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.
- 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.