Sometimes, the words of a song keep playing in our head, long after the music is over. This happened to me when I heard these beautiful opening lines from a Kabir song:

“Bhalaa hua meri gagri tooti 

Mai  paniyan Bahrain se chooti

More sir se tali balaa”


“I feel good that my pitcher is broken.

I no longer have to fetch water from the river.

A huge burden is lifted from my head.”

The words went straight to my heart, and I understood the symbolism of the language almost by instinct. The pitcher symbolizes our ego, according to my understanding. The water symbolizes our thoughts. The mind that feeds our ego is filled with a million thoughts, to borrow a phrase from Om Swami’s book. The shattering of the pitcher is symbolic of a deep spiritual experience that lifts a burden from our head.

My pitcher was shattered early in my life, when I was just a teenager. My father died, and, a year later, my brother passed away. My childhood ego was shattered, my whole life fell into pieces. The water of a million thoughts drenched my very being, and I had to re-build myself completely. Hopefully, a better me has emerged through this process, one that is less ego-centric and more empathetic towards others. 

The Sufi poet Rumi has expressed a similar sentiment, in very different words:

“The wound is the place where the light enters”

Until the soul is wounded and the pitcher of our ego is broken, the divine light does not enter our being. The light keeps entering my being, as my soul is still wounded after so many decades of existence.

My pitcher has started filling up again as I read more books and acquire more knowledge during my journey through life. I am an engineer  and acquiring more scientific knowledge is part of my profession. I  acquire spiritual knowledge by reading the ancient scriptures and from YouTube university. The news media bombards me with information all the time. Of late, I have come to realize that much of this knowledge is useless, it simply conditions the mind. Maybe it is time to release some of the water pressure from my pitcher.

Kabir was far sighted, because, in his poetry, it is the women who carry the pitcher on their head. It’s probably symbolic of the fact that women carry the biggest burden in most relationships. They leave their parental home and go to live with in-laws. They have to make all kinds of adjustments, far more than what men have to do. They have to look after children, manage things in the house, and deal with work-related issues. If  they work outside the home, they have a much harder time balancing their personal lives. The pitcher has to be perfectly balanced to stay on top of the head. If it is wobbly, the water will keep spilling out.

If women are caught  in a bad relationship, they carry most of the burden, as each issue keeps piling up in their head, like water in a pitcher. At some point of time, the pitcher  breaks, the water spills out, and drenches their very being. Sometimes, the healing process begins only after a traumatic experience like this.

Kabir’s words are also symbolic of our spiritual journey. It could start with rituals like chanting God’s name. The activity may seem mindless, but it purifies our thoughts. It is like filling water in the pitcher, and fetching it every day from a spiritual well or stream. It is also symbolic of the intense period of Sadhana that precedes any form of spiritual awakening. Every self realized person has gone through this process.

Om Swami ji has described his own Sadhana in his book ‘If truth be told.’ He was in a Himalayan cave near Badrinath facing extreme weather, and eating very little food, during his period of intense meditation. When he had his breakthrough, the pitcher was broken and he was fully awakened.

Buddha went through a period of intense Sadhana. He practised all kinds of austerities and almost starved himself to death, until he had his breakthrough and became the Tathagata. Christ wandered in a desert for 40 days, living on locusts and honey, as the bible says. Finally he had his breakthrough moment, and the rest is history.  

In the final verse of his poem, Kabir says:

“Bhala hua meri mala tooti

Ram bhajan say chooti”


“I am glad my rosary is broken.

I do not have to pray to the lord any more”

According to legend, Kabir wanted to be initiated by a Brahmin saint, but he had grown up in a family of weavers, and he was sure the Brahmin would reject him. So he played a trick. He laid down on the sand near the banks of the Ganges, where the Brahmin saint would go for his daily bath. When the Brahmin stumbled over Kabir’s body, the words “Ram, Ram” came out spontaneously  from his lips. Kabir took these words as a Guru Mantra and started reciting the name of Rama every day , using a rosary.

Eventually, Kabir became fully enlightened and that’s when his rosary broke. He no longer needed to follow any spiritual practice any more.

I am still waiting for the day when my spiritual Mala will break. It could be a very long wait, lasting a lifetime or more.