Ramananda (IAST: Rāmānanda) was a 14th-century Vaishnava devotional poet saint, who lived in the Gangetic basin of northern India. The Hindu tradition recognizes him as the founder of the Ramanandi Sampradaya, the largest monastic Hindu renunciant community in modern times.
Born in a Brahman family, Saint Ramananda for the most part of his life lived in the holy city of Varanasi. His year of birth or death are uncertain, but historical evidence suggests he was one of the earliest saints and a pioneering figure of the Bhakti movement as it rapidly grew in North India, sometime between the 14th and mid 15th century during its Islamic rule period.
Tradition asserts that Saint Ramananda developed his philosophy and devotional themes inspired by the south Indian Vedanta philosopher Ramanuja, however evidence also suggests that Saint Ramananda was influenced by Nathpanthi ascetics of the Yoga school of Hindu philosophy.
An early social reformer, Saint Ramananda accepted disciples without discriminating anyone by gender, class. Traditional scholarship holds that his disciples included later Bhakti movement poet-sants such as Kabir, Ravidas, Bhagat Pipa and others, however some postmodern scholars have questioned some of this spiritual lineage while others have supported this lineage with historical evidence.
His verse is mentioned in the Sikh scripture Adi Granth.Saint Ramananda was known for composing his works and discussing spiritual themes in vernacular Hindi, stating that this makes knowledge accessible to the masses.