Introduction / History
The Ravidas are part of a subgroup of Chamar Dalits. Chamars represent the largest population of Dalits in India. Their traditional occupation is that of leather worker. Within the Ravidas subgroup, most are Hindu. There is a small Sikh population among them. Most of the Sikh Ravidas Chamar live in Punjab, Haryana. Smaller numbers are in other northern states.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Ravidas make shoes, belts and other goods from leather. Some Sikh Ravidas have left their former occupation to weave bamboo into baskets and other useful items. Still others work as landless laborers on tea plantations and farms.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Unfortunately, illiteracy is an issue for the Sikh Ravidas. Without a proper education, they have little opportunity to escape their lives of poverty and exclusion.
Sikhism originated from a 15th century teacher named Guru Nanak Dev as a reform movement. He rejected the Hindu caste system, taught that all people were equal and that all have equal access to God. The Sikh God is formless, without gender and is to be found in everyone. One gets closer to God by living a good life and by practicing charity. Like Hindus, Sikhs believe in reincarnation and the law of karma; you reap what you sow in your previous life. Like Muslims, the Sikhs worship only one God.
What Are Their Needs?
One may recognize a Sikh man by his distinctive turban. All the 10 great Sikh gurus wore turbans. Sikh teaching mandates that a person not cut his or her hair. They worship their holy book, the Granth Sahib, which is a collection of hymns.
There are roughly the same number of Sikhs as there are Jews in the world, but Sikhs are most concentrated in Punjab, their homeland. However, you will find smaller numbers of Sikhs all over the world. Many of the best Indian restaurants in the West are owned and operated by Sikhs.
The lives of the Ravidas Chamar, like the lives of all Dalits, are challenging. They are excluded from many aspects of Indian life by their Dalit classification. The Indian constitution outlaws the caste system, but it still ingrained in the hearts of the Hindus. Most Ravidas live in rural villages without the modern blessings of clean water, electricity and indoor plumbing.
The Ravidas marry within their caste. Their own priests lead important life ceremonies since Brahmins will not work with them. Families arrange marriages. Sons inherit property with most going to the eldest son. The newly married Ravidas couple lives with or near the groom's parents.
The main foods of the Ravidas Chamar are rice, sorghum and seasonable vegetables and fruit. The Ravidas are not vegetarians but as Hindus they will not eat beef.
The Ravidas Chamar practice Hinduism, the ancient religion of India. They worship and serve the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Their main gods are Vishnu, the preserver and Shiva, the destroyer. Hindus believe that by performing rituals and good works that they will attain moksha or freedom from the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. The Ravidas offer prayers, food, flowers and incense to their gods at their village shrines because at Dalits they are often not allowed to enter standard Hindu temples.
The main yearly holidays of the Ravidas people are Holi, the festival of colors, Diwali, the festival of lights and Navratri, the celebration of autumn.
Scripture Prayers for the Ravidas Chamar (Sikh traditions) in India.
The Ravidas Chamar have pressing needs. They need help in getting an education for their children. They need help in bringing clean water, electricity and indoor plumbing to their villages. Most of all, they need to hear the life-changing message of Jesus Christ in a way they can understand.