Ravidas

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Guru Ravidass Ji
SriGuruRavidasJi.jpg
Shri Guru Ravidass Ji
Born 1388
Died 1518
Varanasi
Honors Venerated as a Sant in Ravidassia religion, Hinduism and as a Bhagat in Sikhism

Shri Guru Ravidass Ji (also Raidas, Rohidas[1] and Ruhidas in eastern India) was a North Indian Guru mystic of the bhakti movement. 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.

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 Ravidas. Guru Ravidass Ji 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.[3]

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

Background[edit]

The details of Guru Ravidass Ji'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[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").

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 Shehr[edit]

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.[6] 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[edit]

The saint Meera considered Ravidas to be her spiritual guru (teacher). Meera was a queen of Chittor and a daughter of the King of Rajasthan. As a disciple of Ravidas, Meera believed that one's future fate emerges from the very real substance of their karma (doings), rather than the illusion of "substance" that is their caste or creed.

Incidents that occurred during Ravidas' life have become the inspiration for the people of today. One such incident begins as Ravidas' disciples, who had planned to immerse themselves that particular day in the sacred Ganges river, request their guru Ravidas to accompany them. Ravidas declines, telling his disciples that he had promised to deliver shoes that day to a customer and so could not join them. One disciple, though, persists, urging his guru yet again to be with them while ignoring what his guru stated was his obligation to a customer. Ravidas then stated: “Man changa tow kathoti mein Ganga." ("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 which bears Ravidas’ engraved foot print. As a respect to her guru, Meera Bai once wrote: “Guru milyaa Ravidas Ji…”[7]

Ravidassia Religion and relation with Sikhism[edit]

The earliest collection of these poems are available in the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. It was complied by Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Sikh guru. It contains 41 verses by Ravidas.

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.[8] and some Ravidassias temples use it.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Saint Rohidas". Telugubhakti.com. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  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. ^ "Guru Ravidass Ji (Indian mystic and poet) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 10 August 2009. 
  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. ^ "Mishra, Vandita, "Anti-dhakka shahi"". Indianexpress.com. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  7. ^ Chittauragarh Fort: An Enigma with a Thin Line between History and Mythology. 24 August 2009, Ghumakkar.com[unreliable source?]
  8. ^ "Punjab sect declares new religion". The Times of India. 1 February 2010.