Bhakti Movement- Part II

February 12, 2018

For Bhakti Movement: Part-I (click here)

For Bhakti Movement: Part-III (click here






Bhakti Movement in Maharashtra:

  1. Centred around the shrine of Vithoba or Vithal, the residing deity of Pandharpur and thus also known as Pandharpur Movement. It also drew its inspiration from the Bhagavata Purana and the Shiva Nathpanthis.

  2. Movement is divided into two sects:

    1. Varakaris

      1. Mild devotees of God Vitthala of Pandharpur, who are more emotional, theoretical and abstract in their view point.

    2. Dharakaris

      1. Heroic followers of the cult of Ramadasa, the devotee of God rama, who are more rational, practical and concrete in their thoughts.

    3. The realization of God as the highest end of human life is common aim of both.

  3. Transformation in the society:

    1. Development of Marathi literature.

    2. Elevation in the status of women.

    3. Breaking of caste barriers etc.


  1. Jnaneswar/Jnanadeva:

    1. Wrote commentary on Bhagvat Gita called Jananesvari.

    2. Argued against caste distinction, he believed that the only way to attain god was through Bhakti.

  2. Namdeva:

    1. Belonged to the Varkari sect.

    2. Considered as one of the five revered gurus in the Dadupanth tradition within Hinduism, the other four being Dadu, Kabir, Ravidas, and Hardas.

    3. He was a tailor by profession who had taken to banditry before he became a saint. Is Marathi poetry breathes a spirit of intense love and dedication to god.

    4. Jnanesvar was his companion.

  3. Sant Eknath:

    1. He is seen as a bridge connecting earlier Bhakti saints like Dnyaneshwar and Namdeva to later saints such as Tukaram and Ramdas.

    2. Introduced a new form of Marathi religious song called Bharood.

    3. Emphasised on the fact that stay in monasteries or resignation from the world are not necessary for leading a religious life.

  4. Tukaram:

    1. Part of egalitarian devotionalism.

    2. Sudra by birth.

    3. Known for Avangas (Dohas). 

    4. Poetry was devoted to Vitthala. 

    5. Contemporary of Shivaji, and was responsible for creating a background for Maratha Nationalism 'Parmartha'.

  5. Ramdasa:

    1. Spiritual guide of Shivaji.

    2. Wrote Dasabodha.​


 Non-Sectarian Bhakti Movements:

  • Not linked with any particular religion creed and did not believe in ritual or ceremonies.

  • Emphasized on unity of all religions.

  • Saints:

  1. Ramananda:

    1. Follower of Ramanuja.

    2. Founded his own sect at Banaras and Agra.

    3. Linked South Indian Bhakti and North Indian Vaishnava Bhakti traditions.

    4. Raised his voice against the increasing formalism of the orthodox cult and founded a new school of Vaishnavism based on the gospel of love and devotion. Most outstanding contribution is the abolition of caste among his followers.

    5. Looked upon Ram and not Vishnu. Worshipped Ram and Sita and came to be identified as the founder of the Ram cult in North India.

    6. Rejected caste hierarchies and preached in the local languages in his attempt to popularize the cult.

    7. Followers are called Ramanandis, like Tulsidas.

    8. Avoided both gyana marg and karma marg and emphasized on Bhakti.

    9. Gave rise to two school of thought:

      • Orthodox School: Represented by Nabhadas, Tulsidas.

      • Liberal: Represented by Kabir, Nanak etc.

  2. Kabir:

    1. His verses are found in Adi-Granth.

    2. Born near Banaras.

    3. Denounced idolatry and rituals and laid great emphasis on the equality of man before god.

    4. Regarded devotion to god as an effective means of salvation and urged that to achieve this one must have a pure heart, free form cruelty, dishonesty, hypocrisy and insincerity.

    5. Considered neither asceticism nor book knowledge important for true knowledge.

    6. Strongly denounced the caste system, especially the practice of untouchability.

    7. Tried to reconcile Hindus and Muslims and establish harmony between the two sects.

    8. He is regarded as the greatest of the Mystic saints and his followers were called Kabirpanthis.

    9. Guru Nanak was influenced by him.

    10. Bijak is the best known of the compilations of the compositions of Kabir.

  3. Guru Nanak:

    1. Nirguna Bhakti saint.

    2. Opposed to all distinctions of caste as well as the religious rivalries and rituals and preached unity of god and condemned the formalism and ritualism of both Islam and Hinduism.

    3. Laid great emphasis on the purity of character and conduct as the first condition of approaching god, and the need of a guru for guidance.

    4. Advocated middle path like Kabir.

  4. Dadu Dayal:

    1. He was a saint from Gujarat.

    2. His ashrmas were known as Thambas around the region.

    3. Akbar was a follower.

    4. Devotion to god should transcend religious or sectarian affiliation, and that devotees should become non-sectarian or nipakh.

Vaishnavite Movement:

  1. Tulsidas:

    1. Wrote Ramacharitamansa, popularly called Tulsi-Krita-Ramayana.

    2. He portrays Ram as all virtuous and all powerful, the lord of the world and the very embodiment of the Supreme Reality.

  2. Hari Vamsa:

    1. Founded the Radha Ballabhi sect.

  3. Mira Bai

  4. Surdas:

    1. Wrote Sur-Sagar in Braj Bhasha.

  5. Jayadeva Gita Govinda

  6. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:

    1. Social reformer of Bengal, who popularised the Krishna cult in 16th century.

    2. Bhakti movement in Bengal began to develop into a reform movement as it questioned social division on the basis of caste.

    3. Popularised Sankirtan/Kirtan system.

    4. Renounced the world, became an ascetic, and wandered all over the country preaching the ideas.

    5. Proclaimed the universal brotherhood of man and condemned all distinction based on religion and caste.

    6. His biography was written by Krishnadas Kaviraj.

  7. Narsingh Mehta:

    1. Wrote songs in Gujarati depicting the love of Radha-Krishna.

    2. Author of Mahatama Gandhi's favourite Bhajan --- "Vaishnava jan ko".

  8. Saint Tyagaraja:

    1. Greates composer of Carnatic music in Telugu in praise of God Ram.

    2. Composed the famous Pancharatna Kritis.



  1. Sufism is derived from "suf" which means wool and purity.

  2. Terms Sufis, Wali, Darvesh and Faqir are used interchangibly for Muslim saints.

  3. God, man and the relation of love between God and man is fundamental to Sufism.

  4. Ideas of 

    1. Ruh---- soul

    2. Qurbat ---- Divine Proximity

    3. Hulul ----- Infusion of the divine spirit.

    4. Ishq ----- Divine love

    5. Fana ---- Self-annihilation, are central to the theory of Sufism.

  5. Regard God as the supreme beauty, and believed that one must admire him, take delight in his thought and concentrate his attention on him only, They believed that God is Mashuq and the Sufis are Ashiq.

  6. Features:

    1. Love of God means love of humanity.

    2. Self-discipline.

    3. Inner Purity

    4. Meditation,

    5. Good action

    6. Repentance for Sins

    7. Performance of Prayers and pilgrimages

    8. Fasting

    9. Charity 

    10. Suppression of passions by ascetic practices.

  7. Earliest Sufis:

    1. Rabia al-Adawiya

    2. Al-Junaid

    3. Bayazid Bastami.

  8. Sufis were organised in silsilahs (order) which represented an unbreakable chain between Pir (teacher), Murid(Disciple). 

  9. Khanqah(the hospice) was the centre of activities of the various sufi orders Khanqah was led by the shaikh, our or murshid (teacher) who lived with his murids (disciple).

  10. Murid passes through maqamat(various stages) in this process of experiencing communion with the divine. 

  11. Many Sufis enjoyed the sama or musical congregation in their khanqahs. Qawwali developed during this period only.

  12. Ziyarat or Pilgrimage to the tombs of the Sufi saints soon emerged as an important form of ritual pilgrimage.


  1. The Chisti Silsilah:

    1. Established by Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti.

    2. Highest form of devotion to God was to redress the misery of those in distress, fulfilling the need of the helpless and to feed the hungry.

    3. Supported by Akbar.

    4. Active in Delhi, Rajasthan, Western Gangatic plains, Bihar and Bengal.

    5. Features:

      • Simplicity of life, humility and selfless devotion to God. Renunciation of worldly possessions was regarded by them as significant for the control of the sense that was necessary to maintain a spiritual life.

      • Love as the bond between god and the individual soul and adopting an attitude of benevolence towards all.

      • The tolerance between people of different faiths and acceptance of disciples irrespective of their religious beliefs.

      • Use of Simple language and the refusal to accept any grant for their maintenance from the Sultans.

    6. Important Sufis:

      • Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki. 

      • Baba Fariduddin Ganj-I Shakar.

      • Nizamuddin Auliya.

      • Nasiruddin Chirgh-i-Dehlavi.

      • Shaikh Burhanuddin Gharib.

      • Muhammad Banda Nawaz.

  2. Suhrawardi Silsilah:

    1. Established by Shihabuddin Suhrawardi in Baghdad and was established in India by Bahauddin Zakariya.

    2. Accepted the maintenance grants from the Sultans.

    3. Were active in Punjab and Sindh.

    4. A Sufi should possess the three attributes of 

      • Property

      • Knowledge

      • Hal (Mystical enlightenment).

    5. Did not believe in excessive austerities or self-mortification and mingled with the Muslim aristocracy and took active part in politics.

    6. Stressed on the observance or external forms of religious belief and advocated a combination of ilm (scholarship) with mysticism.

  3. Naqshbandi Silsilah:

    1. Established in India by Khwaja Bahauddin Naqshbandi and later on propagated by his successors, Sheikh Baqi Billah and Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi.

    2. Observance of the shariat and denounced all innovations or biddat. Attempted to purge Islam from all liveral, and according to them, un-Islamic practices.

    3. Opposed the listening of sama (religious music) and the practice of pilgrimage to the tombs of saints, and strongly opposed interaction with Hindus and Shias. 

    4. ** Baba Farid was the one who maintained that devotional music was one way of coming close to God.

    5. Criticised the liberal policies of Akbar such as the high status accorded by Akbar to many non-Muslims,  withdrawal of Jaziya and the ban on cow slaughter.

    6. Maintained that the relationship between man and God was that of the slave and master and not of the relation of a lover and beloved. 

  4. Qadri Silsilah:

    1. Popular in Punjab, was initiated during the Mughal rule under the teaching of Sheikh Abdul Qadir and his sons, Shaikh Niamtullah, Makhdun Muhammad Jilani and Miyan Mir.

    2. Miyan Mir enrolled the Mughal Princess Jahanara and her brother Dara as disciples.

    3. Prominent Pirs:

      • Miyan Mir.

      • Shah Badakhsham.

    4. Features:

      • Believed in unity of God and his creation through the concept of "Wahadat al Wajud" meaning "Unity of Existence" or "Unity of Being".

      • Dismissed orthodox elements.





Impact of Sufism:

  1. It helped shape Akbar's religious outlook and religious policies. Sufism along with Bhakti movement led to the development of doctrines of love and selfless devotion which contributed towards bringing both the Hindus and Muslims closer together.

  2. Sufism influenced both rural and urban areas and exercised a deep social, political, and cultural influence on the masses. It reminded men of their moral obligations in a time when struggle for political power was supreme. They tried to bring in peace and harmony in a world torn by strife and conflict.

  3. Catered in the fight against Hindu-Muslim prejudices by forging the feeling of solidarity and brotherhood between these two religious communities.






Please reload

Please reload

About us:

Follow us on:

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon


Pursuit IAS is a knowledge portal which seeks to bring quality education to students in easily accessible manner so that students don't get excluded from competition due to their financial or spatial constraints. We seek to provide an equal platform to students from all backgrounds.