This volume brings to light the phenomenon of religious voices from the lowest orders of Indian society: Nandanar and Tirupan Alvar in the south; Chokhamela and his entire family in Marathi territory; and, most famous of all, Ravidas in the north. Each saint was born an Untouchable and that fact is essential part of his and her life and song.
The essays and the texts allow comparison of the thoughts of the saints and also their reception in their language areas. The southern saints are remembered by just one song, but almost countless legends tell of their lives, and Nandanar is still almost a living symbol of the triumph of piety. There are hundreds of songs by Chokha, his wife Soyrabai and their unhappy son Karmamela, Chokha’s sister and her husband, and some have fame far beyond their own stories, but these saint-poets are no longer important in the Dalit movement.
Ravidas is famous not only in the northern India Hindu world but is also an important figure in the Sikh religion and, as Rohidas, is the guiding light of devout Chamarkar bhaktas from Maharashtra.
Scholars of each language area have contributed their expertise in the essays; in addition, bhakti texts and legends add local flavour. The mixture of bhakti texts and contemporary comment results in an unusual and lively discussion of an important facet of Indian religious life.