We visit the weavers and their looms in Benaras, the birthplace of Kabir, a 15th century mystic, weaver, and saint poet from India. Draped in a turquoise-blue translucence, speckled with tiny, delicate, silver, shimmering tiklis, my heart races with excitement, to the mystery of yet another unpredictable morning. The sun has risen high in the sky, when we step out. The heat is humid and warm. Even in stillness, my body bakes on a low simmer. The slightest movement induces perspiration. The light wind from my hand-fan, cools the body. We enter the narrow street of weavers and their looms. A rhythmic sound resounds like a loud heartbeat, all around us. We are led to enter a dimly lit room. Halos of white light illumine the loom of the quiet weaver. A betel nut in his mouth, he weaves, utterly silent. The rain of ivory threads illumines the unspoken conversation.  

Photograph by Kaarthikeyan Kirubhakaran

Stepping out of the labyrinth of looms, we drive to the Kabir Chaura Math – कबीर चौरा मठ. The quaint, clean neighbourhood welcomes me with a sweet sound of anklets. The joyful, rhythm patterns of a young dancer’s feet, put a smile on my face. I am told this neighbourhood has drawn to it, many great, classical vocalists like Girija Deviji, Rajan-Sanjan Mishraji, and classical dancers like Birju Maharajji, to name a few. These walls have tasted the euphoria of Hindustani classical music. Young, happy, spritely children lead us to the door of the Kabir Math. The space has a sparseness to it. It’s open yard is abloom with a green canopy of trees, and healing in its quietude. Devoted pilgrims are seated in silence, their aged faces, cloaked in peace. Lost in poems of Kabir, one of them begins to play his flute. In spontaneity, the pilgrims begin to sing. I too enter the sweet melody of their music through dance. I awaken to unseen worlds. I enter waves, devoid of deliberate thought, or, rationale. I listen. I respond. Our energies spiral in a state of trance, to voice, to music, allowing me my dance. Many elderly pilgrims magnetise towards us, and heartily rejoice in all that unfolds.

Kabir says, Each of us, a fine cloth, dipped in the name of the Lord.

Photograph by Santosh Sivan