Guru Ravidass

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Guru Ravidass Ji
Other name(s)
Hindi: गुरु रविदास
Senior posting
Title Guru
Period in office
1388–1518
Religious career
Website Guru Ravidass Ji Website
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Guru Ravidass Ji (also Raidas, Rohidas[1] and Ruhidas in eastern India) was a North Indian Guru mystic of the bhakti movement who 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 traveler, a pacifist and a spiritual figure before whom even head-priests of Varanasi (Benaras) lay prostrate to pay homage.

Guru Ravidass Ji was born in the Kutbandhla Chamar caste. His devotional songs were included in the Sikh Scriptures, Guru Granth Sahib.[2] There is also a larger body of hymns passed on independently that is claimed and attributed to Guru Ravidass Ji. Guru Ravidass was subversive in that his devotionalism implied a leveling 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.[3]

Guru Raviass Ji 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. Guru Ravidass elevated the status of the labour by emphasizing on the fact that honest labour is empowering.

Background[edit]

The details of Guru Ravidass Ji's life are controversial. 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[3] while the Encyclopædia Britannica contents itself with a floreat of 15th-16th century CE.[4] Partly this is due to traditions that make him, the guru of Meera (according to a song attributed to her:[5] "guru miliyaa raidasjee"). However, as Scholar points out, the importance of such claims lies in their establishing the authority of a lineage of gurus (parampara). One may count oneself a disciple of a master without having actually met him.

Guru Ravidass' 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 Baba Santokh Das was a Chamar leather merchant and Mata Kalsa Devi was his mother. Guru Ravidass' father married him to Mata Lona Devi 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 (this may be connected with Meera, who was married to the ruler of Chittorgarh). It is said that the conservative Brahmins of Kashi 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.

Devotion to God[edit]

As a Vaishnava Hindu, Guru Ravidas was an adherent devotee of God in His form of Rama.

Frequently he was use the words Ram, Raja Ram Chanda, Raghunath, Hari, Krishna, Madho, Gobind to describe God.

He writes:[6]

My caste is mean; my birth is mean.
I come under your protection Ram
Says Ravidass, the cobbler.

Begumpura Shehr[edit]

Begumpura ("land without sorrow") is a term coined in a poem by Guru Ravidass Ji. Begampura is the name of an idealized city where there is no suffering or fear, and all are equal.[7] 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.

Guru Ravidass and Meera Bai[edit]

Meera Bai considered Guru Ravidass Ji as her spiritual Guru. Meera Bai was a queen of Chittor and a daughter of the king of Rajasthan and she used to follow the teachings of Guru Ravidass Ji which teaches about that one's fate of the future lies on his karmas (doings) rather than on his caste or creed's.

Guru Ravidass' incidence of life has become the inspiration for the people of today and in one such incident when Guru Ravidass' disciples were going to take holy dip in the sacred river Ganges and wanted Guru Ravidass Ji 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 Guru Ravidass Ji 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 guru Ravidass’ engraved foot print also. As a respect to her guru, Meera Bai once wrote:

“Guru Milyaa Ravidass Ji …”[8]

Ravidassia Panth and relation with Sikhism[edit]

The earliest collection of these poems are available in the Sikh scriptures, Guru Granth Sahib. It was complied by Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs. It contains 41 verses by Guru Ravidass.

In the 20th century, syncretic followers of Guru Ravidass Ji's teachings, who may have identified as Sikh, Hindu, or simply "Ravidassia" began to coalesce. Following the murder of their cleric Ramanand Dass Ji 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 Satguru Ravidass Maharaj Ji. Based entirely on the writings and teaching of Satguru Ravidass Ji, it contains 240 hymns[9] and all Ravidassias temples utilize it.

Political significance[edit]

Today he is respected, as when Bangaru Laxman (Organiser, 6-8-1995) accused Congress leader Sitaram Kesri of showing "disrespect to Dalit Guru Ravidass Ji, Satyakam Jabali, Sadhna Kasai, Banka Mahar, Dhanna Chamar and others who protected Hindus against foreign onslaughts."[10]

Songs and teachings[edit]

View of Sri Guru Ravidass Park, Varanasi

तोही मोही मोही तोही अंतरु कैसा ॥ कनक कटिक जल तरंग जैसा ॥१॥
जउ पै हम न पाप करंता अहे अनंता ॥ पतित पावन नामु कैसे हुंता ॥१॥ रहाउ ॥
तुम्ह जु नाइक आछहु अंतरजामी ॥ प्रभ ते जनु जानीजै जन ते सुआमी ॥२॥
सरीरु आराधै मो कउ बीचारु देहू ॥ रविदास सम दल समझावै कोऊ ॥३॥

ਤੋਹੀ ਮੋਹੀ ਮੋਹੀ ਤੋਹੀ ਅੰਤਰੁ ਕੈਸਾ ॥ ਕਨਕ ਕਟਿਕ ਜਲ ਤਰੰਗ ਜੈਸਾ ॥੧॥
ਜਉ ਪੈ ਹਮ ਨ ਪਾਪ ਕਰੰਤਾ ਅਹੇ ਅਨੰਤਾ ॥ ਪਤਿਤ ਪਾਵਨ ਨਾਮੁ ਕੈਸੇ ਹੁੰਤਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਜੁ ਨਾਇਕ ਆਛਹੁ ਅੰਤਰਜਾਮੀ ॥ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਤੇ ਜਨੁ ਜਾਨੀਜੈ ਜਨ ਤੇ ਸੁਆਮੀ ॥੨॥
ਸਰੀਰੁ ਆਰਾਧੈ ਮੋ ਕਉ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ਦੇਹੂ ॥ ਰਵਿਦਾਸ ਸਮ ਦਲ ਸਮਝਾਵੈ ਕੋਊ ॥੩॥

You are me, and I am You-what is the difference between us? We are like gold and the bracelet, or water and the waves.
If I did not commit any sins, O Infinite Lord,how would You have acquired the name, Patit-Pavan (Redeemer of sinners)?
You are my Master, the Inner-knower, Searcher of hearts.The servant is known by his God, and the Lord and Master is known by His servant.
Grant me the wisdom to worship and adore You with my body.
O Ravi Daas, one who understands that the Lord is equally in all, is very rare.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Saint Rohidas". Telugubhakti.com. Retrieved 2014-01-24. 
  2. ^ Callewaert and Friedlander, The Life and Works of Ravidass Ji, Manohar, Delhi, 1992, quoted in Gavin Flood, An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge 1996.
  3. ^ a b 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. 
  4. ^ "Ravidas (Indian mystic and poet) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  5. ^ Mirabai, V.K. Subramanian Mystic Songs of Meera Abhinav Publications, 2006 ISBN 81-7017-458-9, ISBN 978-81-7017-458-5 [1]
  6. ^ P. 107 Literary encounters Kartar Singh Duggal
  7. ^ "Mishra, Vandita, "Anti-dhakka shahi"". Indianexpress.com. 2012-02-06. Retrieved 2014-01-24. 
  8. ^ Chittauragarh Fort: An Enigma with a Thin Line between History and Mythology. August 24, 2009, Ghumakkar.com[unreliable source?]
  9. ^ "Punjab sect declares new religion". The Times Of India. 2010-02-01. 
  10. ^ "Dr. Koenraad Elst?". Voiceofdharma.com. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 

Further reading[edit]