Sunil Uniyal, IN ~ Translator



Five Translations from Kabir*

Poems and Couplets from vernacular Hindi (Avadhi dialect)




Having Crossed the River


having crossed the river,
where will you go, O friend?

there's no road to tread,
no traveler ahead,
neither a beginning, nor an end.

there's no water,
no boat, no boatman, no cord;
no earth is there,
no sky, no time, no bank, no ford.

you have forgotten the Self within,
your search in the void will be in vain;
in a moment the life will ebb,
and you in this body will not remain.

be ever conscious of this, O friend,
you've to immerse within your Self;
Kabir says, salvation you won't then need,
for what you are, you'll be indeed


This translation of Kabir's "Having Crossed the River" previously appeared on Ivan Granger's website





O Swan Go Back


O Swan go back to your own country.

Having forgotten whence you have come
you have ventured into an alien land.

In your country there's no ploughing or sowing
yet the fruits of divine pleasure are ever growing.

In that land there is no death or disease,
nor does one meet sorrow or misery.

O Swan go and dwell in the lake of His knowledge
and pick jewels for ever and ever.

Says Kabir: listen O wise one,
that country is verily abiding and eternal.





The Target's Behind the Sky


The target is behind the sky
the sun's on the right the moon on the left
in between it remains hidden

this body is a bow
the mind its string
and the Word its arrow - aimed straight

the messenger of the True Guru - that it is
this arrow has pierced through the body impure

but this arrow doesn't any injury inflict
they know who have, indeed, felt it

says Kabir, listen, O wise one,
those who have known,
they only acknowledge it





This Body is a Lyre


A lyre is this body, O friend.

When its strings are tightened and keys screwed,
the Self within it breaks into a sweet tune.
When the strings get snapped
and keys become loose,
the instrument is left to gather dust.

Friend, be not proud of this body,
one day its swan will fly away.

Says Kabir, listen O brother,
rare is he who bravely walks
the arduous path that leads to Him.





Trapped in Needle's Eye


Let some saint my doubts clarify.
With roots above and leaves below,
a tree is between the earth and sky!

It's strange that iron floats,
but the gourd sinks in water.

People go on reading scriptures
and argue more and more,
without getting to the core.

Says Kabir, listen O wise one,
the world is trapped in needle's eye!



*Kabir (circa 1398-1518) was a leading light of the great devotional movement that swept across India during the 15th and 16th centuries. He spent most of his life in and around Benares in North India. According to some legends, he was abandoned by his Hindu mother soon after his birth and was brought up by a Muslim weaver. He came into contact with Ramananda, a Hindu sage, fairly early in his life and was soon drawn towards the teachings of the Upanishads and the Sufis. In due course of time, Kabir established his own order, the Kabirpanth, which harmonised Hinduism and Islam by preaching a universal path. Kabir believed in one attributeless God and held that one's liberation from the endless cycle of births and death is possible when the individual soul (jivaatmaa) merges with the Universal Soul (Parmaatmaa). An apostle of peace and a votary of non-violence, Kabir condemned animal slaughter, dogmas and rituals as well as worship of idols. He was strongly opposed to religious fanaticism of both the Hindus and Muslims and attacked the rigours of the caste system and social evils like widow-burning (sati). Kabir was thus far ahead of his time. His poems and couplets in vernacular Hindi (Avadhi dialect) were compiled by his followers in the 'Bijak'. Many of his songs have found their way into the holy book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Saheb, and are popular among the Indian masses even today.

~Sunil Uniyal, IN


About Sunil Uniyal, IN


Sunil Uniyal is based in New Delhi and works for Government of India.  His haiku 'Milestone' first appeared in the early eighties in the Mirror Magazine of Mumbai. Of late, these have found space in e- journals like Muse India, Kritya, Haiku Dreaming Australia and Notes from the Gean. He is also engaged in the translation of the poems of Hindi and Urdu poets like Kabir, Sur, Ajneya, Ghalib and Mir Taqi Mir. His other interests include religion, art and archaeology and has even written a monograph on Games and Sports in Indian Art and Archaeology.










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