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Rice University

Publication Date

Fall 2012

Program Name

India: National Identity and the Arts


The fifteenth century poet-saint Kabir is one of the most prominent figures in Indian history and Hindi literature. Kabir was born to low-caste parents who had recently converted from Hinduism to Islam. However, Kabir grew up to reject both Hinduism and Islam and their claims on absolute truth and instead wrote about a God that transcends all cultural differences. This paper examines the ways in which Kabir challenged traditional norms and transcended cultural and religious boundaries. Kabir was such a venerated figure that an entire sect, the Kabir Panth, emerged after his death to practice and live out Kabir’s philosophy of spiritual oneness. This paper also examines how the Kabir Panth brings together individuals of different religious backgrounds and contributes to religious pluralism and diversity in India today. The findings of this paper are the result of archival research and study as well as interviews conducted at two Kabir Panth monasteries in Varanasi and with members of the sect in Madhya Pradesh. Finally, this paper seeks to piece together India’s rich history of religious pluralism, the formation of the Kabir Panth (which crosses multiple religious boundaries), and Kabir’s message of unity and brotherhood despite caste, religious, and gender differences.


Arts and Humanities | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


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