On the auspicious occasion of Guru Ravidas Jayanti, Prime Minister of India said the works of Guru Ravidas Ji are a source of inspiration to work for a just and equitable society. And that the Guru’s emphasis on the brotherhood of mankind and his fight against discrimination of any kind are of particular significance today. And further to dedicate ourselves towards spreading the values of tolerance and universal brotherhood on this occasion.
Guru Ravidass Ji, a North Indian Guru, a mystic of the bhakti movement who was active in the 15th century CE. Venerated in the region of Uttar Pradesh as well as the Indian state of Maharashtra, his devotional songs and verses made a lasting impact upon the bhakti movement. He is often given the honorific Bhagat or Sant.
He was a socio-religious reformer, a thinker, a theosophist, a humanist, a poet, a traveler, a pacifist and a spiritual figure before whom even head-priests of Benaras lay prostrate to pay homage.
His devotional songs were included in the Sikh holy book. There is also a larger body of hymns passed on independently that is claimed and attributed to Guru Ravidass Ji.
Guru Ravidass was subversive in that his devotionalism implied a leveling of the social divisions of caste and gender, yet ecumenical in that it tended to promote crossing of sectarian divides in the name of a higher spiritual unity.
Guru Raviass Ji taught that one is distinguished not by one’s caste (jāti) but by one’s actions (karma) and that every person has the right to worship God and read holy texts. He opened a frontal attack against the system of Untouchability. He rejected the tradition of Brahmin mediator to reach the Supreme Being. He also said that one need not to hide his caste or leave his low profession to reach God. He became a model for his fellow beings to overcome the hierarchical barriers of Brahminical social order and to establish Begumpura – a state without fear and sorrows.
Guru Ravidass elevated the status of the labour by emphasizing on the fact that honest labour is empowering.
Guru Ravidass Ji was a shoemaker of the Kutbandhla Chamar caste.
My caste is mean; my birth is mean.
I come under your protection Ram
Says Ravidass, the cobbler.
(“land without sorrow”) is a term coined in a poem by Guru Ravidass Ji. Begampura is the name of an idealized city where there is no suffering or fear, and all are equal. The verse is seen as reflecting both a sense of poverty and caste humiliation, and a desire to find a utopia without suffering:
The regal realm with the sorrowless name
they call it Begumpura, a place with no pain,
no taxes or cares, none owns property there,
no wrongdoing, worry, terror, or torture.
Oh my brother, I’ve come to take it as my own,
my distant home, where everything is right…
They do this or that, they walk where they wish,
they stroll through fabled palaces unchallenged.
Oh, says Ravidas, a tanner now set free,
those who walk beside me are my friends.
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