Guru Ravidas’s 640th Jayanti Celebrated In Vancouver

By Zile Singh

Ambassador (Ret’d)

Guru Ravidas (1377-1527 C.E) was a famous saint of the Bhakti Movement. According to Hindu lunar calendar he was born on Magha  Purnima in 1377 A.D.  During that time the caste system  was at its height in India.   Seeing his devotion, Sant Ramanand ( a high caste)  gave him Initiation ( Naam Daan ) Though he was born to a lower caste parents,  his devotional songs and verses made a lasting impact upon the whole  society of that time.  Guru’s influence reached at such a peak that in addition to thousands of his followers, two Princesses namely Meera Bai and Jhala Bai adopted him as Guru despite a strong objection from the Royalty of that time.  Guru Ravidas’s verses have also been included in the Guru Granth Sahab,  the holy book of the Sikhs.

Guru Ravidas Jayanti is celebrated throughout India and several other countries where his followers , called Ravidasias,  are settled.  Such celebrations were also arranged on Sunday February 12, 2017 by  Sri Guru Ravidas Sabha, Gilley Avenue, Burnaby, British Colombia, Canada. Thousands of his devotees gathered.  British Columbia government was represented by MP, MLAs and Councilor of different political parties. The Khalsa Diwan Society, Ross Street Vancouver  was represented by its President and General Secretary.  All of them shed light on Guru’s teachings, namely,  unity of the humanity, devotion to one’s duty and  casteless and multicultural society.  However, when  the Guru transcended the barriers of caste and creed and his teachings are recognized universally,  some of his  staunch followers still want to keep that illumined soul in the cobweb of the  caste.

India got independence from the British rule  in August 1947 and its Constitution was adopted on January 26, 1950.  In the Constitution, whose

Chief Architect was Dr. B.R.  Ambedkar, Jurist and an economist,  himself a low caste, made provisions for  liberty, equality and fraternity to ameliorate the conditions of the lower castes.  Since Independence the successive governments have made several other provisions in the form of Affirmative Action to bring these lower caste population  upwards.  Despite such efforts,  their status has  not come to a satisfactory level. The  caste prejudice and hatred still prevails in  society.  Surprisingly,  the lower caste population in India as well as settled outside have not come out of their caste nostalgia.  In some instances, it looks like a reverse discrimination. Some vested interests prevail to take advantage of their situation instead of an approach of assimilation. There is need to think high, look up and leave the centuries old psyche of looking down.

If we realise on   religious lines:    All the Hindus bow to The Ramayana, a holy book  written by Bhagwan Valmiki, a lower caste. Majority of Hindus bow to Hanuman, an Adivasi (Tribal, according to Hindu scriptures),   All the Sikhs bow to Guru Granth Sahab which comprises the verses of Bhagats Ravidas, Kabir and several others including Baba Farid, a sufi saint.  All the elected representatives in India take an oath to uphold  the Constitution while delivering their duty which was mainly authored and piloted by  Dr. Ambedkar.

During the phase of commercialization of religion all around,  it is not uncommon in this (Sabha)  Guru Dawara also that members of the community misuse and disuse this holy place for personal benefits.  One incident happened last Sunday ( Feb. 12 ) when during a General Body meeting the decorum was quashed.  Some members lost control on their language.  Unfortunately RCMP’s help was called. Instead of an agenda of inclusiveness,  the Ravidasia community is working towards its segregation from other mainstream diaspora.

The Khalsa Diwan Society, Ross Street , Vancouver also celebrated Guru Ravidas Jayanti on February 19.  Bhagat Ravidas’s  contribution in the Guru Granth Sahab was highlighted in detail.  However, the ignorant followers  are fighting about his status.  The Ravidasia communty advocates that he should be called a ‘Guru’ whereas the non Ravidasia community say that he was a ‘Bhagat’ Controversy is going on.   Even in Gurbani, a Bhagat is superior to a Guru.

President Shri  Pranab Mukherjee greeted citizens on the eve of Guru Ravidas Jayanti saying his “ noble teachings propagating universal brotherhood are of great relevance in today’s world.”

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi paid tribute to Guru Ravidas on the occasion of Guru’s 640th Jayanti.  He said, “ I bow to Guru Ravidas Ji on the special occasion of Guru Ravidas Jayanti.  His pure thoughts and ideals have a profound impact of society.  Guru Ravidas Ji emphasized on values of harmony, equality and compassion which are central to India’s culture and ethos”

The Government of India observe Guru Ravidas Jayanti as Restricted Holiday in India.

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