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The Ravidassia religion (i//; also Ravidassia Dharam; Punjabi: ਰਵਿਦਾਸੀ ਧਰਮ, Hindi: रविदास्सिया धर्म, Urdu: راویدسیہ دھرم) is a Dharmic religion, founded in the 21st-century out of Sikhism, and is based on the teachings of the 14th century Indian guru Ravidass, revered as a satguru.
Historically Ravidassia represented a range of beliefs in South Asia, with some devotees of Ravidass counting themselves as Ravidasia Sikhs, but there is evidence that Ravidassia Dera first formed in the early 20th-century in colonial British India. The Ravidassia community began to take on more cohesion following 1947, and the establishment of successful Ravidassia communities in the diaspora.
Ravidassias, states Ronki Ram, accept present Sants of Ravidass Deras as Guru (saint) whereas the Sikhs do not. A new Ravidassia religion was launched following the murder of their cleric Ramanand Dass in Vienna in 2009, where the movement declared itself to be a religion fully separated from Sikhism.
Prior to their break from Sikhism, the Dera Bhallan Ravidassias revered and recited the Guru Granth Sahib of Sikhism in Dera Bhallan Ravidass Gurudwaras. However, following their split from mainstream Sikhism, the Dera Bhallan compiled their own holy book based exclusively on Ravidass teachings, the Amritbani Guru Ravidass Ji, and these Dera Bhallan Ravidassia temples now use this book in place of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Ravidass was born on 15 January 1377 CE (Indian calendar Sunday Sukhal Falgin Parvithta 1433) to the Kutvandla Shudra community. His birthplace was a locality known as Mandhuadhe in the city of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh state, India. The birthplace is now marked by the Shri Guru Ravidass Janam Asthan (Begampura), and is a major place of pilgrimage for the followers of Guru Ravidass today. Ravidassia believe that Ravidass died in Benares at the age of 126.
Ravidass' teachings represent an offshoot of the bhakti movement of the fifteenth century, a religious renaissance in India. Ravidass taught the following principles:
- The oneness, omnipresence and omnipotence of God
- The human soul is a particle of God
- The rejection of the notion that God cannot be met by lower castes.
- To realize God, which is the goal of human life, man should concentrate on God during all rituals of life.
- The only way of meeting with God (moksha) is to free the mind from duality.
The Shri Guru Ravidas Mission states that the conditions on being a member of the community are:
- That one who preaches Guru Ravidass's philosophy is a Ravidassia.
- It is not a condition that one should have been born in the Ravidassia community to become or to be initiated as one.
- To celebrate Shri Guru Ravidass Jayanti according to the Punjabi calendar, Sunday, Sukhal Falgin Parvithta.
Dera Sach Khand Ballan of Jallandhar, Punjab on 30 January 2010 at the 633rd birth anniversary of Ravidass announced the objectives of Ravidassia religion as, "to propagate the Bani and teachings of Satguru Ravidass. Besides, the teachings and thought of Maharishi Bhagwan Balmiki, Satguru Namdev, Satguru Kabir, Satguru Trilochan, Satguru Sain and Satguru Sadna would also be propagated".
Places of worship
The Ravidassia place of worship is called a bhawan, Ravidassia Bhawan or Gurughar. It is considered respectful towards Guru Ravidass if one covers his head and takes off his or her shoes while entering the Ravidassia Bhawan. It is believed that everyone must follow it as a respect to Guru Ravidass.
Outside a Bhawan there is always a flag upon which is written the Nishaan, and above it a Harr symbolising enlightenment from Guru Ravidass's teachings.
Langar takes place inside a Bhawan continuously as a practice, all are free to partake of it.
The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Book) is installed as the focal point in the main worship room. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is respected at all times.
Aarti and Kirtan of all saints and Gurus takes place daily at the closing of the day's formal services, this consists of the famous Arti written by Guru Ravidass in which he tells God is one and equality is among all in the eyes of God.
The Bhawan is also known as a Gurudwara (God's residence) within the community, and it is common to find them signposted as such.
The Ravidassia temples "Bhawan" contain the holy book Amritbani Guru Ravidass Ji which contains all the hymns by Guru Ravidass. This book contains the following hymns: 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). The book contains 140 shabads, 40 pade, and 231 salok. There are 177 pages in all of the book.
A version of the holy book granth containing 240 hymns of Guru Ravidass was installed at the Guru Ravidass temple in Jalandhar, Punjab, on 1 February 2012 on the occasion of birth anniversary of Guru Ravidass. The Dera Sach Khand Ballan religious community had announced the formation of the new Ravidassia religion and separation from Sikhism at Varanasi. The split from Sikhism was triggered after the killing of its deputy head Sant Ramanand Dass in May 2009 at a temple in Vienna by some Sikh radicals.
President of newly formed Begumpura Lok Party and a supporter of the new religion, Satish Bharti, said that the copies of the new granth were put on display during the religious processions in order to assert that the community members are firm believers of the new religion.
Ravidassias are aligned with a sant who mentors them on their spiritual path, providing personalised mantras and advice. The head of the Ravidassia Dharam, known as the sadhus are present mainly in Punjab and the Dera Sach Khand Ballan consists of sadhus, also known as Sant Samaj who in turn lead and are heads of all Ravidassias deras around the world. The leader of the Ravidassia religion, known as the Gaddi Nashin is Sant Niranjan Dass alongside Sant Surinder Dass Bawa. Former leaders include Sant Hari Dass, Sant Sarwan Dass, Sant Garib Dass and Sant Baba Pippal Dass.
The Ravidassia religious symbol is known as the Harr Nishaan ("sign of God"). The Gurmukhi transliteration of the name Harr is the main symbol of the Ravidassia religion. It is also called as Koumi Nishan.
- A bigger circle with 40 rays of sunlight signifying forty hymns of Guru Ravidass;
- Inside the big circle is a small circle, inside which is written "Har" in Gurmukhi language (ਹਰਿ) with a flame on top of it;
- The flame represents the Naam (word) that would illuminate the entire world, and reaches the outer circle;
- Between the two circles is written a couplet composed by Ravidass: ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕਿ ਜੋਤੀ ਲਗਾਈ, ਭੇਈਓ ਓ ਭਵਣ ਸਗਲਈ (Naam tere kee jot lagayi, Bhaio Ujiaaro Bhawan saglaare, "Your Name is the flame I light; it has illuminated the entire world")
Relationship with Sikhism
Dera Bhallan Ravidasis claim that their religion was created after they were excluded from Sikh gurdwaras in Punjab. There are many similarities with mainstream Sikhism and indeed temple worship is almost identical. The primary difference is the reverence of Ravidas as their main prophet or teacher.
The Dera Bhallan community insists they are separate from Sikhism as Guru Ravidass and not the Guru Granth Sahib is their spiritual Satguru.
The birthday of Guru Ravidass is celebrated every year at the Seer Gowardhapur village temple in the state of Uttar Pradesh in January or February and the government of India has declared it a gazetted holiday.
Every year more than 1 million devotees from India and abroad visit the Seer Goverdhanpur temple. In India, devotees pour in from Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, MP, Bihar, UP and Uttarakhand while foreign devotees from the US, Canada and UK throng the village.
On the day there is a Path of Amritbani Guru Ravidass read, the Harr(i) nishaan sahib is changed ceremonially, and there is a special Ravidassia Arti and a Nagar Kirtan procession bearing Shri Guru Ravidass' portrait are taken out to the accompaniment of music through the streets of the temple locality.
Special pilgrim trains have been run to and from Varanasi for the last 12 years on the occasion of Parkash Ustav of Guru Ravi Dass. A special train is run from Jalandhar to Varanasi and back every year on Guru Ravidass Jyanti Purb for the convenience of the pilgrims since 2000.
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