Bhakti Movement

Bhakti movement in Medieval India is responsible for many rites and rituals associated with the worship of God by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. It stressed the mystical union of the individual with God.

The word Bhakti is derived from 'bhakt' meaning to serve, honor, revere, love and adore. In the religious idiom, it is attachment or fervent devotion to God and is defined as 'that particular affection which is generated by the knowledge of the attributes of the Adorable One'. Although the seeds of Bhakti can be found in the Vedas, it was not emphasized during the early period. The idea of the adoration of a personal God seems to have developed with the growing popularity of Buddhism.

Thee real development of Bhakti took place in South India. The two major Hindu sects, the Shaiva nayanars and the Vaishnavite alvars disregarded the hardship and simplicity preached by the Jains and the Buddhists and preached personal devotion to God as a means of salvation. They disregarded the rigidities of the caste system and carried their message, of love and personal devotion to God, to various parts of south India by using the local languages. The transmission of ideas of the Bhakti saints from south to north was a slow and long drawn-out process due to the preaching and composing of the Bhakti ideas in local languages of the south.

The Bhakti movement spread slowly to the north because of the efforts of the notable saints like Namdeva and Ramananda. The popularity of the movement increased during the 15th and 16th centuries because of the people’s dissatisfaction of their old religion, the caste system and the superiority of the Brahmins. The people wanted a religion which could satisfy both their reason and emotions.

Among the major followers of Bhakti movement were Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, and Saint Kabir Das. They were critical of the existing social order and made a strong plea for Hindu-Muslim unity. They laid emphasis on one God. They created a climate of opinion which continued to work through the succeeding centuries. Their teachings were reflected even in the religious ideas and policies of Akbar. The impact of their teaching can be seen in the continuous struggle between the orthodox and liberals.

Updated on 14th February, 2015


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