Contribution of Saintly
Poets for Universal Brotherhood
Lecturer in English, Guru Nanak First Grade College, Bidar,
Ph. 8105778801, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Which is the land where the people of whole world and
of different religion dwell with equal rights?
Which is the land where Mandir, Masjid, Church and other places of all
the religions are given equal importance?
Which nation has been teaching whole world both tolerance and universal
"That is incredible INDIA".
This itself proves India as an ideal nation in moving towards Universal
Brotherhood. Indian history replete with blue blood. Her literature
contains noble works embellished with great thoughts, spiritual
philosophy and universalism by the great poets, authors and speakers.
Now I would like to consider such noble men who advocated their
philosophy of Universal brotherhood and were called 'Vishwa Manavas',
History of 12th c. reveals innumerable Sharanas who preached and
followed the principle of universalism. The most eminent of them was
Basaveshwara who had the power of binding the society into one
harmonious unit without communal feelings. He rejected the elaborate
ritualism and strict caste system of orthodox Hinduism who favored the
wealthy and emphasized direct mystical experience available to all
through deep devotion to God. He preached that there is only one God.
Surrendering oneself completely to Him in devotion and compassion is the
root of all religions. Basavanna treated all living beings with kindness
and lived for the welfare of all. True devotion and virtuous conduct
should be given greater importance than outward religious formalities.
When Basaveshwara came to Kalyan the then ruling king Bijjala appointed
him as the prime-minister of Bijjala Empire. Then basavanna chalked out
in his mind a programme for spiritual awakening. He formed a new
spiritual institution on a democratic foundation and that was called
Anubhava Mantapa. All men and women of all caste could become members.
Piety and good character alone were required of anyone who came to
Anubhava Mantapa. Everybody was to take up some work or the other for
livelihood. He preached the rights and duties of the people even in such
times of ignorance and unawareness of 12th century. He tried to
eradicate caste system by arranging a marriage between untouchable
bride-groom and a Brahmin bride, in those dark days. Basavanna is the
first man to form a parliament by forming Anubhava MantapaHe said that
all people should have equal opportunities for religious life. Birth,
profession, social status, position or sex should make no difference.
One should not beg. Everyone should set right the crookedness of one's
mind. His preaching and teaching are universal, go beyond all boundaries
of belief system. He was a great humanitarian who believed in the
doctrine 'Work is Worship'. The key aspect of his preaching is
monotheistic concept of God. His teachings were not just words in
speeches or books. They were practiced in daily life by all the members
of the Anubhava Mantapa. He preached his principles through his vachanas
"Deva loka martya loka vembudu berilla kaniro,
Satya nudiyuvude deva loka,
Mitya nudiyuvude martya loka,
Acharave swarga anacharave naraka,
Kudala sangama deva."
Meaning; heaven and hell are not elsewhere, speaking truth is heaven
uttering lies is man's world. Righteous conduct is heaven unrighteous
conduct is hell. Say 'sir' sweet and soft, there you find heaven, say
'you feller' vulgar and rough, that leads you to hell.
"Ullavaru shivalayava maduvaru, na enu madali badavanayya…….."
Meaning; people who have money build temples
What can I, a poor man do?
My legs are pillars
My body is the temple
My head is the golden tower
Please listen O Kudala sangama deva
The static has an end but the dynamic has none.
Allama Prabhu is another mystic-saint and a poet of Kannada language
in the 12th C. He is the patron saint, the undisputed spiritual
authority. He achieved Shunyapitha i.e. achievement of nothingness or
the mystical zero. He too preached the unification of human soul with
God through his vachanas, without any religious disparities. His poetic
style has been described as mystic and cryptic, rich in paradoxes and
We even have many Dasas in 16th C. Kannada literature like
KanakaDasa. Taking birth in low caste family Kanakadasa became Haridasa.
His Harikeerthanas are of a superior class even from literary angle.
They reflect his ripe experience in life, rich wisdom, equanimity and
love for freedom. He is a prominent representative of the tradition of
saint-singers of Karnataka. In one of his keertanas he describes caste
'Kula kula vendu hodedadadiri kulada nele yenadaru ballira? '
Thus he asks where your caste is and what is its base? And says when it
is unanswerable then do not fight in the name of caste.
A popular poet called Sarvajnya or "the one who knows all" was a
famous Kannada poet from 16th Century, a few years before the decline of
the Vijaya Nagara Empire. He was born as the son of Basavarasa, a shaiva
Brahmin in the district of Dharvar. His real name was Pushpadatta. He
defied his parents during his childhood and led the life of a nomad,
chanting his verses and preaching about the Supreme Being. As he gained
abundant of knowledge he was called as sarvajnya. He was of the opinion
that there is no difference between the light of the low caste people
and the high caste people. He stated that, 'Deva nolidatane jata
sarvajnya'; those whom God loved were the high caste people. He preached
that caste and creed are mere words and that only a guru could provide
solution to the problems in a man's life. He is known for his tripadis
or three line poems. Sarvajnya is reputed for having written two
thousand poems on the topic of religion, idolatory, sophistry, astrology
and Kannada culture. His tripadis are relevant even in the contemporary
A well known mystic poet of Hindi literature Sant Kabir who did not
know in which caste he was born and who were his parents but he preached
the doctrine of universal brotherhood. As Das, he was referred to as the
servant of humanity and thus a servant of God. He played the vital role
of the teacher and a social reformer through the medium of his dohas.
Having a strong faith in the concept of oneness of God, he advocated the
concept of "koi bole Ram Ram, koi bole khudai". The basic idea was to
spread the message that whether you chant the name of Hindu God or
Muslim God, the fact is that there is only one God who is the creator of
this beautiful world.
In his dohas he says:
"ek hi pawan ek hi paani, ek jaati sansara,
Ek hi khaak gharch sab bhaande,
ek hi sirjanhara"
(Meaning -there is same air and there is same water for all human
beings, there is only one caste in this world. As all the pots are made
of the same dirt of the same creater.) in another doha he says-
"Jaat na pucho saadh ki, pucho saadk ka gyaan,
Moal karo talwar ki pari rahane do myan."
(Kabir Das says not to ask the caste of a saint, instead ask about his
And try to know the value of sword but don't value the sheath)
Thus with his two line poems he preached about universalism.
The first great poet of modern kannada literature Pampa stated that
caste is not a community in which one is born, the zeal is a caste,
virtue is a caste, virility is a caste. One more important poet,
Raghavanka stated that truth is high caste and falsehood is low caste.
Rabindranath Tagore, a saintly poet educationist and a noble
laureate, was born in 1861 in Calcutta. He received his education mostly
at home as he refused to follow the beaten track of learning. He
developed a taste for literature and understanding of human nature. He
had strong faith in humanity, brotherhood of man and fatherhood of God.
He combined eastern ideals with western service. His philosophy is
firmly based on naturalism, humanism, idealism and internationalism. His
aim in education was to bring in the concept of joy, freedom, creative
self-expression, integration and co-ordination of all knowledge and to
develop a sense of unity in the world and promote a well balanced
harmonious and integrated personality of child. He started the world
famous institution Shantiniketan in order to bring universalism among
the pupils which later came to be known as Vishwabharati. His interest
in man is as man. Also we cannot associate any creed or denomination
with Tagore because he believed in Vishwa Manava, Universal Man. His
poem 'where the mind is without fear' is a good example for his noble
When we peep into the history of 19th Century India, a great
reformer and speaker, Swamy Vivekananda's name glitters like the pole
star. He was a practical saint of modern India and wanted to revise its
wisdom. He preached and practiced the principle of truth, honesty,
sacrifice, brotherhood of man and realization of God. He was a world
teacher and a great educationist. According to him the ultimate goal of
human is to attain unity with the creator. He described God as supreme
power having infinite existence, infinite knowledge and bliss. He was
not known as a poet but his words and speeches are no lesser than any
poems of great poets mentioned above.
Thus innumerable poets and writers have tried to galvanize the people to
live with unity, to feel the whole universe as one home and people of
whole world as members of one family. Kabir, Tukaram and many other were
not graduates of Cambridge or Oxford University, they were not even
educated but wisdom was with them. All the above mentioned noble men
have believed in one principle and same philosophy that one need not
have animosity in the name of caste and creed, rich and poor, and high
and low. Work is worship, one need not believe in rituals and offerings
to please God. Performing God's duty with sincerity pleases God. Kabir
and Tukaram were not graduates of Cambridge or Oxford University, they
were not even educated but wisdom was with them. Tagore's poem "work is
worship" says that God is not there in the four walls of temple or
church or mosque and not with the one who chants mantra counting the
beads but he is there with the path maker, and the one who tills the
land with sweat of one's brow. A great Hindi poet, Harivanshray Bachhan
says in his great work 'Madhushala' -
"Musalman aur hindu hain do, ek magar unka pyaala'
Ek magar unka madiralay,ek magar unki hala,
Dono rahate ek nahi jab tak masjid -mandir mein jate'
Vair badhate masjid - mandir, mel karta madiralay (gnyan ka bhandhar)".
Religion and holy places build enemity but the knowledge unites people.
Universal brotherhood as understood in esoteric philosophy does not
signify merely sentimental unity, or a simple political or social
co-operation. Its meaning is comparatively wider and profounder than
this. The sense inherent in the words in their widest tenor or purport
is the spiritual brotherhood of all beings, particularly; the doctrine
implies that all human beings are inseparably linked together, not
merely by the bonds of emotional thoughts or feelings, but by very
fabric of universe itself.
Today all nations are interdependent economically, socially, and
religiously. The days of nationalism and universalism are wrapped in the
pages of history, today they mean next to nothing in reality. Many laws
have been enacted in many countries against discrimination on the
grounds of race, color, or sex, but why is that they are partially
successful? People's minds, society, the country, the whole world are
corrupted with prejudices. The feeling of brotherhood must emenate from
the heart, it cannot be imposed from outside. All should try to share
joys and sorrows equally. All nations must believe in universal unity
and happiness. As one of the prayer says - 'Sarve bhavantu sukhi naha,
sarve santu niramaya'.
In ancient times the Vedas were written, they were the productions of
the seers. They have laid foundation for the Indian philosophy and also
preached Universalism. One example is cited, 'Asatoma sadgamaya,
tamasonma jyotirgamaya, mrutyonma amruthamgamaya.
Let us come together, let us talk together, and let us live with one
(Published in Kafla Intercontinental
- Jan-April 2013)