Kabīr (also Kabīra) (Hindi: कबीर, Punjabi: ਕਬੀਰ, Urdu: کبير) (1440–1518) was a mystic poet and saint of India, whose writings have greatly influenced the Bhakti movement. The name Kabir comes from Arabic al-Kabīr which means ‘The Great’ – the 37th name of God in Islam.
Apart from having an important influence on Sikhism, Kabir’s legacy is today carried forward by the Kabir Panth (“Path of Kabir”), a religious community that recognizes him as its founder and is one of the Sant Mat sects. Its members, known as Kabir panthis, are estimated to be around 9,600,000. They are spread over north and central India, as well as dispersed with the Indian diaspora across the world, up from 843,171 in the 1901 census. His writings include Bijak, Sakhi Granth, Kabir Granthawali and Anurag Sagar
Early life and background
Not much is known of Kabir’s birth parents, but it is known that he was brought up in a family of Muslim weavers. He was found by a Muslim weaver named Niru and his wife, Nima, in Lehartara, situated in Varanasi. They adopted the boy and taught him the weaver’s trade.
The story is told that on one particular day of the year, anyone can become a disciple by having a master speak the name of God over him. It is common for those who live near the Ganges to take their morning bath there in the sacred waters. The bhakti saint Ramananda was in the habit of arising before dawn to take his bath. On this special day too, he awoke before dawn and found his way down to the steps of the Ganges. As he was walking down the steps to the waters, a little hand reached out and grabbed the saint’s big toe. Ramananda was taken by surprise, and he involuntarily called out the name of God. Looking down, he saw in the early morning light the hand of the young Kabir. After his bath, he noticed that on the back of the little one’s hand was written in Arabic the name Kabīr. He adopted him as son and disciple and brought him back to his ashram, much to the consternation of his Hindu students, some of whom left in protest.