Lord, if you are sandalwood, I am water;
with the fragrance in all parts of my body.
Lord, if you are a cloud, I am a peacock;
looking for you like a chakora for the moon.
Lord, if you are a lamp, I am the wick);
with the light burning day and night.
Lord, if you are a pearl, I am the thread;
together like gold and suhaga.
Lord, you are the master and I servant;
thus is the devotion of Raidas.
The path of realisation of the ultimate goal is based on love and devotion only. The Almighty does not discriminate on grounds of caste, class, gender and ethnicity, as was shown by Ravidas. Bhagat Ravidas, an ardent devotee of the God, was a Bhakti saint whose hymns are included in the Guru Granth Sahib.
Ravidas, a cobbler by profession, was born to Raghu and Ghurbinia at a place near Varanasi. Belonging to a low-caste family, Bhagat Ravidas was completely devoted to his work and love for God. Instead of renouncing the world in pursuit of truth, he combined work ethics with spiritual quest. He rejected the sectarian approach and denounced idol-worship as well. He conveyed his message of simplicity, love and devotion through his songs. His hymns are recited regularly in the gurdwaras.
Bhagat Ravidas had no attachment to worldly things. Once, Ravidas met a brahmin and gave him two coins from his hard earned money to offer it to the sacred river Ganges. Bhagat Ravidas said he should give the coins only when Goddess Ganga stretches her hand from the deep waters. The brahmin, who was on his way to pilgrimage to Haridwar, merely laughed at this suggestion and left. As legend has it, Goddess Ganga stretched out her hand when the brahmin was having a sacred bath and asked for the two coins given by Ravidas. Awestruck, the brahmin handed over the coins and the Goddess gave him a beautiful diamond-studded gold bangle for Ravidas.
The brahmin, instead of giving the bangle to Ravidas, sold it to the king. The king’s wife, highly pleased with the bangle, demanded one more bangle to complete the set. Having failed to procure another bangle of the same beauty, the brahmin approached the saint and admitted his deceit. He pleaded and requested Ravidas to save his life. Being a leather worker, Ravidas was immersed in his work and he asked the brahmin to look inside the vessel full of water used to dip leather to make it soft and pick up the bangle.
When the brahmin looked inside the vessel, he saw the Ganges flowing there and there were a number of bangles lying there. It was a rare moment when realisation and truth struck him like lightening. The notion of spirituality is not determined by one’s caste or creed. Bhagat Ravidas, born into a lower caste, was more enlightened than a high-caste brahmin. The Supreme Being understands the language of selfless love, devotion and good conduct only
Bhagat Ravidas, a poet-saint, attracted a large number of followers. The Sikh Guru also writes: “Ravidas, the leather worker, praised the Lord, and sang the kirtan of His praises each and every instant. Although he was of low social status, he was exalted and elevated, and people of all four castes came and bowed at his feet.”
Kulbir Kaur teaches sociology at Shyama Prasad Mukherji College, Delhi University...