Kabir is among the greatest figures in Indian religious and literary history. As a symbol of secularism and religious tolerance, he is the medieval counterpart of Mahatma Gandhi; as a poet whose verses enjoy enormous popularity and epitomize folk wisdom, he prefigures Tyagaraja and Tagore.
Born a lower-caste Muslim weaver, Kabir opposed superstition, empty ritualism and bigotry. His writings were in the language of the common people, the rough and earthy idiom of old Hindi, and these caught the popular imagination so powerfully that his voice gained a remarkable hold within a vast stretch of north India, from Punjab to the Deccan.
Charlotte Vaudeville provides, in the first part of the book, Kabir's biography in history and legend, his context, and information about his use of language. The later parts contain excellent modern translations of his verses, as well as brief selections from the verses of his contemporaries. This volume is designed to provide all that is essential to understand and appreciate Kabir in English. Vaudeville's scholarship has gone to great length to extract the authentic voice of the Saint-poet from the rich and creative legends that surround him in Hindu, Shikh and Muslim communities.
Pt. 1. Introduction
1. The discovery of Kabir
1. The Bijak or Eastern tradition of Kabir's works
2. The Adi Granth of the Sikhs
3. The Kabir-granthavali recension
4. Neo-hinduism and Kabir
2. Kabir's biography in history and legend
1. The problem of Kabir's dates
2. Kabir's autobiographical verses
3. Kabir and his times
1. Julahas, Buddhists and Naths
2. Sufis in Northern India in Kabir's time
3. Kabir and Ramanand
4. Tantric concepts and languages in Kabir's time
5. The Tantric tradition and Kabir's way to salvation
4. Kabir's language and languages
1. Kabir's cryptic language
2. Kabir's own language
3. The conclusion or 'signature'
4. The literary languages of the Muslim medieval period
5. Kabir's style
Pt. 2. Selected Verses
Introduction: Kabir and the Kabir vanis
Ramainis in the Bijak
Sabdas in the Bijak
Pt. 3. Sakhis
Pt. 4. Pads
Pt. 5. Sloks of Kabir in the Guru Granth
Pt. 6. Sloks of Sheikh Farid
Pt. 7. The Bhagats
1. Kabir's Forerunners
2. Kabir's Contemporaries
Appendix 1. Bibliography
Appendix 2. Concordances
Charlotte Vaudeville, an internationally reputed scholar of medieval Indian literature and religion, is Emeritus Professor, University of Paris, Sorbonne-Nouvelle, Paris. She has recently also written with Vasudha Dalmia Myths, Saints and Legends in Medieval India.
KABIR LEGENDS AND ANANTA-DAS'S KABIR PARACHAI: With a Translation of the Kabir Parachai by David N. Lorenzen($21.95, Paperback, SUNY Series in Hindu Studies, State University of New York Press; ISBN: 0791404625) HARDCOVER
This book represents the first systematic collection and analysis of the principal
legends about Kabir Das, a fifteenth-century poet-saint. It focuses on the ways in which
the legends embody and reflect the often changing social and religious needs of th ose who
created and listened to them. Particular attention is paid to the earliest known
collection of legends, Ananta-das's Kabir Parachai. This book makes available for the
first time an English tran slation of this text, with detailed notes on its variant
readings, as well as a corrected Hindi edition based on a comparison of over a dozen
manuscripts. The various historical synchronisms between Kabir and his leading
contemporaries, including Ramanand a and King Virasimhadev Baghel, are reevaluated, and a
solution is proposed to the longstanding debate about Kabir's dates. The strength of this
study is in the painstaking analysis of the historical relationship of the text tradition
of Kabir Poetry.
David N. Lorenzen is Professor in the Center of Asian and African Studies of El Colegio de Mexico.
KABIR by G.N. Das ($17.50, hardcover,
Motilal Banarsidass; ISBN: 8120809351)
More generious in accepting the received tradition of Kabir poems than Vaudeville or Lorenzen, this selection is good for getting the ideas of the poetry than that the translations have any literary merit themselves.
SONGS OF KABIR
FROM THE ADI GRANTH by Nirmal Dass ($23.50, paperback, 359 pages, State University of
New York Press, ISBN: 0-7914-0561-3) HARDCOVER ISBN:
This translation presents the hymns of Kabir from the Adi Granth (the holy book of the Sikhs), which has been neglected because it is written in Gurmukhi script rather than Devanagari. The introduction contextualizes these songs and proceeds to examine their construction of meaning. Most songs have explanatory notes, and there is a Glossary of names and terms that appear in Kabir's work.
The Sikh tradition of Kabir is an important link in the connection between this sant's
Muslim and Hindu admirer's. This volume also acts as an introduction to approaching the
poetry of the other Sikh guru's in terms of stting out some of the conceptual
preliminaries of Sikh bhakta.
DEVOTIONAL POETICS AND THE INDIAN SUBLIME by Vijay Mishra ($21.95, paperback, 292 pages, SUNY series, Sublime, Rob Wilson, editor, SUNY, State University of New York Press, ISBN: 0-7914-3872-4) HARDCOVER ISBN: 0-7914-3871-6
Combines Western theories of the sublime (from Longinus to Lyotard) with indigenous Indian modes of reading in order to construct a comprehensive theory of both the Indian sublime and Indian devotional verse.
DEVOTIONAL POETICS AND THE INDIAN SUBLIME continues, in fruitful ways, the recent extension of comparative literature beyond the narrow regional boundaries of Europe and North America. Mishra takes up an extremely important strain in pre-colonial Indian literature, which is unfortunately little known outside Indian studies. His thoughtful analyses should be read by any serious comparatist interested in devotional poetry.
The last two decades of the twentieth century have been marked by an immense revival of interest in the sublime. The sublime has been periodized (and "trans-periodized"), gendered, politicized, and even made into a commodity with specific social and economic effects. Yet past studies have used Western texts as their archives. This book dramatically shifts the focus by examining a major instance of a non-Western sublime: the Hindu Brahman.
DEVOTIONAL POETICS AND THE INDIAN SUBLIME examines European theories of the sublime, reads them off against contemporary critical uses of the term (notably by Lyotard and Paul de Man), and proposes that the Hindu Brahman constitutes an instance of one of the most fully developed of all sublimes. Mishra argues that the negative aesthetics of Brahman (and the largely decentered rhetoric of Hinduism generally) is part of this massive culture's use of the category of the sublime (and not the beautiful) to speak about a moment when the mind is confronted with an idea too large to be presented to consciousness. The book then examines the case of one of
India's dominant literary genres--devotional verse--to show that once the category of the sublime is grasped (or seen as the undertheorized category of Indian aesthetics), it soon becomes clear that this massive genre is also predicated upon Brahman, the Absolute, as the sublime object of (impossible) desire. It is the first book to offer a comprehensive theory of both the Indian sublime and Indian devotional verse.
Vijay Mishra is Professor of English Literature at the University of Alberta, Canada. He is the author of The Gothic Sublime, also published by SUNY Press, and (with Bob Hodge) Dark Side of the Dream: Australian Literature and the Postcolonial Mind.
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