According to historical traditions,
Bhagat Sain was a barber serving the King of Bandawgadh, Raja Raam.
According to Bhai Gurdas, Sain is a disciple of Ramanand:
'Hearing of the glory of Kabir, Sain also turned to become
a disciple [of Ramanand].
At night he would be busy with acts of loving devotion, and
by day he would visit the door of the king.
One night, some sadhus arrived as guests and the night was spend
on discussions and contemplation on the Lord's name.
Sain found he could not part with the sadhus and so he failed
to reach the door of the king.
God, took the form of Sain reached there and upon serving the
king made him happy.
Bidding farewell to the sadhus, Sain nervously rushed off to
the king's door.
From a distance, the king called to Sain, and discarding his
robes offered them to Sain to wear. "You have empowered
me" spoke the king, who's words were heard by all. The Almighty manifests the glory and greatness of this
Bhai Gurdas Ji, Vaar 10, Verse 16
An old painting depicting the great holy man, Sain with a few of
One of his ballads can be found in the
Adi Guru Durbar.
Born into the untouchable 'Chamaar'
(leather workers) caste, Ravidas was the son of Raghu and Ghurbini
who lived in a village near the city of Benaras. Bhai Gurdas Ji
speaks of Ravidas:
'The tanner [Ravidas] became known as a Bhagat in all four
corners of the world.
As was the tradition of his family, he would cobble shoes, and
carry away carcasses of dead animals.
Though outside this was his life, within he was a jewel wrapped
He would He would preach to all 4 castes [the Brahmin, the Kystatriya,
the Vaisya, and the Shudra] and make them contemplate on the
greatness of the Lord.
One time, a group of people went to Varnasi [Benares] to dip
in the holy Ganges.
Ravidas offered one 'dhela' [half-a-piece] to one of the people
and requested that he make an offering on behalf of Ravidas.
The festival of Abhijit Naksatr was in full swing when the crowds
saw this spectacle.
The Ganges herself [Ganges is seen as 'female'] extended her
hand to accept the dhela from Ravidas, proving he was at one
with Ganges [ie, with the power of the Almighty]. For all Bhagats, the Lord is their mother, their father
and their son all in one.'
Bhai Gurdas Ji, Vaar 10, Verse 17
A contemporary painting of the great saint
who's followers today call themselves the 'Ravidasis'
Ravidas had many great followers, such
as Mirabhai (the famous Rajput Princess). 40 of
his ballads have been incorporated into Adi Guru Durbar that speak
of rejecting mindless ritualistic worship, ridiculing people based
on their birth, equality of mankind and serving the Almighty with
A manuscript depicting the famous Rajput princess who became a devotee
Almighty upon hearing the great teachings of Bhagar Ravidas. She
is shown playing the 'Taus',
a traditional Indian stringed instrument which was a favourite of
Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh Ji
One Shabad (hymn) of Mirabhai is found
in the 'Bhai Bhano wali Bir' (version of Adi Guru Durbar), also
known as 'Kharri Bir' as Bhai Bhano came from the village Kharra,
Punjab. This is a text recognised by Sanatan Sikhs as equal to the
Adi Guru Durbar version found in mainstream gurudwaras today, but
is not recognised by British Raj-nurtured Tat-Khalsa Singh Sabhia
Sikhs and their descendants today, the S.G.P.C.
With regards to Kharri Bir, the famous
Nirmala historian, Giani Gian Singh who gave us the immortal words:
'Agya Pay Akal Ki, Tabey Challa-io Panth, Sabh Sikh-an Ko
Hukam Heh Guru Maino Granth' (translates as 'The command
of the Immortal God's command came, then the Guru's way come to
be (nation), all Sikhs shall consider the Granth as Guru'), he wrote
with regards to Kharri Bir:
'In Saun (July-August) Samat 1661 Bikrami (AD
1604) Guru Arjan prepared a copy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji
and gave it to Bhai Bhano to have it bound in Lahore. He, on
the way made another copy of it in which he added some extra
Shabads (hymns) of Guru Nanak and other Bhagats (saints) and
had both the versions [of Adi Guru Durbar] bound and brought
to Guru Arjan Dev. Though Guru Sahib named this [second
version of Adi Guru Durbar] as 'Kharri Bir' but with regards
to worship, their holy status was declared as being equal.'
'Twarikh Guru Khalsa', Giani Gian Singh Nirmala, Vol. 1, Pa.
Bhai Bhano wali Bir
An old painting (c.1700s) of Akali Guru Arjan
Devji (centre) and Bhai Bhano (right) presenting the Bhai Bhano