Lucknow- The Bhakti tradition, also known as the Bhakti movement, is a significant spiritual and cultural movement that originated in India, particularly during the medieval period. "Bhakti" is a Sanskrit term that translates to "devotion" or "love," emphasizing the path of loving devotion to a personal god as the means to attain spiritual realization and salvation. The movement played a role in challenging social inequalities and promoting social harmony by advocating for a direct and personal connection with the divine, undermining the exclusivity and superiority associated with traditional priestly rituals.
One such saint who carried forward the mantle of the Bhakti tradition of Kabir, Raidas, and Guru Nanak was Guru Ghasidas, born in Giraudpuri village in what is now the Raipur district in the state of Chhattisgarh on 18th December 1756. He was born into a Chamar family, considered low caste, and, like most low-caste families, belonged to a poverty-stricken background, working as an agricultural labourer to make a living. He married early and fathered four children.
The society of his time was deeply entrenched in superstition, ignorance, and caste rigidities. Stricken by these social practices, he decided to travel through Chhattisgarh to awaken the masses. One day, mid-way through his journey, he began meditating in the jungle on a mountain called "Chata." He named the place Satnaami, where he gave sermons to the people, propagating the Satnaami culture.
In his teachings, he abhorred superstition and made the upliftment of Dalits his life goal. Although Ram Mohan Roy is largely credited with the advent of the Indian renaissance, Guru Ghasidas had preceded him in calling for the abandonment of age-old traditions that have blighted mankind, doing so through the Satnaami culture.
The Satnami culture is associated with the followers of Guru Ghasidas and the Satnami sect, a movement that originated in north India before the birth of Guru Ghasidas. Here are some key aspects of Satnami culture:
Satnami Sect: The Satnami sect emerged as a response to social injustices and inequalities prevalent in the region during that time. The followers of this sect called themselves Satnaamis as they believed in Satya (truth).
Social Equality: A core tenet of Satnami culture is the promotion of social equality. Guru Ghasidas preached against discrimination based on caste and urged his followers to treat all individuals with respect and dignity.
Teachings and Beliefs: The followers of Guru Ghasidas, known as Satnamis, adhere to his teachings that emphasize devotion to a formless, nameless, and genderless divine entity. They reject the traditional caste system and believe in the equality of all human beings.
Worship Practices: Satnamis engage in devotional practices, including prayer, singing hymns, and participating in community gatherings. The worship is characterized by simplicity and a focus on the inner spiritual connection.
Iconoclasm: The Satnami culture has been associated with iconoclasm, rejecting the worship of idols and emphasizing a formless divine presence. This aligns with Guru Ghasidas' teachings that focus on devotion to the formless reality.
Cultural Impact: The Satnami culture has had a significant impact on the cultural and social fabric of central India. The teachings of Guru Ghasidas continue to influence the lives of the Satnami community, shaping their values and practices.
Literary Contributions: The Satnami culture has produced devotional literature and hymns that reflect the spiritual teachings and beliefs of the sect. These compositions often emphasize the themes of love, equality, and devotion to the divine. The message of "Manav-Manav ek samaan" (All human beings are equal) encapsulates the philosophy of the Satnaami sect founded by Guru Ghasidas. Guru Ghasidas finds immense relevance today as the vestiges of caste and superstition continue to afflict society, and even educated people practice them with impunity.