Life and teachings of SANT RAVIDAS

  • Know about life and teachings of Sant Ravidas, how did Ravidasa become Sant Ravidas, why he is revered highly in Punjab and why was Ravidassia declared a new religion.

Former Congress Chief Minister of Punjab Charanjit Singh Channi's belongs to the Chamar community (of Ramdasia Sikhs). Chamars are followers of Sant Ravidas in Punjab. In the run up to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections Prime Minister temples of Sant Ravidas in Delhi and chanted with devotees. This got me curious – who was Sant Ravidas. Read on.  

Sant Ravidas was a mystic, poet, philosopher, and saint during the 15th century. He was the torchbearer of the Bhakti movement in North India. Ravidasa made significant contributions by way of spiritual teachings, verses, and devotional songs. He contributed 40 verses to the Adi Granth or the Guru Granth Sahib as it is known today. His Jayanti is celebrated on Magha Purnima as he was on the full moon day in the month of Magh. 


Early Life  

Ravidasa was born in 1377 the Seer Goverdhanpur village, Varanasi. His parents Kalsa Devi Ji and Baba Santokh Dass Ji belonged to Chamar community (use leather to make footwear). Ravidasa's father did shoemaking and repairing. Although Sant Ravidas was a Chamar he spent most of his time in spiritual pursuits. 


How did Ravidasa become Sant Ravidas? 

Ravidasa's parents sent him to school. Unfortunately, school education turned out to be short and not enjoyable. He soon realized that being from a lower caste nobody would treat him well. This made Ravidasa think hard. He would often be thinking so deeply that it would appear as if he were in Samadhi. His teacher noticed that he was not an ordinary child and was born for something higher. 


Ravidasa showed a lot of interest in spirituality. He was actively looking for a teacher. Soon, Swami Ramananda (1400-1480 .A.D) accepted Ravidas as his disciple. Swami Ramanand's teachings left an indelible mark on Ravidasa.


According to, “"Let no one ask a man's caste or with whom eats. If a man is devoted to Hari, he becomes Hari's own." Thus declared saint Ramananda who is considered a pioneer of the Bhakti movement in North India. Political conquest of Muslims was taking root and the Indian society, ever divided over caste hierarchy was slowly forgetting its glorious past of universal brotherhood, transcendental knowledge and realization of God. Several saints appeared on the scene making people aware of age old values, especially when there was a challenge of Islamic supremacy.”


Also read Important Proponents of the Bhakti Movement


Ravidasa understood the true meaning of life because of Swami Ramananda. He started to grasp what Indian culture and traditions were all about. This is how Ravidasa found enlightenment. After this there was no turning back. Sant Ravidas realized that he had a spiritual mission to fulfil.


This is how Ravidas became Sant Ravidas. Kashi (city of Light) became the base for Sant Ravidas’s spiritual activities. 


According to Volume 4 of The Cultural Heritage of India published by the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, ‘Kabir had more than once expressed reverence for Ravidasa (Raidas). Ravidasa was the worshipper of one infinite God who is above all religious sects and without beginning or an end. He preached that Lord resides within the hearts of His devotees. Only one who has felt the pangs of divine love will find him, and the highest expression of religion of life in the service of man. It is said that Jhali, the queen of Chitttor, received her initiation into religious life from him and Mirabai also completed spiritual discipleship under his guidance.” Pg. 380 “Kabir described him as a sant par excellence (Santan mein Ravidas sant hain).”


Sant Ravidas ji’s followers 

Sant Ravidas Ji is worshipped in Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra amongst other states. In all states one thing is common-all disciples belong to the Chamar community. 

Sant Ravidasji Janam Asthan Mandir, Varanasi. 

Why is Sant Ravidas worshipped in Punjab and Society dynamics in Punjab

Despite efforts of different Sikh reform organizations, Sikhism was unable to break free from caste. Mazhabi, Ranghreta, Ramdasia, Ravidasia, Rai, and Sansi Sikhs continued to be classified as lesser than others. In Punjab, the stigmatization of "lowly communities" continued despite Sikhism preaching equality.


According to a Punjab based scholar, “They are considered pariahs in all matters. Sikhs generally used the epithet Sant for Ravidas, denying him the status of Guru, which they kept only for their own ten gurus. While Ravidasis take pride in being chamars (as did their guru) Sikhs continue to consider chamars as low caste. Inter-dining, intermarriage between two communities is still not accepted, although the elite among them enjoys a better social status by virtue of their political or economic power.”


This is also the reason why Deras emerged. Dera refers to places of worship associated with individual gurus. Of the groups that went their own ways, the chamar or leather community fostered a sense of unity amongst themselves and call themselves Ravidassia.  


With the rise of caste based politics since the 1990s, the importance of Ravidassias has increased in Punjab (where their numbers are significant) and to an extent in Uttar Pradesh.


Also read Why Dera Sacha Sauda draws followers


Ravidassia declared a new religion

According to this Indian Express report, “An attack in 2009 during a religious congregation in Vienna, which the current chief of the Dera Sant Niranjan Das survived, but in which one of the sants was killed, became a watershed moment. In Varanasi, on the birth anniversary of Guru Ravidas in 2010, the Dera and its sants declared Ravidassia as a new religion.” Actually, they are closer to Radhasoamis of Beas.


Ravidassias believe in Ravidasia Dharm. It is at best a Panth, like there have been many in India. “Dera Sachkhand or Dera Ballan has emerged as a major centre for the articulation of the Ravidassia identity in Punjab.” The Dera was founded in the early 20th century by Baba Sant Pipal Das. From 2010, the Dera Sachkhand Ballan started replacing the Guru Granth Sahib with its own Granth, Amritbani, carrying 200 hymns of Guru Ravidas, in Ravidassia temples and gurdwaras. Ravidassias are mostly found in the Doaba region of Punjab.” Source


Philosophy of Sant Ravidas

Sant Ravidas propounded the concept of Beghumpura meaning a “city without sorrow.” He dreamt of a utopian world with the absence of discrimination and inequality.  


Sant Ravidas Ji was an outspoken opponent of the caste system and advocated social harmony, spiritual freedom, and equality. His disciples included Rajput princess Mirabai. Mirabai wrote for Sant Ravidas “Guru Milyaa Ravidas Ji …”


Ravidas emphasized the importance of Kirat (labor). He insisted on doing the vocation of his community (chamars were leather tanners) to criticize the existing dehumanized logic of caste.


Most importantly, Sant Ravidas believed in impressing people not by his supreme intelligence but by his humility. He believed in equanimity. He usually uses the term sahaj to describe a mystical condition in which the truths of the many and the one are united. His thoughts refer to the Nirgun philosophy of the Bhakti movement. 


Sant Ravidass is a prominent figure in the bhakti movement in northern India, particularly in nirguna sampradaya or sant parampara. His poetry has a wide audience. Although Ravidass' poetry is full of references to God's devotion and longing, it also makes room for “hope for a better society and a fight against exploiters, power-holders, and injustice perpetrated in the name of religion”.


According to this article in Sunday Guardian, “The word ‘Bhakti’ has its origins in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad (hymn 6.23), which, as translated by Paul Deussen in his ‘Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1’, reads, “He who has highest Bhakti (love, devotion) of Deva (God), just like his Deva, so for his Guru (teacher), To him who is high-minded, these teachings will be illuminating.” 7


Sant Ravidas rose to fame as a result of his unwavering faith in one God and his unbiased poetry. He also refuted the notion that persons from lower castes are unable to meet God. Actually caste is social, at a spiritual level every soul is equal.

That is why we find numerous Sants belonged to the so called lower castes. Some examples - Veda Vyasa was born to a fisherwoman, Tiruvalluvar was a weaver by caste, Tirupann, the Alvar saint was pandar, an untouchable caste. Namdeva (1270-1350) was a tailor and Tukaram (d1650) was a peasant. Hinduism, The Faith Eternal by Dr Satish K Kapoor.


Also read When Caste was not a bad word and Shivaji’s KARMA matter not caste  


Whilst challenging the then existing social hierarchy Sant Ravidas ji did not hide his caste. He continued with his hereditary occupation of making/mending shoes.


Lastly, Ravidas was a follower of ananya bhakti (fervent devotion), in which the worshipper and his object of worship lose their sense of duality. He believed that bhakti could be developed through cleaning one's Antahkarana (inner self), living in accordance with God's will, and remaining in good company. He opposed formal devotion and favoured personal bhakti, which requires meditative meditation (the holy name). Fasts, pilgrimages, and penances, in his opinion, were not the best ways to realise God. “He regarded the killing of living creatures either for religious sacrifice or for food, as inhuman, because the Lord resides in them too.” 1



1. Guru Ravidas a mystic poet

2. Everything about Sant Ravidas


4. Life history of Ravidas

5. Sant Ravidas

6. Guru Ravidas Jayanti

7. Bhakti ideals, the Nirguna Movement and Sikhism


Author Simridhi Makhija is a Delhi-based writer who loves to read and write about the society and culture of India. 


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