In India from the ancient period onwards time to time, many great saints were born. One of them is Sant/Saint Ravidas, also called Raidas, (flourished 15th or 16th century), a spiritual poet and a great saint. Sant Ravidas ji was one of the most prominent saints of Indian Bhakti movement. It is believed that Guru Ravidas ji was born on the Magh Purnima day on Sunday in the year 1433 in Kashi present Varanasi in a so called ‘untouchable leather-working caste’, but his knowledge, wisdom, spiritual development and humanitarian activities were at the zenith which cannot be compared with many upper castes. Undoubtedly, Sant was endowed with pure and holy soul as he had proved by caste one cannot be great.
Many researchers believe Sant Ravidas ji met Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism and 41 of Guru Ravidasji’s poems were included in the Adi Granth.
Sant Ravidas ji was a prominent figure in the bhakti movement and a renowned poet of the Nirgun bhakti tradition that valued the worship of a formless God. In this context, two foreign researchers who have carried out extensive study on Sant Ravidas ji’s activities may be mentioned. One is Dr. Winand Callewaert and another one is Dr. Peter Friedlander as both have published many books and articles on Sant. They have translated his songs also. One is presenting here. It may be mentioned that Prof Dr. Winand Callewaert was a scholar in Sanskrit (studied in India) and taught this subject in foreign countries. He has published many books and articles in English, Dutch and Hindi. Another scholar Dr. Peter Friedlander lived in India from 1977-1982 and learned Hindi in Varanasi. He then studied at SOAS London University and completed his Ph.D. on the life and works of Saint Ravidas in 1991. The following is a popular verse from Saint Ravidas, translated by Dr Winand Callewaert and Dr. Peter Friedlander,
“Raidas says, what shall I sing?
Singing, singing I am defeated.
How long shall I consider and proclaim:
absorb the self into the Self?
This experience is such,
that it defies all description.
I have met the Lord,
Who can cause me harm?
Hari in everything, everything in Hari –
For him who knows Hari and the sense of self,
no other testimony is needed:
the knower is absorbed”.
(Hari here refers to God who takes away all the sorrows of his devotees).
Guru Ravidas Ji was against the Varna (caste) system and in his poetry, questioned caste hegemony, valued labour of all sorts, as well as a life of simplicity and morality. He initiated dialogs with upper caste Hindus about caste, social justice, love and forms of worship. He spread the message that “God created man and not man created God”, means everyone is created by God and has equal rights on this earth. This theory in the present days no one can deny as all human beings have equal rights. It is believed that because of his wisdom, in-depth spiritual knowledge and discourse many persons of all castes including the King and Queen of Chittoor presently in Rajasthan were his followers.
In Sant Ravidas Ji’s name a temple has been constructed in his hometown, where Guruji is worshipped every day. His songs are recited every morning and evening in the temple. His birthday is celebrated every year on Magh Purnima day i.e. at the full moon day of Magh month of Indian calendar.
Although, Guru Ravidas Ji has passed away long ago but he will be in the heart of millions for his spiritual, devotional and humanitarian activities as his massive contribution to Bhakti movement enlightened us. I extend my respectful Pronam to the Great Soul, Saint and Guru on his 644th birth anniversary.
The following websites have been consulted while writing the article:
Dr. Shankar Chatterjee, Hyderabad