The term Bhakti refers to ‘devotion’. It means to emphasized on the mutual intense emotional attachment and devotion to god .This movement originated in South India in the 7th and 10th CE. The Bhakti Movement was derived largely from the Upanishads, the Puranas, and the Bhagavad Gita. It believed in intense personal devotion and complete self-surrender to God, and the equality of all religions. The other teachings of the Bhakti included the purity of heart and honest behavior. Shankaracharya is renowned to have been the first and principal exponent of the Bhakti movement. The credit for the evolution of various Indian languages like Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Kashmiri, and Hindi should go to the Sufi saints who used to preach their teachings in these languages.
Prominent Leaders of bhakti movement
In the 14th and 15th centuries, Ramananda, Kabir and Nanak emerged as the great proponents of the Bhakti cult. They helped the common people to shed age-old superstitions and attain salvation through Bhakti or pure devotion. Unlike the early reformers, they were not linked with any particular religious creed and were totally against rituals and ceremonies. They believed in one God and unity of all religions.
Saint Ramananda, who was born into a Brahman Family, spent the majority of his life in the holy city of Varanasi. His birth and death dates are unknown, but historical evidence suggests he was one of the early saints and a pioneering member of the Bhakti movement as it rapidly flourished in North India between the 14th and mid-15th centuries, during the Islamic rule period. Tradition holds that Saint Ramananda was motivated by the south Indian Vedanta scholar Ramanuja while developing his philosophy and devotional themes, but evidence also reveals that Saint Ramananda was influenced by Nathpanthi ascetics of the Yoga school of Hindu philosophy. He was a prominent Rama worshipper and the founder of the Bhakti movement in northern India. He was a social reformer who opened the door to Bhaktism to everybody without regard for birth, caste, creed, or gender. He wrote and discussed his teachings in Hindi, making religion more accessible to the general public.
Kabir was born in Varanasi and lived between the years 1398 and 1448, or till the year 1518 according to popular belief. He was from a community of ‘lower caste’ weavers of the Julaha caste, a group that had recently converted to Islam.
He learned the art of weaving, likely studied meditative and devotional practices under the guidance of a Hindu guru and grew to become an eminent teacher and poet-singer. Kabir’s beliefs were deeply radical, and he was known for his intense and outspoken voice which he used to attack the dominant religions and entrenched caste systems of the time. He composed his verses orally and is generally assumed to be illiterate.
There are myriad legendary accounts on the other hand, for which there exists less of a factual historical basis. However, they play a more crucial role in forming the shared identity of Kabir’s followers and their social, moral and religious values
Guru Nanak dev ji
Guru Nanak Dev played a crucial role in the Bhakti movement. Sufism and bhakti contributed to Nanak’s religious philosophy. He discarded retrograde elements selfishness, hypocrisy, falsehood and violence of Hinduism and Islam. His teachings incorporated the noblest principles of both religions. According to him, God is omnipresent and through love, devotion, purity of soul, everyone can attain god’s grace. In his opinion, in order to link oneself to eternity, one must do good and virtuous to get the eternal liberation from the bondage of the world. Moral conduct and action on moral values were his core teachings.
Through Guru Nanak, the Bhakti movement in Punjab became a vehicle of social change and it was the intensity and depth of his message, fortified and consolidated by successor Gurus that served as an edifice on which the super-structure of Sikhism was built. Guru Nanak played important role in integrating the contemporary Bhakti-Sufi tradition of spiritual quest with the socio milieu in the totality of the medieval Indian life. The essence of Nanak’s religion consists in it’s being a force and emancipating his followers from all religious and social shackles. Guru Nanak consciously projected new goals, envisaging a socio-religious order based on the concept of universal brotherhood, social justice, and humanitarian cultural vision that would engender peaceful co-existence and mutual understanding through explicit acceptance of cultural pluralism. Guru Nanak differed from other saints of the Bhakti movement on the concept of God and World. The policy of renunciation of the world or detachment with worldly responsibilities did not find place in his teachings.
Mirabai, a 16th century Indian royal, is known more through legend than verifiable historic fact. The following biography is an attempt to report those facts of Mirabai’s life which are commonly accepted.
Mirabai was known for her songs of devotion to Krishna and for forsaking traditional women’s roles to devote life to Krishna-worship. She was a Bhakti saint, poet and mystic, and also a Rani or princess. She lived from about 1498 to about 1545. Her name has also been translated as Mira Bai, Meerabai, Meera Bai, Meera, and she is sometimes given the honorific of Mirabai Devi
Mirabai’s contribution to the Bhakti movement was primarily in her music: she wrote hundreds of songs and initiated a mode of singing the songs, a raga. About 200-400 songs are accepted by scholars as being written by Mirabai; another 800-1000 have been attributed to her. Mirabai did not credit herself as the author of the songs — as an expression of selflessness — so her authorship is uncertain. The songs were preserved orally, not written down until long after their composition, which complicates the task of assigning authorship. Mirabai’s songs express her love and devotion to Krishna, almost always as Krishna’s wife. The songs speak of both the joy and the pain of love.