Ravidas or Raidas who became one of the most famous saints of North India. He propagated the worship of Nirguna Bhakti during his lifetime. He was Chamar by caste and at that time caste discrimination was very high, so he also had to face caste discrimination, after which he strongly opposed caste discrimination, due to which today we also see him as a social reformer. Apart from this, he was also the founder of Radasi sect. The work written by him shows a new direction to the society even today. Many of his works have also been written in the Guru Granth Sahib, the greatest book of Sikhism. Because of which today a large section of the society worships him as God. The Sikh society also looks at it with great respect. A special caste in Sikh society, which is also known as Ravidasia Sikh, worships him.
What is Nirguna Bhakti?
Nirguna Bhakti is a way of worshiping God. One who believes that God is formless, we cannot imagine him. We cannot worship him as a certain figure. Saint Ravidas was also a supporter of Nirguna Bhakti. Apart from these, great men like Adi Guru Shankaracharya, Guru Nanak Dev, Sant Kabir, Dadu Dayal were also propagators and supporters of Nirguna devotional worship.
Early Life of Ravidas
Saint Ravidas was born in Shri Gobardhan village near the city of Varanasi in the present day state of Uttar Pradesh, India. His father’s name was Baba Santokh Das and his mother’s name was Kalsa Devi. Although he was from a lower caste and at that time was a tanner by caste. It is difficult to tell the exact date of his birth as there is a lot of difference of opinion regarding his year of birth. Some experts believe that he was born in 1377 century and he died in 1528, while some experts tell the year of his birth in 13th century.
He was educated by Ramanand, the saint of that time. Although there is a lot of difference of opinion about this too, but many people consider Saint Ramanand as their guru. He had attained knowledge by his own blessings.
When he turned 12, he was married to Lona Devi. When he became an adult, he also worked as a tanner like his father for livelihood, and earned his living. Gradually, his fame started increasing due to which people started seeing him as a great saint.
Although caste discrimination was very strong at that time, still the people of Brahmin caste used to bow down to him and considered him as the iron of knowledge. Later he also visited various states of India, in which Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat etc. were prominent. Apart from this, he also visited many pilgrimage areas of the Himalayas. After which he worshiped Nirguna Brahman. (Nirgun – A form of God that is unimaginable. He does not have any visible qualities. Still he is the greatest.) This is known from the works written by him. This is known from the works written by him. The creations written by him still guide the society. Many of his followers also believe that he had met Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism. This is probably believed because 41 poems written by him are found in the Guru Granth Sahib. This poem is one of the oldest sources to know his thoughts.
Saint Ravidas's Work
The details of Guru Ravidas’ work come to us mainly from two sources. As the first source, we get the Sikh religious text Adi Granth and the second we get the Panchvani of the Hindu warrior-ascetic organization Dadupanthis. And out of these two, more description is found in the Adi Granth. Adi Granth is the scripture of Sikhism in which 36 great writers have contributed. Through Adi Granth, he has talked about how to get rid of oppression and struggle like war, how to end war, definition of a just society, ending social barriers, fairness in society, identity of a true Yogi etc.
A biography was written on Saint Ravidas long after his death. Peter Friedlander, who has done a very in-depth study on Saint Ravidas, says about him that in his time the society of India was facing a wide struggle. He says that the biography of Ravidas not only expresses spiritual and social themes, but it also expresses the orthodox traditions spread in the society of that time. Expresses the caste discrimination in the society, and the dissatisfaction arising from them. He wants that there should be unity in the society, which is beyond caste discrimination, so that there is a satisfaction among the people.
David Lorenzen also says something similar about Saint Ravidas. They say that from the 17th to the 20th century, an anti-Brahmin and anti-communal character appeared in the poems written by his followers on Ravidas.
Bhakti Movement by Saint Ravidas
The Bhakti movement is counted among some of the biggest events in the history of India. Its rise took place in the southern part of India in the 6th century, but as it came from the 15th to the 17th century, this movement expanded a lot. We can also say that from 15th to 17th century was the golden period of Bhakti movement. During this movement, there was a demand for adopting the path of Bhakti for salvation for all social classes. Some historians also write that an attempt was made to end the monopoly on the religion of Brahmins through the Bhakti movement. Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism were notably involved in this movement.
During this time Saint Ravidas talked about the worship of Nirguna Bhakti. He showed the path of Nirgun worship to the deprived society. A nirguna worshiper worships God in the form of his nirguna nature. Like making an idol of God and worshiping it shows sagun bhakti. People who believe in Nirguna God believe that God does not have any shape or form, but yes he does exist. Saint Raidas also propagated it during his lifetime. He spread this movement of Nirguna Bhakti to the states of North India. Many historians also see Ravidas as the successor of Kabir because Saint Kabir was also a worshiper of Nirguna Bhakti.
Legends associated with Ravidas
मन चंगा तो कठौती में गंगा।
A special proverb is spoken in India – man changa to kathautee mein ganga. This proverb is often told to explain that if a person’s mind is clear, then he does not need to perform any special rituals. Saint Ravidas had spoken this proverb for the first time. There is a story behind it which is told and heard in different ways. The story is such that a Brahmin was going to bathe in the Ganges, so he asked Saint Ravidas to walk to bathe in the Ganges. Ravidas was working at that time, so he refused to go but he gave Prasad to be offered to Maa Ganga and said to offer this Prasad to Maa Ganga on our behalf. When the Brahmin took a bath in the Ganga and offered the Prasad given by Saint Ravidas to Mother Ganga. Mother Ganga also gave a divine bracelet as a gift to a Brahmin and said to give this bracelet to Saint Ravidas. When a Brahmin sees that bracelet, he gets greedy and instead of giving it to Raidas, he sells it to a goldsmith in the market. When the goldsmith also looks at the bracelet, he finds that this bracelet is very priceless, no one except the king can buy it.
Thinking this he goes to the king and requests him to buy this bracelet. When the king presents this bracelet to the queen, the queen demands the same bracelet for the other hand as well. After which the goldsmith is called to the king and asked to bring another bracelet. The goldsmith then tells the whole story to the king that the bracelet was sold to him by a Brahmin. The king then requests the Brahmin to give the second bracelet to the couple. After which the Brahmin tells the whole thing that how he got this bracelet. Then the king goes to Saint Ravidas and requests him to ask for the second bracelet from Mother Ganga and give it to him. Then Ravidas does not go to the banks of the Ganges and reveals the Ganges in a pot kept in the kitchen of his house and asks for a bracelet from mother Ganga and gives it to the king.
Note – The above story is given on the basis of folk tales. There is currently no evidence available that verifies this story.
There is no doubt in believing that Saint Ravidas appeared as a gem among Indian saints. People were so impressed by his knowledge that people started worshiping him as God. Even today in India, the birthday of Saint Ravidas is celebrated as his birth anniversary. According to the calendar of Hindu religion, the full moon of Magh is celebrated as his birthday. Even, this day is also a government holiday. People who have faith in him take out a tableau in his name and do kirtan.
Meerabai who made a different identity in the Indian society by her devotion has accepted Saint Ravidas as her Guru. Meerabai was greatly influenced by him. It has been written in many stories that it was Saint Raidas who taught him devotion. He also saved Meerabai’s life many times.
Conclusion on Ravidas
Today the whole society of India sees him as a great saint. Adopts the teachings given by him. Today there are many temples named after him, in which the knowledge given by him has been preserved. Political parties of India also pursue their political interests by associating with them. It shows his ability to create a great personality in the social conditions of that time. His contribution to the betterment of the society will always be special. He showed the right path of life to countless people from the path of devotion. But today, on the basis of their struggle, a feeling of hatred against a community is being promoted in the society, which will be an insult to the knowledge given by them. His biggest fight was to bring equality in the society. Due to this type of episode, the improvement in the society will end again. We should try to use the teachings given by him to bring unity in the society and not to increase enmity in the society.