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A New York Review Books Original The poems of Kabir are among the literary and spiritual treasures of the world. Kabir was born into a low-caste Muslim family of weavers, and is said to have lived for 120 years. Kabir's authorship has traditionally been assigned to a whole body of devotional songs that go beyond the usual divisions of caste and creed, challenging social division and freely mingling Muslim and Hindu motifs, to advocate and celebrate individual unity with the divine. The songs of Kabir offer a poetry of passion and paradox, full of earthy metaphors, riddling questions, and ecstatic riffs. Listen carefully,Neither the VedasNor the Qur'anWill teach you this:Put the bit in its mouth,The saddle on its back,Your foot in the stirrupAnd ride your wild runaway mindAll the way to heaven. In these translations by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, one of India's finest contemporary poets, a timeless poet comes alive for our time, while distinguished scholar of religion Wendy Doniger contributes a preface that places Kabir's achievement in its historical context.
Kabir (1398-1518) was an extraordinary satirist, philosopher, and oral poet whose works have been sung and recited by millions throughout North India for half a millennium.
Arvind Krishna Mehrotra was the recipient of a 2009 PEN Translation Fund grant for his work on the poems of Kabir. He is head of the Department of English at the University of Allahabad.
Wendy Doniger is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago.