Guru Ravidas was a 15th century poet who followed the Nirgun Sant parampara or worshipping god in his formless divinity and was one of the main social reformers and leaders of the North Indian Bhakti movement. He had strong beliefs about God’s existence and that can be seen through his poems and numerous writings that have inspired many readers since ages.
He has called upon people to have Bhakti or devotion in God to attain oneness with him. In other words, the main path or route to one’s enlightenment is to have boundless devotion towards god and that’s how we can experience oneness with the lord.
The songs and poems that he has written is famous all over north India even to this day and people from many regions including Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra worship him as their religious saint even to this day. His writings and poems are very popular in these regions and people have become greatly influenced by his teachings and songs.
Early Life of Guru Ravidas
Ravidas was born in 1377 A.D. in Varanasi. His parents were Santokh Dass and Kalsa Devi. His wife was Smt.Lona and he had a son by name Vijay Dass. Ravidas belonged to the Harijan caste, which was considered a lower caste in society.
This led to him seeing much discrimination at the hands of upper caste people and his family was made to undergo many humiliations due to their caste. From a very young age, Ravidas was treated very badly in society when he encountered upper caste people and that led to him express his feelings in the form of writings and poems.
His poems convey utmost devotion to God. From a very young age, he believed deeply in God and his devotion is seen in all his writings. In the ancient days at Varanasi, the upper caste people, particularly the Brahmin community disliked Ravidas in spite of him showing so much devotion and faith in god, and that was all because of his caste factor.
They considered him an untouchable person in the society as he was a harijan and came from the downtrodden sections of the society. His father was into shoe making business and they were often looked down upon due to their profession.
Society and its Influence on his Writings
The caste factor also cast shadows on his education and learning process. Ravidas was a great disciple of Pundit Sharda Nand, a great scholar at Varanasi in those days. Ravidas was highly influenced by his teachings and he had great faith in his teacher and was an obedient student disciple.
He quite naturally followed in his footsteps and learnt every bit of his teachings. When the upper caste people were informed of this, they tried to restrict Ravidas from learning at the hands of his teacher. But Ravidas was a very determined person from a very young age and that led him to seek knowledge in spite of hardships and was successful also.
Ravidas is also claimed to have saved his teacher’s son from his death bed by the super miracle powers he was in possession of. The whole town was mesmerized when this event occurred and then people started believing him to be a spiritually enlightened soul.
Ravidas was an ardent devotee of lord Ram and he became a great disciple of the god in his own words in all his writings and poems. Many of his writings are dedicated to the lord. Ravidas had deep connection with the city of Begumpur. Ravidas loved this city so much that he has described it many beautiful words.
He was totally in awe of this city that he has described it as a unique city for anybody to come and live in. He has beautifully described the love and peace that had filled the place. People had no hatred or negative feelings for anyone in this city that made it so beautiful to live in.
He described it as heaven where everything seemed so nice and serene, the nature was at its best, people lived happily without any sufferings and most importantly there was equality among people. Ravidas was also associated with MiraBai. MiraBai was greatly influenced by his writings and has mentioned him as great saint with references in many of her devotional songs.
Nearly 41 writings or Ravidas can be found in the Guru Granth Sahib and that speaks of Ravidas’ connection with the Sikh religion. The followers of the principles preached by Ravidas are commonly called Ravidassia.
Importance of Gurur Ravidas Jayanti
Guru Ravidas Jayanti is celebrated on the full moon day of the Maagh month of the Hindu calendar. The next date in 2018, when this auspicious day would be celebrated falls on 31st January. On this day, many eminent persons deliver lectures on Ravidas.
They take forth his teachings, deliver it to people through lectures, talk about his works, and conduct special aartis for him. This day is specially celebrated in the region of Varanasi and it almost resembles a function with which the day’s proceedings take place.
People gather in large crowds and take part in a procession event going through the streets of the town chanting his songs and poems. Many people in home worship the saint after taking a holy dip in the Ganges and also do special offerings for him.
People flock to this temple town during this time to offer their worship and show utmost devotion to the person who taught them devotion as a way of life.
Message from Guru Ravidas to the Society
Ravidas sacrificed his life working for social causes that had plagued the society. The society had become a breeding ground for caste systems and upper caste people were almost always seeking chances to undermine and pull down lower caste people.
Ravidas questioned the beliefs of caste systems and asked people what they really achieve in ill treating people just because they believe they are from an upper caste. Ravidas had strong belief in the faith of god which led him to think that every human is the same in the eyes of God, irrespective of his caste, creed, color, religion, status etc.
God does not differentiate between human beings, to him, all humans are same and this is the universal truth. It is only the humans who create differentiations in society based on caste and creed and turn the society into an ugly picture.
Through his writings, he influenced people to think on humanity grounds. The upper caste people always discriminated against the lower caste people and did not allow them even the basic rights of life. Right from food to shelter, they were denied all their rights.
Their rights were decided by the so called upper caste people. They were not even allowed to go to temples to offer worship to the lord. Such was the situation in ancient India. The lower caste people were looked down upon as downtrodden people and were believed to be untouchables of the society.
Ravidas tried to change this perception by spreading messages of love and harmony among people. Thorugh is poems, he struggled to change the way people think. He wanted to create an atmosphere of universal brotherhood among people and fought for the equality of all human beings.
He was distressed to see people fighting amongst themselves and the absence of love and peace between human beings influenced him to write strong, inspirational quotes to change people’s mindsets.
People struggled to get a glass of drinking water since they were considered untouchables by the upper caste people. Ravidas saw that people were living in torn huts that did not have even the basic amenities and the poor conditions of people forced him to spread messages of what really god loves.
Ultimately, he believed in devotion towards God as the only way to achieve success in life and that is what he has stressed in all his poems. He considers love and devotion to God as essential factors that bring happiness to mind and creates a beautiful city or town.
People can achieve oneness with god and see prosperity in their lives only if they attain true devotion towards god and not by merely following religious practices with an intention to impress him.
His views were totally different in matters of practising and preaching and he always made sure to understand the sentiments of people and speak in their benefit. A great social reformer, through his writings, Ravidas was a legend of sorts in ancient India and Guru Ravidas Jayanti is celebrated with much belief and faith all over Varanasi.