Whether you read about him in your school textbooks or remember your parents/grandparents nagging you with the good ol’
Every good little Indian kid has their own memory surrounding Sant Kabir Das and his writings.
Although he was a writer du jour, his matter-of-fact dohe aka couplets are his claim to fame.
Now, when the world is seeing a resurgence for the written word with melancholic, heart-wrenching and very, very short poems, prose and tales – I cannot help but think about the man who was the OG of this Instagram style poetry.
Short, snappy and thought-provoking, his dohas addressed a lot of issues such as religious diversity, social conduct, self-care and even love that are very relevant in modern times too.
A 15th-century Slam Poetry night? (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ National Museum New Delhi)
He might as well be describing Bumble era dating with the 24-hour limit to match with someone when he wrote -
Prem prem sab koi kahey, prem na chinhai koi, Aath pahar bheena rahai, prem kahabai soi (Everyone speaks of love but no one recognises love, if one is overwhelmed for 24 hours then it is love).
Or this to help you out with your singledom, ‘Prem na badi upje, prem na haat bikai, Raja prja jis ruche, sis dey le jai’ (Love does not grow in a field or sold in the market, Whether a king or a pauper, anybody who wants it, they have to pay with one's head).
His compositions are eerily similar to the current crop of ‘Insta poets’ such as Lang Leav, Atticus, R. M. Drake and many others. Not only the prose style or simple subjects, but the 15th-century poet has also got another common ground with the current favourite of the millennials, best-selling Indo-Canadian poet Rupi Kaur.
View this post on Instagram
Kaur is greatly inspired by her Sikh heritage. She pens her pieces in lowercase just like Gurmukhi and has often cited Sikh scriptures as her inspiration. Meanwhile, Sant Kabir’s verses have also been featured in the holy book for the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib. It is also said that a major part of his work was collected by the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev.
So, if you have not already, take a look at his works. He had spent a lifetime spewing words of wisdom despite being shunned by Hindus and Muslims alike… and these polemical times, it would all do us a world of good to pay homage to the OG Insta poet:
Pothi padh padh jag mua pandit bhaya na koi, Dhai aakhar prem ke, jo padhe so pandit hoye.
(Everyone will die reading books but getting none the wiser; The one who learns to read the word of love is the only one who becomes truly wise)
Also read: In India, art is about the higher classes. Dalit artists are ignored or their work is called 'activism'