Ch -8 Devotional Paths To The Divine (Part 1)

The intense devotion or love of God that we witness today, has its roots in the various kinds of Bhakti & Sufi movements that evolved since the eighth century.

The Idea Of A Supreme God

  • Earlier, different groups of people used to worship their own gods and goddesses.
  • New ideas of religion emerged with the emergence of large kingdoms and empires.
  • The new belief that social status and privileges came from birth in “noble” family, gained popularity.
  • Many people were unhappy with such ideas and turned to Buddhism and Jainism.
  • Others were attracted to the idea of Supreme God who could deliver humans from bondage of life and death, if approached with devotion.
  • Eventually, Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Goddess Durga were identified as supreme gods and goddess.
  • The local myths and legends became a part of Puranic stories and later Puranas laid down that people of all castes can receive the grade of God.

Nayanars & Alvars

  • New religious movements by Nayanars (saints devoted to Lord Shiva) and Alvars (saints devoted to Lord Vishnu) emerged during the seventh to ninth centuries.
  • These saints came from all castes.
  • They travelled from place to place composing exquisite poems in praise of deities enshrined in the villages.
  • They preached the ardent love of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu as the path to salvation.
  • Some of the famous Nayanars were Appar, Sambandar, Sundarar and Manikkavasagar.
  • The two sets of compilations of songs of Nayanars are Tevaram and Tiruvacakam.
  • Some of the famous Alvars were Periyalvar, his daughter Andal, Tandaradippodi Alvar and Nammalvar.
  • The songs of Alvars were compiled in the Divya Prabandham.
  • During this time, Chola kings built elaborate temples to show connection between bhakti and temple worship.


  • He was born in Kerala in the eight century.
  • He was an advocate of Advaita or the doctrine of the oneness of the individual soul and the supreme God.
  • He taught that Brahma was the only Ultimate Reality, everything else in the world was maya or illusion.
  • He preached about renunciation of world in order to follow the path of Brahma and salvation.


  • He was born in Tamil Nadu in the eleventh century.
  • He was deeply influenced by Alvars.
  • He preached that intense devotion to Lord Vishnu may lead one to salvation.
  • He propounded the doctrine of Vishishtadvaita (the soul remains distinct even when it is united with the Supreme God).
  • This doctrine of Ramanuja gained popularity especially in North India.

Virashaiva Movement

  • This movement was initiated by Basavanna and his companions like Allama Prabhu and Akkamahadevi.
  • It began in Karnataka in the mid-twelfth century.
  • They preached about equality of all human beings.
  • They were against the Brahmanical ideas about caste and treatment of women.
  • They opposed idol worship and other rituals.

Saints Of Maharashtra

  • Many saint-poets emerged in Maharashtra from thirteenth to seventeenth century.
  • Some of the famous saints were Janeshwar, Namdev, Eknath, Tukaram, Sakkubai and the family of Chokhamela.
  • They believed in the notion of personal god residing in the hearts of all people.
  • They rejected all forms of ritualism, outward display of piety and social differences based on birth.
  • They believed in living with their families and helping fellow human beings instead of renouncing the world.
  • They insisted that bhakti lay in sharing other’s pain.

Nathpanthis, Siddhas And Yogis

  • They preached about renunciation of the world.
  • They advocated intense training of mind and body through yogasanas, breathing exercises and meditation, in order to achieve oneness with the Ultimate Reality and salvation.

Published by Priya Prakash

In the midst of winter, i found there was within me an invincible summer ~ Albert Camus

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