Let’s pay our tribute to Guru Ravidas an Indian mystic poet-saint of the Bhakti movement-Puri
Jaswant Singh Puri/ February 5,2023
India is a land of renowned poets and religious saints whose knowledge and wisdom has spread throughout the world. Guru Ravidas was one among them. He was a mystic poet, lyricist, social reformer and a religious Guru. Every year, the birth anniversary of Guru Ravidas is celebrated as Guru Ravidas Jayanti. It is celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Magh according to Hindu Calendar. It falls on 5th February in 2023. It is the most important day for the followers of Ravidassia religion. There are differences among scholars regarding the exact date of birth of Ravidas but many scholars consider his date of birth as 1398 A.D. He was born in a low caste family in Seer Goverdhanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
Guru Ravidas fought for the basic human rights and tried to spread the message of equality. ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ contains 40 compositions of Ravidas. His teachings were studied by the Sikh Gurus also.
Celebrations of Guru Ravidas Jayanti remain similar throughout the nation. Large, processions bearing Guru’s portraits are carried out during the procession. Sikh scriptures are recited in shrines dedicated to the Guru Ravidas. To honour his birth anniversary, special processions are organized in Seer Goverdhanpur where he was born. The Bhakti Movement prevailed between the fifteenth century to the seventeenth century. The poets and Gurus of this era have spread their teachings through verses and sermons. Saint Ravidas had an immense influence on the ‘Bhakti Movement’. His followers established the Ravidasia religion.
It is believed that the name of his wife was Lona. For his living, Ravidas used to work as shoemaker. Ravidas had a deep intrinsic urge to acquire knowledge. So he followed Saint Ramanand as his Guru. Mira Bai, an awakened personality in the religion of Hindu spiritualism recognised Guru Ravidas as her spiritual guide. Ravidas was very kind and courteous and derived pleasure by helping others. He used to give away shoes to saints and sages without charging any money. Watching all this, his parents were not satisfied due to the financial crisis of Ravidas. So they expelled Ravidas and his wife from the house. Ravidas started living with his wife in the rented house. He used to spend most of his time in the worship of God and the company of divinely inspired saints.
Some scholars believe that Ravidas met Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. He is revered in Sikh scriptures and his verses have been included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
He promoted the teachings as how one can unite with God and what the in-depth meaning of Almighty is.
He attracted devotees because of his opposition to social injustice like untouchability. Sharda Nand, his teacher recognised Ravidas as a divinely inspired child. He predicted that his behaviour and zest would transform Ravidas into a spiritually enlightened reformer of eminence. The prediction of his teacher proved true and he broke the shackles of inequality. He envisioned a society free of caste-barrier and elimination of discrimination.
His verses reflect his command over many languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Persian and many regional dialects. Nabhadasa sang Ravidas’s eulogy in his Bhaktmala:
”So purifying is Guru Ravidasa that the dust of his holy feet is worshipped by all; discarding the pride of castes and stations in life; and his blameless words are efficacious in cutting the knots of doubts.”
It is said that he merged with the Eternal in 1527 in Varanasi. The hymns of Ravidas reveal the aspect of Nirguna themes. He frequently speaks the term ‘Sahaj’ – a mystical state. His poetry is imbued with themes of boundless loving devotion to God wherein divine is envisioned as Nirguna.
Teachings of Ravidas represent an offshoot of the ‘Bhakti Movement’ of the 15th century, a religious renaissance in India. He taught that human soul is a particle of the Divine. Man should focus on God during all rituals of life. One can meet God by freeing the mind from duality. One of his verses is given below:
ਤੋਹੀ ਮੋਹੀ ਮੋਹੀ ਤੋਹੀ ਅੰਤਰੁ ਕੈਸਾ॥ ਕਨਕ ਕਟਿਕ ਜਲ ਤਰੰਗ ਜੈਸਾ ॥1॥
ਜਉ ਪੈ ਹਮ ਨ ਪਾਪ ਕਰੰਤਾ ਅਹੇ ਅਨੰਤਾ॥ ਪਤਿਤ ਪਾਵਨ ਨਾਮੁ ਕੈਸੇ ਹੁੰਤਾ
॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਤੁਮੑ ਜੁ ਨਾਇਕ ਆਛਹੁ ਅੰਤਰਜਾਮੀ ॥ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਤੇ ਜਨੁ ਜਾਨੀਜੈ
ਜਨ ਤੇ ਸੁਆਮੀ॥2॥ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਆਰਾਧੈ ਮੋ ਕਉ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ਦੇਹੂ॥ ਰਵਿਦਾਸ ਸਮ
ਦਲ ਸਮਝਾਵੈ ਕੋਊ॥3॥
(This stanza represents devotion of the highest order. Here Saint Ravidas enters into a dialogue with the Supreme Being and brings out four examples of difference between the original and its modifications i.e.
1) Gold and its bangle 2) Water and its wave
3) Pure and impure 4) Human and God
These four have been divided into two categories in the last two lines. Pure and impure, human and gods have been created by God to keep us in His devotion. The difference in the gold and bangle, water and wave are due to our understanding. Once we fully resolve these differences in our intellect, we would live in a state of likeness with the Supreme Being.)
O! Eternal infinite Lord! what is the difference between You and me, me and You? The difference is only like gold and its bangle or water and its wave.
It may be said that I am a sinner and You are pure. But I am practising devotion only to get purified. Therefore, O Lord! if I did not commit sins, how would You be named “Redeemer of the sinners”. (Rahau)
O Knower of everything! You are my Master and I am Your servant. A Master is known by his servants, and a servant is known by his Master.
O Lord! give me such understanding that I may continue with Your devotion. Also provide me with the company of such a great soul who should explain to me the discrimination to understand that the differences are only an illusion. You and me are really One.
Note: This article is dedicated to Smt. Alka Puri, M.A. (Hindi, B.Ed.), wife of Dr. Ajit Singh Puri and mother of Jaswant Singh Puri. She was the Secretary, Ladies Club, Punjabi University, Patiala during the tenure of Vice-Chancellor Dr. S.S. Johal who was awarded with prestigious award Padma Bhushan in 2004.
(The views expressed are personal)