Dadu Dwara, located at Naraina, is a well-known centre of Dadupanthis.
Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji visited Dadu Dwara during his travels through Rajasthan in 1706-07. It is said that on arrival, Guru Gobind Singh saluted the samadhi of Dadu by raising his arrow to it.
The Sikhs accompanying Guru Sahib at once objected, reminding the Guru that he had himself prohibited the idolatrous practice of bowing before such places and memorials.
Guru Gobind Singh was pleased at the Sikh's vigilance to test which, he explained, he had deliberately committed the faux pas; and he readily paid the fine imposed on him by his Sikhs as a punishment for committing what was a breach of the religious code.
Guru Gobind Singh also held a discourse with Jait Ram, the Dadupanthi head priest during which he explained that while compassion is a desirable virtue, the practice of non-violence as a religious creed even against tyranny and injustice is sheer cowardice and no virtue. A memorial to the Guru's visit at Dadu Dwara is in the form of a marble-topped platform around a group of three banyan trees in the outer compound. It is maintained by the management of Dadu Dwara.
Dadu (1544-1603) is the best-known of Kabir's followers. Dadupanthis, "the of the path of Dadu," no longer keep strictly to the teachings of Dadu.
Dadu said many times "I am not a hindu, nor a muslim. I belong to none of the six schools of philosophy. I love the merciful God." He wished for a unification of all religions and to this end founded the Brahma-sampradaya, the order of Brahma. In his order there was no ritual or image-worship. His doctrines and teachings are collected in the Bani, a poetic work of 5,000 verses containing hymns, poems, and aphorisms.
There are 37 chapters on such subjects as The Divine Teacher, The Mind, Truth, The Good, Faith, and Prayer. The hymns are set to music and used in worship. The Bani contains the condemnation and rejection by Dadu of much in Hinduism. The Vedas and Quran and the Vedanta are rejected as ultimate truth. Ritualism, the corrupt priesthood, caste and caste marks, image-worship, use of the rosary, and pilgrimages are all rejected. Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma were only saints.
Dadu rediscovered and taught much truth about God, man, and salvation. On transmigration he held that all possible rebirths occur in man's one life on earth. Maya, the world of matter, is not evil in itself. It is worldliness and not the world that is evil. To Dadu the soul is separated from God by sin and the longest poem in the Bani is "Separation," about a lovesick woman. He emphasised japa, repetition of the name of God. Dadu allowed people freedom to follow secular occupations and to marry, or to withdraw from the world. Meat-eating was prohibited. No pain should be caused to any living creatures.
With the Dadupanthis, Hinduism in a modified form has found its way among them. The rosary is used, the Bani is worshipped as an icon, and Dadu and his relics are worshipped in temples. As with the Parsis, the dead are exposed to be eaten by birds.
Dadu was born in Ahmadabad in Gujerat. Like Kabir he had a miraculous birth. Tradition says Lodi Ram found him floating in a basket on the river and became his adoptive father. His parents were brahmans who converted to Islam and the family had Muslim names. Dadu is either from Daud (David) or an affectionate diminutive of Allahbad. His father was a cotton-carder and Dadu also followed this profession. When he was eleven he was miraculously initiated by an old mendicant. He married when he was young and had four children, but renounced when twenty-five and spent the rest of his life as a wandering preacher in north-west India. He visited Delhi and is said to have met Akbar at Fatehpur Sikri. For a time he lived in Sambhar and in Amber, the old capital of Jaipur. He retired to Naraini near Jaipur where he died.
Tradition says that Dadu left 152 disciples, of whom 52 founded the Dadvaras, "Doors of Dadu," in special settlements known as thamba. Most of these were in Rajasthan and many still survive. The Dadvaras have produced a great deal of literature written in the vernacular and in verse that is a continuation and a commentary on the teachings of Dadu. This has not been collected and translated.
Dadu preached the unity of mankind but his followers soon split into different groups. There was also rivalry and intrigue among his disciples. Though Dadu taught peace and tolerance and was against war, one group of the Dadupanthis developed into one of the most militant of ascetic warrior sects. These were the Nagas or Fighting Nagas, named from nagna, naked, whose founder was Sundra Das, a Rajput from Bikhaner. The Nagas helped the authorities in Jaipur collect taxes and keep the peace. They fought as mercenaries in the wars of Jaipur and were to be depended upon. In the Mutiny they were faithful to England.
There are temples built in Dadu's name even though he preached against temples. These temples contain pictures of Dadu: the scene of his initiation at the age of eleven is found in nearly all of them. In Sambhar there is a monument to Dadu and his coat and sandals are kept there and worshipped as holy relics. Dadu preached against relics. And though Dadu was against caste marks and sect uniforms, the Dadupanthis wear a special white cap with four corners and a flap behind which each member must make. This cap is the symbol of being a Dadupanthi.
There are considerable numbers of Dadupanthis and they are concentrated in Rajasthan. They are divided into lay and ascetic branches, which are again divided into several groups. The Khalsas, meaning "the pure, ruling," are based in Naraina where Dadu died. Here the head of all the Dadupanthis lives and there is a great Mela, gathering, every year. The survivals of the naked Nagas, the warrior monks, live in the Jaipur region.
The Utradis are a prosperous group from the Punjab, founded by Baba Banwari Das, who practise medicine and money-lending. Two ascetic groups are the Virkat and the Khakis. The Virkat wear ochre clothes and study and teach the Bani and difficult Sanskrit texts. They cannot touch money and live on alms, continually travelling with a Master, often in large groups of up to 150 persons. The Khakis, meaning "ash-covered," wear little, have long coiled hair, are smeared with ash, and practise austerities. They travel in small groups and believe that constant movement, like a stream, keeps them pure.
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