LESSON 18 : BHAKTI MOVEMENT IN MEDIEVAL INDIA
(Revision or Short Notes)
(11th CLass Tamil Nadu Board Book )
- Bhakti cult in Tamil Nadu during the seventh and eight centuries. The Saivaite Nayanmars and Vashnavaite Alwars preached the Bhakti cult under the Pallavas, Pandyas and Cholas.
- This medieval Bhakti movement was the direct result of the influence of the spread of Islam in India. Monotheism or belief in one God, equality and brotherhood of man and rejection of rituals and class divisions are the distinctive characteristics of Islam
- preaching of Sufi teachers shaped the thinking of Bhakti reformers like Ramananda, Kabir and Nanak
- Sufism was a liberal reform movement within Islam. It had its origin in Persia and spread into India in the eleventh century. The first Sufi saint Shaikh Ismail of Lahore started preaching his ideas.
- The most famous of the Sufi saints of India was Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti, who settled in Ajmer which became the centre of his activities.
- He had a number of disciples who are called Sufis of the Chishti order. Another well known Sufi saint was Bahauddin Zakariya who came under the influence of another famous mystic Shihabuddin Suhrawardi.
- His branch of Sufi saints was known as the Sufis of the Suhrawardi Order. Yet another famous Sufi saint was Nizamuddin Auliya who belonged to the Chishti order
- Sufism stressed the elements of love and devotion as effective means of the realisation of God
- In Sufism, self discipline was considered an essential condition to gain knowledge of God by sense of perception.
- While orthodox Muslims emphasise external conduct, the Sufis lay stress on inner purity. While the orthodox believe in blind observance of rituals, the Sufis consider love and devotion as the only means of attaining salvation.
- According to them one must have the guidance of a pir or guru, without which spiritual development is impossible. Sufism also inculcated a spirit of tolerance among its followers.
- Other ideas ( Sufi) à are meditation, good actions, repentance for sins, performance of prayers and pilgrimages, fasting, charity and suppression of passions by ascetic practices
- These liberal and unorthodox features of Sufism had a profound influence on medieval Bhakti saints. In the later period, Akbar, the Mughal emperor, appreciated Sufi doctrines which shaped his religious outlook and religious policies
- In the ninth century Sankara started a Hindu revivalist movement giving a new orientation to Hinduism. He was born in Kaladi in Kerala. His doctrine of Advaita or Monism was too abstract to appeal to the common man.
- Moreover, there was a reaction against the Advaita concept of Nirgunabrahman (God without attributes) with the emergence of the idea of Sagunabrahman (God with attributes).
- In the twelfth century, Ramanuja, who was born at Sriperumbudur near modern Chennai, preached Visishtadvaita. According to him God is Sagunabrahman.
- The creative process and all the objects in creation are real but not illusory as was held by Sankaracharya. Therefore, God, soul, matter are real.
- But God is inner substance and the rest are his attributes. He also advocated prabattimarga or path of self-surrender to God. He invited the downtrodden to Vaishnavism.
- In the thirteenth century, Madhava from Kannada region According to his philosophy, the world is not an illusion but a reality. According to his philosophy, the world is not an illusion but a reality.
- God, soul, matter are unique in nature. Nimbarka and in the Telungana region. Surdas was the disciple of Vallabhacharya and he popularized Krishna cult in north India.
- Mirabai was a great and he popularized Krishna cult in north India. Mirabai was a great devotee of Krishna and she became popular in Rajasthan for her famous Ramcharitmanas, the Hindi version of Ramayana
- In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Ramananda, Kabir inspiration from old masters but showed a new path. They helped inspiration from old masters but showed a new path.
- They helped the common people to shed age-old superstitions and attain salvation through Bhakti or pure devotion. Unlike the early reformers, they were not linked with any particular religious creed and did not believe in rituals and ceremonies.
- They condemned polytheism and believed in rituals and ceremonies. They condemned polytheism and believed in one god. They also denounced all forms of idolatry.
- They strongly believed in Bhakti as the only means of salvation. They also emphasised the fundamental unity of all religions
- Ramananda was born at Allahabad. He was originally a follower of Ramanuja. Later he founded his own sect and preached his principles in Hindi at Banaras and Agra.
- He was a worshipper of Rama. He was the first to employ the vernacular medium to propagate his ideas. Simplification of worship and emancipation of people from the traditional caste rules were his two important contributions to the Bhakti movement.
- He opposed the caste system and chose his disciples from all sections of society disregarding caste.
His disciples were:
- Kabir, a Muslim weaver
- Raidasa, a cobbler
- Sena, a barber
- Sadhana, a butcher
- Dhanna, a Jat farmer
- Naraharai, a goldsmith and
- Pipa, a Rajput prince.
- Among the disciples of Ramananda the most famous was Kabir. He was born near Banaras to a brahmin widow. But he was brought up by a Muslim couple who were weavers by profession.
- Kabir’s object was to reconcile Hindus and Muslims and establish harmony between the two sects. He denounced idolatry and rituals and laid great emphasis on the equality of man before God.
- He emphasized the essential oneness of all religions by describing Hindus and Muslims ‘as pots of the same clay’. To him Rama and Allah, temple and mosque were the same.
- He is regarded as the greatest of the mystic saints and his followers are called Kabirpanthis
- Guru Nanak, founderof the Sikh religion and a disciple of Kabir. He was born in Talwandi near Lahore. He denounced caste distinctions and rituals like bathing in holy rivers.
- His life was dedicated to establishing harmony between Hindus and Muslims. His followers were known as Sikhs.
Chaitanya was another well-known saint and reformer of Bengal who popularised the Krishna cult.
- He proclaimed the universal brotherhood of man and condemned all distinction based on religion and caste
- He believed that through love and devotion, song and dance, a devotee can feel the presence of God
Gnanadeva was the founder of the Bhakti Movement in Maharashtra in the thirteenth century.
- It was called Maharashtra dharma. He wrote a commentary of Bhagavat Gita called Gnaneswari.
- Namadeva preached the gospel of love. He opposed idol worship and priestly domination. He also opposed the caste system.
- In the sixteenth century, Ekanatha opposed caste distinctions and sympathetic towards the lower castes.
- Another Bhakti saint of Maharashtra was Tukaram, a contemporary of Sivaji. He was responsible for creating a background for Maratha nationalism. He opposed all social distinctions
Importance of the Bhakti Movement
- Bhakti movement provided an impetus for the development of regional languages such as Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, etc.
- caste system was condemned by the Bhakti saints, the lower classes were raised to a position of great importance. Theimportance of women in society was also increased