Spirituality is not an illusion. Spirituality concerns with soul, human’s inner voice.

(Samaj Weekly)

Along with material needs, human has spiritual needs as well. She/he has feelings, affection, love, and other psychological needs. Despite limited resources, our great Bahujan scholars have excelled in this field also and gave large corpus of literature to guide us. But unfortunately, in the garb of so called ‘rationality’, we have underestimated these saints and termed spirituality as illusion.

Modern society is based on the principles of rationality, humanity, scientific temperament, equality, justice, liberty, fraternity etc. Our saints, in medieval period itself, on the basis of rationality, attacked staunchly on corrupt Brahmanical practices. But spirituality is not against rationality, it comes under Humanism, where there is feeling of love with fellow beings, human get rid of arrogance, become humble, attain mental peace and much more.  These traits are becoming rare in contemporary society. There is mad race to come ahead of others. These vices have corrupted our Bahujan leaders also, ultimately it is society at large who suffers.

At present, despite rules and regulations, and inclusion of ethics in curriculum, material culture has dominated the society. Leaders are full of arrogance, humility and service attitude is missing. One possible cure can be spiritual upliftment.

In medieval times, people had ‘n’ numbers of problems. They were unable to get rid of them. There were ‘n’ numbers of questions like ‘who created the life?’, ‘what will happen after death?’…etc. People need someone on whom

-they can put their all tensions,

 -to get positivity,

-to express gratitude,

-to pray (especially, when things are not in our hands)…. 

As a result of all this, there arises the concept of “All powerful Almighty” (Sarvshaktimaan Nirankar Rabb).

Love and Devotion to this Lord was the basis of medieval Bhakti/Sufi saints.

It is also said that most of these medieval Sufi/Bhakti saints are from upper castes. They comment “Sufis are ‘Sayed’”. This is true to some extent, actually those, whose basic necessities are fulfilled are more likely to talk about spirituality. But still, with limited resources, large numbers of Bahujans have contributed in this field that too in lyrical from and in local language. We should not consider them mere poets.

“Log kahe yeh geet hai, par jeh toh Brahm vichaar”…Saint Kabir.

Moreover, philosophy is important, caste of the scholar should not matter. By this logic, Buddha was from upper caste ‘kshatriya’. Still most ‘Bahujans’ follow His philosophy. So let us widen our perspective, as Saint Kabir has rightly said,

” jaati na poocho sadhu ki, pooch lijiye  gyan…”.

We find ‘n’ numbers of Sufis from marginalized sections also. ‘Shah Hussein’(zulaha), a weaver whose forefathers were non-Muslim, had reached epitome of spirituality.

“ni sayyiyon asan naina de aakhe lagge….”

“nadiyon paar sajan da thana, keete kol zaroori jaana…”

Murshad (Master) of great Sufi Baba Bulleh Shah (Syed) was from ‘Arain’ (low caste), in whom, Bulleh Shah saw ‘Rabb’.

Now a days, most Sufi Shrines in Indian Punjab are managed by Bahujan people. And they are centers of syncretic culture.

Bhakti saints discarded the mediation of Brahmins for the worship of God. Large numbers of these saints were Bahujan and from deprived section. Saint Namdev(Tailor), Saint Kabir (weaver), Saint Ravidas (cobbler), Saint Sadna (Butcher), Saint Sain (barber), Saint Dhana (Jaat)….

Guru Nanak collected the writings of all these saints. Later, while compilation of Guru Granth Sahib (the Holy book of Sikhs) Guru Arjun included in it the writings of these saints. Guru Granth Sahib has maximum writings of Saint Kabir.

Dr. Ambedkar, was almost about to convert to Sikhism, but Sikh leaders had not let it happened. We will discuss this Issue on some other time.

Contribution of these Saints in the field of spirituality is deliberately ignored by Bahujan scholars. Perhaps, it does not fit into their parameters of rationality!!! Such an irony.

Writings of Saint Ravidas (cobbler, an untouchables) needs special mention. Scholars have only considered his concept of ‘Begumpura’, and his contributions against caste system, and neglected his other contribution. E.g.

inn panchan mero mann jo vigario….”

Five vices (lust, anger, avarice, affection, pride)

Kaam, krodh, lobh, moh, ahankaar…have corrupted human’s mind.

(one can read, Bhagat Bani teeka part 2 by prof. Sahib Singh)

(one can listen the hymnes ‘keh Ravidas’ by Bhai Manjinder Singh or his brother Bhai Harjinder Singh, with English subtitles)

maati ko putra kaise nachat hai…”

Human has indulged into vices and forget that one day he has to go.

For solution, He is suggesting the path of devotion to Guru/God.

“keh Ravidas sabeh jag lutiya, ham toh ek Ram keh chooteya”.

(This Ram is not that of Ayodhyapati Ram.)

Out of His 40 shabads, more than 35 are directly talking about love for God, His name’s chanting, devotion, company of spiritual persons, as a way to get rid of the vices, and attain salvation.

Sikh religion is based on the writings of these Saints.

Most ‘Deras’ in north India e.g. Radha Soami, Nirankari, Dera Ballan, etc. came into existence on the basis of this valuable literature only. Religious leaders preach by illustrating hymns of these Saints. Such is the power of this literature that sects are being created based on it. But, our so called educated research scholars have neglected this spiritual contribution.

When researchers have to show Dalit assertion, usually they look towards ‘doaba’ region of Punjab. It is Here, that Ad Dharm movement in 1920s, under the leadership of Babu Mangu had evolved. One can find slogans like ‘putt Chamara de’, ‘bhagatan de munde’, etc, on vehicles, in songs etc. People are not ashamed of their caste. From where this ‘Pride has come? Again, it is the writings of these saints that have empowered them. Talking about spirituality is not the privilege of one particular caste. Here, one can find priests from all castes.

Earlier, spiritual people used to become monk or wanderer and live on alms. But Bhakti period saints taught that along with spiritual practices, one should not abandon his economic activities and household life. They emphasized on the value of ‘kirat’ i.e. earn by working. They never gave up doing economic activity. Guru Nanak worked as farmer during the last 17 years of His life, emphasizing importance of kirat. These concepts are revolutionary advancement compared to earlier times.

It is the contribution of Sikh Gurus, that people of Punjab came to know about Saint Ravidas and other saints. He was from Banaras, but Bahujans of UP, know little about Him!

Guru Gobind Singh created ‘Himmat Singh’, ‘Daler Singh’, ‘Jujhar Singh’, etc. from ‘dabchu’, ‘ruldu’, ‘ghaseeta’. But we are not recognizing this contribution, because Sikh Gurus were not Dalits!!!

It is high time that we should recognize the contributions of our Saints in spiritual field and broaden our perspective. It will ultimately boost the confidence of Bahujan people.

– Pargat Singh

Pargatjnu@gmail.com