In California, members of an under-the-radar, minority religious community called the Ravidassia are stepping into the public eye to advocate for making the state the first in the nation to outlaw caste bias.
Who are the Ravidassias?
- The Ravidassias are the followers of Ravidass, a 14th century Indian guru who preached caste and class equality.
- Guru Ravidass belonged to untouchable caste and also known as Dalit.
- The faith itself emerged in response to the societal exclusion of the lowest caste members.
- Many male Ravidassia members wear long hair in a turban and carry Sikh articles of faith such as the kada or bracelet, kangha or wooden comb and kirpan, the sheathed, single-edged knife.
- Many men and women in the community also have Sikh last names — Singh and Kaur.
Who was Guru Ravidass?
- Ravidass was an Indian guru, mystic and poet who was one of the most renowned figures in the North Indian bhakti movement.
- Ravidass was born in the 14th century in a village near Varnasi to a family of cobblers and tanners who belonged to the then-untouchable or leather-working caste known as “chamars.”
- The Guru Granth Sahib, which is the sacred text of Sikhism, bears 40 verses or shabads of Ravidass.
- A Ravidassia place of worship is called a sabha, dera, gurdwara or gurughar, which could all be translated as temple.
- Adherents cover their heads and remove their shoes before entering the prayer hall or place of worship.
- The temples serve a post-worship meal as Sikh gurdwaras also do, which is known as langar.
- Ravidassia temples often display idols and/or pictures of Guru Ravidass in the prayer halls.
- Many Ravidass temples also observe the birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar.
SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB