Inspired by the message of the mystic poet Kabir, Priti Turakhia decided to host regular workshops to introduce others to the world and writings of the fifteenth-century poet and saint
"Before I heard Shabnam Virmani, the director of The Kabir Project sing Kabir, I was not even aware that there was something called Kabir music," says Khar-resident Priti Turakhia, recalling the first time she heard the words of the legendary mystic poet, two years ago, in Bangalore.
Inspired by the words of the fifteenth-century saint and drawn in by the music, Priti was soon attending the Kabir festival in different cities, including Pune and Baroda. "I asked Shabnam why a festival like this hadn't been organised in Mumbai, and she replied saying that perhaps Mumbaikars did not have the time. That's when I told her I would do it," says Priti, who had just retired from the family business at the time.
Participants at the workshop that are held at Priti's Khar residence
"I don't think she took me seriously, initially. But a few of us got to work on it and in January of this year, we had the Mumbai Kabir Festival." The festival was well received, says Priti, adding, "We had a week of events leading up to the final event, so that we could spread Kabir's message to the youth."
Ongoing effort After the festival, the several folk musicians who participated returned to the various parts of the country that they called home. Keen to continue to spread the poet-saint's message of love and harmony, Priti hit upon the idea of workshops.
"We organise around two workshops in a month. People have responded well," shares Priti, who invites folk musicians to sing Kabir during the sessions that are typically held on a Sunday. The workshops see people across different age groups sing Kabir songs and have animated discussions on the saint-poet.
"Kabir's works are too precious to confine to a three-day festival," says Priti, who invited Prahlad Tipanya, a folk musician from Ujjain to be part of a session in which he would sing as well as teach the songs.
Greater exposure "Folk musicians don't get enough exposure and urbanites don't get an opportunity to listen to this kind of music. I wanted to bridge the gap," she says. Priti hopes that more people will invite the folk artistes into their homes, so that more satsangs can be held.
The last session had a presentation put together by Jaya Madhavan, author of Kabir, the Weaver Poet. The session also included a music and dance performance in addition to readings from the book. "The message is delivered by the music beautifully," shares Priti, adding, "It opens you up; changes the way you think. Kabir altered my perception about myself and others."
Lasting message "Kabir urges us to look inside. He says that all we are looking for outside, is inside us. The best part about Kabir is that his message is simple and easy to relate to," she concludes.
Who was Kabir? Born to Muslim weavers, the mystic poet lived in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh around six hundred years ago. Kabir is considered one of the world's greatest poets. His writings were simple and written in colloquial Hindi, so that they could be easily accessible to all.
Most of his writings are in the form of two-line verses called Dohas. Kabir believed in the oneness of the soul and God. He had an important influence on Sikhism and several of his writings are part of the Guru Granth Sahib. The Kabir Panth is a religious community that actively lives by Kabir's philosophy and spreads his message around the world.