‘The Erotic to the Divine’- my essay in volume on Bhakti and Sufism.

My essay- “The Erotic to the  Divine: Kabir’s notion of Love and Femininity”  has been published as part of the volume entitled, “Poetics and Politics of Sufism and Bhakti in South Asia” edited by Kavita Punjabi, published by Orient BlackSwan, New Delhi.

This essay explores the dynamics of Kabir’s notion of love and underlines the connections between Kabir’s spiritual restlessness ( ‘Ramabhawna’ ), his outrage towards injustice( ‘Samajbhawana’) and the agitation of love(‘Kamabhawna’). It explores the creative tension between the poet’s sanskaras leading to condemnation of woman as such  and simultaneously adopting the persona of a female in his most poignant poetic moments. I relate this creative tension of Kabir to the more general question of the power of creative feminine observed in other creative male individuals – poets and mystics.

This essay is based on a lecture I delivered at the Kabir Utsav organised by Sahitya Akademi in Banaras in 2004, and its Hindi version forms chapter 9- “kam milave Ram kun…’: Shashwat Streetwa aur Kabir ki Prem-Dharna”  of my book- Akath Kahani Prem ki

Here is a small excerpt from the essay:

“We should first pay attention to the fact that Kabir is not the only male  who, despite giving spiritual instruction (updesh) filled with condemnation for woman, is compelled to take on the voice and form of a woman at the time of spiritual practice (sadhana) and poetry. On the level of aesthetic sensibility, the creative power of the the feminine has been accepted by poets and spiritual practitioners (sadhaks) across the world. Amongst the males who practice the sadhana of loving the parmatma (The supreme spirit and Godhead), some take the form of a woman themselves; others imagine parmata itself in the form of a woman. The acceptance of the power of the creative feminine can be observed in both cases.


Rather than tearing apart Kabir’s poetic sensibility into agreeable little pieces, if it is instead grasped in its totality, it is not difficult to see that love itself is Kabir’s departure point, love itself is his ideal. Kabir sees and values the world through his love-cognition: love is the fundamental cognitive act for him.
Whether it is his reflections on supreme reality or his social criticism, it is the subterranean Saraswati that waters the Ganga and Yamuna of Kabir’s experience and his fearless ideal is love.

The volume has articles dealing with the themes of love, loss and liberation and covers literature as well as performing arts and cinema.

The other contributors to this important volume are Ishpita Chandra, T.S. Satyanath, Raziuddin Aquil, Swapan Majumdar, Kavita Punjabi, Amlan Das Gupta, Vidya Rao, Pallavi Chakrovorty, Abhishek Basu, Moshumi Bhowmik  and Kumkum Sangari.

One Response to “‘The Erotic to the Divine’- my essay in volume on Bhakti and Sufism.”

  1. Shakeel Qureshi says:

    Please keep informing me about your work and any presentation . Thanks

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