Indian History
General Knowledge

Religious Movements in medieval India

Bhakti Movement

» The Bahkti movement was based on the doctrine that the relationship between God and man is through love and worship rather than through performing any ritual or religious ceremonies.
» It was in South India for the first time that Bahkti movement grew from a mere religious doctrine to a broad based popular movement based on social and religious equality. It was led by popular saint poets called ' Alvars, who represented emotional side of Vaishnavism through collective songs called Prabandhas. It declined after the 10th century.
» But it was revived as a philosophical and ideological movement by ‘ Acharyad (who represented intellectual side of Vaishnavism in the 11th century). Most important among them was Ramanuja, whose disciple Ramananda took it to North India.

Main Features

» Discarded rituals and sacrifices
» Emphasised purity of heart and mind, humanism and devotion
» Monotheistic in nature
» God has either form (Snguna) or be formless (Nirguna)
» Knowledge was a constituent part
» An egalitarian movement Denounced casteism
» Best form of worship is singing Bhajans and realisation of God by personal effort. No need of priestly class
» Saint, preached in local languages

Bhakti Saints

Ramanuja (1017-1137)
The Vaishnava saint from South India. The earliest exponent of Bhakti movement and Vishitadvaita philosophy.

Ramananda ( 14 - 15 Century )
The first great Bhakti saint of North India who opened the doors of Bhakti without any distinction of birth, caste, creed or sex.

Kabir (1440-1510)
The most radical disciple of Ramananda, who was opposed to caste, creed, image worship, unnecessary rituals and sought to remove distinction between Hindus and Muslims and believed in social unity.

Guru Nanak (1469-1538)
A Nirguna Bhakti saint and social reformer. The first Sikh Guru and founder of Sikhism.

Chaitanya (1486-1533)
One of the great saints of Krishna Bhakti cult and founder of Gaudiya or Bengal Vaishrtavism.

Vidyapati (14-15th Century)
Maithili saint-poet who wrote thousands of love ballads on Radha-Krishna ('Padavali').

Purandar Das (1480-1564)
The foremost and the most prolific Vaishrtav saint- composer in Karnataka. Believed to have laid the foundations of the modem phase of Karnataka music.

Mirabai ( 1498 - 1546 )
The Rathor princess of Merata and daughter-in-law of Rana Sanga of Me war. The most well-known woman Bhakti saint of the Krishna cult of Vaishnavism.

Vallabhacharya ( 1479 - 1531 )
A great saint of the Krishna Bhakti cult of Vaishnavism, who propounded the philosophy of Pushti Marg.

Surdas ( 1483 - 1563 )
A blind poet of Agra. He sang the glory of Krishna in his ‘Sursagar'.

Tulsidas ( 1532 - 1623 )
The greatest saint-poet of the Ram Bhakti cult of Vaishnavism. The celebrated author of 'Ramcharitamanas', 'Kavitawali' and ' Gitawali'.

Shankara Deva ( 1449 - 1568 )
The founder of the Vaishnava devotional movement in Assam.

Dadu Dayal ( 1544 - 1603 )
A Nirguna Bhakti saint belonging to the tanner caste, who was bom in Gujarat but spent his whole life in Rajasthan. Founder of the Dadu panth.

Thyagaraja ( 1767 - 1847 )
A Telugu who spent his life in Tamil Nadu. The greatest saint-composer of Karnataka music. He adorned God in the form of Rama, the incarnation of Vishnu and Hero of Valmiki's Ramayana.