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Medieval History / Delhi Sultanate

Bhakti Movement of Medieval India and Origin of Sikhism

    Bhakti movement of medieval India is a religious reform movement of Hindu religion. It started in South India during the reign of Delhi Sultanate and moved to North India. All the Bhakti saints of India gave importance to Bhakti and were against rituals.

    Features of Bhakti Movement

    The mains features of Bhakti movement are

    • Mysticism - It is unification in God through self surrender. It has personal loving relationship with the God.

    • Monotheism - It is worshipping of one God. If one God is worshipped, his other incarnations will not be worshipped.

    • Some saints accepted idolatry. Such saints are called Saguna Bhakti saints and the movement is called Saguna Bhakti Movement.

      Those who worship the God in abstract form are called Nirguna Bhakti saints, who were radical in nature and the movement is called Nirguna Bhakti Movement. They go against superstitious beliefs. They are not found among the Bhakti saints of South India.

    • Bhakti saints promoted socio economic equality or egalitarian society. They declared Moksha for every person.

    • The Bhakti saints preached their ideas in in regional languages, that is language of masses (vernacular languages). Bhakti saints were against Sanskrit.

    List of Bhakti Saints and their Movement

      Bhakti Saints of South India

      The following is the list of Bhakti saints, who propagated Bhakti movement in South India.

      • Adi Shankaracharya (788 - 820 AD) - He is not a Bhakti saint. He provided the foundation for Bhakti Movement. Birth place of Shankaracharya was Kaladi in Kerala. He died at Kedarnath, Uttarakhand. He was the Advaita philosophy founder.

        Advaita philosophy is nothing but Non–dualism which means Atma and Paramatma are same. He founded a new doctrine called Maya (Illusion). He said that Moksha can be achieved through Jnana (Knowledge). He started a new sect called Smarta (who worship Harihara) Hindu tradition.

        Shankaracharya Mutts

        He built 4 Shankaracharya Maths (or Mutts) at 4 corners of India.

        • In North - Jyotirmath at Badrinath, Uttarakhand
        • In East - Govardhana Matha at Puri, Odisha
        • In West - Dwaraka Pitha or Saradha Matha at Dwaraka, Gujarat
        • In South - Sringeri Sharada Peetham at Sringeri, Karnataka

      • Ramanujacharya (11th C) - He is the first Bhakti saint. He was a priest of a Vishnu temple at Srirangam (Trichy). He was the founder of Vishishtadvaita philosophy.

        He founded a new Vaishnava sect called Sri Vaishnavism in which Vishnu and Krishna are worshipped. He preferred salvation through "Prapatti Marga" (Self surrender).

      • Madhvacharya (13th C) - He is a native of Sringeri. He is a worshipper of Lord Vishnu. He was the Dvaita philosophy founder. Dvaita philosophy rejects Shankaracharya's Advaita. He rejected Maya Siddhanta.

      • Nimbarka (13 - 14th C) - He is a saint from Andhra Pradesh. He merged both the philosophies of Shankara and Madhvacharya and named it as Dvaita Advaita philosophy, also called Bhedabheda philosophy.

      • Vallabhacharya (15 - 16th C) - He was born in Kashi to a Telugu family in 16th Century. He came with new Advaita called Shuddhadvaita philosophy.

      Bhakti Saints of Maharashtra

      Pandharpur or Pandaripuram is the headquarters of Bhakti Movement of Maharashtra. The following is the list of Bhakti saints, who propagated Bhakti movement in Maharashtra.

      • Jnana Deva (13th C) - He wrote Marathi Bhagavad Gita, which is known as Jnaneswari or Bhavartha Dipika.

      • Namadev (14th C) - He promoted Nirguna Bhakti in Maharashtra. Most of his disciples were from untouchable community. He is a robber turned monk.

      • Eknath (16th C) - He wrote a book called Bhavartha Ramayana. He wrote quite a number of Abhangas (Marathi poems or hymns in praise of God).

      • Tukaram (17th C) - He founded Varkari sect (path of pilgrimages). Varkari sect promoted pilgrimages. It recommended 2 pilgrimages per year to lead a humble life.

        To get salvation, you have to make pilgrimages many times to Pandaripuram. Vithoba or Vithala or Panduranga is the God at Pandharpur.

      • Samarth Ramdas (17th C) - He belongs to Dharkari sect (in which God is omnipresent). Dharkari does not promote pilgrimages and gave importance to harmonious relationship between the worldly life and spiritual life. Samarth Ramdas is the religious guru of Shivaji. He was the writer of Dasbodh book.

      Bhakti Saints of North India

      The following is the list of Bhakti saints, who propagated Bhakti movement in North India.

      • Ramananda (15th C) - He is the first Bhakti saint of North India. He was a worshipper of Lord Rama. There were 12 disciples of Ramananda known as Avadhutas.

        Some of them are Pipa (A Rajput prince), Kabir (He is from weaver's community), Raidasa (He is from Chamar community), etc.

      • Kabir (15 - 16th C) - Kabir was born in Varanasi and was a Nirguna saint. He was radical in his philosophy but he was an illiterate, who opposed Sanskrit.

        It was Kabir who wrote Dohas in Hindi. He condemned idolatry, pilgrimages and fasting. He strived for the Hindu-Muslim unity.

      • Surdas (15 - 16th C) - He was a great scholar in Hindi. He was one of the disciples of Vallabhacharya. He wrote Sursagar (Biography of Krishna), Sur Suravali, Sahitya Ratna. He was worshipper of only Krishna.

      • Tulasidas (16 - 17th C) - Tulasidas wrote Ramcharitmanas (Hindi version of Ramayan), Kavitavali, Vinaya Patrika. He was worshipper of only Rama.

      • Meerabai - She was a Rajput princess and was a widow. She was worshipper of Lord Krishna.

      • Guru Nanak (15 - 16th C) - He was born in Talwandi and died in Kartarpur (Both in Pakistan). He was a Nirguna saint and was a great scholar.

        He promoted a concept called Tauhid-i-wajudi which means unity of God and unity of human being. That is one God for entire humanity.

        He was influenced by Islam after he visited Mecca. He did not promote Idolatry. Guru Nanak composed the hymns called Shabad.

      Bhakti Saints of East India

      The following is the list of Bhakti saints, who propagated Bhakti movement in East India.

      • Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (15 - 16th C) - He was a saint of Bengal. He promoted Vaishnava Bhakti in Bengal and Odisha.

        Because of him, reconversions from Islam to Hindu religion happened. His followers believed him as an incarnation of Vishnu.

      • Shankaradasa (15 - 16th C) - He promoted Vaishnava Bhakti in Assam. He translated Ramayana into Assamese and almost all the books are translated by him into Assamese. King Suhungmung of Ahom dynasty became Swarga Narayana.

      Bhakti Saints of West India

      The following is the list of Bhakti saints, who propagated Bhakti movement in West India.

      • Dadu Dayal (17th C) - He came from untouchable community. He was influenced by Kabir. He promoted Nirguna Bhakti in Rajasthan. His concept is low-born are by birth have no ego.

      • Narsinh Mehta (15th C) - Narsinh Mehta was from Gujarat. He wrote a number of Bhajans which influenced Gandhiji.

        The term, Harijan (Children of God) was coined by Narsinh Mehta. It was the term used to give to the children of Devadasi.

    Origin of Sikhism

    • The term "Sikh" is deduced from a Sanskrit word, Sishya. Though Guru Nanak is believed to be the founder of Sikhism, he never desired to start a religion.

      He gave some principles based on which new religion "Sikh" was born. The remaining 9 Gurus converted the principles into the new religion.

    • Guru Nanak initiated an Institution called Guru Ka Langar, in which all the village community will come and make food together and they eat together. It was to promote inter-dining among different castes. Every important Gurdwaras will have Langars.
    • List of 10 Sikh Gurus

      Here is the list of 10 Sikh Gurus names in order

      • First Guru - Guru Nanak

      • 2nd Guru - Guru Angad. A new script called Gurmukhi script was developed during his period. Humayun visited this Guru and had blessings.

      • 3rd Guru - Amardas

      • 4th Guru - Ramdas. Akbar donated the site of Golden temple to this Guru.

      • 5th Guru - Arjan Dev. He built Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple). In 19th C, Raja Ranjit Singh gave Gold for Harmandir Sahib. During his period, Guru Granth Sahib (Adi Granth, sacred text of Sikhs) was written in Punjabi language with Gurmukhi script.

        It is the first book of Sikhs. He was put to death by Mughal emperor Jahangir for helping his rebel son Khurram.

      • 6th Guru - Guru Hargobind. He was put in the prison for 10 years for revolting against Jahangir.

      • 7th guru - Har Rai

      • 8th Guru - Har Krishan. He became the Guru at the age of 5 and passed away at the age of eight years. He died because of chickenpox.

      • 9th Guru - Tegh Bahadur. He took the title Sacha Padusha (True emperor). In 1675, he was executed by Aurangzeb at Chandni Chowk.

        A Gurdwara was constructed at that place called Sisganj Gurudwara. It is second most sacred after Golden Temple.

      • 10th Guru - Guru Gobind Singh. He is considered as the most important Guru. In 1699, he organized youth into Khalsa Panth (Religious sect like that of Baptised Sikh). In 1708 AD, Guru Gobind Singh was killed at Nanded (tomb is here) by a fanatic Muslim.

    • Every Sikh is a member of Khalsa. The five principles of Khalsa, also called Five 'K's or Panj Kakar, are considered basic doctrines of Sikh religion.

      They are (i) Kesh (Uncut hair), (ii) Kirpan (Sword should be carried always), (iii) Kada or Kara (Iron bracelet should be worn by every Sikh), (iv) Kanga (Comb must be carried) and (v) Kachcha (Long underwear).

Extra Information


    • It is a Shaiva religious sect, founded in 12th C by Basavanna. Basava was a minister (treasury) of a small state of Kalachuri kingdom. The king of this state was Bijjala. Initially, Basava was a Jain and then took Shaivism.

    • Veerashaivism is more of a social reform movement. It opposed Sati, child marriages, caste system, untouchability, etc. Basava was against superstitious beliefs.

    • Basavanna wrote Kannada poems known as Vachanas (e.g. We worship idols of snake and kill the real snake). He was against the practice of cremation.

      Jains were massacred by followers of Basavanna. Even the king Bijjala II was murdered. Basavanna committed suicide by jumping into Tungabhadra at Sangameswara.

    • Veera Shaivites are sometimes called Lingayats though there exists small difference. Priestly class of Lingayats are called Jangama, who are known as incarnation of Shiva.