Sant Ravidas and the Dynamics of Identity and Worship in India

The 647th birth anniversary of Sant Shiromani Ravidas was commemorated nationwide on February 24. Prime Minister Narendra Modi marked the occasion by unveiling a statue in Varanasi, the birthplace of the revered saint. Additionally, he laid the foundation stone for the Ravidas Museum during the ceremonial event held on Friday.
Sant Ravidas and the Dynamics of Identity and Worship in India

Lucknow- Exploring the multifaceted legacy of Sant Ravidas, a revered saint in India, unveils a complex tapestry of identity, worship, and political appropriation. Despite being predominantly associated with his Dalit identity, Sant Ravidas's influence transcends caste boundaries, with his teachings resonating across diverse social strata.

However, his elevation by right-wing groups like the RSS into a broader narrative of Hinduism adds layers of complexity to his revered status, reflecting the intricate interplay between spirituality, social hierarchy, and political agendas in contemporary India.

Sant Ravidas is one of the most revered saints, born in the 13th century in a Chamar (a Dalit sub-caste primarily associated with leatherwork) at a time when the caste system was quite rigid.

However, Sant Ravidas managed to scale the heights of spirituality through his teachings, which espoused equality and simplicity and envisaged the concept of Begumpura, a town free from discrimination and suffering. Today,

Sant Ravidas is revered all over the world. Outside India, Sant Ravidas has gurudwaras in the U.S., Canada, Australia, U.K., Italy, and other European countries.

Ravidas Jayanti Celebrated Nationwide

On Saturday, Ravidas Jayanti celebrations were held all over the country. In Lucknow, a procession was taken out from Jhandewalan Park in Aminabad to the Ravidas Mandir at Bada Chandganj, Aliganj, which is also celebrating its 100th foundation year in 2024. Another significant program was organized at Sant Ravidas Math in Bara Birwa on Kanpur Road in Lucknow.

IPS officer B.P. Ashok, who spoke at the event, urged the people to follow the teachings of Sant Ravidas, which are relevant today. He said that Sant Shiromani Ravidas promoted the spirit of inquiry, which was the basis of revolution in the western world. The event had an impressive gathering, and people paid tributes to Sant Ravidas. Ram Khilawan, the president of the Sant Ravidas Sewa Samiti, which organized the event, said, "Guru Ravidas showed us the right path."

Retired IPS officer Harish Kumar said, "Sant Ravidas did not surrender to the Islamic rulers who were pressurizing him to convert to Islam." Vipin Kumar Gautam, who came from Hardoi to attend the event, said, "We need to take the message of Sant Ravidas to every household."

Sant Ravidas as the Springboard of Subaltern Hinduism

In an attempt to woo the Dalit community, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a statue in Varanasi, the birthplace of the seer, on Friday and also laid the foundation of the Ravidas Museum. Last year, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh allocated 12 acres of land for a temple and meditation center dedicated to the medieval-era saint in Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh.

In India, Sant Ravidas has been largely associated with his Dalit identity, and the upper castes rarely worship him at an individual level. However, right-wing groups like the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) have adeptly tapped into the popularity of Sant Ravidas among the members of the Scheduled Castes. Sant Ravidas fits into the agenda of RSS, as not only does he represent the Dalit cultural identity but also fulfills the agenda of subaltern Hinduism, bereft of Brahminical supremacy.

The saint, whose dohas like "Brahmin mat pujiye jo hove gudhina, pujiye Charan chandal ke jo howe gud Praveen" (don’t worship a Brahmin who is devoid of virtues, rather worship a lower-caste chandal, who is virtuous), are in crosshairs with the Vedic Hinduism supported by RSS, but the latter has very skillfully woven the saint into its larger narrative of Hinduism.

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