singh charaavat gaaee

Jal kee mashulee taravar biaaee.
Dekhath kutaraa lai gee bilaaee
Talai re baisaa oopar soolaa.
Tis kai ped lage fal foolaa
Ghorai chari bhais charaavan jaaee.
Baahar bail gon ghar aaee

Kahaat Kabeer ju is pad boojhai.
Raam ramat tis sabh kish soojhai

Translation:

First, the son was born, and then, his mother.
The guru falls at the feet of the disciple

Listen to this strange thing,
O Siblings of Destiny!

I saw the lion herding the cows.
The fish of the water gives birth upon a tree.
I saw a cat carrying away a dog
The branches are below, and the roots are above.
The trunk of that tree bears fruits and flowers
Riding a horse, the buffalo takes him out to graze.
The bull is away, while his load (cart) has come home

Says Kabeer, one who understands this hymn,
and comprehends the Divine words comes to understand everything.

This is a beautiful satirical poem by Bhagat Kabir, taken from Guru Granth Saheb ( the Holy Book of Sikhs), that takes me back instantly to the Hindi class of grade 10, when we read this. I recall with nostalgia of all the discussion that was triggered by the poetry. While the boys at the back benches were busy cracking various mostly crude and a few decent jokes about it, the girls in the front benches, ( that’s where they usually sit) were amused yet trying to squeeze their giggles desperately.

While the very serious Hindi teacher with a twinkle in her eyes, and mind fully immersed in Kabir was engrossed in explaining the spirit of the verses, compleltely oblivious to what was happening in front of her.

Unlike many other Hindi lessons, this poem unknowingly left ‘an impact’ strong enough to keep reading Kabir once the compulsory Hindi subject was over.

I would suggest the readers to first read the verses, it’s translation and then again the verses to get some sense of it’s meaning, and to check whether their brain thinks the way Kabir’s brain did.

The Interpretation:
The whole poem through various interesting examples, cites an open secret of our lives, so aptly described in a quote by Rousseau : “Man is born free but found in chains everywhere.”

What chains him, according to Kabir are not only the society( like Rousseau claims), but ones own hoggish desires and the pursuit of which makes him timid and fearful. And hence instead being fearless, strong yet empathetic, that man by virtue of his higher intellect is destined to be, turns into a timid, selfish and apathetic being .

Pahilaa poot pishairee maaee.
To begin with, the man was as pure as a newborn (poot), devoid of any ego. But with time, by the lure of his senses, he became ‘mother’ of (“Maaee”) ‘worldy desires’ ( the superfluous values existent in the world). Here Maee is being used with a dual meaning, both as the worldly attractions i.e. maya, and as mother.

Gur laago chele kee paaee.
Man who has the capability to be the master (Guru) of infinite knowledge, strength and empathy ( by the virtue if his intellect) becomes the disciple (chela) and bows at petty values like greed, selfishness and apathy.

Ek achanbhou sunahu tumh bhaaee.
This is an amusing contradiction, have you even seen? ( A satire on human aspirations to seek and pursue superficial values).

Dekhat singh charaavat gaaee
A man who should be fearless and strong ( as a lion) , becomes a timid grazing animal (cow), owing to protect his self interests.

Jal kee mashulee taravar biaaee.
Water is the life support of the fish, and it cannot survive without it. What if it starts to dream of living ‘high up’ on the trees. Will it be able to survive ?
So is the humanity who’s life supports are compassion, contentment, empathy and knowledge. What if they too start to fantasize for what they consider as higher pleasures ( a kin to trees) like greed, wealth or other egocentric dreams, will they be able to sustain the purpose of their existence ?

Dekhath kutaraa lai gee bilaaee
The cunning human heart ( the cat– in ‘some’ societies is considered as a cunning animal) , in lure of superficial values, has captured and held hostage the contentment, faith and bravado ( the dog) within him. ( Incidentally, in the times of Egyptian Pharoahs, dog was considered as a symbol of contentment, reliability and bravery.

Talai re baisaa oopar soolaa.
Tis kai ped lage fal foolaa
When we see the image of the tree in a lake, it appears beautiful but upside down. So is the truth of our worldly gratifications, they may appear wonderful, but they are exactly opposite of what the purpose of our existence in the world is.

Ghorai chari bhais charaavan jaaee.
Man’s desires ( as bulky as a buffalo) ride and gallop rapidly on greed ( the horse) to make the mind wander and graze the grass of one’s ego.

Baahar bail gon ghar aaee
Owing to man’s enslavement to lust and instant gratification, his patience and perseverance (bull, which is an embodiment of perseverance) has left him, instead, a cart load full of material cravings have found home in him (“gon ghar aaee”).

Kahaat Kabeer ju is pad boojhai.
Raam ramat tis sabh kish soojhai
Kabir says that whosoever comprehends the verses of this hymn, and remembers the Divine purpose of his existence frees himself from bondage.

William Wordsworth’s famous verse: “Child is the father of man.” may hold the same literal meaning, but here Wordsworth tries to explain how the childhood experiences shape the person he is when he becomes a man. In yet another interpretation,,,some say that here child is referred to as Jesus since both Child and Father are capitalised.

Perhaps in the same way, there may be more than one interpretations of the above poem. I have narrated, what my small mind, which isn’t very spiritually bent, interpreted it as.

I leave it to the readers to let their imaginations soar, and generate their own wonderful interpretations of the Kabir’s verses above.

The above salok (verses) of Sant Kabir are taken from Guru Granth Saheb ( the Holy Book of Sikhs.


Picture of Golden Temple, Amritsar  by night From the album Gateway to Heaven, by Randeep Singh.

Thanks to Naren  @froZENwell for reminding this poem and inciting me to write this blog.

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