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Sikh Bhagats

Sikh Bhagats :Bhagat Ravidas Ji

Bhagat Ravidas Ji was pious and religious minded right from the beginning and thus came in contact with many spiritual men and adopted Swami Ramanand Ji as his Guru. Bhagat Ravidas Ji made his living as a cobbler. He distributed a major part of his income among the poor and needly. Once Queen Jallibai presented him with costly clothes and ornaments as depicted above. He enlightened her by saying that the name of God was more precious than the ornaments. By the turn of the fourteenth century, the Muslim rule had been comfortably established in India. When Bhagat Ramanand (1366 – 1467 A.D.) came to Northern India and made Kashi/Benares as his home, he noted that the Muslim religion had penetrated: a considerable number of Hindus had ‘been converted, and they had adopted Islam as their religion. Ramanand was an orthodox devotee of Shiva. He was, no doubt, impressed with the Islamic theory of Oneness of God and Feeling of Equality in social set up, except Ruling Feudal Elite, the Muslims of all classes mingled indistinctivety in every aspect of life – living, eating, religious ceremonies, marriages, etc. But he was very much distressed to observe that these criteria were enhancing the conversion of Hindus, particularly of low-caste, into Islam. He forsook the Shivaite austere practices endowed to him by his Guru, Ramanuj, and initiated the veneration of the Unjversal Brotherhood. He accepted Hindus of low-caste and Muslims to join him in worship, and become his followers. Among his most noted disciples were Kabir – a Muslim weaver, Sam – a barber, Dhanna – a cultivator, and Ravidas, a cobbler.

There is consensus that Bhagat Ravidas was born on Maghushudhi 14 Pooranmashi in Smt. 1456, i.e. February 1399 in Kashi. His parents were in the leather trade, and were very well off. He was barely five days old when Bhagat Ramanand visited his house and blessed the child. When he reached the age of discretion, his father inspired him to join the family business. But Ravidas was imbued with with celestial and humane values. The money he received from his father for business, he spent in the welfare of the Saints and needy. His father was extremely perturbed and banished him from the house. By thAs time, Ravidas was already married. He did not resent, quietly left the house, started living in a make-shift hut with his wife, and set up a small wayside shop of menthng shoes.

He did not abandon his love for the God and built a Temple of clay walls and thatched roof. He installed an idol made out of hide in the Temple. His extreme devotion and universal love induced hundreds of people of all castes to join him in worship. This resulted in enviousness among the Brahmin priests who raised the matter in the Court of Muslim Nawab of Kashi. The Nawab was a man of righteousness, and put the matter to a miraculous test. Bhagat Ravidas went into meditation and recited one of his hymns (Gauri Purbi P.346) and requested the Almighty “Take pity on me that my. doubts may be dispelled.” His prayer was answered, and his adoration acclaimed the triumph in the miraculous test. To express his gratitude he sang his hymn (Asa P. 1606), “Thou art sandal and I am the poor castor-plant, dwelling close to thee. From a mean tree I have become sublime and Thine fragrance, exquisite fragrance, now, abides in me.”

A rich man tried to allure him with the charm of wealth. He gave the Bhagat a philosopher’s stone by the touch of which one could change any article into gold. In spite of Bhagat’s refusal the rich man left the stone hung under the ceiling. When he came back after one year, the stone was still hanging there. The rich man announced to the world the indisputable godliness of Bhagat Ravidas. This episode is considered to be an ecclesiastic test to judge Bhagat Ravida’s endurance towards the worldly love. But some accounts associate this to the devious manipulation of the Brahmin priests to discredit Ravidas, which, rather, ended in the triumph of the Bhagat.

Ravidas’s selfless devotion and casteless love for humanity spread far and wide. Maharani Jhally of Chitaur was a noble woman of benevolence and piety. Her ardency brought her to Benares on a pilgrimage. In spite of the disapproval of the Brahmin priests, she straight-away went to the Temple of Bhagat Ravidas. Ravidas was in h:s ecclesiastic benediction at the time, and was reciting his hymns (Rag Sorath P.658-59). Maharani was captivated. Eventually she became his disciple and abandoned all her luxurious set up. Her husband, the Maharana, had been instigated against her adopting a cobble as her Guru. He was full of rage when she returned. H~ was pacified by listening to some of the hymns of Bhagat Ravidas but still wanted to put the Bhagat through a test to invalidate the allegations of the Brahmins. The Bhagat was invited to Chitaur and and requested to participate in an oblation. The Brahmin priests refused to eat while a cobbler was seated in the same column of rows. Bhagat Ravidas voluntarily moved away. But, miraculously every person distributing food looked like Bhagat Ravidas to the Brahmins (Another account states when the Brahmins sat down to eat, they saw Ravidas seated between every two of them). They complained to Maharana. Maharana comprehended the hidden meaning of this marvel, and himself became an ardent devotee. Bhagat Ravidas remained in Chitaur for a long time. It is said that Mira Bai became his disciple as well during that period. As per some accounts he died at a ripe old age of nearly 120 years, in Benaras.

There are 41 verses of Bhagat Ravidas in the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib. Most of them are in very clear Hindi. His poetry is brimming with ardent love for God, Universe, Nature, GurU, and the Name. His sarcasm and pique shows his closeness with God.

Bhagat Ravidas neither ever laments nor complains to God on his low-caste lineage:

O people of the city, everyone knows

I am, a cobbler by trade and tanner by caste

One of the low-caste, and yet within my heart

I meditate upon God.

The only grievance he expresses to God is his mistreatment by the high-caste priests:

I am haunted day and night by the thought of my low birth, society and deeds. But all he want is:

O God! the Lord of the Universe! O Life of me! Forget me not. I am ever thy slave.

Through his simplicity, piety, and worship he seeks celestial amalgamation with God:

Thou art me, I am thou What is the difference.

The same as between gold and its bracelet, And between water and its ripple. And his hymn, Beghumpura, in the Rag Gauri is the most visionary, romantic and eternal:

Griefness’ is the name of my town, Where abide not either pain or care:

No anguish there of tax on goods, Neither fear, nor error, nor dread, nor decline.

Oh! how wondrous is my fatherland, Where there is always peace, and CaIrn, 0 Friend!

And there is not a second nor a third there, by my only Lord.

Populous as ever, its repute is eternal, Yea, there abide only the Rich and Content, And there men go about as and where they wish.

They know the Mansion of their Lord, so no one preventeth (them).

Ravidas, a mere tanner, hath been emancipated in this land, and he who’s his fellow citizen is also his friend.

Read more on Bhagat Ravidas Ji

Read Bhagat Ravidas’s Bani

This unique concept was the vision of Bhagat Ravidas, an important personality in the Bhagati movement in the 14th century. Behind the vision of the city, as described above by him, are reflected all those horrifying and hateful forces which he had to face all his life, because of his birth in a so-called low caste. Ravidas was born in 1378AD to a cobbler couple (father Ramu, also called by many: Mann Das and mother Dhurbinia, alias Karama Devi) of Kahi, an important religious centre of Hindusim. Because of his birth in this caste considered low in the Hindu caste hierarchy, even this loving devotee of God was looked down upon. It will not be an exaggeration to say that caste barriers do not limit persons with high spiritual status. The thoughts & deeds of such devotees of God are unique. Their birth into this world is always in keeping with some superior design of the Divine. Whatever such people do is never inspired by a selfish motive. Such seems to have been the object of Bhagat Ravidas’ birth also. He came into this world with a message of love for mankind, and he remained ever active to create among humans the feelings of equality and equity. He travelled quite widely to propogate these ideals among the masses. Along with other metaphysical tenets preached by him, he also gave mankind the message that it should kindle the lamp of knowledge and then plunge deep into the Divine love.

This unique concept was the vision of Bhagat Ravidas, an important personality in the Bhagati movement in the 14th century. Behind the vision of the city, as described above by him, are reflected all those horrifying and hateful forces which he had to face all his life, because of his birth in a so-called low caste. Ravidas was born in 1378AD to a cobbler couple (father Ramu, also called by many: Mann Das and mother Dhurbinia, alias Karama Devi) of Kahi, an important religious centre of Hindusim. Because of his birth in this caste considered low in the Hindu caste hierarchy, even this loving devotee of God was looked down upon. It will not be an exaggeration to say that caste barriers do not limit persons with high spiritual status. The thoughts & deeds of such devotees of God are unique. Their birth into this world is always in keeping with some superior design of the Divine. Whatever such people do is never inspired by a selfish motive. Such seems to have been the object of Bhagat Ravidas’ birth also. He came into this world with a message of love for mankind, and he remained ever active to create among humans the feelings of equality and equity. He travelled quite widely to propogate these ideals among the masses. Along with other metaphysical tenets preached by him, he also gave mankind the message that it should kindle the lamp of knowledge and then plunge deep into the Divine love.

Although he was of low social status, he was exalted and elevated, and people of all four castes came and bowed at his feet. ||2||
Writing about him, Kabir ji has also said that Ravidas was ‘the most saintly among saints’
In so far as the humility of Bhagat Ravidas is concerned, everybody who came in contact with him was impressed by this virtue of his. He was so softhearted that he would change the whole environment with his polite and respectful words even for an opponent. Mira Bai, one of his disciples, says of him:
‘He who is fortunate enough to meet the Guru like Ravidas will never distract his attention from Divine Name’. It was the result of his devotion and love that he left deep impression on everybody and came to be called a great personage.
There is another anecdote related about the detached nature, temperance and contentment of Ravidas, A brief account of the event is given here. Once a gentleman left Paras (invaluable touch stone) with Ravidas so that he could make use of it to get rid of his poverty. The gentleman, after sometime again called on his way back. He was surprised to find no material change in Ravidas’ economic position. With the intention of reminding Ravidas that he had Paras with him, the gentleman asked him to return the invaluable Paras to him. Ravidas calmly replied hat he could pick it up where he had left it. He felt rather non-plussed that Ravidas didn’t make Any endeavours to improve his economic position despite the fact that he was well aware of the value and characteristics of Paras.
Bhagat Ravidas knew what was going on in the visitor’s mind and with a view to satisfy his curiosity he told him that it behoves man to engage himself in honest labour to make both ends meet. However, if he wants to gather wealth, he should gather the wealth of Divine Name instead of Gold and Silver. It is the wealth of Name, which would help a person in this world and the afterlife too. In his quest for material comforts, man goes astray from the true aim of life, i.e. devotion to the Lord. Ravidas advises him that without Hari’s Name, all else is falsehood. Therefore, one should discard ego and devote themself to God whereby alone they can make their life beyond death secure and pleasant. All other deedsexcept remembrance of His Name are futile of course, it is therefore essential for a person to do some work to earn for their livelihood.
If we look at the life-pattern of animals, we shall find that the animals give us nectar-like-milk even if they are fed on very poor fodder. Thus, they are altruistic towards us and this service helps them in the future. On the other hand, God has blessed man with consciousness. He is conscious of everything, and has the resources to obtian and taste viands of 36 kinds. He eats and drinks so well, but if he still does not cultivate the Divine love in his heart, this implis that he is not the acme, but the lowest among lowly animals. The spirit of greatness within him seems to have vanished. Therefore, remembrance of the Lord along with daily routine, is a must for everyone. Bhagat Ravidas ji remembered Him in a variety of ways, thereby showing his deep devotion, immense love and complete satisfaction in Him.
A total of 40 hymns; set to 16 different musical measures, of Ravidas are included in SGGS ji. These hymns address themselves to the theme of love for the Divine, mankind’s intimate and essential relationship with Him, and deep devotion to Him. According to Bhagat Ravidas, realistaion of the Divine is possible only through loving devotion and all else is mere pretension or futile exercise.

Courtesy: sikhlionz website

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