Bhakti movement

  • Different religious philosophies have given various ways to achieve god or attain salvation. For example Vedic religion was based on sacrifices, Upanishads gave prominence to knowledge, Buddhism has given “eight fold path” to attain nirvana likewise Jainism suggests rigorous penances to attain salvation.
  •   Bhakti movement was based on the doctrine of “love, devotion and absolute surrender” before God
  • Bhakti movement started from South India in the 7th century and it gain prominence in North India in 13th century
  • There are various views regarding the rise of Bhakti movement in India
  • It was in South India for the first time that Bhakti movement grew from a mere religious doctrine to a broad based 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 ‘Acharyas’ (who represented intellectual side of Vaishnavism in the 11th century). Most important among them was Ramanuja, who disciple Ramananda took it to North India.

Main Features of Bhakti movement

  • Discarded rituals and sacrifices
  • Gave importance to teacher or guru
  • Moral education was the essential component of the teaching of Bhakti saint.
  • It was based on individual God, thus it discarded the priestly class as intermediary between the human beings and god.
  • An egalitarian movement which denounced casteism.
  • Emphasized on purity of heart and mind, humanism and devotion
  • Monotheistic in nature
  • God is either have form (Saguna) or be formless (Nirguna)
  • Best form of worship is singings Bhajans and realization of God
  • The Bhakti saint preached in local languages.






Ramanuj Acharya


Dvaitadvaita/ Bhedabhed

Nimbark Acharya



Madhva Acharya



Vishnu Swami






Dadu Dayal



Jagjeevan Das








Sanak, Sanakadi



Bhram, Sawtantra



Bhakti Saints

  • Ramanuja (1017-1137):  The Vaishnava saint from South India. The earliest exponent of Bhakti movement and Vishitadvaita philosophy. He provided a philosophical base to the movement but as a result of that this movement got converted into an elite movement and lost its popular character.
  • Ramananda (14-15 Century):  He was born in Prayag in a respectable brahmin family. The first great Bhakti saint of North India who opened the doors of Bhakti without any distinction of birth, caste, creed or sex. He formed a group of dedicated saints called Beragis. Among his disciples many were from lower castes like:
  1. Kabir was a weaver
  2. Raidas a cobbler
  3. Sen a barbar
  4. Dhanna a jat peasant
  • Kabir (1440-1510): Kabir was a Nirgun saint. He was 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. In spite of being a saint he led a social life. He died at Gorakhpur.
  • Guru Nanak (1469-1538): He was born at Talwandi in Lahore. He gave emphasis on monotheism. He was a Nirguna Bhakti saint and social reformer who preached Hindu Muslim unity. He was 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 Vaishnavism.
  • Purandar Das (1480-1564): The foremost and the most prolific Vaishnav saint-composer in Karnataka. Believed to have laid the foundations of the modern phase of Karnataka music.
  • Mirabai (1498-1531):  The Rathor princess of Merata and daughter-in-law of Sisodia dynasty. 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 was the disciple of Vallabhacharya.  He sang the glory of Krishna in his ‘Sursagar’.
  • Tulsidas (1532-1623): The greatest saint-poet of the Ram Bhakti cult of Vaishnavism. He was contemporary of Akbar. He is 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 was born in Gujarat but spent his whole life in Rajasthan. He was opposed to bookish knowledge. He was the 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.

Maharashtra Dharma

We can underline the influence of Bhagvat Puran and Shiva Nath Panth on the Maharashtra Dharma. In Maharashtra region a saint named Govind Prabhu founded Mahanubhav sect.

Maharashtra Dharma increased the social mobility of the people of the lower castes. It permitted the lower caste people to join the armed forces. As a result it played constructive role in the rise of Maratha power.

  • Jnanadeva (1271-1296):  He was the worshipper of Vithoba associated with lord Krishna. He was the fountain-head of the Bhakti movement in Maharashtra, founder of Marathi language and literature, wrote a long commentary on the Bhagvad Gita, and called the ‘Bhavarthadipka’, more commonly known as ‘Jnaneshvari’.
  • Namadeva (1270-1350):  A contemporary of Jnanesvara. He was a tailor by caste and was opposed to all caste distinctions. The object of his devotion was Vithoba or Vithal (identified with Vishnu) of Pandharpur. The cult of Vithoba or Vithal known as Varkari sect was founded by Namadeva. He acted as a bridge between Bhakti movement and monotheistic movements.
  • Eknath (1533-1599): A great scholar saint from Maharashtra who wrote a commentary on the Ramayana called the ‘Bhavartha Ramayana’ and another commentary on the eleventh book of the Bhagavata Purana.
  • Tukaram (1598-1650):  The greatest Bhakti poet from Maharashtra wrote devotional poems, known as Abhangas, which are the glory of devotional poetry.
  • Ramdas (1608-1681): The last great saint poet from Maharashtra. ‘Dasabodha’ is the compilation of his writings and sermons.

In Maharashtra there was a Dharkari sect as well. The founder of this sect was Ramdasasamarath. He was the teacher of Shivaji. He composed a text Dasbodha. The Dharkari sect gave emphasis over the spirit of harmony between the spiritual life and worldly life.

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