Revisiting Kabir in modern context
“A tiger is marrying a cow, the lion prepares for battle and the poor mouse celebrates.” Showing how this sentence written by Kabir could be seen in current times, Purushottam Agarwal, author of Kabir Kabir, said at the Times LitFest on Saturday, “The sentence resonates today in modern democracy. Politicians form alliances to win elections, the media publicises them and the common people celebrate their own destruction,” said Agarwal said Kabir’s writings reflected the first steps towards a modern world. “His ideas may sometimes seem incomprehensible, but his words appeal to our sense of humanity. Kabir was a weaver’s son but became more than just that. Galileo also went against the dogma of the Church. These are the first examples of modern, individual thinking.”
Discussing his book with author Devdutt Patnaik, Agarwal emphasised the importance of historical context, pointing out how Jayasi is ridiculed for talking about sati in Padmavat. “People believe that Jayasi, being a Muslim, focused on sati. But they don’t notice that Jayasi talks about sati in just one stanza out of the 700. He also says men can perform sati.” Agarwal added, “Someone’s future is my present and my present can be someone’s past. This interconnection needs to be appreciated.”
The author said the Bhakti movement rejected a binary vision. “A person will read Padmavat either from a Rajput perspective or see it through the Khilji lens. But Jayasi used the work as a tool to write about love in the true sense. Kabir too is more than just r eligion. He talks about the two truths – life and death,” Agarwal said.