Bhakti Movement - Medieval Indian History

Bhakti Movement

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The spread of Bhakti Dharma during the Sultanate period was a great social and cultural revolution. In fact, after the spread of Buddhism, such a wide and deep religious movement as the Bhakti movement did not occur in India.

Key Figures Major Teachings
Mirabai Devotion to Lord Krishna, rejection of social norms, and emphasis on personal experience of God
Kabir Unity of all religions and rejection of caste system, emphasis on devotion to a single God
Tukaram Devotion to Lord Vitthal, importance of devotion over ritual, and rejection of caste system
Nanak Oneness of God and rejection of caste system, emphasis on living a virtuous life and practicing service to others

Origin of Bhaktiism

Scholars offer various explanations for the origin of Bhaktidharma. According to Dr. Tarachand, Yusuf Hussain, Dr. IH Qureshi, the influence of Islam is particularly visible in the emergence of Indian devotionalism in medieval times. Islam's monotheism, the belief in surrender to Allah as the only path to salvation, influenced the thought process of devotional propaganda.

Influence of Islam

Under the influence of Islam, they abandoned the worship of many deities, complicated rituals and preached devotion to Krishna or Rama as the only deity as the path to liberation. They were influenced by the humanism and social democracy of Islam. All Muslims are equal in the eyes of Allah and all Muslims are bound by religious brotherhood. This school of thought influenced the Bhakti Gurus.

Opposition To Casteism And Untouchability

  • (1) Bhakti Gurus opposed casteism and untouchability in Hindu society. They propagated the theory that all devotees are equal before God. Although it is said that Bhakti Dharma was present in Hindu thought since ancient times but it was neglected and lifeless under the pressure of Brahmanical doctrines and rituals.
  • (2) After the arrival of Islam in India, Islam's monotheism and devotion to Allah inspired a section of Hindu clerics to reinvigorate this strained devotion.

Influence of Sufism

  • (1) Sufism also played a special role in the emergence of devotionalism. Sufi saints did not insist on extra-Islamic precepts and rituals like Sunnis. They used to say that devotion to Allah is the way to liberation.
  • (2) Whereas the ulema opposed religious syncretism, promoting anti-compromise dogmatic Qur'anic views, the Sufi saints emphasized mysticism, divine perception, devotionalism and moral ideals.
  • (3) They talk about Hindu-Muslim harmony. Sufi saints used to say devotion to God rather than scholarly interpretation of the Qur'an was the way to salvation. These liberal views of Sufi saints inspired the Hindu Bhakti movement.

Teachings of Islam

The propagandists of Hindu Bhakti from the liberal view of Islam take the practical lesson that Bhakti religion needs to be introduced to strengthen the caste-ridden, polytheistic, divided Hindu society. This religion will strengthen Hindu society as it has strengthened Islam.

Bhakti Tattva in Hindu Shastra

  • (1) Bhakti Dharma cannot be said to have spread in Hindu society only under the influence of Islam. The basic tenets of Bhaktidharma have long been enshrined in Hindu scriptures. As various religious leaders propagated those theories with new passion and motivation, they quickly spread in the society.
  • (2) Hindu theology mentions three ways of liberation. Namely – Knowledge, Karma, Bhakti. Shankaracharya talks about jnanyoga or philosophical reasoning and bhaktiyoga. Medieval Hindu clerics spoke of Bhaktiism or Bhaktiyoga. That is why they did not have to learn from Islam.
  • (3) Bhakti Yoga has existed in Hinduism since ancient times. The essence of Bhakti religion is the union of soul with soul. Vedic literature contained the seeds of Bhaktiism. The Upanishads speak of the formless Supreme Brahman.
  • (4) Sadhana for liberation by giving up rituals and rituals is said. In Vedanta it is said that the soul is a part of God, as raindrops are part of the ocean. Liberation or Moksha comes when the soul is immersed in the Supreme Soul. Man can attain salvation by jnana yoga, or karma yoga.
  • (5) But salvation is not possible without the pursuit of pure deeds. So Karma Yoga was a very difficult path. Therefore, Bhakti Marga was considered to be the true and easy path to liberation. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna calls the pursuit of niskam karma or the devotee's self-surrender to God as the path to liberation. So the origin of Bhaktiism was in Hindu Dharmashastra.

About Bhakti Yoga in Hinduism

  • (1) Although Bhakti Dharma was mentioned earlier in Hindu scriptures, the question may arise as to why it was preached with new zeal in the Sultanate period. The influence of Islam is the reason for the prevalence of devotion in the Sultanate period.
  • (2) Bhaktiism was promoted by Hindu clerics as a response to Islam's egalitarianism and monotheism. They also preached monotheism and doctrines of devotion and humanity.

Social And Economic Factors

  • (1) There was an economic and social reason for the propagation of Bhakti Dharma. The Hindu upper castes were the khuts, mukaddams or feudal classes. The Muslim ruling class was also feudal. Poor peasants, lower castes, urban artisans were oppressed and exploited in the society.
  • (2) Among these oppressed classes was the chief seat of Bhakti Dharma. If Bhakti Dharma propagates the theory that all people are equal, this class can see the light of liberation. The Russian researcher Koka Antonova said that "all are equal before God - this social equality of devotion, protest against the rulers, Muslim supremacy and caste system of Hindus."

Bhakti Is The Key Word Of The Gurus

The basic principles preached by Bhakti Gurus were –

  • (1) God is One and Unique. All religions talk about the same God, all religions want to show people the way to liberation. So there is no conflict between different religions.
  • (2) Man is God's creation. All people are equal to him. So there is no such thing as caste and caste. Man's identity is not found in money by his actions.
  • (3) Devotee and God have no third person like priest, Brahmin etc. God is not found by performing rituals. He can be reached only by devotion and self-sacrifice.
  • (4) Therefore the only path to liberation is devotion to God. Surrender to him the results of all actions.


Kabir and Nanak did not name any god. They did not create any community. They speak of formless God. On the other hand, Ramananda, Chaitanya etc. preached the name of Rama or Krishna.

(FAQ) Questions About Bhakti Movement

1. What is the reason for the strength of devotion during the Sultanate period?

  • Influence of Islam.
2. Where was the seed of devotion?
  • Vedic literature.
3. What is the way to gain salvation?
  • Pursuit of idle action.
4. What is the essence of Bhakti religion?
  • Union of soul with soul.

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