Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Reflecting on the issue of Kabir being a Dalit, or coming from a marginalized background, two aspects of his vision strike me. First of all there is his use of body symbols, connected with his physical involvement with the world around him. This is what I would understand as the “material imagination” that Gaston Bachelard talks about. He responds to the world, not just with his mind, his rational intelligence, but with his whole body. And this means that his work, that is as a weaver, or his appreciation of the work of others who are actively and directly engaged with the material reality of things, such as the potter, the washer or dyer of clothes,(dhobi) the worker with leather, or skins (chamar) or the person who is looking after plants (mali) and so on, have a deep imaginative engagement with the world which the person who does not work with materials has lost

The Song becomes like a primal cry. There is a deep relation between art and compassion, and this means that the world of the poetic image seems to arise from an encounter with the physical reality of the world, which involves a kind of suffering. It is almost like the baby born into this world has to cry in order to begin the process of breathing. The song seems to come up from the heart like a cry which is both an expression of an existential suffering, but also an affirmation of life.

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