General Studies IART AND CULTURE

Guru Ravidas


The postponement of the Assembly elections in Punjab to February 20 underlines the importance of the Ravidassia community in the state.

To read issue click here: Indian Express

About Guru Ravidas:

  • Ravidas, or Raidas, was an Indian mystic poet-saint of the bhakti movement and founder of the Ravidassia religion during the 15th to 16th century CE. Venerated as a guru (teacher) in the modern regions of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana,
  • He was a poet, social reformer and spiritual figure.
  • The life details of Ravidas are uncertain and contested. He was born in Varanasi into untouchable leather-working Chamar caste.
  • He valued the worship of a formless God.
  • Ravidas’s devotional Verses were included in the Sikh scriptures known as Guru Granth Sahib.
  • The Panch Vani text of the Dadupanthi tradition within Hinduism also includes numerous poems of Ravidas.
  • He taught removal of social divisions of caste and gender, and promoted unity in the pursuit of personal spiritual freedom.
  • Along with Kabir, he was one of the most noted disciples of Bhagat Ramanand.
  • 41 verses of Bhakt Ravidas are incorporated into Sikh’s religious book, Adi Granth.
  • He was vocal against the varna (caste) system 
  • He imagined an egalitarian society called Begumpura, means “land without sorrow” 
  • His disciples came to be known as Ravidas-panthis and followers came to be known as Ravidassias.
  • He also mentioned ‘Sahaj’, a mystical state where there is a union of the truths of the many and the one.

Teachings of Guru Ravidas

  • Abolition of Caste: Guru Ravidas dedicated his whole life to the abolition of the caste system. He openly disliked the notion of a Brahminical society.
  • One God: He gained prominence due to his belief in one God and his unbiased religious poems. He also rejected the idea that people considered lower caste cannot meet God.
  • Guru Granth Sahib: The devotional songs of Guru Ravidas made an instant impact on the Bhakti Movement. Around 41 of his poems were included in the religious text of the Sikhs ‘Guru Granth Sahib’.
  • Begumpura: His idea of “Begampura” was considered as his moral and intellectual achievement. Begampura was a city conceived by him. In that city, there will be no sorrow, no caste and class.
  • Ravidassia Religion: His teachings resonated with the people leading to the birth of the Ravidassia religion or Ravidassia Dharam.

His Association with Meera Bai

  • Sant Guru Ravidas Ji is considered as a spiritual Guru of the Meera Bai
  • She was very impressed by the teachings of Guru Ravidass Ji and became the great follower of him.
  • Meera Bai has written some lines in the respect of his Guru “Guru Milyaa Ravidas Ji …”

Literary works

  • The AdiGranth of Sikhs, and Panchvani of the Hindu warrior-ascetic group Dadupanthis are the two oldest attested sources of the literary works of Guru Ravidas.

About Ravidassias:

  • The Ravidassias are a Dalit community of whom the bulk — nearly 12 lakh — live in the Doaba region.
  • The Dera Sachkhand Ballan, their largest dera with 20 lakh followers worldwide, was founded in the early 20th century by Baba Sant Pipal Das.
  • Once closely connected with Sikhism, the dera severed these decades-old ties in 2010, and announced they would follow the Ravidassia religion.
    • The announcement was made on Guru Ravidas Jayanti in Varanasi.
  • From 2010, the Dera Sachkhand Ballan started replacing the Guru Granth Sahib with its own Granth, Amritbani, carrying 200 hymns of Guru Ravidas, in Ravidassia temples and gurdwaras.

How did the Dera Sachkhand Ballan establish?

It was founded in the early 20th century by Baba Sant Pipal Das. After the death of Sant Pipal Das, his son Sant Sarwan Das headed the dera from 1928 to 1972. There have been three more heads Sant Hari Das, Sant Garib Das and Sant Niranjan Das after that and none was chosen by heredity.

The dera severed their decades-old ties with Sikhism in 2010 and announced to follow the Ravidassia religion. It replaced Guru Granth Sahib with its own granth, Amritbani, carrying 200 hymns of Guru Ravidas, in Ravidassia temples and gurdwaras.

What was the reason behind severing ties with Sikhism?

There had been a deadly attack by fundamentalists on Shri Guru Ravidas Temple in Vienna in 2009. They killed the Dera Sachkhand Ballan’s then second-in-command, Sant Ramanand, and injured 30 people.

The Vienna attack triggered riots in doaba, mainly in Jalandhar, where a curfew was imposed for 15 days. This event led to severing Ravidas community ties with Sikhism. Ravidassias even demanded a separate column for their religion in the 2021 Census.

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: The Ravidassias of Punjab” published in the Indian Express on 19th January 2022.

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