Bhakti Movement - Seeker's Thoughts

Recent Posts

Seeker's Thoughts

A blog for the curious and the creative.

Bhakti Movement


Bhakti Movement


During medieval periods, Bhakti movement brought an open-minded approach to religion. It disapproved of ritualistic worship practices while emphasizing devotion over ritual. Since it did not discriminate based on caste distinctions, people from all classes joined this movement.


At its foundation were poets - Alvars (Vishnu Devotees) and Nayanars (Shiva Devotees). Both groups challenged the social hierarchies of traditional Hinduism by asserting that God can take any form, including that of human beings.



Tamil Nadu & Kerala


The Bhakti Movement was a spiritual and religious movement in South India that flourished from the seventh to fifteenth centuries, particularly Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Driven by devotion to God and an emphasis on purity of heart and mind, this egalitarian movement saw saints leading primarily Hindu, Muslim and Sikh saints alike who led this spiritual revival movement.


Alvars and Nayanars were Tamil poet-saints who played an essential part in shaping a new religion that broke away from ritual-oriented Vedic Hinduism. Traveling saints sang hymns in praise of gods such as Sambandar, Appar, and Sundarar to spread bhakti across southern India during the eighth and ninth centuries; one major collection of their songs is known as Divya Prabandha - with Sambandar being amongst them.


Outside of spreading bhakti, these saints also engaged in social reform and challenged institutionalized Hinduism. They denounced casteism and idol worshiping, along with rituals or beliefs they deemed outdated or harmful. Furthermore, these saints encouraged women to join kirtans while advocating for equality between men and women.


Sufism was another source of inspiration, drawing its influences from Islam and emphasizing an inclusive and personal form of devotion called Sufi Bhakti that believed both Saguna and Nirguna forms existed for God - ultimately it replaced Alvars and Nayanars who practiced conservative Shaivism with this more liberal movement.


Bahina Bai was an influential female saint from Maharashtra during the 17th century who composed abhyanga and advocated that women can attain salvation just as effectively as men. Karaikkal Ammaiyar was another notable female devotee who sang hymns in praise of Shiva and became one of three Nayanars (leaders) to promote more egalitarian interpretations of Hinduism.




The Bhakti movement was founded on monotheism and opposed idol worship. Instead, its emphasis lay in devotion and surrendering oneself completely to God; furthermore it sought to promote regional languages versus Sanskrit as its hegemony was challenged; while its saints often opposed social injustices such as social unrest, religious rituals and caste hierarchies.


Akka Mahadevi stood out among Karnataka's bhakti saints. A member of 12th century reformist virasaivas, she was an ardent Shiva devotee who gave up all she owned to travel barefoot around Karnataka as a barefoot shikharini and compose vachanas (bhakti-style spiritual poems sung aloud).


She was an outspoken woman who challenged the traditional beliefs of her time, highlighting that God can be directly reached through prayer and liberating women from society's chains. Additionally, she wrote numerous poems in Karnataka dialect.


The Bhakti Movement represented an important departure from medieval Hinduism. This movement focused on worshipping God with devotion, believing He can assist all people. Additionally, this movement supported regional languages within India as well as equality for men and women.


Akkamahadevi, daughter of King Sambandar and disciple of both Alvars and Nayanars who worship Vishnu and Shiva respectively. A great poet herself, she wrote the Divya Prabhandam. Legend holds that she married god Shiva himself!


Meera's practice as a female saint inspired many other saints of India later on; for instance, her following the Bhakti philosophy led her to compose numerous shikharini songs during her lifetime.


Indian villages still practice shikharini singing to seek Lord Krishna's blessings and to overcome adversities, attain prosperity and health while protecting from diseases like colds. Furthermore, this practice helps them live peaceful lives.




Maharashtra, India's center for commerce and industrial activity, witnessed the beginnings of Bhakti in the latter half of 13th century with Jnanadev (1275-96), Namdev (1270-50) and Tukaram (1608-50) among the leading figures during this era. Poetry and devotional songs written by Bhakti movement poets captured the hearts of millions across India, often being performed by notable classical vocalists of their time. Bhakti revolutionised religious consciousness across India. 


Bhakti provided an entirely new way of worship, emphasizing love of God and emphasizing its importance in everyday life. Bhakti saints opposed caste systems and preached equality among all people, encouraging a deep emotional bond with Him that allowed them to reach out and touch people from diverse backgrounds.


Saints composed countless songs of praise called abhangs in Marathi language to praise Vishnu under various forms like Vithala or Ma, often calling him by this title or address him with this term: Mother. This concept appealed to a large number of non-Brahmin Indians; therefore bhakti saints came from various strata of society like potters, tanners, clerks, farmers, gardeners, tailors, housewives etc.


These bhakti saints did not advocate overthrowing the political system but instead focused on religious reforms. While retaining many fundamental tenets of conventional Brahmanism, while at the same time adopting new forms of worship and advocating equality among all, these bhakti saints had an immense impact on Indian population and culture for decades to come.


Scholars of the 19th and early 20th century saw Bhakti as a monotheistic reform movement with significant social ramifications, seen by scholars at that time as having significant social impacts. One of the first modern religious movements to bring about an alteration to religious practice while fostering equality across religions, Bhakti had great influences among Hindu, Muslim, Sikh faiths as well as various nonconformist sects such as Sufis in India as well as around the globe.


Northern India


The Bhakti Movement was a religious reformation movement that advocated devotion to a particular deity as the path towards spiritual salvation. This challenge Brahmin priesthood and traditional caste systems that marginalised lower classes. Furthermore, this movement encouraged participation by people of all genders and social classes in religious rituals and worship; encouraging vernacular language development along with helping bring secularism into India.


This movement was founded by a group of saints who believed that love and devotion are more essential than religious rituals or ceremonies, encouraging devotees to worship their chosen god with intense emotion, while teaching that devotion should take precedence over knowledge or austerity. 


It became famous due to a proliferation of poet-saints writing poetry in multiple Indian languages such as Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Maithili and Hindi that rebelled against existing conventions while creating vast literature from these verses authored by these poet-saints who produced poetry renowned across India during this movement's rise.


One of the most celebrated bhakti saints was Kabir, who lived between 1398 and 1518 CE. Kabir revolutionized many religious notions and social conventions of his day; for example, encouraging poor people to worship a personal god who could provide for their needs instead of empty religious rituals or hypocrisy; his teachings upset even some members of orthodox gentry during his day.


Ravi Das was another prominent Bhakti saint from 1408-1503 CE who encouraged people to engage in group devotional practices such as singing kirtans and visiting sacred shrines. Ravi Das also stressed the importance of self-surrender and encouraged his followers to remain open to receiving guidance from their deity.


Women poet-saints also played an instrumental role in the Bhakti movement, often rejecting traditional roles for women and pursuing lives as wandering bhaktas; others opposed social injustices such as untouchability practices.


The Bhakti movement played an essential role in shaping Hinduism's development, and continues to shape Indian culture today. Additionally, its influence can be found within other religious movements such as Sufism.


No comments:

Post a Comment