BHAKTI MOVEMENT in India
- The religious movements of the medieval period, like the Bhakti cult and Sufism played an important part in Indian history.
- New religion- Sikhism born in the 15th century.
- During the period of the Delhi Sultanate a most prominent movement spread from one end to another end of India.
- Changed the fate of Indian society >> came to be known as Bhakti movement.
- Seeds of Bhakti movement – Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavad Purana
- 6th century AD – Bhagavata Purana placed the concept of Bhakti
- Post Bhagavatha Phase – love and devotion
- Like Buddhism and Jainism it was a reform movement.
- Reaction against the predominance of rituals in the Hindus religion
- Fundamental principles of Bhakti cult >> Bhakti or complete devotion and love to God
- Those who preached this philosophy criticized the elaborate rituals and proclaimed that God could be reached through Bhakti alone.
- Bhakti it was said, is the final stage in the spiritual development of man
Causes for the rise of Bhakti movement:
- As the image of Gods and Goddesses were broken by the Muslims and temples were destroyed by them, the Hindus resorted to the Bhakti movement for salvation.
- The path of Salvation was not opened for everyone in Hindu religion; hence people felt offended but the advocates of Bhakti movement assured salvation to everyone, so people thronged to it.
- The formalism, superstitions, caste system – practices also contributed to the rise of this popular movement
- As the paths of Gyana Marg and Karma marg were difficult people embraced Bhakti marg to get salvation.
- The saints of Bhakti movement condemned the caste system, idol worship and ritualism and encouraged the people to follow a path of purity and Morality if they wanted to attain salvation.
- Although the Bhakti movement spread through India, it began from the south, hence the saints of the south were the pioneers of this movement- divided into 2 groups
- Alvars – followers of Vishnu (12 sub – groups)
- Nayanars – followers of Shiva (63 sub – groups)
Features of Bhakti movement:
- The concept of Bhakti means single-minded devotion to God. The object of the devotee’s adortion is to secure the grace of God for the sake of salvation
- The Bhakti cult discarded the rituals and sacrifices as modes of worship and instead emphasized the purity of heart and mind, humanism and devotion as the simple way to realization of God
- The Bhakti movement was essentially monotheistic and devotees worshipped one personal God, who could either form (saguna) or be formless (nirguna)
- The followers of the former, known as Vaishnavas further sub-divided into Krishnamargis and Ramamargis, who regarded Ram or Krishna – both incarnations of Vishnu as their personal God. They said that god is omnipresent and resides within the heart of the man.
- On the philosophical side, Saguna and Nirguna both believed in the Upanishadic philosophy of Advaitha, with minor variations suggested by various bhakti saints
- The Bhakti saints of North as well as South India regarded knowledge (jnana) as a constituent of Bhakti. Since, that knowledge could be gained through a teacher or guru, Bhakti movement greatly emphasized securing knowledge from a guru
- The Bhakti movement was an egalitarian movement, which completely discarded the discriminations based on caste or creed. The saints of Bhakti movement were staunch supporters of social unity and purity of mind, character and soul.
- The doors of Bhakti were opened for the lowest classes and even untouchables. Many of the saints of the Bhakti movement were from the lower classes
- The Bhakti movement also discarded the priestly domination as well as rituals. Acc. to the bhakti saints, the individual could realize God through devotion and personal effort. Therefore, there was no place for sacrifices and daily rituals in the Bhakti movement
- The Bhakti saints preached in the simple language of the masses and immensely contributed to the development of modern Indian languages such as Hindi, Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati
- Sankaracharya, the pioneer of the Bhakti movement – born in a Brahmin family of Kaldi (Malahar) in AD 788.
- Remarkable talents and spiritual learning from the very childhood.
- True preacher of monistic philosophy.
- Forerunner of the Bhakti cult due to his versatile knowledge and spiritual learning.
- Died very young in AD 820
- Patroniser of Advaita philosophy
- Ramanuja was the first exponent of Bhakti movement.
- Great Vaishnav saint and laid stress on the worship of Narayana and Lakshmi.
- Infact, his philosophy was a reaction against the advaita philosophy of Sankracharya.
- Laid stress on the sincere worship of Narayana and Laxmi which only could free the soul from the bondage of birth and death
- Narhari, Namadeva, Eknath and saint Tukaram were the preachers of Bhakti movement in Maharashtra but Namdeva had the greatest influence over the people.
- Against Idol worship and ritualism prevalent in Hinduism.
- Preached that sincere prayers or Bhakti to God was only way of salvation.
- From the south the flame of Bhakti movement reached the north.
- The people there also began to preach its principles as they intended to safeguard Hinduism from the contamination of Islam.
- Ramananda was the most prominent saint of Bhakti movement in Northern India.
- Born in a Kanyakubja Brahman family of Varnasi.
- After getting education he became the disciple of Ramanuj.
- Against casteism and tried to remove all the malpractices prevalent in the Indian society.
- Great devotee of Rama and Sita.
- Among his famous disciples, Dhama was a jat, sema a barber, Raidas a shoemaker and Kabir a weaver.
- His liberal ideas weakened the bands of casteism.
- Against caste distinctions and allowed people of all castes to became his disciples
- First among the reformers of the medieval period to denounce the caste system.
- It can be said that he began what is known as the religious renaissance in north India.
- Born in Varnasi.
- Well versed in Hindu mythology
- Earlier he got patronage of king Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagaram and later on he made Vinodavan the centre of his activities and entered into married life.
- Preached that there was no difference between Brahma and the individual
- Emphasized that family life was not a hurdle in the way of salvation
- His philosophy therefore came to be known as ‘the Epicureanism of the east’.
- Born in Bengal in AD 1485 and became saint after the death of his wife.
- Great devotee of Krishna.
- Against casteism and preached universal brotherhood.
- He said the individual soul can reach Krishna, the supreme lord, by Bhakti alone.
- It was his staunch belief that love is the supreme regularity principle of this universe, which gave strength to his preaching.
- Told his disciples that the message of love for Krishna should be taught to all men including chandelas.
- The religious reformers, who were influenced by Islam, preached monotheism and condemned the caste system and idol worship.
- Kabir was the true disciple of Ramananda and the greatest saint of Bhakti cult.
- He was perhaps the greatest of the socio- religious reforms of the medieval period.
- Facts about his birth are shrouded in mystery.
- According to tradition he was born to a Brahmin widow, who cast him off near a water tank to escape social tyranny. The child it seems, was picked up by a weaver by name Niru and was brought up by , his wife, Nima, with great love and affection.
- Kabir’s philosophy represents the process of assimilation which has taken place in his age between Hindu and Muslim thought
- Sincerely preached Hindu- Muslim unity
- Condemned all kinds of rituals and preached pure devotion.
- Kabir preached a religion of universal brotherhood.
- He was convinced that the essence of Islam and Hinduism was the same and declared that there is only one God, although he is called by different names Ram, Rahim, Allah, Khuda, Hari, Govinda and so on.
- His life long mission was to unite the Hindus and Muslims and wipe out all distractions of caste and creed
- Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism was born in AD 1469 in Talwandi.
- His thinking was similar to that of Kabir.
- Nanak had great faith in religion from his very childhood.
- After becoming saint he started preaching the gospel of love and humanity.
- Nanak was against idol worship.
- He stressed brotherhood and humanity.
- He had faith in the theory of Karma and purity of life
Effects of Bhakti movement:
The Bhakti movement which was mass movement throughout India produced manifold effects. Though it failed to achieve its own motives, namely, reformation in Hindu religion and establishment of Hindu – Muslim unity, it affected the entire society.
- There were several defects in Hindu religion.
- This movement led to the reform of Hinduism.
- The advocates of the movement condemned the religious rituals and false practices.
- They endeavoured to establish harmony between Hindu religion and Islam.
- The efforts of these Bhagats saved Hinduism from the on slaughts of Islam.
- They also preached the unity of God head and universal brotherhood.
- Moreover, the teachings of Nanak and nine succeeding Gurus paved the way for the establishment of Sikhism in Punjab
- The social life of the people was also effected by the Bhakti movement.
- It shattered the bondage of caste system.
- The advocate of this movement endeavored to bridge the gulf between man and man as all were equal in the eyes of God.
- This movement brought Hindus and Muslims close to one another as the leaders of this popular movement denounced the short comings of both the religions and preached oneness of God and universal brotherhood
- Bhakti movement helped in the rise of Hindi and other vernacular literature the composition of the saints like Nam Deva, Kabir and Nanak became veiy popular and enriched the contemporary literature.
- The movement enriched our mother tongue or modern languages such as Hindi, Bengali, Marathi
- The foundation of Hindu — Muslim unity was laid as result of this mass movment and if effected the sultans and Mughal emperors.
- The feeling of national awaking emerged among the Marathas and the Sikhs and the seeds of independence were sown by the leaders of Bhakti movement.
- Really it was the voice of Kabir and Guru Nanak which involved the feelings of nationalism and brotherhood, among the masses.