(late 15th/early 16th century?)
A bhakti poet in the North Indian sant tradition, and founder of the Raidāsī tradition, it is claimed that he was a student of Rāmānanda. Born in Vārāṇasī, Raidās was an untouchable, belonging to the camār caste of leather-workers, or cobblers, and he has subsequently been regarded as their patron saint. Like Kabīr, with whom he is sometimes associated in the hagiographies, he regarded conventional worldly or religious behaviour, especially caste differentiation, as irrelevant to salvation, which was entirely dependent upon the grace of God. Usually said to be a nirguṇa bhakta, his poetry also sometimes indicates a more personal devotion to Rām. Composed in Hindi, his verses were included, and preserved, in the Sikh Ādi Granth, and the collections of the Dādūpantha tradition. Raidās has himself become an object of devotion for those belonging to the movement named after him, the Raidāsīs, who emphasize his critical stance towards the behaviour of the higher castes, especially the brahmins, and celebrate their own, autonomous religious identity. Since the late 19th century, the Raidāsīs of the Punjab, in particular, have been culturally and politically active on behalf of their community.