|Titles/honours||Venerated as a Sant in Ravidassia religion, Hinduism and as a Bhagat in Sikhism|
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Ravidas (also Raidas, Rohidas and Ruhidas in eastern India) was a North Indian Guru mystic of the bhakti movement from Ramanandi Sampradaya and one of the direct disciples of Ramananda. He was active in the 15th century CE. Venerated in the region of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh as well as Maharashtra, his devotional songs and verses made a lasting impact upon the bhakti movement. He is often given the honorific Bhagat or Sant. He was a socio-religious reformer, a thinker, a theosophist, a humanist, a poet, a traveller, a pacifist and a spiritual figure.
Ravidas was born in the Kutbandhla Chamar caste. His devotional songs were included in the Sikh Scriptures, Guru Granth Sahib. There is also a larger body of hymns passed on independently that is claimed and attributed to Ravidas. Ravidas was subversive in that his devotionalism implied a levelling of the social divisions of caste and gender, yet ecumenical in that it tended to promote crossing of sectarian divides in the name of a higher spiritual unity.
Ravidas taught that one is distinguished not by one's caste (jāti) but by one's actions (karma) and that every person has the right to worship God and read holy texts. He opened a frontal attack against the system of Untouchability. He rejected the tradition of Brahmin mediator to reach the Supreme Being. He also said that one need not to hide his caste or leave his low profession to reach God. He became a model for his fellow beings to overcome the hierarchical barriers of Brahminical social order and to establish Begumpura – a state without fear and sorrows. Ravidas elevated the status of the labour by emphasising on the fact that honest labour is empowering.
The details of Ravidas's life are not well known. According to some he was born in 1376/7 or else 1399 CE but many scholars offer later dates. Scholar estimates his lifespan as 1450–1520 while the Encyclopædia Britannica contents itself with a floreat of 15th–16th century CE. Partly this is due to traditions that make him, the guru of Meera (according to a song attributed to her: "guru miliyaa raidasjee").
Ravidas' origin and parents are also given differently. According to history he was born in a village named Seer Govardhanpur, near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India. His father Santokh Das was a Chamar (who were considered "untouchable") leather merchant and Kalsa was his mother. Ravidas' father married him to Lona at early age and he had a son named Vijaydas. A region between Allahabad and Benares is named after him.
The queen of Chittorgarh is said to have been a disciple. It is said that the conservative Brahmins of Varanasi could not stand the popularity of this "untouchable Guru". A complaint was made to the king that he was working against age-old norms of social order (varnashrama dharma) – a cobbler was not supposed to talk of God or do work of advising or teaching. The ruler arranged for an assembly of learned men. Ravidas was also invited and was felicitated publicly. A procession was arranged (shobha yatra) and the king himself participated.
Begumpura ("land without sorrow") is a term coined in a poem by Ravidass. Begampura is the name of an idealised city where there is no suffering or fear, and all are equal. The verse is seen as reflecting both a sense of poverty and caste humiliation, and a desire to find a utopia without suffering:
The regal realm with the sorrowless name
they call it Begumpura, a place with no pain,
no taxes or cares, none owns property there,
no wrongdoing, worry, terror, or torture.
Oh my brother, I've come to take it as my own,
my distant home, where everything is right...
They do this or that, they walk where they wish,
they stroll through fabled palaces unchallenged.
Oh, says Ravidas, a tanner now set free,
those who walk beside me are my friends.
Ravidas and Meera
The saint Meera considered Ravidas as her spiritual guru. Meera was a queen of Chittor and a daughter of the king of Rajasthan and she used to follow the teachings of Ravidas which teaches about that one's fate of the future lies on his karmas (doings) rather than on his caste or creed's.
Ravidas' incidence of life has become the inspiration for the people of today and in one such incident when Ravidas' disciples were going to take holy dip in the sacred river Ganges and wanted Ravidas to accompany them and Guru replied that he has promised to deliver shoes to his customer on that particular day and will not be able to join them due to this particular reason and when one of his disciple urges then Ravidas uttered his belief saying that: “Man changa tow kathoti mein Ganga“ i.e. That is if your heart is pious then the holy river is right in your tub and you need not go anywhere else to take a dip. There is a small chhatri (umbrella) in front of Meera’s temple in Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan. It has Ravidas’ engraved foot print also. As a respect to her guru, Meera Bai once wrote:
“Guru Milyaa Ravidas Ji …”
Ravidassia Panth and relation with Sikhism
In the 20th century, syncretic followers of Ravidass's teachings, who may have identified as Sikh, Hindu, or simply "Ravidassia" began to coalesce. Following the murder of their cleric Ramanand Dass in Vienna in 2009, this movement declared itself to be a religion fully separated from Sikhism, and now known as the Ravidassia religion. The Ravidassia religion compiled a new holy book, Amritbani Guru Ravidass Ji. Based entirely on the writings and teaching of Ravidas, it contains 240 hymns. and all Ravidassias temples use it.
- "Saint Rohidas". Telugubhakti.com. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
- Callewaert and Friedlander, The Life and Works of Ravidass Ji, Manohar, Delhi, 1992, quoted in Gavin Flood, An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge 1996.
- Phyllis G. Jestice (2004). Holy People of the World: A Cross-Cultural Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 727–728. ISBN 978-1-57607-355-1. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- "Ravidas (Indian mystic and poet) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 10 August 2009.
- Mirabai, V.K. Subramanian Mystic Songs of Meera Abhinav Publications, 2006 ISBN 81-7017-458-9, ISBN 978-81-7017-458-5 
- "Mishra, Vandita, "Anti-dhakka shahi"". Indianexpress.com. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
- Chittauragarh Fort: An Enigma with a Thin Line between History and Mythology. 24 August 2009, Ghumakkar.com[unreliable source?]
- "Punjab sect declares new religion". The Times of India. 1 February 2010.
- Chain Ram Suman. Miracles of Satguru Ravidass ji. Shri Guru Ravidass Janam Sthan MandirSeer Goverdhanpur Banaras (U.P.).[when?]
- Miracles of Guru Ravidass Ji. Sant Samaj Ravidassia.[when?][who?] At GoogleDocs[unreliable source?]