What is Bhakti Movement?
The Bhakti movement is a campaign that worked towards salvation and liberation by being devoted to God. The word Bhakti means intense love for God in the Hindi language.
This movement is known as the most distinctive act of religious development in the Middle Ages, which emphasized a one-minded, intense devotion to God.
Who started the Bhakti movement?
Saiva Nayanars and the Vaisnava Alvars started the Bhakti movement in the 7-8th century in South India.
The Alvars and Nayanars were Vaishnava and Shiva poet-saints who sang praises of Vishnu and Shiva as they travelled from one place to another.
However, the movement gained recognition as it spread to Northern parts of India by the preachings of Kabir Das, Guru Nanak and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. They were the pioneers of the movement, and their ideas became the pivot of the campaign. These bhakti saints spread teachings related to selfless love and devotion.
Kabir Das was one of the leaders of the Bhati Movement in the 12th and 13th centuries. The poems and religious compositions of Kabir Das gained widespread prominence as part of the movement. A Muslim family brought up Kabir Das. However, his Hindu teacher Ramananda, who considered Rama as the supreme God, shaped his religious views.
Guru Nanak was the first Sikh Guru and the founder of Sikhism. He strongly opposed discrimination based on caste, religious rivalries and rituals. Nanak was born in a Hindu family and showed leanings towards spiritual life since his early days. He was helpful to the poor and needy. His disciples called themselves Sikhs, and hence, Sikhism got established.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a bhakti saint in the 15th century and was known to be the combined avatar of Radha and Krishna by some. Chaitanya’s mode of worshipping Krishna with ecstatic songs and dance affected the religious views in Bengal.
Kabir and Guru Nanak preached devotion toward a Nirankar form of God, that is God is formless. Chaitanya preached devotion toward a Sakar form of God, that is all-virtuous personified form of God, centring around the worship of Rama and Krishna, who were seen as incarnations (avatars) of Lord Vishnu.
What were the principles of the Bhakti Movement?
- Monotheism, that is, the belief that there is just one God
- God is the creator and is omnipotent. His direction led to the creation, maintenance, and destruction of the universe.
- Love and devotion can help attain divinity and worship.
- Self-purification paves the way for the worship of God.
- Love for humanity.
- Sympathy and brotherhood.
- Defy the caste system and the differences that existed between castes.
- Unity of all people.
The Bhakti movement bridged the gap between Hindus and Muslims significantly due to such principles and their implementation.
What are the factors contributing to the popularity of the Bhakti movement?
This movement brought about revolutionary changes in the field of religion. So the movement became very popular in a short time.
- People did not easily understand the intricacies involved in the worship of Hinduism. The Bhakti movement paved the way for simple and easy ways to worship God. People recognized this and were attracted to be a part of this movement.
- The Bhakti movement was promoted through simple ‘Doha’, ‘Bhajan’ and ‘Kirtana’ which could be easily understood and appreciated by the people. So people from almost all parts of India made their mark in the Bhakti movement.
- The most important aspect of the movement was the magnetic personalities of Kabir, Nanak and Sri Chaitanya. Their toughness and simplicity touched the hearts of all. Moreover, their comforting words and kind teachings made everyone attractive.
- The monks preached in the local languages - the language of the people. As a result, the people of a particular area understood and were attracted to the ideals of the saints.
- The idea that ‘love and devotion could help achieve divinity’ was a great comfort to those confused by the rituals and intricacies of religion. Therefore, people gave up all external rites and tried to attain divinity through devotion.
Eventually, monks raised their voices against the caste system, and the people supported it.
What are the consequences of the Bhakti Movement?
The Bhakti movement was a huge religious development in the history of medieval India. Its results have deeply influenced contemporary religious and cultural trends in India. It gave a new dimension to the ancient beliefs and values, which heralded a major change in the existing social conditions.
As a result of this movement, the differences between castes and communities in society came down. There is no difference between man and man or between Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Jains, as propagated by Bhakti monks, created a new awareness. They now ignored the communal and paranoid sentiments and tried to bond in a common bond of friendship. This helped in expanding the scope of Indian culture.
- A new way of worship:
Kabir, Nanak and Sri Chaitanya preached that love and devotion can help achieve divinity. They inspired people to worship their deities through hymns. Moreover, this form of worship was simple and cost-effective. Instead of making Brahmins the medium, people started worshipping their deities.
This movement helped restore the spirit of unity in India. Kabir and Nanak preached that all are equal and all the people of India belong to one caste and one nation. All Indians tried to let go of their mutual jealousy and rivalry and fell in love with their motherland as a result.
- Development of Local Literature:
The Bhakti movement contributed to the growth and development of local literature. The bhakti saints preached extensively in local languages, with Kabir preaching in Hindi and Nanak in Punjabi. Similarly, later speakers preached very simply in their local language. All teachings were in local languages. Later, these works enriched the literature of different parts of India. In addition, both religions felt attracted to each other’s literary qualities.
Inspired by Sultan Hussain Shah of Bengal, the scholars translated the Muslim Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita into Bengali. Equally important is the syntax of Hindi and Farsi, giving rise to the Urdu-rich language. Goswami Tulsidas, who influenced this movement, composed the Ramcharitam Manas.
- The friendship between Hindus and Muslims:
The Bhakti movement established friendly relations between Hindus and Muslims. Both the communities demanded introspection on their respective religions. Both religions tried to incorporate some of the religious practices of the other religion.
– Hindus started worshipping Muslim ‘Pir’ and treated Muslim ‘Fakirs’ with respect.
– Muslims also started worshipping “Narayan” and gave alms to Hindu monks and ants.
This cultural assimilation led to the development of ‘Satya Peer’ worship which was the fusion of Islam with other local religions in Bengal.
Thus the Bhakti movement in India brought about a change in the socio-cultural trends of India in the middle ages. It has been very successful in bringing a sense of unity between Hindus and Muslims. This movement made efforts to free the religion from the clutches of vices and meaningless rituals. Undoubtedly, this movement set a new milestone in the history of India.
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