- Social equality envisioned by Bhagat Ravidas in Begam Pura Sehar (ਬੇਗਮ ਪੁਰਾ ਸਹਰ ਕੋ ਨਾਉ) can be realised through Miri-Piri twin track approach of Sikhi.
- Sikhi, according to Gurbani scholar S. Rawel Singh, is fusion of spiritual and secular aspects of life. There is no dichotomy on this subject in Gurbani.
The birth of Bhagat Ravidas ji is being celebrated worldwide. The Bhagti movement led by saints like Bhagats Kabir and Ravidas honoured in Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), started a revolution against traditional Vedic and Semitic practices. The ordinary people were exploited by the priestly class and the rulers. Conquest and forced mass conversions had become the Islamic way while exploitation and inhuman treatment of fellow human beings through the Manuvadic caste system, rituals and superstition were the tools of the Hindu upper castes led by the Brahmin.
In line with the revolt of the Bhagti movement, the cruel and exploitative practices of the two major religious systems were also rejected by Guru Nanak Sahib, albeit, with one difference. He defined the Creator Being and laid down the foundation of a twin track theo-temporal ideology which empowered the Bhagti movement. He brought together meditation and an active life for socio-political change. Equality and freedom is the birth right of every human being regardless of family background. No sacrifice is too great to defend that right and armed defence is justified as the last resort.
Today, the struggle for human equality and abolition of the degrading caste system continues in India. Social practices and political power of the upper castes promoted by the Hindutva political agenda, continues to frustrate the ideal society envisaged by Bhagat Ravidas and confirmed as the Khalsa objective of Halemi Raj by Guru Arjan Dev in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Ideally, the Bhagti reform movement should have merged with the later Miri-Piri Sikh/Khalsa Panth well capable of self-defence. Through their numerical strength and social mix of a casteless Panth, all those who embraced egalitarian Sikhi, regardless of their earlier background, would have been compelled to shed social discrimination in any form. The Sikhi institutions of Sangat-Pangat should prevail in spirit and social practice.
The reality is that the Bhagti movement alone did not succeed. That is, not until the Miri-Piri Sikhi of Guru Nanak Sahib challenged the cruelty of Mughals and their cohorts, the corrupt Hindu rulers of the day. Sikhs emerged as the Khalsa Panth under the tuition of the One Guru Jot-Jugat from 1469 to 1708. Bhagti succeeded only when it was given temporal shakti (power).
In his Panjabi booklet, ‘Bharat de Pashday Vargo’, author Nand Kishore has urged the disadvantaged classes of India, the so called pashday varg, to embrace Sikhi and defend their human rights. Thus will Baygumpura, ‘the city without sorrow’ become a reality. So that all will stroll about freely, just as they please. So envisioned Bhagat Ravidas, the emancipated shoe-maker (SGGS, 345).
The revolutionary vision of the Bhagats was realised by the robustly egalitarian Miri-Piri ideology of Guru Nanak Sahib backed by the Khalsa Degh and Tegh – a life of sharing and Simran defended by the sword of honour and human dignity.
Non-Sikh Bhagti Marg sects should not remain divided but adopt the Miri-Piri Sikhi ideal and stand united.
Gurmukh Singh OBE, a retired UK senior civil servant, chairs the Advisory Board of The Sikh Missionary Society UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The article appeared here.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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Guru Nanak’s Revolution (Asia Samachar, 6 Nov 2019)