Bhakti Movement: Origin, Causes, Impact & More

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Bhakti Movement

The Bhakti Movement was a religious reform movement in medieval times that started in the 7th and 10th centuries in the South Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and spread all over the world. At first, it emphasized the single path to the devotion of God. The movement was on the basis of the doctrine that it is through love and worship that the relationship between god and man is based and not through performing any religious ceremonies or rituals. In this blog, we will delve into the origin, causes and effects.

Who started the Bhakti Movement?

The origin of the movement can be traced back to the Vedas, but the development activities took place after the 7th century. The initiative was from Shaiva Nayanars and Vaishnavite Alwars in south India. 

  • Alvars represented the Emotional Side of Vaishnavism through songs which were called “Prabhandas”.
  • Acharyas represented the Intellectual Side of Vishnavism.
PlacesFamous Bhakti MovementsSaints
KarnatakaVirashaivism/Sharana MovementAkkamahadevi, Basavanna, Allama Prabhu
Tamil Nadu & KeralaVaishnavism MovementNayanars (devotees of Shiva) and Alvaras (devotees of Vishnu)
MaharashtraVarkariNamdev, Tukaram and Jnanadev
Northern IndiaVaishnavism MovementSurdas, Kabir Das,Dadu Dayal,Guru Nanak, Ravi Das, Ram Das,Meerabai, etc

How did the Bhakti Movement Start?

There were many different reasons for which the movement started. Some of them were – 

  1. Influence of Vaishnavism
  2. The prevalence of the caste system
  3. Influence of Sufi Sects
  4. Fear of the spread of Islam
  5. Emergence of great reformers
  6. Pave the right path for removing the evil practices in Hinduism
  7. Finding processes and methods to attain the path of liberation.
  8. Simplify the route of worshipping and spread devotion.

Also Read –What is the Difference Between Nayanars and Alvars?

What were the features of the Bhakti Movement?

Some of the features of the movement are – 

  • Though known by different names, unity of God or one God.
  • Strong condemnation of various blind faiths, ritualistic practices and ceremonies.
  • Rejection of the belief of Idol Worshipping
  • Realization of God’s prevalence and Surrender of oneself to the Ultimate reality, i.e. God.
  • Rejection of the caste division and belief in equality of all human beings.
  • Salvation is only through the path of bhakti.
  • Wide horizon and open-minded thoughts about religious matters.
  • Use of local language or vernacular language for preachings
  • Creation of literature in vernacular languages.
  • Emphasis on Nirguna and Saguna bhakti
NirgunThey believed in the invisible formless god, that is without attributes.
Jnana-Shrayi was the bhakta’s poetry which meant they had their roots in knowledge
Some Nirgun Saints are – Guru Nanak, Kabir, etc
SagunThey believed in Gof with a proper form and attributes.
Prema-Shrayi was the bhakta’s poetry which meant roots in love.
Some Sagun Saints are – Surdas, ,Meerabai, Tulsidas, etc

Vedanta Saints and Their Contribution

Some of the Vedantic Saints and their contribution to the Bhakti movement are – 

Vedanta SaintsContribution
Adi ShankaracharyaConsolidated the Doctrine of Advaita Vedanta (Non-Dualism).
Propounded that God & created world is one and the soul of an individual is not different than Brahman
RamanujacharyaFounded the Vishishtadvaita Vedanta or Qualified Monism
Emphasized that there exists a distinction between Atman( Soul) and Brahman (ultimate reality).
NimbarkaIntroduced the theory of Bhed-Abheda (Different &Non-Different)
Believed that the Supreme, soul and the world were identical and yet different 
MadhavacharyaPreached “Dvaita or Dualism”
Interpreted that divinity was separate from the soul or human consciousness
Nathpanthis, Yogis and SiddhasAdvocated renunciation of the world
To them, salvation lay in meditation on the formless god.

Sharana/ Virashaivism Movement

The movement of Virashaivism began in Karnataka around the 12th century.

  • It was initiated by Basavanna and some other virshaivas like Akkamahadevi and Allama Prabhu.
  • They supported the equality of all human beings and fought against the Brahmanical ideas of caste and poor treatment of women.
  • They also rejected idol worship and religious rituals.
  • Their belief encouraged post-puberty marriage and widow remarriage and challenged the caste distinction, also questioning the theory of rebirth.
  • Basavanna preached his ideologies mostly through poetry which were known as Vachanas.
  • He established the Anubhava Mantapa(1st democratic parliament of the world). It was an academy for philosophers, saints and mystics of the Ligayath’s faith.

Also Read – Vedanta Philosophy: History, Schools & Significance

Varkari Tradition

Varkari is a religious movement which is associated with the geographical location of Maharashtra and northern Karnataka. The Sampradaya was a tradition prevalent within the bhakti spiritual tradition of Hinduism. The term, Varkari in the Marathi language of Maharashtra means “Pilgrim” and Vari means “Pilgrimage”.

Also Read – Sects of Buddhism: History, Origin, Branches

What was the Impact of the Bhakti Movement?

The effect of the movement was felt across the nation and among wide masses. Some of the impacts are – 

  • Practices like Sati Pratha and Caste rigidities were questioned and the bhakti saints also became the torch bearer of Social Reforms.
  •  Women’s presence on the path of devotion and kirtan like Laila (Kashmir), Mirbai and Andal was strongly supported and is popular even today.
  • Instead of Sanskrit language, Bhakti saints preached through the medium of their vernacular languages which could be understood very easily. 
  • It popularized the idea of social giving like Seva and Dana. 
  • Preached an inclusive path to spiritual salvation along with the message of Ahimsa.
  • Rulers adopted liberal religious policies under the impact of the Bhakti movement.
Credit- Licchavi Lyceum
Mahayana and Hinayana BuddhismLord Mahavira
Chaitanya MahaprabhuSufi Movement
Noble Eight-Fold Paths of BuddhismJain Councils
Difference Between Ramayana and RamcharitmanasGautam Buddha

That’s all about the Bhakti Movement! If you want to know more about topics like this, then visit our general knowledge page! Alternatively, you can also read our blog on general knowledge for competitive exams!

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