Bhakti Movement | Indian History | Free PDF Download


DOHA BHAKTI MOVEMENT(8th-16th century)

  • An important landmark in the cultural history of medieval India was the silent revolution in society brought about by a galaxy of socioreligious reformers, a revolution known as the Bhakti Movement.
  • This movement was responsible for many rites and rituals associated with the worship of God by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs of Indian subcontinent. For example, Kirtan at a Hindu Temple, Qawaali at a Dargah (by Muslims), and singing of Gurbani at a Gurdwara are all derived from the Bhakti movement of medieval India (800-1700).
  • The leader of this Hindu revivalist movement was Shankaracharya, a great thinker and a distinguished philosopher. And this movement was propounded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Namadeva, Tukaram, Jayadeva. The movement’s major achievement was its abolition of idol worship


  • The movement which emphasized primarily these ideas was the Bhakti movement—devotion to God. Bhakti to God was accepted as salvation.
  • It originated in South India(Saiva Nayanars and Vaishnava Alvars) and largely spread throughout India(from Karnataka and Maharashtra) to Bengal and Northern India.
  • The Alvars, which literally means “those immersed in God”, were Vaishnava poet-saints who sang praises of Vishnu as they travelled from one place to another.
  • Like the Alvars, the Saiva Nayanar poets were influential. The Tirumurai, a compilation of hymns on Shiva by sixty-three Nayanar poet-saints, developed into an influential scripture in Shaivism.


  • The Bhakti movement of Hinduism saw two ways of imaging the nature of the divine (Brahman) – Nirguna and Saguna.
  • Nirguna Brahman was the concept of the Ultimate Reality as formless, without attributes or quality. Saguna Brahman, in contrast, was envisioned and developed as with form, attributes and quality.
  • It is the same Brahman, but viewed from two perspectives, one from Nirguni knowledge-focus and other from Saguni love-focus, united as Krishna in the Gita.
  • Nirguna bhakta’s poetry were Jnana-shrayi, or had roots in knowledge. Saguna bhakta’s poetry were Prema-shrayi, or with roots in love.


    1. Unity of God or one God .
    2. Bhakti, intense love and devotion, the only way to salvation.
    3. Repetition of the True Name.
    4. Self-Surrender
    5. Condemnation of rituals, ceremonies and blind faith.
    6. Rejection of idol worship by many saints
    7. Open- mindedness about deciding religious matters.
    8. No distinction of different castes, higher or low


  • The Sufi saints of the Muslims also emphasized devotion to Allah (God). The spiritual yearning made Kabir, Guru Nanak, Mirabai, Surdas, Tulsi Das, Chaitanya and others, the great exponents of Bhakti movement.
  • A more effective method for spreading of the Bhakti ideology was the use of local languages.
  • Under the impact of the Muslim rule, the Hindus had suffered a lot materially, morally and spiritually. The Muslim rulers in general wanted to enforce the Islamic laws on the Hindus.
  • During the course of time, several evil practices had crept into the Hindu society. There was a lot of caste and class distinction. Several divisions had occurred.


  • Fortunately with the foreign invaders, some Sufi Muslim saints had also come to India and settled here. They were very liberal minded. They emphasized the virtues of love and devotion, brotherhood and equality etc. This helped to bring the two communities nearer. It also helped to harmonise the conflicting interests.
  • The Hindus realised that it was difficult to drive away the Muslim rulers and Muslims from India. On the other hand the Muslims also appreciated that the Hindus were in absolute majority and it was impossible to force all of them to embrace Islam. So under the impact of the new movement both sides started making efforts for coming closer to each other.
  • The Bhakti saints were social reformers also. They condemned several social evils.The Sufi Saints like Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti, Bakhyiya Kaki, Nizamudin Aulia and Nasiruddin Chirag-i-Delhi etc. attempted to restrain the fanaticism of the Muslims and tried to bring them nearer to the Hindus.


  • The most important social impact of the Bhakti movement was that the followers of the Bhakti movement rejected the caste distinction. They began to mix together on the basis of equality. They took their meals together from the common kitchen.
  • The movement aroused awakening among the Hindus and Muslims regarding the futility of ritualism and superstitions. The feeling of appreciation of the difference between the thought and practices of the two religions emerged. The movement encouraged religious toleration.
  • The movement attempted to infuse a spirit of piety in the daily life of the people. It emphasized earning of wealth through hard work and honest means. It encouraged the value of social service to the poor and the needy. It developed a humanitarian attitude.


  • The worship of Rama was popularised by saints like Ramananda (1400-1470). He considered Rama as the supreme God. Women and outcastes were. The most famous of the Rama bhaktas was Tulsidas (l 532-1623) who wrote the Ramacharitmanas.
  • Kabir (1440-1518) believed that the way to God was through personally experienced bhakti or devotion. He believed that the Creator is One.
  • Guru Nanak (1469-1539). He was born at Talwandi (Nakana Sahib). From an early age, he showed leanings towards a spiritual life. He was helpful to the poor and needy. His disciples called themselves Sikhs.
  • Guru Nanak’s personality combined in itself simplicity and peacefulness. Guru Nanak’s objective was to remove the existing corruption and degrading practices in society.


  • The love for Krishna was also expressed through the songs of Mirabai (1503-73). Widowed at an early age, she believed in a spiritual marriage with her Lord. Her poems have a quality of their own and are popular even today.
  • The Vaishnavite movement spread in the east through the efforts of Chaitanya (1484-1533). Chaitanya considered Krishna not as a mere incarnation of Vishnu but as the highest form of God.


  • The Sufi movement was a socio-religious movement of fourteenth to sixteenth century. They had gone through various religious text of India and had come in contact with great sages and seers of India. They could see the Indian religion from very near and realized its inner values. Accordingly they developed Islamic Philosophy which at last gave birth to the Sufi Movement.
  • This movement influenced both the Muslims and Hindus and thus, provided a common platform for the two.Though the Sufis were devout Muslims, yet they differed from the orthodox Muslims. While the former believed in inner purity, the latter believed in external conduct.


  • The union of the human soul with God through love and devotion was the essence of the teachings of the Sufi Saints. They were called Sufis as they wore garments of Wool (suf) as their budge of poverty.
  • The Sufis did not attach importance to namaz, hajj and celibacy. That is why they were misunderstood by orthodox muslims. They regarded Singing and dancing as methods of inducing a state of ecstasy which brought one nearer to realisation of God.


  • Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti (1143-1234):was a great Sufi Saint of India. The Chisti order was established in India by him. He was born in 1143 A.D. in Seistan in Persia.
  • Farid-ud-din Ganj-i-Shakar (1176-1268): Farid-ud-din Ganj-iShakar was another great Sufi Saint of India. He was popularly known as Baba Farid. He was a great disciple of Shaikh Muinuddin Chisti. He was deeply respected in Delhi. He was surrounded by a large number of people whenever he visited Delhi.
  • Nizam-ud-din Auliya (1235-1325): Nizam-ud-din Auliya was the most famous of the Chisti Saints. He was the disciple of Baba Farid. He came to Delhi in 1258 and settled in the Village Chiaspur near Delhi. In his life time seven Sultans ruled over Delhi, but he did not go to any of them.

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