Shri Guru Ravidass Ji was born around the fifteenth century in Kanshi, Benares in the state of Uttar Pradesh, North India. His birthday comes every year at puran mashi (full moon) in the Indian month of Magh. His mother’s name was Mata Kalsi Ji and his father’s name was Baba Santokh Dass Ji.
Guru Ravidass Ji was born into a humble family which was considered untouchable as per the social order prevailing at that time in Hindu society. Guru Ji spearheaded the fight against man-made discrimination based on caste, colour or creed and preached the lofty ideas of socialism, secularism, equality and fraternity.
From his childhood, he was very much devoted to worship. However, the upper-caste Brahmins created many problems for him. Guru Ji had to appear before King Nagarmal many times to prove his faith. In the end, the King was convinced and became a follower of Guru Ravidass Ji.
Guru Ravidass Ji taught the lessons of universal brotherhood, tolerance, the message of love your neighbour, which have more relevance in todays world. Guru Ravidass Ji fulfilled Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s request by donating old manuscripts, which contained a collection of Guru Ravidass Ji’s verses and poems. The earliest collection of these poems are available in Shri Guru Granth Sahib. It was compiled by Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs. There are 41 verses of Guru Ravidass Ji in the Sikh Holy Book, Guru Granth Sahib.
It is said that Guru Ravidass Ji disappeared from the world, leaving behind only his footprints. Some believe that Guru Ravidass Ji lived in banaras during his last days, dying a natural death at the age of 126 year
Contribution to Sikhism
The 41 hymns of Shri Guru Ravidass Ji included in Shri Guru Granth Sahib fall under:
Raga – Siri(1), Gauri (5), Asa(6), Gujari(1), Sorath(7), Dhanasari(3),
Jaitsari(1),Suhi(3), Bilaval(2),Gaund(2),Ramkali(1),Maru(2),Kedara(1), Bhairau(1),Basant(1), and Malhar(3). One with slight variations is given in both Rag Sorath and rag Maru.
Inspite of his low caste, Guru Ravidass rose to a position of great honour through a life of simplicity and piety. He never felt ashamed of his pedigree and faced fearlessly the pandits, who were proud of their high caste. He told them the spiritual greatness is achieved through a loving devotion to the Lord. He boldly proclaims:
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.
I am haunted day and night by the thought
Of my low birth, society and deeds
O God! the Lord of the Universe!
O life of my life – forget me not
I am ever Thy slave.
He was such a faithful Guru that once he gave a farthing (Damri) to some sadhus, who were going to Hardwar, requesting them to offer it to Ganga Mai on his behalf. They say that when the sadhu presented the damri sent by Guru Ravidass Ji, Ganga stretched out her hands to receive it.
He was greatly respected during his life time to the extent that even veteran pandits of Kanshi bowed before him. Tradition has it that Queen Jhalan of Mewar became a follower of Guru Ravidass Ji. But despite close contacts with an affluent section of the society, he chose to live austerely.
Thanks to Raman Dhanda of ShriGuruRavidassJi.com for sharing this text. The original is attributed to Virender Singh Gill.