Perspectives

Sessions on:

Gender

Bhakti and Sufi poetry and songs are replete with verses of love and surrender towards the ‘Beloved’. Often this Beloved, or God, is cast in an implicitly male role, while the poet adopts a feminine voice or persona to express feelings of love and surrender. Do these poems reflect traditional gender roles, and reinforce them? Or do they resist and defy them? Or both?

Sharing songs of Kabir, Meera, Bulleshah, Shah Latif and others becomes a means for opening up some reflections on gender in mystic poetry and in life.

(Sessions at LUMS Festival of Kabir, Lahore, October 2014; MenEngage Global Conference, New Delhi, November 2014; Harrington Art Gallery, Kolkata, April 2015; and elsewhere)

Education

Kabir and other Bhakti and Sufi poets often challenge conventional notions of learning. They emphasise feeling, and experience in the body, rather than abstract intellect, as the path to true knowledge as well as to deeper and truer relationships with oneself and with others. What can we learn from the mystics about this deeper kind of ‘learning’? This session will explore these ideas through the sharing of poetry and songs from the oral traditions, through live singing of folk songs by Vipul.

(Sessions at Educarnival, IIT Delhi, December 2017; Schools That Care Conference, Bangalore, July 2017; Mindfulness in Education Conference, Mumbai, January 2018; and elsewhere)

Sufi Thought

Exploring the poetry of the great 18th century Sindhi Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, through storytelling, translations and songs. Vipul Rikhi shares these stories along with interpretations of their deep significance for Latif. There will be translations of the poetry in English and, most importantly, songs of Latif in the kaafi form, which are part of the folk oral traditions of Kutch, Gujarat.

Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai was a great 18th century Sufi poet who, without exaggeration, can be called the Voice of Sindh. His poetry draws on the power and beauty of Sufi as well as Yogic thought, melding the two philosophies into one poetic and spiritual vision. His major work is the “Shah Jo Risalo” and his poems thrive today as a vibrant oral tradition being widely sung, quoted and loved by both Hindu and Muslim communities in the Sindh and Kutch regions on both sides of the Indo-Pak border.

In a world where women voices were unheard of, Latif took popular love legends of the region and spoke through the voices of different women protagonists, to weave a web of poetry that plays tantalizingly between the levels of ishq-e-majaazi, worldly love, and ishq-e-haqeeqi, spiritual love.

(Sessions at Times of India International Folk Festival, Bangalore, September, 2014;LUMS Festival of Kabir, Lahore, October 2014; Mumbai Festival of Kabir, January 2015; Gyaan Adab, Pune, April 2017; Lamakaan, Hyderabad, April 2018; and elsewhere)

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