Bhakti Movement

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 11, 2022, 7:17

In medieval Hinduism, the Bhakti Movement was an important religious movement. The word 'Bhakti' is derived from the Sanskrit word that means 'devotion.' It was a movement that expressed a devotee's profound emotional attachment and love for a personal god, as well as the god's love for the devotee. This movement began primarily through the use of the poetry of Alvars (devotees of Vishnu) and Nayanars (devotees of Shiva). These poems were written in Tamil and dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.

It is believed that the Bhakti Movement was started in South India in the 9th century by Adi Shankaracharya and grew throughout India by the 16th century. Soon after its inception, the Bhakti Movement quickly expanded to North India. From the 15th century onwards, it raced across east and north India, peaking between the 15th and 17th centuries.

Why Was the Bhakti Movement Started?

The Bhakti Movement was started with a concern with India's response to a few challenges. These were:

  • Many social abnormalities existed in Hindu society, including caste rigidity, irrelevant rituals and religious practices, blind faith, and biased social ideologies.
  • The Vedas and Upanishads' complex and advanced philosophy was very difficult for ordinary people to understand.

The Bhakti Movement brought an alternative—a basic form of devotion that provided salvation from material life.

Philosophical Beliefs of the Bhakti Movement

The Bhakti Movement conceptualized the two ways of perceiving the divine's nature and termed it Nirguna Brahman and Saguna Brahman.

Nirguna Brahman

  • Nirguna Brahman or Nirguna Bhakti was introduced by Adi Shankara. It involved the practice of formless worship.
  • The poet-saints following the Nirguna Bhakti glorified god without and above all qualities or form.
  • The Nirguna poet-saints denounced the Brahmins' dominance, caste-based customs, and the practice of idol-worships.
  • They referred to god by various names and titles and believed him to be everlasting, non-incarnate, and ineffable.
  • Kabir, Guru Nanak, Dadu Dayal, and other Bhakti saints preached this school of thought.

Saguna Brahman

  • Saguna Brahman or Saguna Bhakti believed in the worship of idols.
  • Saguna was the patron saint of poet-saints who wrote songs glorifying god with particular characteristics or forms.
  • The Saguna poets justified the caste system and advocated for Brahmin rule.
  • Ramanuja, Nimbaraka, Madhva, Vallabha, Meera Bai, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Tulsidas, Surdas, and other poets and saints were among the proponents.

Literature and Poems of the Bhakti Movement

During the Bhakti Movement, literature of many regional languages flourished, particularly in the form of devotional poems and songs. Here are some important writers and poets of the Bhakti Movement:

  • Tulsidas (1527-1623) wrote Rama Charita Manasa (holy lake of Rama's deeds), the first and greatest Hindi epic in which he saw Lord Ram as the embodiment of god.
  • Surdas (1478- 581), on the other hand, wrote a devotional poem about Lord Krishna.
  • Meerabai (1498-1546) of Rajasthan penned and sang devotional lyrics in the glory of Lord Krishna.
  • Saint Purandaradasa (1480-1564) developed a large following in Karnataka by singing the praises of god - 'Jagadodharana'.
  • Jayadeva, a poet-devotee from the 11th century, wrote the Sanskrit masterpiece Geeta Govinda, which narrates the tale of Lord Krishna.
  • Basavanna (1105-68) developed a rich vein of literature in the Kannada region known as Vachana Sahitya, which was composed by him and his pupils (Akkamahadevi, Allama Prabhu, Devara Dasimayya, and others).
  • Jnanadev (1275-96), Namdev (1270-50), and Tukaram (1608-50) were among the most popular Bhakti Movement figures in Maharashtra, having penned many hymns that encapsulate the essence of Bhakti.

The Bhakti Movement reformers taught that liberation could only be obtained through great devotion and faith in god. The reformers emphasized the importance of singing hymns with profound devotion. It was a powerful spiritual period to be reckoned with, especially after the great waves of Kabir, Basavanna, and Shri Chaitanya.

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FAQs on Bhakti Movement

Q1. When did the Bhakti Movement begin?

Ans. The Bhakti Movement began in the 9th century.

Q2. Where did the Bhakti Movement begin?

Ans. The Bhakti Movement began in South India.

Q3. Who started the Bhakti Movement?

Ans. Adi Shankaracharya started the Bhakti Movement.

Q4. Who wrote 'Jagadodharana'?

Ans. Saint Purandaradasa wrote Jagadodharana.