The Appealing Crux of Garibdas’s Life, Work and the Essence of ‘Language’ 3.5/5 (2)


Vikas Malik

Research Scholar

Jamia Millia Islamia

New Delhi

  1. The Life of Garibdas

Garibdas was a monotheistic bhakti sant of eighteenth century north India. He was born in 1717 A.D. at Chhudani, Rohtak presently in Jhajjar district of modern Haryana state. In the history of bhakti movement there are three sants who bears the name Garibdas. First Garibdas was the son of sant Dadudayal, who succeeded him after his death. He was born in 1575 A.D. during the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar. Second Garibdas was known as Garibdas of Rohtak or Garibdas of Chhudani born in a Jat family of Punjab. He was a monotheistic sant who was born in 1717 A.D. and died in 1774 A.D. He was greatly influenced by Dadu and Kabir, the two great monotheistic sants of Medieval India. In his utterances, his ideas resemble the thought of Dadu and Kabir very clearly. He claimed that Kabir came into his dream and gave him spiritual knowledge. This Garibdas was a householder like Kabir. The third Garibdas was also from Punjab, who worked for Hindu-Muslim unity. We don’t know much about the history of third Garibdas.[1]

Garibdas was born in a Jat family and it is important to mention that when he was born, the Jats were basically a peasant community. In the eastern Rajasthan, Jat zamindar Badan Singh and Suraj Mal founded a new kingdom and played an important role to claim that Jats were Kshatriyas (warrior class) in Hindu four varna system although the Brahmanical system treated them as sudras. It was by 19th and 20th century only they achieved the status of marshal race, bestowed upon them by the British. Garibdas did not make any attempt to uplift the Jats into an upper caste, rather his work was basically related to the section of lower strata of the society, and throughout his life he paid more attention to make bhakti accessible to all and to abolish the rituals which had become a burden on society.

Garibdas was born in a small village about forty miles west of Delhi. His father Balram Singh was from a village called Karontha and sifted to Chhudani (became main canter for Garibdasi panth).  His father-in-law did not have any son, so he invites him to come to Chhudani and look after his property. After the twelve years of marriage, Balram Singh did not have any child. He and his wife offered prayers to God for a son and sought the blessings of many saints.  Here it come a myth, a Siddha Yogi came to Chhudani, who had some sort of spiritual power. When Balram Singh heard about him, he went to meet him, and offered cloths and food. He begged Siddha Yogi to bless Rani (Balram Singh’s wife) and pray for the birth of a son in her home. Yogi replied to Balram Singh that he did not to be worry, his and your wife were not ordinary people, in last birth both of they had performed great rituals and as a result of that a great soul would be born in there home and he should be like a living image of Kabir.[2]

After ten months of this incident a son was born to the Rani, on the Purnima of Baisakh in the year of 1774 B.S. (1717 A.D.).  It was a happiest time in the home, as local custom, food and clothes were distributed to the poor’s. A legend about Garibdas says that as an infant he started playing which really surprised everbody. After that the child disappeared for some time and when they prayed he again appeared as a natural child.[3]

The child was very charming, so his mother always tried to protect him from the evil eyes who admired his charming ways. Another legend which is related is that three months before the birth of Garibdas one day Rani (Garibdas’s mother) went to the well to take some water; two sants came near her and touched her feet.  When she asked them why they treated her like that, the sants said that they are actually paid homage to the great soul who would come to her home.

Another legend is related about his early life. When he was five years old, he was playing with his friends, one of them was injured by a stone edge and boy started cry. Garibdas held boy’s hand and asked him look towards sky. After some little time he assured him that a star would come from the sky and start shining in his hand. With the hope boy started looked at sky while Garibdas bandaged him. Bleeding stopped and legend has added a miracle saying that a star was constantly shining in the boy’s hand.

In the early eighteenth century there was an extreme scarcity of water in the Rohtak. There was not a single well in the Chhudani village from where sweet water could be taken. People had to go around two miles away from the village to get the drinking water from a well which was built by the Nathpanthis. Garibdas’s father Balram Singh wanted to solve this problem of scarcity of water. He decided to dig a well in the village for sweet water no matter what the cost would be. At the time of starting the dig well, many rituals was done and after that one place was chosen by Brahmans. Garibdas told his father that if they want sweet water that well should be dig about twenty yards away from the place chosen by the Brahmans. But Balram Singh did not give much attention on his son’s advice. When the digging was complete, they found water is sour. So another well was started dug for the sweet water on that place which was chosen by Garibdas. When the digging was complete they found that water was sweet. After this incident his father and the villagers were started taking him seriously. In the same year Garibdas predicted earthquake. He predicted the exact time when it would occur.

Many part of Rajasthan and Punjab in those days were influenced by Bairagi Sadhus, Nathpanthi Yogis and Kabirpanthi sants. Dadupanthi sants spread Kabir’s massage in this area. These sants had great influence on the people of this region. Dadupanthi sants regularly visited Chhudani village; Garibdas’s family was also devotee of these sants. From his childhood, Garibdas liked the company of sants.[4]

Another legend is related about Garibdas’s bravery. At Chhudani there were some Ramanandi Bairagis staying. One day their huts caught fire, and the situation was very tense because if fire did not stop then all the house of village would caught fire soon. In this situation Garibdas jumped into the fire. Everyone was thinking that he would be die but after a short span of time fire was down and village was saved from being destroyed. Garibdas came out safely.

Some legends have been attributed to him even in late nineteenth or early twentieth century. Some of these legends are common in other religion and sects also. One legend is taken from the life of Guru Nanak. One’s Garibdas’s cows went into the field of a farmer and destroyed all of crops. The farmer become very angry and made a complaint against Garibdas to the Nawab. When Nawab gave the orders to check the field, they found that the barley field was intact. These legends show that later hagiographer wants to show that there Guru was not a simple person and he was powerful as like other religious gurus.

  During his boyhood he was singing religious songs of sants like Kabir, Nanak and Dadu. He was learnt about the music and musical instruments from good singers. It is said that one Yogi gave him a Sarangi as a gift and taught him some musical form (Ragas). It is said that when Garibdas sung melodious songs on that Sarangi, people were charmed just as snakes are charmed by the snake-charmer.[5]

In the utterances which are attributed to him says that Garibdas was the disciple of Kabir, they meet each other and Kabir taught him. But when we look at the time period of both sants it is very clear that there was 300 years gap between these two sants. So, this story is primarily aimed at forging a link belong the two sant. .

Once in his boyhood Garibdas went to meet his aunt (Rani’s sister) at Khedangar. On that time he was hardly around ten or twelve years old. His cousin, named Asanad invited him to go to a Ramanandi sant named Baudhidas. Baudhidas talked him a lot and in the end asked him whether he had adopted anyone as his spiritual teacher. Garibdas denied that he doesn’t adopt anyone. Yougidas, one of Baudhidas’s disciples was urged him to accept my guru as his guru and wear the tilak and kanthi. He tried to convince him and spoke about Thakur puja and going to pilgrimages and encouraged those ideas in the name of Ramananda, which the great sant given in his life time. All these conversation was happening but Garibdas was not ready to make anyone his guru because till that time he was came under the great influence of Kabir and Dadu’s teachings. He revolted against Karmkanda and saying:

“Rituals are lower practices,

I will adopt him as Guru who

Is an absorbed in the name of God.”[6]

From his early life he was also speaking against idol worship. He refused to go to the Hindu temples and pay any kind of homage to any idol. He also believes that there is nothing related to salvation and going to pilgrimages.

We don’t have such sources in which we can get adequate information on Garibdas’s education. Chhudani was a small village, so must be there was not a proper management for formal education. In fact we could find some in his utterances that he learnt a lot about the religious literature of the Bhaktas of Medieval times in the connection with sants, fakirs, yougis and Dadupanthi priests and even Sikh priests. In his utterances he had mentioned the influence of Kabir, Nanak, Pipa, Ravidas etc. one can also find in his bani on the Vaishnava’s religion and their text like Bhagvatpurana and the Ramayana. Ramayana has played a key role in all the region of north India, so we can’t denies the possibilities in which he acquired enough information about the Ramayana from these platforms.[7]

  1. Marriage and Household Life

Garibdas was married to Mohini, the daughter of Chowdhary Nyadar Singh, a Jat from village Barona about 60 kilometres away from Garibdas’s village Chhudani which comes in between the road going from Rohtak to Sonipat. Garibdas and Mohini had four sons and two daughters. The four sons named 1. Jait Ram, 2. Turti Ram, 3. Angad Rai, 4. Asa Ram, and Dil Kaur and Gyan Kaur were the daughters.

Like Kabir, Garibdas was also concerned that the responsibility of a householder never disturbs the religious life. He found that Bhakti is not like to cut out of the world. Even his sons and daughters were also religious did not gone him upset in his mission as a religious teacher.

  1. Travels and Missionary journeys

Like Kabir, Garibdas was also did not believe in pilgrimage to holy places. But he did some missionary journeys to various places. Some historical evidence suggested that he visited Mathura. In his bani, the close information and knowledge on Kabir’s shrine at Banaras concludes that he might have visited the place. Some other historical evidence also suggests that he visited Delhi and Saharanpur. It is possible that when he visited Saharanpur he might have visited Hardwar too. During the time of Nadir Shah’s attack on India, Garibdas visited Himachal and stayed at a place called Haripur, it’s nearer to Potna Sahib.[8] There is a historical temple in this place which is known as Garib Nath’s Mandir. The biographers of a sant are always important to get an outstanding picture of sant’s life. In regards to Garibdas, one of his biographers named Bhagat Ram, attributed that Nahan State was established by the blessing of Garibdas. But if we go by the historical evidences then we find that the tenth Guru of Sikhism, Guru Govind Singh (d. 1708) visited this place as a guest of Nahan Maharaja.[9] So, these are the problem with the historical settings of Garibdas. All this kind of hagiographic details enormous issues regarding the life of Garibdas. This in turn made the misleading of the history of Garibdas.

  1. Garibdas in Hagiography

There many legends about Garibdas and it is important that many of them focused on the relation between Kabir and Garibdas. In Garibdasi sect, it is well-known that Kabir was the Guru of Garibdas. So mant stories are narrated of many spiritual and magical events between these sants. These stories were not written in a particular time period. In Bhaktram’s Jiven Charitra, there are around 90 wonderful stories of miraculous events which are attributed to Kabir and Garibdas.[10]  One story says that a disciple of Kabir named Mansa Ram was performing tapasya (penance) in Almora (in modern Utrakhand State). He told one of his disciples named Handi Bhadhanga, that Garibdas was a reincarnation of Kabir, who was born in a small village named Chhudani. Handi went couriers to know about the truth of this story, he came to Chhudani. He stayed with Garibdas and after many discourses; he reached the conclusion that Garibdas was really an incarnation of Kabir. This story and discussions between Handi and Garibdas were recorded by subsequent writers.[11]

According to another anecdote two disciples of Kabir, one named Arjan and other named Surjan, were contemporaries of Garibdas. Kabir had told them that they could be liberated when he would come to the earth again in the name of Garibdas. So, when Garibdas had become famous they heard about him and came on a bullock cart to Chhudani to meet Garibdas. On the meeting with Garibdas they gave up their bodies. They were very happy and blessed with meeting their guru again.[12]

These kinds of legendry stories always raise the question of their philosophy of life and God. Kabir and Garibdas never supported this kind of relation between a guru and a disciple. They did not even encourage the salvation and liberation through this process. But in the eighteenth century Vaishnavism got wide popularity in Jaipur and Maratha states as mentioned in the First Chapter. So it shows the influence of Vaishnavism on a monotheistic sant like Garibdas.

Other legends show the influence of Vaishnavism on the society. One story highlights that a Hindu was influenced by Islam and he killed a cow. It was a sin to kill a cow being a Hindu. When he realised his mistake he went to meet Garibdas. Garibdas asked him to go and take a bath in holy Ganga which made him repent for his sin. Another story which is also related to Garibdas shows that the importance of bathing in the Ganga. Another story says that Garibdas’s mother Rani wanted to go and take bath in the holy river Ganga. Garibdas assured his mother that Ganga would come to Chhudani for her sake. And on the same day in the evening, everyone got to see that the Ganga was flowing through Chhudani and they took bath over there.

Some legendry stories also taking from the other famous sants life. One story is that a village named Basiar near Sunam. The Chowdhary of that village named Ram Rai. He was a religious minded person. One day a Sadhu came to his village, he had warmly welcomed Sadhu and gave him food and other things. Sadhu takes the bath and started to sing some melodious songs of sant Garibdas. Ram Rai came to know from him that Garibdas is still alive. Ram Rai became so excited to meet with Garibdas, so he left for Chhudani. When he reached Chhudani, he meets a person who guided him to the home of Garibdas. Later on when he meet Garibdas, he came to know that the person who guided him was Garibdas himself. Same stories related with the life of Guru Nanak’s life. When Angad came to meet Guru Nanak first time, Guru Nanak was lead him. Later Angad came to know that Guru Nanak was leading him, when he met him personally.[13] Later Angad became a great devotee of Guru Nanak. Same thing happened with the story of Garibdas and Ram Rai. Ram Rai was also became a great devotee of Garibdas after receiving spiritual initiation from him.

Atkali Das, a saguni Vaishnav Bhaktas, who was an orthodox. When he heard about Garibdas and his popularity, he came to Chhudani to test his spiritual greatness. When he reached Chhudani, he was surprised to know that Garibdas already made arrangements for feeding of all his companions.  They had a long discussion on monotheism and polytheism. Atkali Das gave stressed on the idol worship and devotion to lord Krishna, incarnation of lord Vishnu, are the only way to salvation. Garibdas made convincing arguments against idolatry. Garibdas convinced him that through the worship of God only one could attain the true enlightenment. Garibdas condemned idolatry in strong manner.[14]

During the life time of Garibdas there were some branches opened in north India. There was a story which tells about it. Garibdas had lots of devotees; among them Thandi Ram was famous. He obeyed all his masters’ orders. One day Garibdas asked him to go and look after the fields of barley. Thandi Ram obeyed his master’s order and did not come back till Garibdas called him back on the third day. Garibdas overwhelmed and blessed him. He ordered to Thandi Ram that in whichever direction he wished he can go and establish a centre of his own. Thandi Ram went to Bodagram near Meerut and established a religious centre there.[15]


  1. Relations of Emperor Mohammad Shah (Rangila) with Garibdas

Mohammad Shah became an emperor in September, 1719. There was a legend regarding Mohammad Shah and Garibdas meetings. Hagiography highlights that emperor heard about the popularity of sant Garibdas, he wanted to meet him. Emperor sent one of his Hindu minister to invite the sant to the court. When the minister met Garibdas and gave him an invitation of emperor. Garibdas replied that “Only two types of person went to the court. One is those who seek power and position through fawning and others were those who commit crimes and seek pardon of the king. I do not belong to either of the two classes.” That means Garibdas refused to go to the court of the Mughal emperor.

When the minister returned with this answer, again Mohammad Shah wrote a letter and in this letter he requested Garibdas and obliged him only for one visit. This time Garibdas agreed.  He went to Delhi and stayed with sant Charan Das.

Mohammad Shah impressed by the Garibdas’s simplicity, nobility and knowledge. There was great effect of the sermons on the emperor which delivered by Garibdas in court. The emperor requested the sant for his blessings and begged him to pray for the stability of his empire. Garibdas was assured him that his empire would be spread far and wide, but for this he must be agreed to the following three conditions:

  1. He must ban cow-slaughter in his empire.
  2. He must keep only his legal wives in his haram and release all others.
  3. He should not levy any tax on food grains.[16]

Emperor agreed to one or two conditions, but the problem as we know that in the court all the affairs were not controlled by the emperor. The Qazis in the court were against the ban of cow-slaughtering. They felt that the Garibdas might influence the emperor in a wrong direction, so they took sign to issue an order to imprisonment the Garibdas. It said that Garibdas cursed the throne and the Mughal emperor. He escaped miraculously from the jail. The hagiography goes further, that after one year Nadir Shah invaded Delhi (1739) and the reign of Mohammad Shah collapsed. After that a famine took place in the country. There were great scarcities of foods in all parts of north India. One of Garibdas disciple, Santosh Das sent some barley for the people of Chhudani, but on the way some robbers looted it. They also imprisoned Garibdas. Later his disciples came and gave some money to the robbers and make sure his release.   After some days of this incident, started a fight between the robbers gang who looted food and imprisoned Garibdas with others unknown assailants. In this fight leader of the robber’s lost his hand. He turned up to Garibdas for apology. The sant forgiven him and he became his disciple.

Lots of these kinds of stories were attributed not only to Garibdas but also to each and every medieval sant. These hagiography shows that each guru had as much as gentle, powerful and knowledgeable as like other or the predecessor of him.

If we analysis this hagiography of Garibdas meeting with the Mughal Emperor Mohammed Shah, which shows that Garibdas became very popular in his life even before passed his thirty years of life. But if we look at the matters in chronological way the Garibdas born in the year of 1717 A.D. and Mohammad Shah became an emperor in 1919 and ruled until 1748. In fact it shows that if the emperor called him to meet, it might be before 1748. Now it is very clear that Garibdas became famous in the early days of his life yet questions arise that if he became so popular then why the Jat kingdom of Bharatpur never called him even though Garibdas also a jat. This kind of hagiography most probably created in later period.

These kinds of hagiography written in late eighteen and mostly in the early nineteenth century when the Jats were getting space in upper caste, so they started showing some records to tell about their fighting were against the Muslim ruler. In these stories they claim that they fight against Gori, Tugluk and the Mughals for the protection of Hinduism. All these kinds of hagiography mentioned in a Pothi (manuscript) which is preserved in a village named Soram in Muzaffarnagar District of UP. But prof. Suraj Bhan done critical study of this pothi and reached on a conclusion that it was not written prior to the late nineteenth century because he found that many events doesn’t matched with the historical facts and the language is modern Hindi which was developed in nineteenth century.[17]

Jait Ram the elder son of Garibdas. His behaviour liked a sant and more an ascetic personality. Chhudani was his mother’s village; his father belongs to Karontha village near Panipat. When Garibdas became famous the people of Karontha requested him to come to his ancestral village and preach there. But Garibdas not ready to leave Chhudani at any cost, so in later he decided that his eldest son Jit Ram would go there, who built an important centre at Karontha. Jit Ram also a poet and wrote his own Granth.

When Garibdas was getting old, he wanted to make his elder son Jit Ram as the successors of his Gaddi. But Mohini, his wife requested that Gaddi given to Turti Ram, because Jit Ram might be shift the centre of seat of Guruship from Chhudani to Karontha. She persuaded Jit Ram to abdicate in the favour of his younger brother Turti Ram. Finally Turti Ram became his successor.

There were differences on the date of Garibdas’s death.[18] All these differences stop when we gone through his son Jit Ram’s bani where he wrote the date of the death of his father in 1835 B.S. (1778 A.D.). The District Gazetteer of Rohatak also says that he (Garibdas) died in the Sambat 1835 and over his mausoleum it remains a beautiful Samadhi.[19]

  1. Utterances of Garibdas

Garibdas not written any book; he was like Kabir, who don’t write anything but we do have lots of his utterances in the form of a book. Same in the case of Garibdas too, a Dadupanthi writer named Gopal Das compile his sayings in a bookish form. Gopal Das, who hails from Rajasthan and when he heard about the fame of Garibdas he came to meet him. Gopal Das impressed by the utterance of Garibdas, he said, guru, if you allow me I would like to record your bani. Garibdas allowed him to write. So, when Garibdas dictate religious hymns and songs at Chhudani, Gopal Das recorded them. There were small compositions written and people copied them and after that his writings spread throughout the region of Punjab, Rajasthan and Utter Pradesh. The centres and sadhus who devoted to sant Garibdas had the copies of these texts. According to Dr. Ram Kumar Verma the padas were exceeded over 17000. Jand Sahib, was a tree under which he composed these works. It was opposite the Samadhi which is called now Chhatri Sahib.

Swami Chetan Das said that the total numbers of padas of bani are around 18500.[20] But we cannot accept one figure because in different manuscripts have the different numbers, of padas; some showing it is more than 18500, some less than this. Same like Kabir, we don’t have the single authentic manuscript of Garibdas’s sayings. Manuscripts are found in various places. Some of them have four manuscript and some have only one.

In 1899 A.D., Garibdas’s Granth published first time and named after Sri Ratan Sagar by Madhavanand. The script of this publication was in Gurumukhi and it published by Punjab Economical Press, Lahore.

Ajranand one of Garibdas’s disciple of the 20th century realised that the need of a compilation of all his works in one volume, like the writings of Sikh Gurus were compiled by Guru Arjan into Adi Guru Granth Sahib.  He prepared a volume of 673 pages and named it Granth Sahib. To make difference between Adi Granth and Granth Sahib they called it Garibdas’s Granth Sahib or simply G.G.S. in 1924 it published first time. It was first time that practice of reading and worshipping also introduced. The relation of Shikism and Garibdasipanth was good even in the early 20th century. The Mahant of Garibdasipanth invited Sikh Granthis from Delhi who performed the Akhand Path (continuous reading) of the Adi Guru Granth. Along with it they read in the same manner at Chhudani Sahib. On this time the Granth has been given another title also, Satguru Sri Garibdas Ji Maharaj ki Bani. This edition was published by Baroda based Publication Company named Arya Sudharak Press. It published on 15th September 1924. The second edition published in 1964 and edited by Swami Chetan Das and Dr. Shyam Sundar Das. The Garibdas’s Granth Sahib had the 175 chapter and 673 pages. The latest version of his Bani which is available online also has 179 chapter and 1064 pages. Now it’s also shows that the Bani are becoming more attractive with time to time. In the end of the Bani 431 hymns of Kabir, this is covering 20 pages.

Garibdas broke down the linguistic barriers which made between Hindus and Muslims. In his utterances he frequently used Hindi, Persian, Rajasthani, Punjabi and Sufi religious terminology to remove narrow mind set to attached with a single language. He was a master in many languages that’s why Dr. Mohan Singh said that Garibdas’s knowledge of other Indian languages greater as compare with the other medieval Indian poet, only one poet comes near to him was that of Shah Qayam Din Chisti.[21]

Garibdas did not travel much. His influences are mostly in Punjab, Rajasthan and a part of Uttar Pradesh. His utterances showed the social and religious conditions of Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. In his sayings we do find lots of descriptions on crops and the method of agriculture and as well as the use of spinning wheels which occurs frequently in his poetry.

In his sayings, the social lives of northern Indian people very much reflected. His poetry shows the system of organisation of village community. In his utterances we hardly find some Muslim influences in villages as compared to towns. Garibdas attacked outer forms of religion same like as Guru Nanak did.

Garibdas a monotheistic sant but many times in his utterances he used the stories of Mahabharata, Ramayana and the popular Puranas, like the stories of Prahlada, Dropadi, Harishchandra, Sita and Rama, Krishna etc.[22] he believed that the common people is attached to these legendary figure and if we gave the examples from these text, it would be very easily to understand the concept. Somehow Kabir also done this thing when he says that Ram is an ideal God but he clarified that his Ram not the Son of Ayodha’s king Dhasrata.  But Garibdas did not make these things clear as like done by Kabir. Garibdas’s utterances much influenced by the Kabir’s ‘Bijak’. He followed the same pattern which Nanak, Namdev and Kabir used in their ‘Sakhi’ ‘Sabad’ and ‘Ramani’.

Garibdas was a santic poet, not a historian but after he wrote a good note or Bhaktamal. In this Bhaktamal he describes mostly the life of monotheistic sant like Jayadeva, Namadeva, Kabir, Sadhna, Guru Nanak, Gorakh Nath and some legendary figure of from the period of Mahabharata.

It is important that when someone read Garibdas Bani, he/she will defiantly confuse regarding his stand. Garibdas, claims that he belongs to the same tradition, where Kabir belonged to, so he also a Nirguni sant. But in his uttrenaces he gave so many mythological references, like Urvasi, Hidimb, Harishchandra, Ahilya, Moradhvaja, Ganika and Ajamil, Durvasa.[23] He utilised these names to give the example from the life of these legendary figures to the common masses. This point of his life quit debatable.

  1. Followers of Garibdas

Garibdas was from Rohtak (Punjab) the heartland of agriculture. He involved in agriculture and other house hold work. In his followers there was not any kind of discrimination on the ground of religion, caste and gender. Like Kabir he preferred to stay at home with family and do bhakti. So it was easy for them who wants to do Bhakti but can’t leave their home, they can go and make him his guru. Garibdas gave them this option and same thing done by Kabir but in the influence of Vaisnavism Kabir’s ideas of Bhakti going down. In eighteenth century again Garibdas gave them this idea of Bhakti. It accepted by lots of people. There was not a single reference that any special caste or class went to meet Garibdas. People from each and every class came to meet him and Garibdas never denied meeting anyone. Garibdas was from a Jat family but in his sayings hardly get any reference about the caste and special treatment with them. In the view of Garibdas all who came to see him were same.

Garibdas was stayed in a village surrounded by common masses, so most of his followers were either agriculturalist or land less labourers. Once a group of peasants sent some fruits, vegetables and other item from their own fields to him. He didn’t accept that and said all these items which produced here is my own fields so I don’t need it so please gave them back who really need it. Among these peasants one said that we are just farmers and we don’t have anything else to offer you. In reply to that Garibdas said I don’t need anything from you and I would be quite happy if you would be able carry your ancestral work of agriculture.[24] This kind of incident shows that he had a great affection with the famers and their occupation. In his followers mostly belongs to this section. Out of them mostly belongs to the Jats, Gujjar, Yadav, Dalits etc.[25]

He had a good number of women followers also. As per his philosophy, there was no discrimination between Man and Women. And as well as there was no need to become a sadhu to show her/his respect to Garibdas. His daughter and daughter-in-law were equally got the same attention from Garibdas, as he did with his sons. Lots of women from his neighbouring areas became his followers. Garibdas doesn’t have any problem with them. He said that God is for all and there is no difference between man and woman in the eyes of God. So if God don’t have any problem and he treats them equally, then how could we make differences?

In his utterances we do find two type of treatment with the women. On the one hand he was a preacher of monotheism which is very clear from in his sayings yet on the other hand in one place of his sayings it shows that when his mother requested him to go to Ganga for take bath, he said no need to go and take bath in holy Ganga, but when she requested him again and again he said that if you are really insisted so much than Ganga would flows in our village by this evening.[26]And in that evening Ganga started flowing in Chhudani and every one was amazed with this miracle. This kind of incident or hagiography creates some confusion that where the Garibdas actually stands. Whether he was a monotheistic sant as argued by as many writers in their writings on him[27]or somehow he influenced by Vaishnavism?

Woman from all the sects irrespective of their caste and religion visited his shrine and continued even till now. There was no restriction on them as like shrine of Kabir. This sect paid a great respect to women from the time of Garibdas onwards. Even Garibdas also paid much attention for women and he even accepts the advices which given by his wife.  Garibdas wanted to make his son Jit Ram as his successor, but his wife afraid that if Jit Ram would became successor he might shift the main gaddi to his ancestral village. She wanted Turti Ram as successor of Garibdas and in the end Garibdas agreed on her points and Turti Ram became his successor.

This incident shows the importance of women in this panth. Even till now there are no restrictions for women to enter shrine and pay homage to the sant. Some women from the other religion like Sikhism and Islam also visits the shrine of Garibdas and pray for their happiness and prosperity in their life. These women from the Sikhism and Islam are visiting the shrine as like they are visiting to Gurudwara and Sufi sant Dargah or Khankha.

A large number of People from lower strata of the society also became his followers. Punjab is a state where a great per cent population belonged to lower caste. Jats were also one among these classes. Garibdas was also a Jat. So, somehow the lower caste people have a tendency that he (Garibdas) was one among of them, so they were started following his path. Even till now most of the follower of this sect are come from lower caste. But now Jats are not following this sect on a large scale. Since Jats get the higher status in the caste system, major section of them are stop to follow this kind of monotheistic sects. In his sayings, Garibdas criticized caste system but not opposed Brahmanism. It might be possible or it can be assumed that he understands the importance of Brahmans in making of a Jat identity because of the eighteenth century, which was a high time for Jats to get the higher status in caste system. But in due course the Jats got the importance in the higher society. The impact of this Garibdas lost many of his Jat followers and many of them now even stop to go the shrine of Garibdas at Chhudani, the main pilgrimage centre of Garibdasi sect followers.

Garibdas accepted that all human being were equal and on the basis of caste nobody could claims that he was superior from other. Garibdas once said in his saying that Brahman and Sudra are same and if it was not correct then “O Brahman tell me that you and Sudra came from same place so why we treat you as a special and not Sudras”. Garibdas treated lower caste people as same as upper caste people. There was no barrier or differences in their treatment. He always supports for equality in the society and said that Brahmans and Sudras are equal.

Garibdas had some Muslim followers also.[28] Unlike other followers, they admires more than others. Some evidence shows that the Muslims also visited the shrine of Garibdas and even now some Muslim women preferred to go his shrine. But these women were from lower caste or poor background.[29]

Some rich merchant also his followers in his lifetime even till now there is a large section of merchants visit the shrine of Garibdas at Chhudani. Some evidences of Garibdas life shows that the rich merchants used pay their homage to the sant. There was an incident that the son of a rich merchant of Asauda village name Kanh Ram’s son took a refuge at Chhudani in the presence of Garibdas. But Kanh Ram not happy with his sons move towards bhakti, so he wanted his son to get married as early. By doing so the girl could stop his son to go further in to Bhakti. But Garibdas assured him that she would not interfere in his worship. The son of Kanh Ram agreed to marriage only after the assurance of Garibdas.[30] After the marriage, son of Kanh Ram became a disciple of Garibdas. It said that the Garibdas frequently went to his house and still they preserve the items which Garibdas used during his visits at that place. In fact the merchant class also an adequate section among the followers of the sect.

It is also said, which mentioned earlier in this chapter that Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah (Rangila) also impressed by the teachings of Garibdas. He called him in to the court. But here again the question arises that if Mughal Emperor called him in the court, why the Jat kings of Bharatpur hadn’t pay any attention towards him. Even the kingdom of Bharatpur ruled by a Jat family and Garibdas also a Jat. There was not a single reference on Garibdas in the history of Bharatpur and in the bani of Garibdas and other hagiography which attributed him mentioned nothing about the Jat rulers of Bharatpur.   It also said that the king of Kangra (Himachal) called him in his court. And in connection to his visited the king ordered to make a temple which called Garibdas temple, which exists even now. But when we examine all these stories it lost their historicity in due course and remained just as a legendary story. Even though these stories are throw the light upon the influence of Garibdas’s ideas on ruling class. Which in fact very visible from the soft corner paid by upper class or ruling class towards this panth. This happened because of the Garibdas’s liberal attitude towards saguna bhakti as comparing to other monotheistic bhakti sant like Kabir, Dadu and Nath Panthi. And also as mentioned in the first chapter, the Jaipur state was the champions of Vaishnavism. Garibdas who lived in nearer to Jaipur and probably he might afraid from the Jaipur state.

In fact it is very clear that this sect hadn’t got much support from any ruling class or state. Only we find just a soft corner, even it is also based on some legendry story not on the basis of historical fact.

  1. Garibdas and the Lingual Medley

Garibdas was a native of Rohtak (modern Haryana). Modern Haryanvi developed during this period and greatly influenced by Punjabi, Western Hindi, and Rajasthani. Earlier it called as Bahgru, Hariani or Jatu and Deswati or Desari. Jatu was speaking in Rohtak region on that time.[31]

In the bani of Garibdas there was a great influence of many languages like Sanskrit, Prakrit, Apabhramsha, Punjabi, Persian, Western Hindi and Haryanvi (Bangru or Jatu).

Influence of Sanskrit

Sanskrit is an important language of Hindu religious philosophy. Since most of the Hindu religious texts written in this language only. But Garibdas was not a Sanskrit scholar. Kellog says that “Western Hindi and other neighbouring languages possessed many words of Sanskrit”.[32] And the languages which spoken by Garibdas came from these languages only. So he might know about the Sanskrit language even though there were some verses in the bani of Garibdas in which the word of Sanskrit used profusely. But the verbs and conjunctions were not used in pure Sanskrit form. For example:

संख कल्प युग अटल, अजर अमर शिव शम्भु |[33]

निरंकार निर्विष काल जाल भय भंजन, निर्लेप निज निर्गुण |[34]

It shows that Garibdas used Sanskrit words but did not know about the grammar of this language.

Influence of Prakrit and Apabhramsa

Prakrit and Apabhramsa deeply rooted in the literature in provincial languages. And the movement which emerged against the Brahmanic philosophy used these languages to promote their ideas in ancient and medieval times. The words of Prakrit and Apabhramsa were found in all the Punjabi and Hindi writings of Garibdas. For example:

कुंजी कचछप अलल कू, किन समझाया ग्यान |

आडा पड़दा हे नही, हिरदे अन्दर ध्यान ||[35]

दीठी अनदीठी करे, जिनके हू में साथ |

भगत परातम देय तू, पीड़ा लगे न गात ||[36]

Influence of Punjabi

There were verses of Garibdas which written in Punjabi. Modern day Haryana was a part of Punjab, so it is obvious that Punjabi was spoken by the common people and Garibdas in order to convey his message to all the sections of the society must have used this language. There were verses which written in pure Punjabi and the vocabulary of Garibdas as good as that of a Punjabi Sufi poet. For example:

मति देदी बालिम बहेरनू |

संसारी दी गल कूं चीन्हें, नंहि बुझि शब्द जगहरेनुं ||

मुरधो सेती प्रीति लगावे, नंहि जाने सतगुरु महरेनूं ||

ऊँची थलिया खेती बोवे, भूली गए निज डहरेनूं ||

योह संसार समहजदा नाही, कहता शाम सबेरेनूं ||

सेतछत्र सिर मुकट बिराजे, देखत ना उस चेहरेनूं ||

गरीबदास यो बखत जात हर, रोवेंगे इस पहरेनूं ||[37]

The Kafis word of Garibdas’ poetry mainly written in Punjabi. The Punjabi that he used was basically from the Lahore area with a mixture of popular words from other areas. The following Kafi was another good example of using Punjabi language with the mixture of Lehndi words.

दम दा नही भरोसा वो, अब तू कर चलने दा सूल |

मुए पुरूष संग सती जरत हे, पड़ी भरम दी झूल ||

पीठ मुनक्का दाख लदी हे, खर खाता बम्बूल |

मंडी मन्दर बाग़ बगीचे, रहसी डाल न मूल ||

जिंदा पुरूष अचल अबिनासी, बिना पिंड अस्थूल |

नेनो आगे झुक झुक आवे, रतन अमोली फूल ||

गरीबदास ये अलल ध्यान हे, सुरत हिण्डोले झूल |

घनघोर नदी जाके थाह न थेहा, मूढ़ नरा धुंध धार बंहदे |

पातरी फूहरी चुहरी चित हे, देख अदेख लावे परचंडे ||[38]

Words such as rehsi, vo, karhi show a slender mixture of Lehandi and words like da, de, seti were pure Punjabi. Apart from some words which were common to Hindi and Punjabi, rest of the words were Punjabi.

Influence of Persian and Arabic

There was a tremendous influence of Persian and Arabic on the poetry of Garibdas. He did not believe in the complete purity of any language. In his life time (eighteenth century) Persianised Urdu had become very important in the royal court as well as in public domain. The influence decreased as one went eastwards to Bengal and increased as one moved westward to Punjab and Kashmir. It is mentioned in his bani that he studied Persian, Arabic and Hindwani.[39]  It shows that Garibdas was quite interested in these languages.

We don’t have any historical evidence which can show that Garibdas was a scholar of Persian or Arabic. But in his sayings he frequently used some Persian and Arabic words and these words were not very common in use at that time. It shows that he had knowledge about Persian and Arabic also. Many of his Persian and Arabic words are not grammatically correct and most of them are written as if he was using the common language. They way of pronouncing and writing the Persian and Arabic words were almost same in whole north India. Some of the words of these words became the part of Hindi and Punjabi languages. The following lines are a perfect example of using words of Persian by Garibdas:

बंदे जान साहिब सार वे |

पिंदर मादर आप कादर, नही कुल परिवार वे |

आब ख़ाक न बाद आतस, ना जिमी असमान वे |

अर्स ऊपर महल मालिक, दर झिलमिला नूर वे |

बांदी गुलाम गरीब तेरा, देखते सुख चेन वे |[40]


दरीखाने दम दुलीचा, चिसम कर दर सवास वे |

काय कुलफ कूंची लगी, खोले सोई सत पीर वे ||[41]


गुलसफा की गली में निफस कू गाड दे,

मार विचार का तीर तुक्का |

शीश कू काट करि हाथ महबूब ले,

इश्क कू छाड़ कर कहा लुक्या ||

मनसूर कू देख माशूक यो हूजिये |[42]

Influence of Sadhu Bhasha

The medieval sants broke the provincial barriers and uttered their sayings in a simple language which could be understood by anybody all over North India. They did not use the words that they felt the common people would not be able to understand. The religious literature of medieval India bhakti movement produced in Hindustani, is generally called sant bhasha. The followings verses are the example of this Sadhu Bhasha:

राम सुमर राम सुमर, राम सुमर हंसा |

भक्ति जान ग्यान ध्यान, छाडो कुल बंसा ||

मुक्ति लोक पाय मोख, नाम जो उचारे |

सुरति सिंध कोटि चन्द, झलके पल माही ||

कोटि भानु साच मान, रुंम रुंम पेख्या ||

अमृत रस अमी खीर, खुरदनी खुस्याली |

प्याले मस्तक पाक, लालन सिर लाली ||[43]


 Influence of Western Hindi (Khadi Boli)

There is also a good deal of influence of Western Hindi on the bani of Garibdas. The place where Garibdas stayed, near to Delhi. In this region we find that there was a great impact of religious Hindi literature. The compilers of his sayings favoured Hindi to the other languages and while compiling they took full liberty in changing words from Punjabi and Haryanvi to Hindi.[44]  On the sayings of Garibdas there was a great impact of Western Hindi as compared to Eastern Hindi. The Western Hindi includes Braj, Kanaouji and Khari Boli and on the other side Eastern Hindi includes Avadhi, Bhojpuri, Maghdi and Maithli. For example:

मूल कंवल कूं द्रढ कर बांधो, रक्त वर्ण रंग लागे |

चित्र पंखडी बसे गणेशा, किलियं शब्द विहागे ||

स्वाद चक्र ब्रह्मा का बासा, आष्ट पंखरी मेलं |

ॐ जाप जपे निशि बासर, ज्ञान बुद्धि का खेल||

काल चक्र आवत दम हेरे, नही ज्ञान परकाश |

त्रिकुटी कँवल तो दो डाल वरर्नो, परम हंस परवाना ||[45]

Influence of Haryanvi (Bangru or Jatu)

Haryanvi basically constitutes a mixture of many languages. The languages which influenced it the most were Punjabi from the west, Western Hindi from the east and Rajasthani from the south. Scholars have different views on it. Grierson considers Bangru or Jatu as the language of the whole of Haryana. Dr. Nanak Chand Sharma in his book Origin and Evoluion of Haryanvi Language, divided Haryanvi into three dialects: Bangru to the north, Kaindri Haryanvi in the Rohtak district, and Ahirwati in the south in Mahendragarh district. Dr. Shankar Lal Yadav in his Haryana Pradesh Ka Lok Sahitya have argued that the similarity of Haryanvi with Punjabi and Braj Bhasha.  For example:

किया से करज नही सरता, भक्ति भाव से दुखे |

घीव बसंदर देदे पांडे, होम बहुत से फुके ||

होम हनोज किये निशिवासर, जीव हिते बहु डगदे |

ऊत भूत की पूजा खोई, भोजन बहु विधि बगदे ||

देवी के तुम दास कहावो, मशानी मन माला |

चंडी का तुम चाव रखत हो, इत होसी मूंह काला ||

दुर्गा के ले मुर्गा दौर, चंडी के ले बकरा |

बहुत खफीफ शरे में होंगे, छाती दीजे लकरा ||

सेढ शीतल गदहा माँगे, याह कोण अविद्या पांडे |

आगे की तो आगे होगी, इत ही जमकू डाडे ||[46]

These examples show the knowledge of Garibdas about the languages. It shows that he was not belong only one tradition and language. The space of Garibdas was very wide. He accept the knowledge from anyone, whether it is Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism or the various branches of Hinduism like Vaishnavism, Monotheism, Shavism etc.


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[1] Kshiti Mohan Sen, Medieval Mystics of North India, p. 391.

[2] K C Gupta, Sri Garibdas, p, 32

[3] Ibid, pp. 32-33

[4] Khan Singh, Mahan Kosh, p. 299.

[5] K C Gupta, Sri Garib Das, Haryana’s Saint of Humanity, p. 35.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, p. 36

[8] There are shrines which commemorates the visit of Garibdas at Saharanpur and Potna Sahib.

[9] Kartar Singh, Life of Guru Govind Singh, p. 61.

[10] Lal Chand Gupta Mangal, Bharetiya Sahitya Ke Nirmata, Garibdas, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, reprint 2014 (2011). (Hindi) p. 9

[11] K C Gupta, Sri Garib Das, Haryana’s Saint of Humanity, p. 38

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid, p. 40

[14] Ibid, p. 40

[15] Ibid, p. 41

[16] Ibid, p. 43.

[17] Suraj Bhan Bhardwaj, Myth and Reality of the Khap Panchayats:  A Historical Analysis of the Panchayat and Khap Panchayat, Studies in History, 28, 1 (2012): 43–67

[18] Dr. Mohan Singh said that it was 1780 A.D., Kahan Singh Said that the date was 1768 A.D.

[19] District Gazetteer of Rohtak, 1883.

[20] Swami Chetan Das, Granth Sahib, second edition, p. 54

[21] Dr. Mohan Singh, Introduction to Punjabi Litrature. P. 152

[22] See his Pando Ki Katha, Ambrish Ki Katha, Harishchand Ki Katha etc.

[23] G.G.S., p. 253

[24] K C Gupta, Sri Garibdas. p. 73

[25] District Gazetteer, Rohtak, 1883, p. 186

[26] K C Gupta, Sri Garibdas. p. 67.

[27] Ibid. p. xii

[28] Ibid p. 26

[29] District Gazetteer Rohtak 1883 p. 85

[30] K C Gupta, Sri Garibdas. p. 39

[31] Punjab District Gazetteer : Rohtak District 1910, Vol. III A, p. 97.

[32] Kellog, Gramar of the Hindi Language, p. 41 and K C Gupta, Sri Garib Das, p. 163

[33] Rattan Sagar, p. 36

[34] G.G.S., p. 1

[35] Rattan Sagar, p. 39

[36] Ibid. p. 51

[37] G.G.S., p, 656

[38] Ibid., p. 412

[39] अरबी, तुरकी, फारसी, हिंदवानी पद यार |

Ibid., p. 92

[40] Rattan Sagar, pp. 262-263

[41] ibid. p. 226

[42] ibid. p. 234

[43] Ratan Sagar, p. 323

[44] K C Gupta, Sri Garib Das, p. 174

[45] Rattan Sagar, p. 145

[46] G.G.S., p. 354

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