Jheeni Jheeni Beeni Chadariya

Last month I learnt to knit. I should say I re-learnt, because I had knit once for a school project when I was a teenager. I didn’t enjoy it then.  One month back, the urge to knit came suddenly upon me. Armed with some needles, wool and how-to-knit Youtube videos, I successfully knit scarves for my son and my daughter. That was in Melbourne.

Yesterday I flew back from my home in Australia to my home in Switzerland. As I came awake at 3 am, slowly becoming aware of my changed surroundings, I let my still sleepy mind wander through last month, looking for insight and learning as I often do. Thinking of my knitting, it struck me that the lessons I learnt from it applies equally well to life.

  • Choose the right yarn with which to knit  I chose a ‘furry’ kind for my first project. I was forever disturbing the strands and unravelling mistakes was painful! And thus too in life. Choosing the wrong kind of ‘yarn’ in the form of people or work to knit our lives will lead us to disturbed and broken strands and leave us with problems too difficult to unravel.
  • Its easier to be careful than to fix errors Sometimes it is just a momentary carelessness. You make a mistake in the pattern or drop a stitch and you don’t even notice. When you finally realise your error, it takes a lot of time and effort to fix it. Surely it is easier just to be careful from the start? Isn’t that true in life too? How many mistakes I have made, how difficult (and sometimes impossible) it has been to fix them! If only I had had the sense to be careful from the start…sigh!
  • One cannot see a pattern by one stitch It may only be made up of simple knits and purls, but you need to knit a swatch before the pattern becomes evident. One stitch shows nothing. Thus too with people. One cannot know of ourselves, others or life by one action. Watch the pattern.

All these were my pre-waking up thoughts. As I came awake I thought, oh I know who sang of life and stitches or rather life and weaving. Kabir of course! I made myself a cup of tea and sat down to listen to the wonderful, inimitable Kumar Gandharva singing Kabir’s poetry ‘Jheeni Jheeni Beeni Chadariya’. The poet compares life to a woven wrap. ‘Subtly, delicately, He wove this wrap! What is its warp? What is its weft? With what fibre was it woven?’ he wonders. Describing this body which is just a wrap the soul takes on, to be discarded at the end of life, he says ‘Gods, men and sages have worn this wrap and sullied it by their wearing. This servant Kabir is wearing this with care so that he can leave it unsullied, just as it was.’ For lyrics and translation, see footnote.

Kumar Gandharva sings this superbly; he is reflective but still has a great depth of emotion. I imagine that Kabir would have sung in this same simple folk style. Kumar Gandharva is quite remarkable, this is the epitome of meditative singing. I believe it is raga Jogiya. Just listen!

This comes from a lovely album called Nirguni Bhajans. To listen to the whole album, click here.

I have been fascinated by Kabir since my teenage years. I enjoyed his poetry which is often pithy but also mystical. So I was particularly interested when I came upon the site of the Kabir Project while looking for Kumar Gandharva’s connection with Kabir. I saw one of the films : Koi Sunta Hai-Journeys with Kumar and Kabir. It was both informative and interesting, with some lovely music. It is subtitled in English. I urge anyone interested in Kabir, Kumar Gandharva, spirituality or the folk music of India to watch this. Last week I wrote of Saints of India and their music. I was reminded after seeing the film that music and spirituality runs in the veins of India.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

झीनी झीनी बीनी चदरिया ॥
काहे कै ताना काहे कै भरनी
कौन तार से बीनी चदरिया ॥
इङ्गला पिङ्गला ताना भरनी
सुखमन तार से बीनी चदरिया ॥
आठ कँवल दल चरखा डोले
पाँच तत्व गुण तीनी चदरिया ॥
सांई को सियत मास दस लागे
ठोंक ठोंक कै बीनी चदरिया ॥
सो चादर सुर नर मुनि ओढ़े
ओढ़ कै मैली कीनी चदरिया ॥
दास कबीर जतन से ओढी,
ज्यों कीं त्यों धर दीनी चदरिया ॥


jhInI jhInI bInI chadariyA
kAhE kai tAnA kAhE kè bharnI
kaun tAr sE bInI chadariyA
ingalA pingalA tAnA bharnI
sukhman tAr sE bInI chadariyA
AT kanwal dal charkhA DolE
pAnch tatv guN tInI chadariyA
sA.nyI kO siyat mAs das lAgE
TO.nk TO.nk kè bInI chadariyA
sO chAdar sur nar muni ODE
OD kai mailI kInI chadariyA
dAs kabIr jatan sE ODI
jyO.n kI tyO.n dInI chadariyA

Translation :

Subtly, delicately He wove this wrap!
What is its warp? What is its weft? With what fibre was this woven?
The Nadis Ingala and Pingala are the warp and weft,
the Nadi Sushumna is the fibre,
He turned the eight-fold lotus wheel,
and with the five elements (Aakash-Spirit, Vayu-Air, Agni-Fire, Ap-Water, Prithvi-Earth) and three attributes (Sattva-trans-active, Rajas-Active, Tamas-Inactive) (he wove this wrap).
He took ten full months,
knock by knock he wove this wrap
Gods, men and sages have worn this wrap
and sullied it by their wearing.
This servant (of God) Kabir is wearing this with care
So that he can leave it as it was (unsullied).


Filed under Bhajan, Composer and/or Lyricist, Kabir, Kumar Gandharva

18 responses to “Jheeni Jheeni Beeni Chadariya

  1. Ramesh

    Only you can find the perfect antidote to jet lag . Thinking of lessons from knitting and linking it to Kabir’s poetry is unique !!

    By the way, I thought you are allowed to take up knitting only if one of three following conditions is fulfilled

    – Your name is Harbans Kaur
    – You live in Delhi
    – You are 75 years old

    :):) Just kidding ….

    • hehehe Stop giving knitting bad press! I am finding knitting to be a very relaxed activity and the best is I can look keep myself busy even while listening to music, keeping half an eye on the TV or enjoying a conversation with a friend. It stops me from fidgeting 🙂 BTW I once saw a travel documentary – I think it was Himalaya by Michael Palin (If you havent seen it, do – I have seen all of Palin’s travel documentaries and they are very good) They went to some mountain village in Pakistan and all the fellows kept themselves occupied with knitting, guns slung on their backs! That’s a different image to think about 🙂

  2. A very pleasant post to read, which brought on connections to the Greek mythological Moiras, who weave our lives’ tapestry, measure it out and finally cut the threads of every human’s destiny, and then of course there’s also Penelope, Ulysses’s wife who sits waiting for him in Ithaca, weaving by day what she has unwoven by night…

    • Thank you Yves 🙂 Hmm you are so right, this symbolism – life as a woven tapestry – is a multicultural one. I remembered the Moiras but had forgotten about Penelope…thank you for reminding me. I wonder if the symbolism holds in other old cultures as well..amongst the Native Americans for example, who are known for their weaving or certain African tribes. I know they weave stories into the material and have symbolisms of pattern and colour, but is weaving itself a metaphor of life for them as well? Must explore one day..

  3. Filmbuff

    Glad to see you safely back in swizland and beating jet lag by talking about knitting and kabir’s poems. Wasn’t Kabir a weaver by occupation? Will listen to KG song later. Thanks for the Michael Palin reference, haven’t seen any of his travel docos.

    • Hi Meera, yes, Kabir was indeed a weaver. You’ll enjoy Kumar Gandharva, his music is deep..

      As to Michael Palin – Oh! I thought they showed them on ABC? I’ve seen them all on BBC which I get here. His videos are available in the ABC stores, I remember buying ‘Himalaya’as a gift for someone. I checked youtube just now; someone has loaded it. Do watch, it is very good. There is an accompanying book with more detailed info and some wonderful photographs. Maybe you can find it in your local library.. His other docos – Pole to Pole, Around the World in 80 days, New Europe, Sahara…now what else was there, I have seen so many..they are all good. I am a fan!

  4. Filmbuff

    They must have shown on ABC – I don’t watch TV much (except for news, 7.30 report and David Attenborough’s series) – so not surprising that i am ignorant about a lot of talented people! Thanks for this info – i will try to watch on You Tube. BTW, my inaugral You Tube hindi movie was “Ek Baar Kaho” – saw it at a friend’s place on the long weekend. Rajashri Movie – was good esp the 2nd half.

  5. Ravi

    Thank you for posting the link to “Kabir Project,” Suja. (I didn’t get around to reading this post until recently.) I watched it on the 1st. It was as good a way to spend 90+ minutes as any. Almost everyone in the film was amazingly articulate.

    Kumar Ghandarava was one of a kind, of course. I also happen to like Deepender Deepak Sharma’s renditions of some of the Kabir and Surdas Bhajans. Here’s a link to a Kabir bhajan sung by Mr. Sharma: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDFTvn_v0b8. Mr. Sharma’s version of Surdas bhajan, “Mero Man Anat Kahan,” is another enchanting one.


    – Ravi

    • Hi Ravi, I too chanced upon the Kabir Project only when I was researching for my song. It pleased me to see it, I am a long-time admirer of Kabir’s poetry. Some people have such a way with words, don’t they? Thank you for introducing me to Deepender Deepak Sharma, he has a pleasant voice. I shall search out some of his other videos and have a listen.
      Cheers. Suja

      • Ravi

        I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the singers that I listen to featured in the Kabir Project. Their passion for Kabir’s poetry came through eloquently when they spoke. Magnificent.

        Off topic for a second, if I may. I don’t know if you came across some of the Rajasthani folk songs posted by Morchang studios on YouTube. (http://www.youtube.com/user/morchangstudios). Unfortunately, a recent auto accident took the life one of the popular singers featured there, Munshi Khan. He had a unique voice as well. http://folkrajasthan.com/ also features folk songs by Munshi Khan and others. I’d certainly be interested in reading your take on some of these folk songs and the artists who bring those songs to life.


        – Ravi

  6. Ravi

    Suja, Perhaps you have seen these already. Just in case you haven’t, here are a couple of Kabir links that may be of interest to you and your readers:

    There are a few songs worth listening, including one by Kumar Gandharva.

    – Ravi

    • Thank you Ravi for the links. I am familiar with the first and will examine the second at my leisure. I am sure my readers will also find this useful.
      Cheers. Suja

  7. Ravi

    Came across Gundecha Brothers’ version of “Jheeni.” Thought I’ll pass it along. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=riA1FzDsnos


    • Hi Ravi, That’s a very nice performance, thank you! In fact, I was quite taken by how very rhythm-orientated it was..the sound was almost hypnotic! The pakhwaj sounds wonderful..
      Cheers. Suja

  8. Ravi

    Suja, I recently came across a link to Anup Jalota singing “Jhini re Jhini.” I thought it’d be interesting to listen to Jalota’s version, but it turned out that it’s a different song altogether. Since my grasp of Hindi is tenuous at best, I was grateful for the translation of the song posted along with the YouTube video. Perhaps you and your readers may enjoy it as well. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGOkZjoF7UA

    • Hi Ravi, In fact I am very familiar with this version – I bought a tape by Anup Jalota in the 80s which had a wonderful selection of Bhajans including this. I must have heard it a million times because at that time my collection of music was very limited indeed 🙂 I am glad you posted this, I am sure my other readers will enjoy it as well.
      Cheers. Suja

  9. Hello Suja:
    This is a first for me listening to Kumar Gandharva (interestingly he had only 1 lung) singing this song. I have heard Gundecha brothers sing it and it is a different rendition. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and details of this song.

    • Thank you for your comment. Each musician brings their own specialities to a song, don’t they! But Kumar Hardharva brought something very special to his music, I think….
      Cheers. Suja

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