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Old Sunday, November 02, 2008
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Default Bhakti Movement In Medieval India

Causes for the birth of Bhakti Movement:

Prior to the coming of Islam to India, Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism were the dominant religions. Hinduism lost its simplicity. Many philosophical schools appeared. Two different sects, i.e., Vaishnavism and Saivism also appeared within Hinduism. In course of time Sakti worship also came into existence. Common people were confused on the way of worshipping God. When Islam came to India, the Hindus observed many ceremonies and worshipped many Gods and Goddesses. There were all sorts of superstitious beliefs among them. Their religion had become complex in nature. Added to these, the caste system, untouchability, blind worshipping and inequality in society caused dissensions among different sections of the people. On the other hand Islam preached unity of God and brotherhood of man. It emphasised monotheism. It attacked idol worship. It preached equality of man before God. The oppressed common people and the people branded as low castes were naturally attracted towards Islam. It only increased the rivalry among religions. Fanaticism, bigotry, and religious intolerance began to raise their heads. It was to remove such evils, religious leaders appeared in different parts of India. They preached pure devotion called Bhakti to attain God.

Origin of the Bhakti Movement :

Bhakti means personal devotion to God. It stresses the Union of the individual with God. Bhakti movement originated in South India between the 7th and the 12th centuries A..D. The Nayanmars, who worshipped Siva, and the Alwars, who worshipped Vishnu, preached the idea of Bhakti. They carried their message of love and devotion to various parts of South India through the medium of the local language. They preached among common people. It made some of the followers of the Vedic faith to revive the old Vedic religion. Saints like Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhwa gave their concepts of God and the individual soul.

Bhakti Movement in the North :

The Bhakti movement in North India gained momentum due to the Muslim conquest. The saints of the Bhakti Movement were men and women of humble origin. They came from all castes and classes. They had visited from place to place singing devotional songs. They had also preached the Unity of God and brotherhood of man. They had stressed tolerance among various religious groups. Their preaching was simple.

Principles of Bhakti Movement :

The main principles of Bhakti movement were : (1) God is one, (2) To worship God man should serve humanity, (3) All men are equal, (4) Worshipping God with devotion is better than performing religious ceremonies and going on pilgrimages, and (5) Caste distinctions and superstitious practices are to be given up. The Hindu saints of the Bhakti Movement and the Muslim saints of the Sufi movement became more liberal in their outlook. They wanted to get rid of the evils which had crept into their religions. There were a number of such saints from the 8th to 16th century A.D. We shall deal with some of them here.

Ramanuja : Ramanuja was one of the earliest reformers. Born in the South, he made a pilgrimage to some of the holy places in Northern India. He considered God as an Ocean of Love and beauty. His teachings were based on the Upanishads and Bhagwad Gita. Whatever he taught, he had taught in the language of the common man. Soon a large number of people became his followers. Ramanand was his disciple. He took his message to Northern parts of India.

Ramananda : Ramananda was the first reformer to preach in Hindi, the main language spoken by the people of the North. He was educated at Benaras. He preached that there is nothing high or low. All 109 men are equal in the eyes of God. He was an ardent worshipper of Rama. He welcomed people of all castes and status to follow his teachings. He had twelve chief disciples. One of them was a barber, another was a weaver, the third one was a cobbler and the other was the famous saint Kabir and the fifth one was a woman named Padmavathi. He considered God as a loving father. He lived in the 14th century A.D.

Kabir : Kabir was an ardent disciple of Ramananda. It is said that he was the son of a Brahmin widow who had left him near a tank at Varanasi. A Muslim couple Niru and his wife who were weavers brought up the child. Later he became a weaver but he was attracted by the teachings of Swami Ramananda. He wanted unity between the Hindus and the Muslims. He preached that both the Hindus and the Muslims are the children of a single God. He had no faith in idol worship, religious rituals and ceremonies. He taught that Allah and Eswar, Ram and Rahim are one and the same. They are present everywhere. The devotees of Kabir were known as Kabir Panthis. What Kabir said about God? I am neither in temple nor in Mosque, neither in Kaaba nor in Kailash; I am not in any ritual or rite nor in yoga or in renunciation; If thou be a true seeker, thou shall find me in a moment.

He also said : To the East is Hari, to the West Allah’s abode, search thy heart, within the inner core, Ram and Rahim live there. Thousands of people, both Hindus and Muslims became Kabir’s followers. He probably lived in the fifteenth century A.D. Namdeva : Namdeva was a waterman by birth. He hailed from Maharashtra. He composed beautiful hymns in Marathi. They are full of intense devotion to God. He worshipped Vishnu in the form of Lord Vithoba. Some of his verses are included in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs. A large number of people from different castes became his followers.

Guru Nanak. (A.D.1469 - A.D.1538):
Guru Nanak was the founder of the Sikh religion. From his childhood, he did not show any interest in worldly affairs. At the age of 29, he left his home and became a Sadhu. He went to Mecca and Medina. He had travelled far and wide to spread his teachings. Guru Nanak had finally settled at Karthpur. He laid emphasis on pure and simple living. He preached the Unity of God and condemned idolatry. He was against the caste system. Guru Nanak’s followers are called the Sikhs. He started the Langer or the common kitchen, where people belonging to all castes or religions could have their meals together. Nanak’s teachings were in the form of verses. They were collected in a book called the Adi Granth. Later Adi Grantham was written in a script called Gurmukhi. The holy book of the Sikhs is popularly known as ‘Grantha Sahib’. It contains verses from Kabir, Namdeva and other Bhakti and Sufi saints.

Chaitanya (A.D.1485 - A.D.1533) : Chaitanya, a great devotee of Lord Krishna, was a saint from Bengal. From his very childhood, he had showed great interest in education and studied Sanskrit. He married the daughter of a Saintly person. Later at the age of 24, he renounced the worldly life and became a sanyasin. He travelled all over the Deccan,Bihar, Bengal and Orissa. His followers regarded him as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He helped the old and the needy. He was opposed to the inequalities of the caste system. He emphasised the need for tolerance, humanity and love. He spread the message of Bhakti in Bengal. He popularised ‘Sankritan’or public singing of God’s name. His songs are still very popular in Bengal. He was addressed `Mahaprabhu’ by his followers. Tulsi Das : Goswamy Tulsidas was a devotee of Rama. His work gives the story of Rama in Hindi. He was the foremost in popularising Rama cult. His other works in Hindi are Janaki Mangal and Parvathi Mangal. In his writtings he insists the duty of a son to his parent, duty of a student to his teacher and duty of a king to his people. Rama was a dear son to his parents, devoted student to his teacher and a desirable king to his subjects.

Meerabai : Meerabai was a Rajput princess. She married the Rana of Mewar. She was a pious devotee of Lord Krishna. She has written many songs in praise of Krishna, her favourite God, in Rajastani. Her songs or hymns are even today sung all over India. Her palace was kept open to people of all castes to join her Bhajans of Lord Krishna. She had visited all places connected with the life of Lord Krishna. She had lived for the most part of her life in Mathura, the birth place of Krishna and Vrindaban. There is a temple dedicated to Meerabai in Chittor, the capital of Mewar.

Guru Ramdas :
Ramdas was a famous teacher. He was born in A.D. 1608. Chatrapati Shivaji, the great Maratha ruler, was a follower of Ramdas. He stressed upon the equality of all men before God. He said that anyone could attain God’s favour by means of Bhakti. Guru Ramdas was not merely a religious preacher but also a Nation Builder.

Tukaram : Tukaram was a saint who lived in Maharashtra. He composed a large number of verses called Abhangas or devotional songs in praise of Panduranga or Krishna. He believed in one God who was kind, merciful and protective. He wrote all his abhangas in Marathi.

Jnaneshwar : He is one of the greatest saints of Maharashtra. He worshipped Vishnu in the form of Vithoba or Krishna. At the age of 112 fourteen, he translated the Bhagawad Gita into the Marathi language. This book is called Jnaneshwari.


Nayanmars :
In South India, the Nayanmars and Alwars were the noted saints of the Bhakti movement. The Nayanmars, the devotees of Siva, were sixty three in number. The most famous among them were Appar, Sundarar, Thirugnana Sambandar and Manickavachakar. These saints composed many verses in praise of Lord Siva. A saint named Nambiandar Nambi collected the devotional songs of Nayanmars. Appar, Sundarar and Thirugnana Sambandar composed the Thevaram hymns. Manickvachakar’s songs are known as Tiruvachakam. Periyapuranam, written by Sekhizhar, tells us the life stories of the Nayanmars.

Alwars : The Alwars were the worshippers of Lord Vishnu who were twelve in number. Among them Nammalwar, Tirumangai Alwar, Andal and Perialwar were famous. The songs of the Alwars were compiled in a book called Nalayira Divya Prabandham by Nadamuni. The devotional songs of Andal is called Thiruppavai. Thirupavai songs are famous in Tamilnadu. These songs are even now sung during the Tamil month of margazhi (December - January).

Basava :
Basava lived in Karnataka. He founded the Virasaiva or Lingayat sect. According to Basava, Siva was the supreme God. Basava opposed child marriage and idol worship.


The Sufis were Muslim saints who came originally from Persian and Arabian countries. They stayed in India in the 11th century A.D. They were progressive thinkers who led a simple life. They strictly followed the principles of the Holy Koran. Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism influenced the Sufi saints. The Bhakti movement motivated the Sufi saints to work for Hindu - Muslim Unity. The Sufi movement promoted friendship between the Hindus and the Muslims. They believed that God is present everywhere. Man could realise God through meditation and fasting. The two separate groups among the 113 Sufis were the Chishti and the Suharwardi. Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti started the Chishti group in India. Baba Farid and Nizamuddin Auliya were other great Sufi saints. Shaikh Shihabuddin Suharwardi and Hamiduddin Nagori were Sufi saints of Suharwardi groups.

Effects of Bhakti Movement:

The Bhakti movement had brought the Hindus and the Muslims closer to each other. The equality concept preached by the leaders reduced the rigidity of the caste system to a certain extent. The suppressed people gained a feeling of self-respect. The reformers preached in local languages. It led to the development of Vernacular literature. They composed hymns and songs in the languages spoken by the people. Therefore there was a remarkable growth of literature in all the languages. A new language Urdu, a mixture of Persian and Hindi, was developed. The Bhakti movement freed the common people from the tyranny of the priests. It checked the excesses of polytheism. It encouraged the spirit of toleration. The gap between the Hindus and the Muslims was reduced. They began to live amicably together. It emphasised the value of a pure life of charity and devotion. Finally, it improved the moral and spiritual ways of life of the medieval society. It provided an example for the future generation to live with the spirit of toleration.

Last edited by Last Island; Sunday, November 02, 2008 at 02:41 PM.
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Old Sunday, November 02, 2008
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Default Bhakti movement,objective questions

I. Choose the Correct Answer

1. Ramanuja considered God as
a) An Ocean of love
) Water in an Oasis
c) Flower in a garden
d) A light on the mountain.

2. The disciple of Ramanuja was
a) Kabir
b) Meerabai
c) Ramananda
d) Tulsidas

3. The first reformer to preach in Hindi was
a) Ramanuja
b) Ramananda
c) Gurunanak
d) Tukaram

4. The one who considered God as a loving father was
a) Basava
b) Jnaneswara
c) Chaitanya
d) Kabir

5. The founder of the Sikh religion was
a) Kabir
b) Ramananda
c) Tukaram
d) Guru Nanak

6. Namdeva’s hymns are written in
a) Bengali
b) Marathi
c) Telugu
d) Tamil

7. Holy book of the Sikhs is
a) Grantha Sahib
) Gita
c) Ramayanam
d) Mahabharatham.

8. Chaitanya was a saint from
a) Maharashtra
b) Bengal
c) Mysore
d) Kerala

9. Rama Charitamanas was written by
a) Kambar
b) Valmigi
c) Tulsidas
d) Tukaram

10. Meerabai wrote her songs in
a) Bengali
b) Marathi
c) Rajastani
d) Hindi

11. The temple dedicated to Meerbai is in
a) Chittor
b) Varanasi
c) Patna
d) Kolkotta

12. Chatrapati Shivaj was a follower of
a) Kabir
b) Ramdas
c) Ramanuja
d) Ramananda

13. The number of Nayanamars is
a) 63
b) 62
c) 64
d) 65

14. The songs of Alwars were compiled by
a) Nadhamuni
b) Nambiandar Nambi
c) Kamban
d) Andal

15. The language, Urdu is a mixture of
a) Hindi and Bengali
b) Persian and Hindi
c) Persian and Marathi
d) Hindi and Rajastani

II. Fill in the Blanks

1. Personal devotion to God is meant ______________
2. ______________ preached the oneness of God.
3. ______________ was one of the earliest reformers.
4. Ramanuja’s teachings were based on _________________ and ___________
5. Ramananda was educated at ___________
6. The chief disciple of Ramananda was ___________
7. ___________ was brought up by Niru, the Muslim weaver.
8. After becoming a Sadhu, Guru Nanak went to ___________ and ___________
9. Guru Nanak’s followers are called ___________
10. Adi Grantham was written in a script called ___________
11. ___________ is considered as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
12. Meerabai lived for the most part of her life in ___________ the birthplace of ___________
13. Devotional songs of Tukaram were written in ___________ language.
14. The two groups of Sufism were ___________ and ___________
15. Tiruvachakam was written by ___________

III. Match the Following

1. Alwars – Vithoba
2. Sankirtan – Common kitchen
3. Meerabai – Rana of Mewar
4. Guru Granth – Nation builder
5. Namdeva – Worshipped Vishnu
6. Guru Ramadas – Mahaprabhu
7. Langer – Holybook
8. Chaitanya – Public singing of God’s name
9. Jnaneswara – Tukaram
10. Abhangas – Bhagavad Gita
11. Periapuranam – Lingayat Sect
12. Woman Alwar – Sekkizhar
13. Basava – Andal

IV. Answer Briefly

1.Name the different sects of Hinduism.
2. What do you understand by Bhakti Movement?
3. Mention the principles of Bhakti Movement.
4. What are the preachings of Ramananda?
5. What do you know about the preachings of Kabir?
6. Write a few words about the Langer.
7. What do you know about the holy book of the Sikhs?
8. Mention the preachings of Chaitanya.
9. What are the literary works of Tulsidas?
10. What do you know about Meerabai?
11. Who was Guru Ramdas?
12. Write a few sentences on Jnaneswara’s literary work.
13. Mention the service of Nambiandar Nambi.
14. Who composed the hymns of Thevaram?
15. Mention the names of some great Sufi Saints..

Last edited by Last Island; Sunday, November 02, 2008 at 12:51 PM.
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well its qiiet informatory..the objectives wiill show how much we gained from it???
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Old Thursday, January 08, 2009
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well,dear thats really a apllaudable contribution by u, but if u post the answers ,that will really help us
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Old Thursday, January 08, 2009
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well! if one have carefully gone through this post,he/she will be easily able to answer all the questions.this will be more usefull, otherwise already having answers of these questions will not help you as much.
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Old Monday, January 12, 2009
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In medieval India it was caste structures that governed the lives of men and the
networks of relations that they could enter into. The structure of social divisions that
arose thus was, a rigid, inflexible and unequal one that created
extremes of inequality, privileges and disprivileges between men and social groups.
Although this was an extremely unfair system, little could be done or said against
it as it was supported by Hindu religious ideology, particularly the notions of high
and pure birth and occupation as against the low and impure. In other words,
Hinduism was as much a social system as it was a religion, and provided an
ideological framework on the basis of which Hindu society arose.
In other words. Hinduism was both religion and social framework and
governed the lives of Hindus. To be a Hindu meant that one's life was goveorned
by factors such as being born in a caste, being subject to ones' actions or karma,
to be a part of Brahman and aim at achieving moksha or Liberation of ones soul
or salvation. Further, it must be remembered that Hinduism was not a revealed
religion that had just a single text. With every phase in the development of Hinduism
came new scriptures and texts. Thus we have the Veda, the Upnishad, the Purana
and the Bhagavad Gita. Even though we have stressed that the caste system was
a system that formed the basis of life in Hindu India and was rigid and unchangeable, there nevertheless occurred many anti-caste movements in the course of the development of the religion. Buddhism and Jainism in the 6th century B.C. that spoke up against caste divisions
and social inequality. This struggle was carried forward and saw its culmination in
the rise of the medieval movement of-bhakti or 'selfless' devotion to a single God,
with which this unit is primarily concerned.
Hinduism was greatly criticised and faced many movements against it .This is so because even
though the bhakti movement was against some of the tenets of Hinduism, much
of what is a part of Hinduism in later ages developed as an outcome of the bhakti
tradition. This tradition was widespread, in fact from Northto South India. We will
outline its development in the South and North seprately.

Paths and Pillars of Bhakti

From a modem historical standpoint the development of bhakti is the coming
together of considerably earlier theistic tendencies in three major religious traditions
of ancient India:
i) the sacrificial cult of the invading Aryans and the recitation of the Brahmana
priests that become the foundation of the Vedas;
ii the practice of bodily mortification and groups known as Srarnanas probably
continuing traditions of earlier inhabitants of India but soon adapted - by some of
the Aryans; and
iii) the pre Aryan cults of spirits and village goddesses inhabiting trees and rocks and
protecting special people or special groups.
Those who worship Vishnu as the Supreme' diety are known as Vaishnavas;
likewise those who accord the Supreme place to Shiva are known as Saivas; and
those who are devotees of the Goddess of Power are known as Saktas. Each sect
is subdivided into lineages of teachers and teachings. The major forms of bhakti
are divided according to the Various mood of the devotees. Raw emotion or bhava
is transformed in drama to a refined mood or rasa. Each cbmbination of bhava or
rasa uses a particular human relationship, or devotional stances such as servant to
master or child to parent or fried to friend, parent to child and beloved to lover.
While bhakti stresses passionate attachment it is in striking contrast with Yoga
which stresses detachment. Yet many forms of bhakti do talk of detachment such
as that taught in the Bhagavad Gita. The bhakti movements, stand religiously
between the extreme ascetic paths and popular Hindu religiosity. Bhakti generally
shares the ascetic concern for moksa - release from finite existence and realization
of transcendent beatitude. What is primary is communion with the lord.
A few bhaktas make the toial commitment of time and style of life characteristic
of Hindu 'renouncers' spending whole days in chanting and singing the praise of
their Lord. Bhakti shares with popular Hinduism the basic ritual of puja, worship of the diety in image form with fruit, flower and vegetables which are returned after
worship as prasada that is material substance filled with the Lord's grace. Such
puja may take place in the home shrine or local temple. The worship could be for
any spiritual or mundane purpose. There are &o distinctive bhakti rituals -
communal singing of hymns and chants, performance of dramas, dances and chants
and recital of heroic deeds of Vishnu.
These three paths of Bhakti that Lord Krishna offered to Arjuna were:
i) the path of knowledge or jnana;
ii) the path of action or karma and
iji) the path of devorion or bhakti
The Sanskrihterm bhakti is most often translated as "devotion" and bhaktimarg
as "path of devotion". Bhakti is the divine-human relationship as experienced
from the human side. There are at least three major forms of bhakti that is
Vaisnavas, Saivas, and worshippers of the great power (Sakti). Each sect is divided
into many subjects. Bhakti is between popular religion and asceticism. Bhakti
shares the concern for moksa, that is release from the bondages of life on earth.
The ritual of puja is very important. There are other rituals too - communal
singing of hymns and chants; recitations of epics; recounting of sacred lore.
It is this last path of devotion that forms the basis of a religious tradition that
survives and proliferates today even across international boundaries. The basic
teaching of this tradition was the idea of 'loving devotion' by concentrating upon
the image of a single God and without any thought for oneself, as being the way
of liber'ation of ones soul. Any God could be the focus of one's devotion. This God
was then seen as ones personal God or ishta deva. Ishta deva is a deity that the
worshipper chooses as a personal diety and accords it personal devotion. The most
often chosen God for ones devotion we find, has been Krishna and most of the
bhakti tradition has evolved around him. It is particularly his character as the
incarnation of Vishnu and his relationship to the Gopis and Radha in particular,
which are of central importance here. Gopis is the name given to the ladies who
were worshippers of ~rishna and with whom he played many of his divine games
(lila). In fact, the love that the Gopis had for Krishna has been regarded as the best
example of the devotion of the individual for God. The idea of 'self abandonment'
or the forgetting of everything in !he presence of one's God, is also seen as an
important part of the bhakta or devotee's devotion to God.
This particular form of relationship between theSGod and devotee has been called
viraha bhakti. Viraha bhakti is the name given to exclusive personal devotion to
Sri Krishna where feeling of separation or longing is felt for the deity by the
devotee. The devotion to Krishna and the bhakti cult that arose around him became
prominent in South India around the 8th century. We nbw turn to the pillars of
The two main pillars of the bhakti tradition are 'love' and 'meditation'. The 'love'
is for God, and it is ecstatic in nature as well as symbolising a feeling of bliss or
happiness that is unparalleled; and an intimacy or closeness with God like that with
ones beloved. The idea that is being conveyed here is to be lost in the love of God
as though He were a beloved. At the' ske time the relatidnship that arises here
may be one of dependence upon the God. On the other h'and, as far as the aspect
of meditation is concerned, there are two kinds of meditation in bhakti. These are:
i) saguna bhakti, where one meditates on God as a separate being, through
disciplined practice;
ii) nirguna bhakti, where God and self are merged into one and little distinction is
made between self and God.
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can u plz tell me that wt r the impects of thiz mt. in muslims culture n also religon?waiting 4 ur reply...
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well! i think ur question should be " what are the imacts of Islam or Sufism on Bakhti Movement"rather than"what r the imacts of Bhakti Movement on Islam" and offcourse Islam,whereever it went left deep and long lasting imapacts on the culture of that particular region..
so one should first know what is Islamic sufism?how it spread in India and then finally how it effected the bhakti movement.
so here we go.....
we now proceed to consider the influence of Islam
on the Indian subcontinent, and consequence that it had for the bhakti tradition
in India in particular.

What is Sufism?

In the beginning Sufism developed in Mesopotamia, Arabia, Iran and modem
Afghanistan. It was formalized by the end of the 8th century. Right from the
beginning there was a hiatus between the ulemas and the mystics. The latter
claimed to be delving into the interior of religion, which depended on the heart.'The
Sufi and bhakti traditions are characterised by adherence to religious text,
governmental authority and opposed to external ritualism of prayer. The Sufis aim
for a direct relationship with God and thus their basic features incorporate strands
from various sources including Hinduism.
Ritu Dewan has pointed out that as a consequence of the 12th century Mongal
invasion many Sufis took shelter in India, especially in Multan, Punjab, and Sindh.
One of the greatest Sufi mystics Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273) was
very influenced by Indian folklore and even wrote a poem dedicated to the flute of Krishna. He founded the Maulavi Sufi order in which music and dance
were spiritual methods. Soami ji Maharaj founder of the Radha Soami sect was
much influenced by Rumi who he often quoted in his discourses. Guru Nanak too
was inspired by Rumi. Rumi and Baba Farid's compositions (1 173-1265) have been
included in the Granth Sahib together with those of Kabir.

Sufism can be explained through three basic religious attitudes of
-1) Islam
2) Iman
3) Thsan
1slam.i~ the attitude of submission to the will of Allah.
Iman designates a firm faith in the teachings of the Islam.
Ihsan is to adore Allah though one may not see him. Sufism is the spirituil progress
of a devotee from the initial stage of Islam to the ultimate stage of Ihsan.
As Islam in India, it came to enfold in its cloak, the system of monasticism and
a defined way of community life. The Sufi mystic however was in no way forced
to live a defined and organised life. By the 9th century, these Sufis who had come
to form a brotherhood and a definite way of community life, also began wearing
a particular kind of coarse woollen garment known as sufi and thus came to be
called sufis. Suifis, though Muslim, are considered to be pantheistic mystics. This
was a basic difference with orthodox Islam but in common with the bhakti school
of the Hindus.
The Sufis followed the Quran, and sought to reveal their purpose in life through
their sayings, actions and the path that they followed. This path was often shared
by different mystics and came to be called tariqah or sufism. The path of
lunselfishness' through either renouncing the world and ones possessions and desires
or by adopting an attitude of patience, humility and charity, towards God, were
essential to being a sufi. The sufis also had a special method of their own for
producing the state of mind in which they would have revelations. They called this

The Spread of Sufism in India

Sufism mainly flowed into Indian from Arabia, Mesopot
accounts of the various saints of different orders spreading sufi teaching in different parts of India: To name a few, we have the well-known Shaikh Muinuddin Chisti
who had established himself in Ajmer and Shaikh Nizarnudd Auliya whose teachings and followers spread all over India.
Sufism is one of the creative manifestations of Islam. It is amystic sect
which developed out of Islam. Sufism seeks mystical union. Many Sufi
saints who were responsible for developing sufism include Hasan al-
Basvi, Ibrahim Ibn Adham Rabiati Adawiyah, Dhu al nun al Misri.
Each of these saints developed Sufism in their own way. For example Al-
Hallaj was initiated into sufism while still a teenager. He lived in relative
seclusion (for twenty years) and was trained by many masters. His basic
teaching was moral reforms and intense Union with the Beloved. In mystical
ecstasy he cried out loud: "Ana-al-Hagg!" ("I am the Divine Truth"). Al-
Hallaj was decapitated and burnt by his detractors but he died with dignity
and grace believing it to be the will of God (Encyclopaedia of Religion).


let us now consider the role of Sufism in the bhakti tradition. You may have already noticed that much of what
the Sufis taught was very similar to the bhakti teaching of concentrating upon a
God and the significance of sacred music and song.This interaction between the
twois believed to have led to the
creation of a medieval mysticism which was independent of sectarian or orthodox
practices and disclaimed particularly caste practices and atrocities.
The first
Sufi teacher who came to India was, as mentioned earlier, Khwaja Muinuddin
Chisti, who arrived in Delhi in 1193 and settled in Pushkar in Ajmer. He had both
Hindu and Muslim followers.We are all familiar with the 'Urs' at his dargah in
A-jmer, to which flocks of followers come, treating it as a major pilgrimage centre
even today. As mentioned, these Sufis, were Islamic mystics who sought the
path of salvation through an ardent and passionate love for God. The teachings
of the Sufis greatly influenced not only followers but many saints of the bhakti
tradition who came to combine in themselves, sufi and bhakti teachings.The two most significant figures here from the 15th116th century, were Kabir and Guru
Nanak. We will briefly consider their role in the development of medieval mysticism.

Growth of Medieval Mysticism

An important role in the growth of medieval mysticism was played by Ramananda
(1370-1440) who himself was a follower of Ramanuja. Ramananda challenged
caste divisions, questioned traditional ceremonies and accepted the Hindu philosophy
of divisions, questioned traditional ceremonies and accepted the Hindu philosophy
of jnana or knowledge, meditation or yoga and devotion or bhakti. He had many
disciples of which twelve were the more important and came from low castes. The
most famous of these disciples was Kabir, the son of a Muslim weaver. It is
believed that though, he early in his life abandoned the Muslim faith, he retained the
strict monotheism of Islam and an aversion to the caste system. He saw religion
as a personal concern and stressed relationship between man, God and his teacher
or guru. He combined in him, elements of both the Sufi and bhakti traditions,
claiming that both Allah and Rama were the same thing.
Since he was trying to reach out to the common people he used the dialect or its
variant as the language of communication. He stressed the importance of both
material and spiritual things in one's life. He had both Hindu and Muslim followers
and was non-sectarian. It is possible however that his Hindu followers are greater
in number. Much of Kabir's life and work is derived from reconstructing its course
from the dohas or sakhis rendered by him. These were essentially rhymed poems;
set to music. There is much debate however about how many of these dohas were
written by Kabir himself and how many of his followers or the Kabir panthis.
Thus, there is doubt about the legitimacy of some of the sayings that are attributed
to Kabir. Many it is believed are those of his devotees. These dohas, it is believed
were very often included by the Sufi saints into their sama.
Important among Kabir's followers was Dadu (1 544-1608) who also belonged to
a Muslim .family. He made the important contribution of seeking a unification of
faiths, and founded the Brahma-Sampradaya where God would be worshipped
without ritual or orthodoxy. As a mystic he contributed to the idea of the beauty
of the world to be discovered not by becoming a recluse or an ascetic but by living
a full life and enjoying what it had to offer.
At the same time as Kabir we have, the contribution of Guru Nanak of Punjab
(1469-1538). There is greater certainty about his dates and origins than those of
Kabir. Live Kabir, he too was a monotheist and was greatly opposed to the caste
system. His disciples, the Sikhs, were organised into a close knit community. His
teachings and writings and those of the subsequent Gurus were compiled together
by the fifth Guru, Arjun, into the sacred book of the Sikhs, the Adi-Grantha. The
Sikhs represented a bhakti sect, where their bhakti was sung in the form of the
Gurbani. Guru Nanak's religious renderings we find, also incorporated the best of
sufi influence and much of his teachings reflect the union of bhakti and sufi

Sufi-Bhakti Interaction

This interaction of the Sufi and bhakti traditions occurred to give to the lives of
Kabir and Nanak a peculiar flavour. Kabir was linked to the Sufis, not just in terms
of the' mystical nature of his renderings but also on the level or organization of
thought. In the Khazinat al-asfiya, by Ghulam Sarvar Lahori, we find that Kabir
is identified, rightly or wrongly as a Sufi and related to the Chistis. Scholars have
aruged in recent times that this, however, presents a chronological error. In these
writings, he is believed to have visited many Sufi centres and is even believed to
have debated with Sufi saints. None however denies the significant position that his
dohas had come to occupy. Guru Nanak too it is believed had encounters with Sufi
teachers or Shaikhs of which a single encounter, with a Shaikh Ibrahim, of
Pakpattan near Multan is considered authentic by scholars.
On most fronts, however, the available documentation on contact between Sufi
mystics and the Hindu sants or saints, are contradicted. The most convincing field
for the consideration of an inter-change between the Sufis and the sants can be
found in the themes of their poetry and devotional songs particularly the attitude of
the two traditions towards the "love relationship" between disciple, God and teacher
which is central to both traditions. Thus, both traditions shared the nature of the pain
and suffering of the devotees in their relationship to the divine. This suffering, which
we earlier called viraha, in ones lovt for the God as beloved, is found in Kabir's
writings too. Scholars compare this bhakti notion of viraha to the Sufi notion of
ishq which is expressed not through viraha but dard. It leads to an experience that
is called atish which is similar to the experience of agni or burning of one's soul
in viraha. The ideas in Kabir's dohas about love, separation and suffering are found revealed in the lyrics of Sufi poetry as well as we can see. Both, Kabir's nirguna bhakti and the Sufi tradition, also speak of the idea
of how without Lord and devotee, there can be no devotion. There is in fact another
sphere of the bhakti tradition where the Sufi influence is seen. This is in the
context of hagiographic writing about the bhakti saints. Here the influence of the
Sufi tradition is revealed in the style of writing. This tradition of biographic writing
about the lives of saints had existed in the Sufi tradition from the 15th century and

Bhakti-Sufi Teachings

It is important to remember that the relationship between the Sufi and bhakti saints
was reciprocal and the Sufis too were influeked by the bhakti tradition. Thus,
besides this major similarity in terms of the method of devotion and its expression,
we find that the Sufi tradition also produced its saints such as the Shah Karim and
Shah Inayet from the 17th century in whose teachings little distinction was made
between the divine as Allah 'or Rama or Hari, similar to what Kabir sought to say,
and revealing the influence of the bhakti tradition.
The color of blood in my veins is green,I am a proud Pakistani.

Last edited by Xeric; Friday, May 15, 2009 at 10:29 PM.
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will you plz give the reference of the book from which you have taken this information about bhakti movement
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