Sufism and Bhakti Movement

Sufism and Bhakti Movement


Sufism and Bhakti Movement


  • Originated in Persia & spread to India by 11th century.
  • 1st Sufi saint was Shaik Ismail of Lahore
  • Most famous Sufi saint of India was Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti, who settled in Ajmer which became centre of his activities
  • His disciples were called Sufis of Chisti order Nizamuddin Aulia of Chisti order became a mighty spiritual force
  • Sufism stressed on Love & devotion as an effective & only mean of realization of God & attaining salvation
  • According to Sufism, Love of God meant love of humanity, they believed service to humanity equals service of God
  • Self-discipline was key to gain knowledge of God by perception
  • Sufism believed in inner purity not in rituals, they believed in brotherhood & in one God (Did not believe in class division)
  • According to them, one must have guidance of a Pir or Guru, without whom spiritual development is impossible
  • Sufism inculcated a spirit of tolerance among its followers
  • Sufism emphasized on Meditation, Good action, Repentance of sins, Performance of prayers, Pilgrimage, Fasting, Charity & Suppression of passions by ascetic practices
  • When Sufi movement was becoming popular in India, about the same time Bhakti cult was also gaining strength among Hindus.
  • The liberal & unorthodox features of Sufism had a profound influence on medieval Bhakti Saints

Bhakti Movement

900 AD → Shankaracharya

  • Born in Kaladi, Kerala
  • Followed doctrine of advaita / monoism (Non duality & oneness of God)
  • Faced reaction against his concept of Nirgunbrahamana (or God without attributes) due to emergence of idea of Sagunabrahamana (or God with attributes)

1200 AD → Ramanuja

  • Born in Sriperumbur, Chennai
  • Advocated Prabhattimarga (or path of self-surrender) to God
  • Preached philosophy of vishishtavaida; According to which God is Sagunbrahamana
  • Taught that God is an inner substance & rest are his attributes, Hence God, Soul & matter are real
  • According to him, creative process & all objects in creation are real, not illusionary as depicted by Shankaracharya

Bhakti Movement

1300 AD → Madhava @ Kannada

  • Propagated the philosophy of Dvaita, Dualism of Jivatma & Parmatma
  • According to his philosophy, world is not an illusion but a reality & God, soul & matter are unique in nature
Nimbarka Propagated Dvaitaadvaita Preachers of Vaishnavite Bhakti in Telangana region
Vallabhacharya Propagated Shudhhaadvaita – Pushti marg
Surdas Disciple of Vallabhacharya Popularised Krishna cult in North India
Mirabai Great devotee to Krishna Popular in Rajasthan for Krishna Bhajans
Tulsidas Worshiper of Rama Composed Ramcharitmanas in Hindi
Gnandeva Founder of Bhakti movement in Maharashtra Wrote commentary of Bhagvat Gita called Gnaneswari (Maharashtra Drama)

1400 – 1500 AD → Ramananda, Kabir & Nanak

  • Great apostles of Bhakti movement Helped common people to shed old age superstitions
  • Preached salvation by Bhakti & pure devotion
  • Did not linked themselves with any particular religious creed
  • Emphasized on fundamental unity of all religions & never believed in rituals & ceremonies
  • Condemned polytheism, denounced all type of idolatry & believed in one god.
  • Believed only Bhakti as a mean to attain salvation


  • Ram worshiper, born at Allahabad & originally follower of Ramanuja
  • Later he founded his own sect & preached his disciples in Hindi at Banaras & Agra (1st time in vernacular language)
  • He strongly believed in 2 ideals, namely:
  • Simplification of Worship
  • Emancipation of people from traditional caste rule
  • He choosed his disciples from all sections of the society irrespective of any caste viz.
Kabir Muslim Weaver (His verses are compiled in Bijak by kabirpanthis)
Raidasa A cobbler
Sena A barber
Sadhana A butcher
Dhanna A Jat farmer
Naraharai A goldsmith
Pipa A Rajput Prince


  • Born near Banaras; Borned to a Brahmin family but brought up by a weaver Muslim family
  • Was familiar with both Hindu & Muslim teachings
  • Regarded devotion to God with a pure heart as effective mean to attain salvation
  • Pure heart, according to Kabir, meant free from cruelty, Dishonesty, hypocrisy & insincerity)
  • His primary object was to reconcile Hindu & Muslims and establish harmony between them
  • Emphasized oneness of all religions by describing Hindus & Muslims as Pots of same clay.
  • To him Ram & Allah, Mandir & Mosque were the same
  • Denounced idolatry & rituals (Like Pilgrimage, Bathing in holy river, Namaz & Prayers etc.
  • Laid emphasis on equality of man before God

Guru Nanak (1469)

  • Born in Talawandi near Lahore, trained in accountancy Disciple of Kabir
  • Founder of Sikh religion & was highly practical & ethical  His disciples were known as Sikhs
  • Denounced caste distinctions & rituals like Pilgrimage, Bathing in holy river, Namaz etc.
  • Emphasized on giving up selfishness, falsehood & hypocrisy and to live life with truth, Honesty & Kindness
  • He composed hymns and sang them to the accompaniment of the ‘Rabab’, a musical instrument.
  • “Abide pure amidst the impurities of the world” was one of his famous teachings.
  • Dedicated life to establish harmony b/w Hindu & Muslims


  • Born in Bengal & popularized Kirtan (or musical gatherings) of Krishna cult.
  • Though he was a Brahman he condemned the caste system and emphasized on the equality of all.
  • Renounced the world & became ascetic
  • Believed that through love & devotion, song & dance a devotee can feel the presence of God.

1600 AD (Eknath) → Opposed caste systems & formed many lyrics & Bhajans.

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