Shri Bhagat Ravidass Ji was born in the fifteenth century at Kanshi (Banara) in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. His birthday comes every year at Puran Mashi in the month of Magh. His mother’s name was Mata Kalsi Ji and his father’s name was Baba Santokh Dass Ji.
Bhagat Ravidass Ji was born in a humble family which was considered untouchable as per the social order prevailing at that time in Hindu society. Guru Ji spearheaded the fight against man-made discrimination based on caste, colour or creed and preached the lofty ideas of socialism, secularism, equality and fraternity.
From very childhood, he was very much devoted to worship Real God. The caste Brahmans created many problems for him. Bhagat Ji had to appear before King Nagarmal so many times. In the end, the King was convinced and became a follower of Bhagat Ravidass Ji.
Bhagat Ravidass Ji taught the lessons of universal brotherhood, tolerance, message of love your neighbour, which got more importance in today’s world.
Bhagat Ravidass Ji fulfilled Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s request by donating old manuscripts, which contained a collection of Bhagat Ravidass Ji’s verses and poems. The earliest collection of these poems are available in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. It was compiled by Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs. There are 41 verses of Bhagat Ravidass Ji in the Guru Granth Sahib.
It is said that Bhagat Ravidass Ji disappeared from the world, leaving behind only his footprints. Some believe that he lived in banaras during his last days, dying a natural death at the age of 126 years.
Contribution to Sikhism
The 41 hymns of Shri Ravidassji included in the Guru Granth Sahib fall under:
Raga – Siri(1), Gauri (5), Asa(6), Gujari(1), Sorath(7), Dhanasari(3), Jaitsari(1),Suhi(3), Bilaval(2),Gaund(2),Ramkali(1),Maru(2),Kedara(1), Bhairau(1),Basant(1), and Malhar(3). one with slight variations is given in both Rag Sorath and rag Maru
Inspite of his low caste, Bhagat Ravidass rose to a position of great honour through a life of simplicity and piety. He never felt ashamed of his pedigree and faced fearlessly the pandits, who were proud of their high caste. He told them the spiritual greatness is achieved through a loving devotion to the Lord. He boldly proclaims,
O people of the city, everyone knows
I am a cobbler by trade and tanner by caste
One of the low caste, and yet within my heart
I meditate upon God.
I am haunted day and night by the thought
Of my low birth, society and deeds
O God! the Lord of the Universe!
O life of my life – forget me not
I am ever Thy slave.
He was such a faithful guru that once he gave a farthing (Damri) to some sadhus, who were going to Hardwar, requesting them to offer it to Ganga Mai on his behalf. They say that when the sadhu presented the damri sent by Bhagat Ravidass, Ganga stretched out her hands to receive it. He was greatly respected during his life time to the extent that even veteran pandits of Kanshi bowed before him. Tradition has it that Queen Jhalan of Mewar became a follower of Ravidass. But despite close contacts with an affluent section of the society, he chose to live austerely.
They say that someone once offered him a paras (the philosopher’s stone that turns cheaper metal into Gold) and assured him he could get any amount of wealth by making use of it. Ravidass Ji asked him to place it in a corner. When he came to see Ravidass Ji again after some months, he found the saint still lurking in poverty. He asked him why he had not utilized the paras. Bhagatu Ravidass remarked that for him, “God’s Name alone was the paras, that was the “kamdhen” and “chintamani”.
Giani Sant Maskeen Ji’s Katha on Bhagat Ravidass Ji:
Ravidas, poet and mystic, was born to Raghu and Ghurbinia, who lived near the city of Varanasi. Not much biographical information about him is available, but, from what can be made out of his own compositions, he belonged to a low-caste family. He followed the family profession of tanning hides and making shoes. Gradually he started spending most of his time in the company of saints and Sadhus and built himself a thatched hut wherein he received and entertained wandering ascetics. Many stories became current about his simplicity and piety of nature.
He became famous as a vaisnava saint in the tradition of Ramanand. In the course of his spiritual quest, he reached a stage when he discarded images and idols and turned to the worship of the one supreme being. He wrote deeply impassioned devotional verses and left his mark on Braj Bhasha literature for the fusion of religious sentiment with the vernacular medium. Forty of his hymns have been incorporated in the Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. He travelled fairly widely and visited Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhdra Pradesh, Maharashtra besides a number of places in the northern India such as Prayab, Mathura, Vrindavan Haridvar, Gurgaon and Multan. At most of these places , there are monuments honouring his memory. In his lifetime, he had thousands of followers, including members of High Castes, among them being Mirabai, the Rajput princess. They hymns Ravidas included in the Guru Granth Sahib fall under Raga – Siri(1), Gauri (5), Asa(6), Gujari(1), Sorathi(7), Dhanasari(3), Jaitsari(1),Suhi(3), Bilaval(2),Gaund(2),Ramkali(1),Maru(2),Kedara(1),Bhairau(1),Basant(1), and Malhar. One of the hymns in raga Maru is the same (with a few minor changes) as included in raga Sorathi.
Ravidas acknowledged the unicity and imnopresence and omnipotence of God. According to him human soul is only a particle of the Divine; the different between the two is like the difference between Gold and the ornament, the water and the wave (GG,, 93). He rejects distinctions between man and man on the basis of caste or creed, for, as he says, in the world beyond no such differentiations will be acknowledges( GG, 345). To realize God, which is the ultimate end of human life, man should concentrate on His/Her name, giving up mere forms and ritualism (GG, 658, 1106). Birth in a low caste is no hindrance in the way to spiritual development. The only condition required is freedom from duality; all else including pilgrimage to and bathing in the sixty-eight centres is in vain (GG, 875).
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