Sunday, March 13, 2016

Baba Ravidaas Ji

Baba Ravidaas Ji is one of India’s revolutionary saints who challenged Brahmanism and its painful notions of pollution and caste discrimination. Baba Ravidaas Ji was one such inspirational figure. He was born in the fifteenth century at Kanshi (Banaaras) in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. 

In Gurbani, he describes himself as a leather worker, someone whose contact with dead animals would have marked him as an untouchable in Indian's Hindu society. His birthday comes every year on the full moon of the month of Magh (mid January-February). His mother's name was Mata Kalsi Ji and his father's name was Baba Santokh Daas Ji. Different historical sources have some variations on his parents' names. Not being able to tolerate the open challenge on the caste system, the caste elite tried to show Baba Ravidaas Ji as a Brahmin or Brahmin in his previous life. Many so-called scholars who could not tolerate a so-called untouchable being united with Vahiguru have given false claims that Baba Ji was a Brahmin in his previous life and he was cursed by his guru to be born in the house of untouchable because he got grains from the house of untouchable which touched flesh for a living. These made up stories give acceptance to the caste system and favour the Brahmins.

Early life
From very childhood, he was very much devoted to the worship of real God and spiritual seeker of the Truth. Although he opposed empty rituals and idol-worship, the Brahmins created stories that joined Baba Ji to building temples for idols and praying to stones. Bhagat Ji opposed the myth that caste plays a very important role in establishing relation with God. On the contrary, he was of the belief that God is omnipresent, and through loving devotion and Naam one can reach God. Bhagat Ji used to regularly attend the company of holy people, Saadh Sangat and showed a natural intelligence for languages.
ਮਿਲਤ ਪਿਆਰੋ ਪ੍ਰਾਨ ਨਾਥੁ ਕਵਨ ਭਗਤਿ ਤੇ ||
ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਪਾਈ ਪਰਮ ਗਤੇ || ਰਹਾਉ ||

"What sort of devotional worship will lead me to meet my Beloved, the Lord of my breath of life? In the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy, I have obtained the supreme status. ||Pause||" (Malaar Ravidaas Ji, 1293)
His parents became worried and tried to divert his attention by engaging him in their family profession of shoe making and repairing. He learned the profession, yet his love and devotion for Vahiguru continued. With a view to make him more interested in worldly affairs, in an early age his father got him married to Mata Lona Devi Ji. But even then it didn't change his attitude or his behaviour towards his dedication to Vahiguru. He was eventually kicked out of the family home and moved into a small dwelling with his wife nearby.

The high caste Brahmans created so many problems for him and tried their best to restrict him. Banaaras was the centre of Hinduism that had temples throughout the home of the townspeople, however Bhagat Ji openly challenged the practices of Aarti (candle-lit worship) of the stone statues and preached that the true Aarti and feeding of God is meditation upon Naam.
ਕਹੈ ਰਵਿਦਾਸੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਤੇਰੋ ਆਰਤੀ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੈ ਹਰਿ ਭੋਗ ਤੁਹਾਰੇ ||੪||੩||
Says Ravidaas, Your Name is my Aartee, my lamp-lit worship-service. The Eternal Name of God, is the food which I offer to You. ||4||3||
(Dhanaasaree Ravidas Ji, 694)
As a consequence of this challenge, he had to appear before the King Nagar Mal many times. However, in the end the king was persuaded and became a follower of Baba Ravidaas Ji. 

Breaking the pride of the egotistical Pandits
The Pandits could not bear that the Rajput queen of Chittor, Rani Jhalan Bai, had become a disciple of a low caste saint. They complained to her husband, Raja Sangram Singh, that his queen had adopted Baba Ravidaas Ji as her spiritual master. However, after speaking to the queen he too was impressed and wished to meet him. An event was held at the palace where Baba Ji was invited as the main guest. When the meal was going to be served, the Pandits stood away and refused to sit with Baba Ji, because they said, he belonged to low caste. On Baba Ji agreeing to sit alone in another room, the Pandits agreed to take their meals. However, when the Pandits began to eat food they were astonished to see that when they turned left and right of where they sitting they saw Baba Ravidaas Ji sitting there. The Pandits felt ashamed and repented for their unruly behaviour with Baba Ji. Breaking their egotistical pride in caste, Baba Ravidaas Ji forgave them all and they all bowed before him. 
ਸਾਧੂ ਕੀ ਜਉ ਲੇਹਿ ਓਟ || ਤੇਰੇ ਮਿਟਹਿ ਪਾਪ ਸਭ ਕੋਟਿ ਕੋਟਿ ||
ਕਹਿ ਰਵਿਦਾਸ ਜੋੁ ਜਪੈ ਨਾਮੁ || ਤਿਸੁ ਜਾਤਿ ਨ ਜਨਮੁ ਨ ਜੋਨਿ ਕਾਮੁ ||੪||੧||
"If you seek the Support of the Holy, millions upon millions of your sins shall be totally erased. Says Ravidaas, one who chants the Naam, the Name of the Lord, is not concerned with social class, birth and rebirth. ||4||1||"

(Basant Ravidaas Ji, 1196)

Fame grows
Influenced by Baba Ravidaas Ji's teachings, the Raja (king) and the Rani (queen) of Chittor became his disciples. He travelled fairly widely and visited Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Mahashtra besides a number of places in the northern India such as Prayag, Mathura, Vrindavan, Haridwar, and Multan. At most of these places, there are monuments honouring his memory. The Gurbani revealed through Baba Ravidaas Ji shows that he travelled extensively as his Shabads show a good knowledge of Hindi, Urdu, Persian and many regional languages of India. Written in the dialect of the common person, he hoped to provide for a better world and a fight against exploiters, power-holders and oppression going on under the name of religion. Baba Ji's followers are found in many states of India such as Uttar Pardesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Some consider him a Saint (Bhagat), and others as Guru.
ਮੇਰੀ ਜਾਤਿ ਕੁਟ ਬਾਂਢਲਾ ਢੋਰ ਢੋਵੰਤਾ ਨਿਤਹਿ ਬਾਨਾਰਸੀ ਆਸ ਪਾਸਾ ||
ਅਬ ਬਿਪ੍ਰ ਪਰਧਾਨ ਤਿਹਿ ਕਰਹਿ ਡੰਡਉਤਿ ਤੇਰੇ ਨਾਮ ਸਰਣਾਇ ਰਵਿਦਾਸੁ ਦਾਸਾ ||੩||੧||
"It is my occupation to prepare and cut leather; each day, I carry the carcasses out of the city.
Now, the important Brahmins of the city bow down before me; Ravidaas, Your slave, seeks the Sanctuary of Your Name. ||3||1||"
(Malaar Ravidaas Ji, 1293)

No shame in his background
Despite his so-called low caste, Baba Ravidaas Ji rose to a position of great honour through a life of simplicity and piety. He never felt ashamed of his social background 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:
ਮੇਰੀ ਜਾਤਿ ਕਮੀਨੀ ਪਾਂਤਿ ਕਮੀਨੀ ਓਛਾ ਜਨਮੁ ਹਮਾਰਾ ||
ਤੁਮ ਸਰਨਾਗਤਿ ਰਾਜਾ ਰਾਮ ਚੰਦ ਕਹਿ ਰਵਿਦਾਸ ਚਮਾਰਾ ||੫||੬||
"My social status is considered low, my ancestry is considered low, and my life is considered wretched. I have come to Your Sanctuary, O Luminous Lord, my King; so says Ravi Daas, the shoemaker. ||5||6||"
(Sorath Ravidaas Ji, 659)

Vision for society
Despite being a part of a society that mentally enslaved people to look beyond their slavery, Baba Ravidaas Ji was the first to envision the ideal of a perfect community in India that was free of slavery and fear. In his Shabad, Baba Ji describes “Begumpura”—a modern society that is free of caste, class, and tax, a city that is without sorrow:
ਬੇਗਮ ਪੁਰਾ ਸਹਰ ਕੋ ਨਾਉ || ਦੂਖੁ ਅੰਦੋਹੁ ਨਹੀ ਤਿਹਿ ਠਾਉ ||
ਨਾਂ ਤਸਵੀਸ ਖਿਰਾਜੁ ਨ ਮਾਲੁ || ਖਉਫੁ ਨ ਖਤਾ ਨ ਤਰਸੁ ਜਵਾਲੁ ||੧||
ਅਬ ਮੋਹਿ ਖੂਬ ਵਤਨ ਗਹ ਪਾਈ || ਊਹਾਂ ਖੈਰਿ ਸਦਾ ਮੇਰੇ ਭਾਈ ||੧|| ਰਹਾਉ ||

"Begumpura, 'the city without sorrow', is the name of the town. There is no suffering or anxiety there. There are no troubles or taxes on commodities there. There is no fear, blemish or downfall there. ||1|| Now, I have found this most excellent city. There is lasting peace and safety there, O Companions. ||1||Pause||"
(Gauree Ravidaas Ji, 345)
The vision of Baba Ravidaas Ji became a reality when the Khalsa was revealed in 1699 and established a just-rule under the reign of Baba Banda Singh Bahadar. This vision was in stark contrast to the imperfect community model of the Brahmanical dark age. Baba Ravidaas Ji taught the lessons of universal brotherhood, tolerance, message of love your neighbour, which got more importance in today's world. The path he chose was free from religious rituals and sectarian formalities. It emphasised the dignity of labour and compassion for all. It reflected the democratic and egalitarian traits of his social philosophy. He dared challenging the tyranny of the Brahmin spiritual domination. His revealed divine-songs became one of the main vehicles of his social protest. 

Meeting Guru Nanak Dev Ji
According to author Prithee Singh Azaad (Guru Ravidas, p. 42) Baba Ravidaas Ji met Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Guru Nanak Dev Ji stayed in Kanshi (Banaaras) for 15 days. This is the period when all the spiritual figures from Banaaras including the Bhagats came to visit Guru Nanak Dev Ji. There is a Gurdwara in this place called 'Guru Kaa Baag'. The Nephew of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Meharvaan, in his Janam Sakhi (collection of life stories of the Gurus) has written the following:
ਤਬ ਅਯੁਧਿਆ ਵਿਖੇ ਗੁਰੂ ਬਾਬਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਬੈਠਾ ਭਗਤੀ ਕਰਦਾ ਹੈ, ਤਉ ਭਗਤਾਂ ਕਉ ਆਗਿਆ ਆਈ ਪਾਰ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਜੀ ਕੀ ਜਿ, ਨਾਨਕ ਜੁਹਦੀ ਮੇਰੇ ਬਡਾ ਭਗਤ ਹੈ, ਸੁ ਅਯੁਧਿਆ ਮਹਿ ਆਇਆ ਹੈ || ਤੁਮ ਜਾਇਕਰ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਗਤ ਕਾ ਦਰਸ਼ਨ ਕਰ ਪਾਵਹੁ, ਜਿ ਤੁਮ ਮੇਰੇ ਨਾਮ ਕੀ ਮਹਿਮਾ ਅਧਿਕ ਪਛਾਨਹੁ || ਅਰ ਮੇਰੀ ਉਸਤਤ ਕਰਹੁ || ਮੇਰੀ ਜੋ ਉਸਤਤ ਹੈ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਾਨਤਾ ਹੈ ||... ਤਬ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਪਾਰ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਕੀ ਆਗਿਆ ਸਾਥ ਸਭਿ ਭਗਤ ਮਿਲੇ || ਮਿਲ ਕਰ ਮਿਲਣ ਆਏ || ਨਾਮਾ, ਜੈਦੇਉ, ਕਬੀਰ, ਤ੍ਰਿਲੋਚਨ, ਰਵਿਦਾਸ, ਸਧਨਾ, ਧੰਨਾ, ਬੇਣੀ ||
“Guru Baba Nanak came to Ayodhya and performs devotional worship. God sent a message to the Bhagats that (Guru) Nanak is my greatest devotee, and so they come to Ayodhya. Go and have a glimpse of the devotee (Guru) Nanak and recognise the glory of my Name and engage in my Praise. Nanak knows my Praises… Then with the order of God all the Bhagats met. They came to meet. Naam (Dev), Jaidev, Kabir, Trilochan, Ravidaas, Sadhna and Beni.” 
So the Bhagats, including Babai Ravidaas Ji under the divine instructions of God came to meet Guru Nanak Dev Ji and received what they were seeking and were blessed.

Bhagat or Guru
The Ravidaas Panthis, those who exclusively just accept Baba Ravidaas Ji as their Guru, call him Guru or Satguru. This is respected by Sikhs, however, for those who accept Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji as the eternal truth, Baba Ravidaas Ji is a Bhagat (devotee of God) who became one with God, but not a Guru. Just like a river leads into the ocean and becomes one with it, so the Bhagats merged into Vahiguru. Whereas the Gurus were already a part of the ocean. 
ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਜਨ ਦੁਇ ਏਕ ਹੈ ਬਿਬ ਬਿਚਾਰ ਕਛੁ ਨਾਹਿ ||
ਜਲ ਤੇ ਉਪਜ ਤਰੰਗ ਜਿਉ ਜਲ ਹੀ ਬਿਖੈ ਸਮਾਹਿ ||੬੦|| 
"The Lord and His devotees are one and the same. There is no fraction of duality in them (no difference between them). As a wave arising out of water (ocean) merges again into the same water. (Similarly God is comparable to the Ocean and His devotees as the waves). ||60||"
(Dasam Granth, 136)
Some ignorant people claim that Guru Nanak Dev Ji became the disciple of Baba Ravidaas Ji and accepted him as Guru, and similarly the followers of Baba Kabir Ji claim that Guru Nanak Dev Ji became the disciple of Baba Kabir Ji and accepted him as Guru. However, Guru Arjan Dev Ji clearly states:
ਸਭ ਤੇ ਵਡਾ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਜਿਨਿ ਕਲ ਰਾਖੀ ਮੇਰੀ ||੪||੧੦||੫੭||
"Guru Nanak is the greatest of all; He saved my honour in this time (by uniting me with God). ||4||10||57||"
(Soohee M:5, 750)
Gurbani itself describes Baba Ravidaas Ji as a Bhagat who sang the praises of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Bhatt Kall scribes:
ਗੁਣ ਗਾਵੈ ਰਵਿਦਾਸੁ ਭਗਤੁ ਜੈਦੇਵ ਤ੍ਰਿਲੋਚਨ ||
ਨਾਮਾ ਭਗਤੁ ਕਬੀਰੁ ਸਦਾ ਗਾਵਹਿ ਸਮ ਲੋਚਨ ||
ਭਗਤੁ ਬੇਣਿ ਗੁਣ ਰਵੈ ਸਹਜਿ ਆਤਮ ਰੰਗੁ ਮਾਣੈ ||
ਜੋਗ ਧਿਆਨਿ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨਿ ਬਿਨਾ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਅਵਰੁ ਨ ਜਾਣੈ ||
ਸੁਖਦੇਉ ਪਰੀਖ੍ਯਤੁ ਗੁਣ ਰਵੈ ਗੋਤਮ ਰਿਖਿ ਜਸੁ ਗਾਇਓ ||
ਕਬਿ ਕਲ ਸੁਜਸੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰ ਨਿਤ ਨਵਤਨੁ ਜਗਿ ਛਾਇਓ ||੮||

"The Glorious Praises (of Guru Nanak) are being sung by Ravidaas the Bhagat (devotee), Jai Dev and Trilochan. The Bhagats (devotees) Naam Dev and Kabeer praise Him continually, (who) with their eyes can see God everywhere. The Bhagat (devotee) Benee sings His Praises; with a fixed state, enjoying the ecstasy of the soul meeting God. With the spiritual wisdom of the Guru, (Guru Nanak) they join their consciousness in meditation; they know none other than God. The Rishee Sukh Dev and the king Preekhyat also sing the Praises (of Guru Nanak), and the Rishi Gautam also sings His Praise. O poet Kall! The ever-fresh praises of Guru Nanak (Dev Ji) are spreading throughout the world. ||8||"
(Svaiyye M:5 Bhatt Kall, 1390)

Lastly, Guru Arjan Dev Ji describes the Bhagats and then states that Guru Nanak Dev Ji was God Himself personified. This clears all doubts that Guru Nanak Dev Ji was Satguru and the Bhagats were Bhagats that became one with God after spiritual efforts and blessings of the Guru.
ਕਬੀਰਿ ਧਿਆਇਓ ਏਕ ਰੰਗ || ਨਾਮਦੇਵ ਹਰਿ ਜੀਉ ਬਸਹਿ ਸੰਗਿ ||
ਰਵਿਦਾਸ ਧਿਆਏ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਅਨੂਪ || ਗੁਰ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੇਵ ਗੋਵਿੰਦ ਰੂਪ ||੮||੧||
"Kabeer meditated on the One Lord with love. Naam Dev lived with the Dear Lord. Ravidaas meditated on God, the Incomparably Beautiful. Guru Nanak Dev is the Embodiment of the Lord of the Universe. ||8||1||"
(Basant M:5, 1192)

Eternal place in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji
The 40 Shabads (sacred hymns) of Baba Ravidaas Ji were included Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji by Guru Arjan Dev Ji: Raag - Siri Raag (1), Gauri (5), Aasa (6), Gujree (1), Sorath (7), Dhanaasaree (3), Jaitsaree (1), Soohee (3), Bilaaval (2), Gond (2), Raamkalee (1), Maaroo (2), Kedaara (1), Bhairo (1), Basant (1), and Malaar (3). When a Sikh bows before Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, they are also bowing to the Bani of Baba Ravidaas Ji. Baba Ravidaas Ji was given an eternal place by Guru Nanak Dev Ji in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

1 comment:

Inderpal Singh Assi said...

Gurfateh Singh Ji.

Love your post, but I am hoping if you can answer my one request.

You mentioned something about "Meharvaan Janamsakhi".

I am wondering if you can do a post regarding I.e. history....

Also if you can translate and interpret the sakhi?

It is quite rare to find such sakhi such as this,especially for people who lack in punjabi I.e. me.

Thank you Ji.