India is known worldwide as a country of saints, sacred people, gods and goddesses. They commanded the highest respect in society. Besides preaching, they were also instrumental in giving social order to society.
Priesthood was mightier than the Kings and whatever religious or social commands they gave were abided by the then Kings and population. Social order was given to ancient Hindu society by the Rishi bn Muniswas responsible for introduction of Untouchability in society.
Shri Guru Ravidass Ji was born in Varanasi in UP, India in the 14th century in a humble family, which was considered Untouchable as per the social order prevailing at that time in Hindu society. This social order called Chaturavarna was the outcome of religious sanctity attached to it through Hindu scriptures namely Rigveda and Manu Samriti.
The early Aryans were not known to be practicing caste system strictly. They had divided the society into four classes on the basis of profession / duties they were supposed to perform. One could change one’s duties over to the other. But soon the division on the basis of work became rigid.
The original principle of division of labour soon gave way to rigid division into caste classification according to which the three upper castes Brahmin, Kashatriya and Vaish were considered superior and the fourth cast, the Shudras were given an ignoble place.
They were barred from acquiring knowledge i.e. education, have any kind of property and were considered Untouchables in the sense that not only physical contact with them, even their shadow was considered to pollute the bodies of people of higher castes.
These conditions prevailed in the Hindu society for more than three thousand years. Guru Ravidass ji was born into a family condemned to such miserable conditions in Varanasi, then known as “Kanshi” in the year 1376 AD (Bikrami Samvat 1433, widely accepted by most of the scholars & institutions) to father Santhok Dass Ji and mother Kalsi Devi Ji. From childhood itself, Guru Ravidass Ji had spiritual traits and soon came to be known as a highly enlightened saint. He started propagating these spiritual ideas among the people.
His popularity increased day by day and soon Kings and Queens of different princely states became his disciples. Raja Nager Mal of Banaras and Rani Jhalanbai and Miranbai of Chittaur were some of the well known disciples of Guru Ji. Guru Ravidass Ji devoted his attention to preach equality & brotherhood of mankind. “Every human being has equal rights including the right to worship his God”. His efforts were coupled by the contemporary saints. Prominent among them were Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Bhagat Kabir Ji, Rama Nand Ji and many others.
They all preached the gospel of brotherhood of man and fatherhood of God to break the inhuman shackles of untouchability and discrimination. That was the time of Bhakti Movement, a period of renaissance which gave new light to the people. Shri Guru Ravidass Ji wrote Bani religious discourses, out of which forty shabads and one shaloka are enshrined in Shri Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Sikh scripture.
The Raja-Maharaja’s built many a temple devoted to Shri Guru Ravidass Ji. But in later years, the temples were owned by the Brahmnical preachers. No trace of any place accredited to the memory of Guru Ji was left. Despite the efforts of saints and social reformers the conditions of the Untouchables continued to remain the same i.e. of hatred, abhorrence, poverty, drudgery and squalor. Guru Ravidass Ji was an institution in himself.
He wanted to make amends in the social and religious system. He set out for spreading his teachings to far off places. Guru Ji travelled to distant places to spread his message. Due to discrimination the spots built in his memory have been destroyed. Today there is no remnant showing his visit to any distant place. He not only wrote amritbani but also travelled all corners of the countries, as below, to make common man understand his philosophy of removing caste system, discrimination, ignorance, illiteracy, poverty, illusion.
Satguru Ravidass Ji travelled to Arabs countries also. He held dialogues with chiefs of various religions and innumerable persons were blessed with the powers he had. We find mention of various places in Guru Ji’s bani. In shabad ‘Begumpura sehar ko naon’ there is mention of Abadaan . As per mahan kosh of Bhai Kahan Singh it is a famous place in Iran. It indicates that Guru Ji visited Arab country also. He visited Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arab, Madina and Mecca and Afghanistan. In his journey to all these places large number of muslims became his disciples. Some monuments might have been erected in Guru Ji’s memory by his followers in these countries. But these could not have been maintained.
Non-acceptance of Philosopher’s Stone
Guru Ravidass Ji was a great saint of medieval Age who remained contented with his minimum belongings and resources of livelihood. He preferred to lead a poor man’s life. Many kings and queens and other rich people were his disciples but he never expected and accepted any wealthy offers. God deemed it proper to give him a philosopher’s stone. One day God, in the guise of a saint, visited Guru Ji’s hut and offered him a philosopher’s stone with whose touch iron would be converted into gold. The saint asked him to construct a palatial building with money earned with converted gold. Suitable boarding and lodging arrangements could also be made for visiting Sadhus.
Guru Ji listened all this. After a pause he politely refused the offer with the plea that he prefers to be poor and that he would serve the visiting Sadhus with his available resources.
Even the repeated offers of the philosopher’s stone by the Godly saint were not accepted by Guru Ji. At last the saint thought that he should leave the philosopher’s stone in his hut and he could utilize it later. He requested Guru Ji to keep it with him and he would collect it from him or return. Guru Ji told him to keep it in a particular place in the hut. The saint kept that stone there.
The saint came back after 13 months. He asked for philosopher’s stone. Guru Ravidass Ji asked him to collect it from the place where he had kept. He had not utilized it. The saint wondered on his tenacity of non-involvement in worldly wealth. The saint was very happy and took away the philosopher’s stone, went out and disappeared. Guru Ji has taught us a lesson that one should not be greedy. One should work hard for earning livelihood. THE INDIAN PANOR