SHRI GURU RAVIDASS JI was born in the fifteenth century at Kanshi (Banaras) in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. His birthday comes every year at Puran Mashi in the month of Magh. His mother's name was Mata Kalsi Ji and his father's name was Baba Santokh Dass Ji. Guru Ravidass Ji was born in a humble family which was considered untouchable as per the social order prevailing at that time in Hindu society. Guru Ji spearheaded the fight against man-made discrimination based on caste, colour or creed and preached the lofty ideas of socialism, secularism, equality and fraternity. From very childhood, he was very much devoted to worship Real God. The caste Brahmans created many problems for him. Guru Ji had to appear before King Nagarmal so many times. In the end, the King was convinced and became a follower of Guru Ravidass Ji. Guru Ravidass Ji taught the lessons of universal brotherhood, tolerance, message of love your neighbour, which got more importance in today's world. Guru Ravidass Ji fulfilled Guru Nanak Dev Ji's request by donating old manuscripts, which contained a collection of Guru Ravidass Ji's verses and poems. The earliest collection of these poems are available in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. It was compiled by Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs. There are 41 verses of Guru Ravidass Ji in the Sikh Holy Book, Guru Granth Sahib. It is said that Guru Ravidass Ji disappeared from the world, leaving behind only his footprints. Some believe that Guru Ravidass Ji lived in banaras during his last days, dying a natural death at the age of 126 years.
Contribution to Sikhism
The 41 hymns of Shri Guru Ravidassji included in the Guru Granth Sahib fall under:
Raga - Siri(1), Gauri (5), Asa(6), Gujari(1), Sorath(7), Dhanasari(3), Jaitsari(1),Suhi(3),
Bilaval(2),Gaund(2),Ramkali(1),Maru(2),Kedara(1), Bhairau(1),Basant(1), and Malhar(3). one with slight variations is given in both Rag Sorath and rag Maru
Inspite of his low caste, Guru Ravidass rose to a position of great honour through a life of simplicity and piety. He never felt ashamed of his pedigree 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,
O people of the city, everyone knows
I am a cobbler by trade and tanner by caste
One of the low caste, and yet within my heart
I meditate upon God.
I am haunted day and night by the thought
Of my low birth, society and deeds
O God! the Lord of the Universe!
O life of my life - forget me not
I am ever Thy slave.
They say that someone once offered him a paras (the philosopher's stone that turns cheaper metal into Gold) and assured him he could get any amount of wealth by making use of it. Guru Ravidass Ji asked him to place it in a corner. When he came to Guru Ravidass again after some months, he found the saint still lurking in poverty. He asked the Guru why he had not utilized the paras. Guru Ravidass remarked that for him, "God's Name alone was the paras, that was the "kamdhen" and "chintamani".