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Bhakti Movement

Bhakti Movement In India: Term Bhakti refers to the the Sanskrit word "bhaj," meaning participate in or share. Thus, Bhakti is a spiritual term that means total devotion.The Bhakti Movement began in Tamil Region of South India (today areas of Tamil Nadu and Kerala) in the seventh century and expanded northwards.

Bhakti Movement In India:

Term Bhakti refers to the the Sanskrit word “bhaj,” meaning participate in or share. Thus, Bhakti is a spiritual term that means total devotion. The Bhakti Movement began in Tamil Region of South India (today areas of Tamil Nadu and Kerala) in the seventh century and expanded northwards. The Bhakti movement was the religious movement that brought religious reforms to medieval Hinduism. It raced over east and north India beginning in the 15th century and peaked between the 15th and 17th centuries CE. It refers to the theistic devotional trend that started in India during the medieval period and later altered society. The Bhakti movement was based on equality and devotional surrender to a personally conceived supreme God.

Basic Features Of Bhakti Movement:
  1. They rejected the idea of idol worship.
  2. It believed that God is one and is called up by different names.
  3. It was firmly against the rituals and the religious activities being performed, and thus, they condemned the blind faith, ceremonies, and other practices.
  4. It believed in  complete surrender and devotion to the one god.
  5. It supports both Schools of Bhakti(Nirguna and Saguna).
  6.  It is believed that one can achieve salvation through Bhakti.
  7. It brought open-mindedness among the masses regarding religious matters.
  8. It was of the thought that all humans are equal. It is also against the rejection of people based on the caste system.
  9. It supported all the regional languages and rebelled against the dominance of the Sanskrit language in society.
  10. It was of the idea that teachings must be delivered in the regional languages, and for ease of understanding, the literature must be created in the local languages.
Reason For Evolution Of Bhakti Movement:
  1. Ordinary people found it difficult to understand the complex philosophy of the Upanishads and Vedas.
  2. A desire to adopt the more straightforward form of worship, social conventions, and other spiritual practices. The Bhakti Marga came up more directly.
  3. There were a lot of evil practices against the common people living in society during the medieval period based on caste and gender, so, There was a need to bring on the liberal form of religion with basic religious rituals.
Ideological Streams Of The Bhakti Movement:
Saguna ( Sakaar or with form)Nirgun (Nirakaar or without form)
Saguna represents poets who wrote poems for gods with attributes and form.Tulasidas, chaitanya, surdas and meera were main proponents of saguna ideology.They were in favor of Brahmin domination and  defended the caste system. They favor idol worship, They believe that Vedas hold a spiritual validityNirgun represents poets who wrote poems for a god without attributes and form.Nanak and kabir were main proponents of nirguna ideology.Monotheistic Bhakti Saints were firmly against caste-based traditions.They condemned the Brahmin supremacy and were firmly against the practice of idol worship.

Bhakti Movement In South India:

The development of the Bhakti movement took place in Tamil Nadu between the 7th and 12th CE. It was reflected in the emotional poems of the Nayanars (devotees of Shiva) and Alvars (devotees of Vishnu). They Discarded rituals and sacrifices and emphasized on purity of heart and mind, humanism, and devotion.  These saints preached in local languages and denied the austerities preached by Jainism and Buddhism . These religions saw a decline in their growth due to the Bhakti movement. They disregarded the rigidities of the caste system and carried the message of love and personal devotion to God to various parts of South India with the help of local languages. The Bhakti Saints opposed Sati and female infanticide. The women were encouraged to join Kirtans.

Bhakti Movement In North India:

The Bhakti movement gained importance in the northern parts of the country during the 12th century to 17th century CE. Sanskrit, prevalent in the North, given a new form as the movement moved to the North. Bhagavata Purana was a significant work in the 9th century and an important component of the Bhakti movement. The northern medieval Bhakti movement was affected by the spread of Islam in India. The main features of Islam like belief in one God (monotheism), equality and brotherhood, and deniel of rituals and class divisions greatly affected the Bhakti movement of this era.

Prominent Leaders Of The Bhakti Movement:
Serial no.:leaderdetails
1Shankaracharya (c. 788 – 820 CE)Born in Kaladi in Kerala. He propounded the Advaita (Monism) philosophy and the idea of Nirguna-brahman (god without attributes). He taught that Brahman, the only or Ultimate Reality, was formless and without any attributes.. He laid emphasis on knowledge (gyan) as that can alone lead to salvation. Upadesasahasri, Vivekachudamani, Bhaja Govindum Stotra are some of the works authored by Shankaracharya. He also wrote commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, the Brahma Sutra and the Upanishads. He set up mathas at Dwarka, Puri, Sringeri and Badrinath.
2Ramanujacharya (c. 1017 – 1137 CE)In the 12th century, Ramanuja, who was born at Sriperumbudur near modern Chennai, preached Vishista Advaitavada (qualified monism). According to him, God is Saguna Brahman (with attributes) and the creative process including all the objects in creation are real and not illusory as was held by Shankaracharya. Therefore, according to Ramanuja, God, soul, and matter are real. However, God is the inner substance and the rest are his attributes.  Ramanuja advocated prabattimarga or the path of self-surrender to God. He invited downtrodden people to Vaishnavism and advocated salvation by Bhakti. He authored Sribhashya, Vedanta Dipa, Gita Bhasya and Vedantasara. He believes Salvation  can be gained through Karma, Gyan, or Bhakti. Ramananda, his pupil, carried his guru’s teachings throughout northern India.
3Madhavacharya (c. 1238 – 1317 CE)He founded the Dvaita Vada (dualism) school of Vedanta. He was a critic of Adi Shankaracharya’s Advaitavada theory, claiming that the Atman (individual soul) and Brahman (ultimate reality) are fundamentally distinct and that the individual soul is dependent on the Brahman and can never be identical. According to him, salvation is only possible through God’s grace. He founded the Brahma Sampradaya.
4Nimbarka (around 13th Century)He was a contemporary of Ramanuja. He established ‘Dvaita-advaita,’ or dualistic monism. He wrote a commentary on the Brahma Sutras called Vedanta-Parijata-Saurabha. He mentioned five ways to attain salvation: Karma, Vidya, Dhyana , Prapatti (devotion), and Gurupasatti (devotion and self-surrender to guru). He was the founder of the Radha-Krishna cult.
5Vallabhacharya (c. 1479 – 1531 CE)He founded Shuddhadvaita (Pure Nondualism), and his philosophy is known as ‘Pushti Marg.’ Shudh Advaita like Vishista Advaita too indicates that the entire universe is the manifestation of Brahman. It is like the two sides of the coin, with Brahman as one side and the universe another side. Pushti Marg sect is centered on Krishna, particularly his child manifestation, and is enriched by the use of traditions, music, and festivals. Born in Benaras to a Telugu Brahmin family. He propagated his doctrine of Bhakti (devotion) through god Krishna whom he fondly addressed as Shrinath Ji. He also founded Rudra Sampradaya. Vallabhacharya along with his disciple Surdas was largely instrumental in popularising the Krishna cult in north India
6Ramananda (1300-1380 AD)He was a prominent Rama worshiper. Born at Prayag (Allahabad) and preached his principles at Benaras and Agra. His followers are called Ramanandis. He was a social reformer who opened the door to Bhaktism to everybody without regard for birth, caste, creed, or gender. He rejected the monopoly of the Sanskrit language over the teachings of religious texts  and wrote and discussed his teachings in Hindi and regional languages, making religion more accessible to the general public. His lyrics are also mentioned in the Adi Granth.
7Kabir Das (1398 or 1440-1518)One of the most famous disciples of Ramananda who belonged to the 15th century. His iconic verses are found in the Sikh holy scripture, Adi Granth. It is believed that he was born near Benaras and was brought up in the house of a Muslim weaver He was a Nirguna saint who publicly criticised mainstream religions such as Hinduism and Islam. Kabir’s object was to reconcile Hindus and Muslims and establish harmony between the two sects. He strongly denounced idol worship, pilgrimages, rituals, caste system especially the practice of untouchability and laid great stress on the equality of man before God. Kabir is regarded as the greatest mystic saint and his followers are called Kabirpanthis. Raidas (a tanner), Guru Nanak (a Khatri merchant) and Dhanna (a Jat peasant) were some of his important disciples. Most of the compositions of Kabir are compiled in Bijak.

Bhakti Movement In Maharashtra:

The Bhakti movement in Maharashtra centred around the shrine of Vithoba or Vitthal, the residing deity of Pandharpur, who was considered the manifestation of Krishna. This movement is also known as the Pandharpur movement and it influence the social and cultural developments in Maharashtra. The Bhakti movement in Maharashtra is splits into two sects:

  • Varakaris – The devotees of God Vitthala of Pandharpur, who are more emotional, theoretical and abstract in their viewpoint.
    • Dharakaris – The heroic followers of the cult of Ramadasa, the devotee of God Rama, who are more rational, concrete and practical in their thoughts.
Prominent Leaders Of Bhakti Movement In Maharashtra:
Serial no.:leaderdetails
1Jnaneswar or Jnanadeva ( c. 1275 – 1296 CE)A 13th-century mystical poet-saint of Maharashtra who wrote a commentary of Bhagavad Gita called Jnaneswari which served as a foundation of the Bhakti ideology in Maharashtra. Amrutanubhav on Yoga and Philosophy is his other work. He was Namdev’s contemporaries. A devotee of Vithoba (Vitthala), who is regarded as a manifestation of Vishnu. He was strictly against caste distinctions and believed that the only way to attain God was through Bhakti.
2Namadeva (c. 1270 – 1350)He was a Vaishnavite Varkari saint from Maharashtra known for his ‘bhajans.’ flourished in the first part of the 14th century. Namadeva was a tailor who is said to have taken to banditry before he became a saint. He is one of the fifteen holy men (Bhagat) whose verses were placed in the Adi Granth by Guru Nanak (Holy book of Sikhism).
3Saint Eknath (c. 1533 – 1599 CE)He was a Maharashtrian saint of the Varkari Panth, ‘Eknathi Bhagavatam,’ a commentary on the Bhagavata Purana, is his most famous work. He was a family man and emphasised that staying in monasteries or withdrawing from the world are not necessary for leading a religious life. He was known for resolving conflicts between householder duties and the demands of religious devotion. He was against caste distinctions and spread the message that there was no distinction in God’s eyes between Brahmin and outcaste or between Hindu and Muslim.
4Saint Tukaram (c. 1608 – 1650 CE)17th-century poet-saint, a contemporary of Maratha ruler Shivaji Maharaj and saints like Eknath and Ramdas. His poetry was devoted to Vithoba or Vitthala, an avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu. He is known for his Abangas (dohas) in Marathi, which were devotional poetry. He advocated for devotional congregations and kirtans.
5Samarth Ramdas (c. 1608 – 1681 CE)He is founder of the Samarth sect. Bal Gangadhar Tilak was inspired by his works. He was a renowned spiritual Guru and Chatrapati Shivaji held a high regard for the saint Ramdas. He wrote Dasabhoda, a treatise on the Advaita Vedanta in the Marathi language which deals with a wide range of topics on the spiritual life. His other works are Karunashtaken, Janasvabhavagosanvi and Manache Sloka. He built numerous Hanuman temples throughout India and contributed to the growth of Marathi literature by writing various “aartis”  He was strictly against caste distinctions and encouraged women to take part in religious work.  

Birth of Sikh Religious Movement:

Serial no.:LeadersDetails
1Guru Nanak (C. 1469 – 1539 Ce)He was the founder of sikhism, born in talwandi near lahore. He preached that god is supreme, all-powerful, formless,universal, everlasting, creator of all things and absolute truth. He rejected the authority of the vedas, denounced idol worship and rejected the theory of incarnation. He was against casteism and advocated equality of all human beings irrespective of caste, gender, creed. He encouraged people to live a life of honesty, truth and kindness and guided people to follow the principles of conduct and worship; sach (truth), halal (lawful earning), khair (wishing well for others), niyat (right intentions) and service to the lord. His philosophy consists of three basic elements – a leading personality (the guru), ideology (shabad) and organisation (sangat). He introduced the concept of langar (community kitchen). He conceptualised god as nirguna (attributeless) and nirankar (formless).  
2Guru Angad (C. 1539 – 1552 Ce)Guru angad was born with the birth name of bhai lehna.  He standardised and popularised the gurumukhi script of the punjabi language. He made extensive efforts to spread the teachings of guru nanak far and wide. He established the tradition of mall akhara for physical as well as spiritual development. 
3Guru Amar Das (C. 1552 – 1574 Ce)He strengthened the langar community kitchen system. He divided his spiritual empire into 22 parts called manjis, each under a sikh, and also piri system. He asked akbar to abolish the pilgrims tax (toll tax) for non-muslims while crossing yamuna and ganges rivers. He preached against the sati system of hindu society, encouraged widow remarriage and asked the women to discard the purdah (veil worn by women).
4Guru Ramdas (C. 1574 – 1581 Ce)He composed the four lawans (stanzas) of the anand karaj, a distinct marriage code for sikhs separate from the orthodox and traditional vedic system. The mughal emperor akbar granted him a plot of land where the harmandir sahib was later constructed. He laid the foundation stone of chak ramdas of ramdas pur, now called amritsar. He strongly denounced superstitions, pilgrimages and the caste system.
5Guru Arjun Dev (C. 1581 – 1606 Ce)He compiled the adi granth, granth sahib and installed it at sri harmandir sahib. He completed the construction of taran, amritsar and kartarpur. He is considered the first martyr of the sikh religion as he was executed by jahangir for helping his rebellious son, khusrau. 
6Guru Har Govind (C. 1606 – 1644 Ce)He fought against rulers jahangir and shah jahan and defeated a mughal army at sangrama. He was titled “sachcha padshah”. He transformed sikhs into a militant community, established the akal takht and fortified amritsar. He was the proprietor of the concept of miri and piri (keeping two knives).
7Guru Har Rai (C. 1644 – 1661 Ce)He gave shelter to dara shikoh, brother of aurangzeb who was his rival to the throne, and thus was persecuted by aurangzeb.
8Guru Har Kishan (C. 1661 – 1664 Ce)He became the youngest guru in sikhism who succeeded his father guru har rai at the young age of five. According to tradition, he died at the age of eight due to smallpox, which he contracted while healing sick people during an epidemic.
9Guru Tegh Bahadur (C. 1665 – 1675 Ce)He appointed banda bahadur as the military leader of the sikhs. He is credited with spreading sikhism to bihar and assam. He was executed by Aurangzeb, as he revolted against him. He was beheaded before the public in delhi’s chandni chowk in c. 1675 ce. The sheesh ganj sahib gurudwara stands at the site of his martyrdom today.
10Guru Gobind Singh (C. 1675 – 1708 Ce)Last sikh guru who was born in patna and organised the sikhs as community warriors and called them khalsa in c. 1699 ce. Guru gobind singh started some practices which were to be followed by sikhs in order to create a sense of unity among the sikhs. These were: initiation through baptism by the double-edged sword, wearing uncut hair, carrying arms and adopting the epithet singh as part of the name. He compiled the supplementary granth of deswan padshan ka granth. He selected five persons known as the panj pyare (the five beloved), and requested them to administer the pahul (amrit chakha) to him. He passed the guruship of the sikhs to the guru granth sahib. He died of complications from stab wounds inflicted by an afghan, believed to have been sent by the mughal governor, wazir khan.

Other Prominent Leaders Of Bhakti Movement:

Serial no.:LeadersDetails
1Mira Bai Mira belonged to a high class ruling rajput family and was married to the son of rana sanga of mewar at an early age. But she left her husband and family and went on a pilgrimage to various places. Her poetry portrays a unique relationship with lord krishna as she is not only being portrayed as the devotee bride of krishna, but krishna is also portrayed as in pursuit of mira. 
2Chaitanya MahaprabhuHe well-known saint and social reformer of bengal who popularised the krishna cult.Chaitanya mahaprabhu is said to have travelled all over india, including vrindavan where he revived the krishna cult. he popularized the sankirtan/kirtan system, group devotional songs accompanied with ecstatic dancing. He believed that through love and devotion, song and dance, a devotee can feel the presence of god. He accepted disciples from all classes and castes and his teachings are widely followed in bengal even today. He did not reject the scriptures or idol worship though he cannot be classified as a traditionalist.
3TulsidasHe a worshipper of rama and composed an epic poem – the Ramacharitamanas popularly called “tulsi krita ramayana” in which he portrays sri ram as most virtuous, powerful and the embodiment of the supreme reality (parambrahma).
4Basavanna Or BasaveshwaraHe was a saint-poet, social reformer, and philosopher who lived in the 12th century. He spoke out against caste, class, and gender inequality. During the rule of the kalyani chalukya/kalachuri dynasty, basavanna was a hindu shaivite social reformer was a lingayat saint in the shiva-centered bhakti movement. He is also known as bhakti bhandari (literally, the treasurer of devotion). Basavanna used his poetry, known as vachanaas, to raise societal consciousness. Gender or social discrimination, superstitions, and rituals were all rejected by the basavanna. Basavanna is credited with several major lingayat works, including vachana, such as the shat-sthala-vachana, kala-jnana-vachana, mantra-gopya, ghatna chakra-vachana, and raja-yoga-vachana. Basavanna firmly believed in the idea of a caste-free society where everyone had an equal opportunity to succeed. He founded the anubhavamantapa, a lingayata academy of mystics, saints, and philosophers, to accomplish the noble goal.
5Dadu DayalHe lived during the conclusion of Akbar’s reign and at the start of Jehangir’s. He was a contemporary of Akbar, the Mughal emperor, and it is stated that Akbar held him in high regard. He was born in Gujarat and went to Jaipur later. He inspired formation of Dadu panth. Dadu rejected the Vedas (the earliest Hindu scriptures), caste divisions, and other divisive, external forms of worship, such as temple visits and pilgrimages. Instead, he focused on japa (the chanting of god’s name) and ideas like the soul as god’s bride. Dadu’s poetic aphorisms and devotional hymns, which served as the medium for his teachings, were compiled in bani (“poetic utterances’ ‘), a 5,000-verse anthology. They also occur in a relatively fluid poetic anthology called panchvani (“five utterances”), which serves as scriptures for the dadu panth, alongside selections from other poet-saints Kabir, Namdev, Ravidas, and Haridas.
6Purandara Dasa  Purandara dasa (1484–1564) was a haridasa, great devotee of lord krishna and a saint. He was a disciple of the celebrated madhwa philosopher-saint vyasatirtha, and a contemporary of yet another great haridasa, kanakadasa. Purandaradasa was the pioneer who blended the rich musical streams, namely the dravidian and aryan music, into a single stream known as carnatic music. Prior to his initiation to haridasa tradition, purandara dasa was a rich merchant and was called as srinivasa nayaka. He is noted for composing dasa sahithya, as a bhakti movement vocalist, and a music scholar. According to purandara dasa there were no inequalities among men and women. Both of them had same rights and obligations in their conduct of everyday life as well as observation of pity. He made some forceful expressions on untouchability and fought the evils of casteism through his songs.

Significance Of Bhakti Movement:

The Bhakti movement established to spread the idea of monotheism. It was against idol worship and It is strongly believes that rituals and religious rites are not the way to reach God. Instead, one can get God through love and adoration. The primary importance of the Bhakti Movement is as follows-

  1. The religious scriptures’ were translated into regional languages which made religion more inclusive and open.
  2. It results the unity for all the Hindu gods.
  3. There was a rise in devotion among people.
  4. People adopted the loving and open-minded approach to faith and religion.
  5. It results in equality, and evil practices like the caste system brought to an end.

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