Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sant Ravidas (1376-1527)

The revivalist movement in mediaeval India was pioneered by Ramanand and furthered by other equally great teachers all over India. The movement accomplished its supreme achievement when in the beginning of the 15th century; it gave birth to Ravidas. Being a cobbler by caste, he was outcaste among the Hindus.

Sant Ravidas hailed from Varanasi and flourished during the earlier period of 15th century. He was a devout worshipper of Lord Rama. His father was displeased with him and turned him out of the house. After leaving the house he took up shoemaking, his family business, and made it a practice to supply shoes to all mendicant ascetics whom he came across. Ravi Das was always immersed in his devotion and this led to the closure of his business and this reduced him to poverty.

Ravidas was never interested in worldly pleasures. One day when he found five gold coins from among his usual articles of worship, he was worried. Then God ordered him, in a dream, to keep the coins with him. But he spent the gold coins in building a rest house for travellers and a temple for his God.

Ravidas was a monotheist and held that the soul differs from God in that it is encumbered with a body; God is everything, is gracious to all and is accessible to all. He alone can save men from evil passions and should be worshipped with all devotion that man is capable of.

Ravidas’ compositions have relevance even today. Taking its name from him, there is an important Vaishnava sect, the Rai-dasis. The sect has no particular sacred book, although it has orally preserved a number of hymns attributed to its founder. Several of these have been included in The Adi Granth, the holy book of the Sikhs. It is said, "his conversation and poetry were like the Sun that dispels darkness of doubt and infidelity". The spiritual power of the saint had been known far and wide so much so that the queen of the Chittore touched his feet and got her initiation from him. Meera Bai also completed her spiritual discipleship under his guidance. Ravidas’ followers believe that he died at the age of 120 years.

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