Books for kids: Kabir the weaver poet

The book by Tulika Publishers traces one day in Kabir’s life, threading fact, legend and poetry, introducing the weaver poet to young and old readers alike.


[Editor’s Note]  The Kahat Kabir series is an ode to the mystic weaver-poet and radical reformer who was equally loved and contested in his times. The most quoted poet of today, Kabir, his famous Dohas and his philosophies remain critically relevant to contemporary times. Come discover Kabir through modern music, books, films, experiences and more.

Kabir – The Weaver poet, a book by Tulika Publishers, traces one day in Kabir’s life, threading fact, legend and poetry, written keeping in mind, young readers and old, alike.

An excerpt from Kabir – The Weaver Poet, specially arranged for publishing on The Alternative:

Everyone’s focus now turned to the fabric Kabir had spent a week weaving for the Pundit in addition to the mat he had ordered. The mulmul khus muslin was so finely woven that even oil could not seep through it. The weave itself was so subtle, beautiful like a cluster of dewdrops, that Kabir named his creation Shabnam, ‘morning dew’. It was coloured in a mix of green and pink making it look like grass touched by the rays of the early sun.

“This is how the world must have looked, soft, fresh and mellow, when God first created it,” thought Kabir.

Wanting to put touches of design in other colours into the weave, he set about preparing the dyes. Into four different vats, Kabir tossed peels, shells, flowers, leaves, twigs and barks — things nature discarded and no longer needed. Turmeric went into the first vat to make yellow dye. The second one had iron shavings brewing in vinegar to make black. Kabir set aside lac and iron shavings for red. Blue from indigo he already had from the previous week’s brewing. Kabir now used that indigo to mix with pomegranate rind to extract a darker shade of green. Into the fourth vat went sandalwood and rose attar solutions. The dyed threads would soak in the fragrant solution before being dried and loaded onto the loom. That way the entire fabric would smell of sandalwood and roses.

Once mounted, the threads fell in neat dots each time Kabir worked the pedal and pulled at the string of the jacquard box hanging above the Loom. The dots fell — yellow, green, blue, red and black — populating the pink and green muslin, making it look like a group of people gathered on a field one bright morning.

The dots came alive in Kabir’s eye as the people of Banaras. In them he recognised the Potter and the Tanner, the blacksmith, washermen, weavers, goldsmiths, acrobats . . . even the Mullah and the Pundit.

Some dots stood small like children, some bold like prominent leaders. Some spots were discreet but helped better the overall design, much like teachers, physicians, sweepers and artisans who worked quietly to better other lives. And then there were the youthful yellows and shy pinks. The sprinkles of blue were soothing like the art of musicians, painters, poets and dancers. The black bootis stood aloof and arrogant reminding one of dark sorcerers. The calm whites were the healers while the grays were like the blind musicians, neither here nor there, belonging to no one in particular. The dots were as varied and different as human beings, though the thread beneath them all was of the same make and count.

“No two dots look similar, yet it is one thread that makes them. We may all be different, yet it is one God who made us,” thought Kabir.

Through all this ran the river of silver dots like the Ganga, quietly nourishing its people without prejudice, without differentiating between rich and poor, high and low, Brahmin and untouchable, Hindu and Muslim. Flecks of gold shone like benevolent spirits hovering above to guide and protect the people.

When Kabir stepped back to see his handiwork, it was not just he who gasped, but also the Spindles, the Charkha, the Takli and the rest of the weaving gang. The design was breathtaking, fit for none less than the gods! Kabir saw the wisdom of his heart, the rhythm of his poetry and the depth of his feelings reflected in every hue, dot and fleck stamped on the spellbinding mulmul khus.

“This is nothing,” whispered Kabir. “I have run mere cotton threads for the warp and weft. But how did God, the Master Weaver, make this finely woven fabric we call skin that we wear all our lives? What is the warp? What is the weft? What fine thread does he use?” wondered Kabir and broke into a song.

Jhini jhini bini chadariya,

Kaahe ka tana, kaahe ki bharani,

Kaun taar se bini chadariya?

Kabir sang, deeply immersed in love for the Master Weaver who ran bright coloured threads across the sky to weave mornings and later dyed them in orange and black to make evenings and nights. From the magical skin we wear to the fabric of the sky, the Master Weaver weaves them all — finely, expertly. The rest listened in silent awe.

Kabir- The Weaver Poet, can be bought off the Tulika bookshelf.

The author, Jaya Madhavan, uses storytelling, theatre, songs and Carnatic music to create learning modules for children.

This article was originally published on January 11th, 2013.

Also read:

Read With Me: 10 Books for Children That Teach Diversity

The joy of reading with little ones

Read With Me: McCall Smith is like hot cocoa on a rainy day


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created--created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created--created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. more

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