- The details of Ravidas’s life are not well known. Scholars state he was born in 14th or 15th century CE.
- Ravidas was born in the village of Seer Goverdhanpur, near Varanasi Uttar Pradesh, India. His birthplace is now known as Shri Guru Ravidas Janam Asthan. Mata Ghurbinia was his mother, and his father was Raghuram.
- While his original occupation was leather work, he began to spend most of his time in spiritual pursuits at bank of river Ganga . Thereafter he spent most of his life in the company of Sufi saints, sadhus and ascetics.
- Medieval era texts, such as the Bhaktamal suggest that Ravidas was not the disciple of the Brahmin bhakti -poet Ramananda.He is traditionally considered as Kabir’s younger contemporary.
- His ideas and fame grew over his lifetime, and texts suggest Brahmins (members of priestly upper caste) used to bow before him.
- He travelled extensively, visiting Hindu pilgrimage sites in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and those in the Himalayas. He abandoned saguna (with attributes, image) forms of supreme beings, and focussed on the nirguna (without attributes, abstract) form of supreme beings.
- The Adi Granth of Sikhs, and Panchvani of the Hindu warrior-ascetic group Dadupanthis are the two oldest attested sources of the literary works of Ravidas.
- In the Adi Granth, forty of Ravidas’s poems are included, and he is one of thirty six contributors to this foremost canonical scripture of Sikhism.
- This compilation of poetry in Adi Granth responds to, among other things, issues of dealing with conflict and tyranny, war and resolution, and willingness to dedicate one’s life to the right cause.
- Ravidas’s poetry covers topics such as the definition of a just state where there are no second or third class unequal citizens, the need for dispassion, and who is a real Yogi.
- The songs of Ravidas discuss Nirguna-Saguna themes, as well as ideas that are at the foundation of Nath Yoga philosophy of Hinduism. He frequently mentions the term Sahaj, a mystical state where there is a union of the truths of the many and the one.
- In the Sikh tradition, the themes of Nanak’s poetry are very broadly similar to the Nirgun bhakti ideas of Ravidas and other leading north Indian saint-poets.Most postmodern scholars, states Karen Pechilis, consider Ravidas’s ideas to belong to the Nirguna philosophy within the bhakti movement.
- 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.
- Multiple manuscripts found in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, dated to be from the 18th and 19th centuries, contain a theosophical debate between Kabir and Ravidas on the nature of the Absolute, more specifically whether the Brahman (Ultimate Reality, Eternal Truth) is monistic Oneness or a separate anthropomorphic incarnate.
- Kabir argues for the former. Ravidas, in contrast, argues from the latter premise to the effect that both are one. In these manuscripts, Kabir initially prevails, Ravidas accepts that Brahman is monistic, but till the end Kabir didn’t accept worshipping a divine avatar (sagun conception).