The seeds of the Bhakti movements are to be found in the Upanishads.

The various Sufi saints had come to settle down in India in the eleventh-twelfth centuries, the earlist and the most well known being Sheikh Muinuddin Chisti, who made Ajmer his home when Prithviraj Chauhan(III) was still ruling over there.

Bhakti and Sufi movements.

In both, the elements of intellectuality went hand in hand with that of devotion and in both ritualilsm and ceremonalism were not as important as the search of and love for one Supreme Reality.

Love and liberalism were the keynotes of the Sufi and Bhakti movements.



The early Sufi’s traced their ideas to some verses of the Quran and traditions (Hadith) of the product.

Regarding the origin of the word “Sufi”.

According to one view, the Sufi saints wore garments of coarse wool(suf) as a badge of poverty and from derived.

Generally, scholars trace its origin by the word safa.

Abu Nasral Sarraj, the author of an Arabic treatise on Sufism,declares that in his opinion the word Sufi is derived from suf(wool).

Some scholara have traced its origin to the Greek word Sophia(knowledge).

First writer to use the word Sufi is Jahiz of Basra(A.D.869).

According to Jami, the use of the word sufi was first applied to Abu Hashim of Kufa before A.D.800.

According to Aul-Kusheri this word was introduced in A.D.811.

The Sufi Thought:

They were organized into various silsilahs or religious doctrines or orders.

The concept of a relationship between God and the Soul as one between the beloved and the lover was adopted by the Sufis in India.

Pacifism and non-violence, which were imbibed by the Indian Sufi saints, are also peculiar to Christianity and Hindusim.

Some of the ascetic practices, involving the starving and torturing of the body, and ceremonies were also of Indian origin.

The Muslim mystics or the Sufis of the first two centuries of the Hejira era were ascetics, men of deep religious feelings, who laid great stress on the principles of tauba(reprentance) and tawakkul(trust in God).

These early mystics of Islam were fundamentally inspired by the Quranic conception of a transcendent God.
Sufi mysticism sprang from the doctrine of Wahadatul wujud or the unity of Being, which identified the
Haq(the creator) and khalq(the creating).

This doctrine means that God is the unity behind all plurality and the Rality behind all phenomenal appearances.

In their journey to achieve union the Absolute, they had to pass through ten stages which were: tauba (repentance), wara (abstinence), zuhd (peity), fagar (poverty),sabr (patience), shukr (gratitude), khauf (fear),raja (hope), tawakkul (contentment) and riza (submission to the divine will).

This Sufis had a two-fold object in view, namely, their own spiritual development and the service of humanity.

Union of the human soul with God, through loving devotion was the essence of the Sufi faith.

Shaikh Ainuddin Qassab(butcher), a disciple of Hazrat Hamiduddin Nagori, was a saintly man.

He sold meat in Delhi.

Sheikh Abdul Ishaq Gazroni was a weaver.

Sheikh Qasim Juzri was an agriculturist.

Some saints choose to beg in order to crush their ego.

The Sufi saints showed grea interest in learning Yoga.

The Sufis in India, particularly of the Chisti and of the Suhrawardi orders, adopted Sama and Raqs(audition and dancing)as a mode of invocation to God.

They did not sanction any kind of music.

Majlis-i-Sama, which they sanctioned, was totally different from Majlis-i-Tarab or musical entertainment.

To the Sufis music was a means to an end.

The practice of spiritual preceptorship, known as piri muridi, was also prevalent in Sufism.

Those who entered into a particular fraternity of Sufi saints were called murids(disciple).

The murid had to pledge absolute submission and devotion to his spiritual guide called pir.

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Lahore and Multan attached many well-known Sufis from other countries.

The greatest figure in the history of Sufism in India was Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti who arrived at Lahore from Ghazni in 1161 and settled down at Ajmer where hedied in 1235-36.

He was the founder of the Chisti order of Sufis in India.

To this order belonged Shaikh Fariduddin Ganj-i-Shakar(1175-1265) who is known in the Sikh tradition as Baba Farid.

His mantle fell upon Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya(1238-1325).

In the thirteenth century the Suhrawrdi order was established in India by Shaikh Bahauddin Zakriya.

The Suhrawardis thought that living in luxury and active participation in political affairs were not hindrances to spiritual progress.

During the fifteenth century two new Sufi orders-the Shuttaris and the Qadiris-were founded in India by Shaikh Abdullah Shattri and Sayyid Ghau Wala Pir,respectively.

Khanqahs or hermitages

The Sufi Orders (or Silsilas):

Chisti, Suhrawardi, Naqshbashi, etc.

Each Sufi order had a khangah or hermitage.

In the sixteenth century there were as many as fourteen Sufi orders in India, as mentioned by Abul Fazi.

Of the various orders, largely founded outside India, only two-the Suhrawardis and the Chistis-were the first to succeed in establishing themselves firmly on Indian soil.

Two sub-orders, the Firdausi and the Shuttari offshoots of the Suhrawrdi order, were active in Bihar and Bengal.

Sindh and Multan had become the centres of the spiritual activities of the saints of the suhrawardi order.

The chief centres of the Chisti silsilah, the most popular order, were Ajmer, Narnaul, Sarwal,Nagaur,Hansi,Ayodhya,Badaun and other towns of U.P.

It is one of the eternal glories of the Chisti order that it produced great spiritual luminaries like Khawaja Muiniddin Chisti, Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, Khwaja Fariduddin Masud Ganj-i-Shakar, Shaikh Nizamudin Auliya and Shaikh Nasiruddin Chiragh-i-Dehlvi, Shaikh Alaul Haq, Shaikh Adhi Seraj and Nur Qutb Alam of pandua,Saikh Husamuddin Manikpuri, Burhamuddin Gharib and Hazrat Gesu Daraz of the Deccan.

The saints of the Chisti order regarded money as a carrion.

They subsisted on futuh and nazur(unasked for money and presents).
Very often they had to strave.

Once, when the wife of Baba Farid reported that their son was about to die of starvation, he replied that he was helpless.

God has so decreed and he was dying.

Baba Farid wore worn out and patched gaments.

When he died, there was nothing in this house for the purchase of his coffin and the door of his house was demolished to provide unbacked bricks for his grave.

In the sixteenth century the most notable Chisti saint was Shaikh Salim Chisti of Fetehpur Sikri who was a contemporary of Akbur, and the emeror greatly venerated him.

Although Abul-Fazi in Ain-i-Abbai mentions 14 Sufi silsilas as active in India by the 16th century, the fact remains that in terms of their following and better-organisation, only six silsils should by recognized as active and influential.

Of these, the Chistiyay, founded in India by Khawaja Muin-ud-din Chisti(popularly known as Khwaja Ajmeri)(though begun by Khwaja Abdul Chisti-d.966-in Iran)attracted the largest of devotees, both Muslims and Hindus.

Prominent Sufi Salnts:

The only other silsila active in the Sultante period (1206-1526) was the Suhrawadia, with tis headquater in Multan and later extending to Sindh.

Established in India by Sheikh Bahuddin Zakaria(d. 1192).

Then came the Firdausi silsila, mainly restriced to Bihar, that was founded by Shaikh Badruddin Samarkhandi and was spread by the prolific writer of mystic literature Shaikh Sharfuddin Yahya Muniri around the 13th century, followed by the Qadiriya and the Shuttarria silsila in the middle of the 15th century.

Yet he had a great foundness for Amir Khusrau, the mysticaly inclined aristocrat and a versatile genius, who used to spend his days with the Sultans and nights of devotion at th Khanqah of Nizamuddin Aulia.

It is in his poems and orders, sung over the centuries by the quwwals (religioys singers), that Saint Nizamuddin figures prominently.

Shaikh Nizamuddin’s popula title, Mahboob-i-Illahi(the beloved of the God).

His tomb in Delhi, built by Sultan Muhammaud-bin-Tughlak,(despite the Saints wish: “I want no monument over my grave; lat me rest in broad and open plain”)

Shaikh Nizamuddin Aulis’s successors spread throughout the counry, one to Hansi, another to Gulbarga, a third in Bengal, and two remained in Delhi, of whom Shaikh Nasiruddin Muhamud(d.1356), who was later known as Chirag-i-Delhi(the lamp of Delhi) was a charismatic saint, whose 100’conversaion’(as reported in Khairul Majalis) reflected melanocholy at the stat of affairs in social and economic life, caused by political upheavals, bad administration, price rise and general anarchy.

With the death of Chirag-i-Delhi, the first phase of Chisti silsil ends.

One of his successor was syed Muhammad Gesu Daraz (d.1421) who want to Gulbarga in Karnatka at the time, when the great Bahmani Sultanate(1347-1484) was established in 1346.

Syed Gesu Daraz was a prolific writer of over thirty books on Tasawwuf (mysticism).

Title of Bandanawaz(benefactor of God’s creatures).

He was one of the early poets and writers in the Urdu language- a new language that had grown as a synthesis of Persian, Turkish and Arabic on the one hand and of the Indian dialects Khari Boli Braj and Punjabi on the other, with its base in Sankrit syntax and etymology drawn from many sources.

His one of the famous couplets I “infidenlity is welcome to the infidels and Islam to the Shaikh.

But to us lovers, love and the content ad harmony of our hearts is enough.

The Qadriya silsila was established in India by Shaha Nayamatullah Qadiri, and the Shattaria silsila by shsh Abdullah Shuttari(d.1458).

The former spread in Uttar Pradesh: and the Deccan, while the latter spread mainly in Madhya Predesh and Gujarat regions.

In the reign of Akbur(1556-1603) the last of six major silsilas, the naqshbandish was established by Khwaja Baqi Billah(1563-1603) and its most famous saint was Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi(d.1625)known as Mujeddid Alif Saani(The Reformer of the 10th century).

Prince Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan, became the follower of the Qadiri order and visited Main Mir(1550-1635) at Lahore.

When Mian Mir died, Dara became a disciple of his successor named Mullah Shah Badakhshi.
Shaikh Ahmed Sarhindim a contemporary of Akbar and Jahangir, was a great Sufi saint of the Naqshbandi order.

He attacked the mystic philosophy of the Unity of Being (wahadat-ul-wujad)and rejected it.

In its place he expounded the philosophy of Apparentism(wahadat-ul-shud).

He said that the relationship between man and God is that of a slave and the master, and not that of a lover and the beloved, as the Sufis generally believed.

Sheikh Ahmad’s object was to harmonise the doctrine of mysticism with the teachings of orthodox Islam, and that is why he is known as Mujddid, i.e.the renovator and reformer of Islam.

Medieval Indian traditions remember Prince Dara Shikoh not so much as a Mughal Prince, but as a mysti c philosopher.

In his Persian work, Mujmaul Bahrain, there are interesting discussions on the Sufi and Hindu cosmologies.

One of his great devotees was Sarmad, who was executed during the reign of Aurangzeb for the liberality of his religious views.

In the 17th Century Sufism shattered the chains of sectarian beliefs and preached the unity of mankind.

Such Sufi saints were known as neo-sufis.

One of fourished about A.D.1668-1725, was free from all with the dust of the guru’s feet as with collyrium.

His poems, in which the name of Allah is mentioned along with that of Rama and Hari, are full of abstruse metaphysical truths.

He saya, “This creation in a painting of th Creator on the canvas of void with the brush of love.

He who has not experienced this joy through love will never know it through reasoning Men and women are, as bubbles in the ocean of divine love’.

Sufi Saints of Sindh:

Sindh was also a great Centre of neo-Sufism.

Any account of the mystics of Sind must begin with Shah Karim, who lived about A.D.1600.

He received his first religious inspiration from a Vaishnava saint near Ahmedabad, who initiated him into the mysteries of Om.

This symbol served as a beacon-light to him.

Shsh Inayat, a universally respected figure.

When the Hindus of Sind, under the oppression of the Kalhora kings,were fleeing in numbers to save their life and faith, it was he who sheltered many such fugitive families in his own hermitage.

His faith, that God is not the property of any particular sect finally led to his execution.

Shah Latif who holds the highest place among the mystics of Sindh.

The songs of the Sufi mystic poets Bedil and Beaks are still widely sung by Sindhi men and women.

The real name of Bekas was Mohammed Husain.

He died at the age of twenty-two.

The poets Rohal and Qutub also belong to the same fraternity, and have left behind them songs, that are as sweet as they are profound.

Bulle Shah:

Born in A.D.1703, in a Sayyid family in the city of Constantiople(Istanbul), and at a very young age he walked all the way to Punjab hankering for spiritual truth.

Settled down to a life of meditation and worship at Kasur.

He was a fierce critic of the Quran and all other scriptures, and neither the Hindu nor the Muslim theologians could excel him in debates.

He was buried also at Kasur.

Bulle Shah says: ‘You will find God neither in the mosque nor in the Ka’aba, neither in the Quran and other holy books nor in formal prayers.

Bulla, you will not find salvation either in Mecca or in the Ganga; ‘you will find it only when you lay down your ego’.
‘I found the highest peace and joy when Idiscovered Allah within my own heart; through death I have reached the life eternal; I am ever journeying forward’.

‘O Bulla, intoicate theyself with the wine of divine love.

Men will slander you and call you by a hundred names; when they abuse you with the name ok Kafir,say,
“yes,friend, you are right”.

The Hindu Impact on Sufism:

According to Alberuni, the Sufi theorie of the soul are similar to those in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.

Alberuni also identifies the Sufi doctrine of divine lovers as self-annihilation with parallel passages from the Bhagavad Gita.

By the thirteenth century, the Indian Sufis were confronted with the Kanphata(split-earned)yogis or the North followers of Gorakhnath.

Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya’s description of his conversation with the yogis shows that he was impressed with their theory of division of the human body into regions of Siva and Sakti.

The area from the head to the navel, associated with Siva, was spiritual; the area below the naval, associated with Sakti, was profane.

The Hatha yogic treatise Amritakunda,which had been translted into Arabic and Persian in the thirteenth century, had a lasting effect on Sufism.

Sheikh Nasiruddin Chiragh-i-Dehivi observed that controlled breathing is the essence of Sufism.

Yogic postures and breath control became an integral part of Chistiya Sufic practice, and controlled breathing was incorporated finally as a vital aspect in all Sufi orders except the Indian Naqshandiyyas.

The Sufi theory of wahadat-ul-wujud and Sufi analogies for it were remarkably similar to those of the yogis.

Sheikh Humiduddin Nagori’s Hindi versed reflect that yogic influence.

The Nath doctrines had afar-reaching influence on the Chishtiya Sheikh Abdul Quddus Gangohi(d.1537).

His Hindi nom de plume was Alakh (imperceptible).

His Rushadnama contains Hindi verses.

The Imperceptible Lord(Alakh Niranjana).

The Shaikh identifies Alakh Niranjana with God(Khuda).

Reference to the yogi saint Gorakhnath in the Rushadnama equate him with Ultimate Rality of Absolute Truth.

Some reference to those names imply ‘perfect man’ or ‘perferct siddha’.

The union of Sakti-the sun-and siva-themoon-is, according to the Shaikh, symbolished by prayers performed hanging upside down with the legs suspended from a roof or the branch of a tree.

The cross-fertilisation of Sufi beliefs with those expressed by the Kashmiri Shaivite woman yogi Lalla or Lal Ded(Lall Yogesveri)is reflected in the Rishi movement of Shaikh Nuruddin Rishi(d.1439)of Kashmir.
Nuruddin and his disciples preferred to call themselves rishis.

Their main theme was universal love.

Sheikh Nuruddin believed that, although eating meat was permitted by the shariat,it entailed to animals, and he became a vegetarian.

The Nath ideas found great popularity in fifteenth-century Bengal.

The Amritakunda, a text on Hatha yoga, was first translated into Arabic in Bengal in the early thirteenth century.

Sayyid Murtaza (d. 1662) later wrote the Yoga-Qulandar, identifying the Qalandriyya discipline of Abu Ali Qalndar with yoga practices.

Sayyid Sultan (d.1668) of Chittagong also composed a number of Bengali works on Muslim themes of union with God, with Hindus and yogic overtones.

The Hinquiq-i-Hindi by Abul Wahid(d. 1608)of Bilgram (near Lucknow)was intended to crush orthodox opposition to the use of Vaishnavit themes in Hindi poetry recited by the Chistiyya Sufis to arose ecstasy.

To Gesu Daraz, Hindu poetry was more subtle and elegant and transported the Sufis to higher planes of mystical ecstasy than Persian verses did.

The sixteenth century saw a tremendous increase in the volume of Hindi poetry.

Mir Abul Wahid sought to justify this practice by giving Islamic equivalents for features of th Krishna legend such as Krishna, Radha, Gopi, Braj, Gokul, Yamuna, Ganga, Mathura, and the flute in his Haqaiq-i-Hidi.

The translation of Sanskrit works into Persian at Akbar’s court had made Muslims aware of the Vedant school of Hindu philosophy.

Jahangir identified the highest forms of Sufism with Vedanta.

The Sufi made immense contribution on to the development of Hindi and provinicial languages including Bengali, Punjab, Kashmiri, etc..

Badauni tells us that Makhdum Shaikh Taqiuddin Waiz Rabbani used to read occasionally verse from Chandian of Mulla Daud relating to the love of Lorik and Chanda.

Mallik Muhammad Jayasi mentioned Hindu gods and goddesses and has shown his familiarity with Vedanta, Yoga and Nath cults.

The Muslim author of the Mrigavati and Madhumalti,of Manasat, and other Hindi poems had already paved the way for Jayasi.

The Sufi poet Qutban not only wrote in the language of the people of th locality, but was also fully conversant with Hindu mythology.


The Bhakti movement is much older than the Sufi movements.

It philosophical concept had been fully enunciated in the Upanishads.

In the sixth century A.D.. the Bhagavata purana placed the concept of bhakti on a very high pedestal.

During the post-Bhagavata phase passionate love and devotion to one personal God became a charteristic feature of the Indian religious thoughts.

But the concept of bhakti was placed on a firmer ground in South India, when Shankaracharya revived the philosophy of Advaita or Vedanta.

After Shankara, twelve Tamil Vaishva saints collectively known as Alvars made the concept of bhakti more popular.

The Alvars were followed by the Vaishnava acharyas who gave the Bhakti cult a metaphysical foundation.

According to this school of thought the ‘Supreme Beling’ is not ‘attributeless’ but saguna, possessing qualities of goodness and beauty to an infinite degree.

The early leaders of the Bhakti movement were mostly from India- the earlist being Ramanuja whose disciple Ramananda carried the Bhakti movement to North India.

Features of Bhakti movement:

The concept of bhakti means single-minded devotion to one God.

The object of the devote’s adoration is to secure the grace of God for the sake of salvation.

The Bhakti movement was essentially monotheistic and the devotees worshipped one personl God, who could either have from (saguna) or be formless (nirguna).

The followers of the former, known as Vaishnavas, were futher subdivided into Krishnamargis Ramamargis, who regarded Ram or Krishna-both incarnations of Vishnu-as their personal God, respectively.

The followers of Nirguna Bhakti discarded idol worship.

One of the philosophical side, the Saguna and Nirguna both believed in the Upanishdic philosophy of advaita, with minor variations suggested by various Bhakti saints.

The Bhakti saints of North as well as South India regarded knowledge(jnana)as a constituent of Bhakti.

Bhakti movement greatly emphasized securing true knowledge from a guru.

The Bhakti saints preached in the simple language of the masses and , therefore, immensely contributed to the development of modern Indian languages, such as Hindi, Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati.

The Bhakti movement had two main objects in view.

One was to reform the Hindu religion so as to enable it to withstand the onslaught of Islamic propaganda and proselytism.

Its second object was to bring about a compromise between Hinduism and Islam and to foster friendly relations between Hindu and Muslim communities.

Bhakti Saints and Reformers:

The cult of bhakti was followed by a host saints of northern India.

The moving spirit were Ramananda, Kabir, Nanak, Chaitanya and others.

The Bhakti movement associated with the southern group was more scholastic than popular, which was not the case with the northern group.

The bhaktas of the latter group did not ponder over the subtle questions of metaphysics.

They were essentially ecletic, broad-minded and latitudinarian in their views and outlook.

Ramanuja (twelfth century):

The earliest exponent of the Bhakti movement was the great Vaishnava teacher Ramanuja who flourished in the early years fo the twelfth century in the South.

The next leader of th Bhakti movement was Nimarbaka, a contemporary of Ramanuja.

He believed in the philosophy of Vishistadvaita and laid emphasis on surrender to God.

Ramananda(fifteenth century):

First great Bhakti saint of North India.

He opened the door of bhakti to all

Worshipper of Rama and believed in two great principles, namely, (a)perfect love for God and(b)human brotherhood.

Ramananda adopted Hindi as the medium of his discourse.

In his teachings the caste rigours were greatly softened and even Shudras were considered equal in the eyes or God.

His unique contribution to India spiritual life was the spirit of synthesis observed in his teaching.

He accepted all that was true and of permanent value in our spiritual heritage- the philosophy of meditation (yoga and knowledge from the North and the absolute surrender(prapatti) of the Bhakti cult from the or rigidly sectarian.

There is a popular verse to this Ramananda brought it to the North; and Kabir spread it to the seven continents and nine divisions of the world.

His one song is incorporated in the Granth Sahib.
He also gave up the use of Sanskrit and started preaching in the language of the people, thus laying the foundation of modern vernacular literatures.

It is said that his firat twelve followers were:

Ravidasa the cobbler, Kabir the weaver, Dhanna the Jat peasant, Sena the barber, Pipa the Rajput, Bhavananda, Sukhada, Asananda, Surasurananda, Parmananda, Mahananda, and Sri Ananda.

But some of them were not personally initiated by him: they were drawn to his ideas long after his demise.


One of the most famous disciples of Ramananda.

He was a cobbler by birth

There are over thirty hymns of Ravidasa collected in the Granth Sahib of the Sikhs.


The most radical disciple of Ramananda

Kabir was neither a theologian nor a philosopher.

“Kabir refused to acknowledge caste distinction or to recongnise the authority of the six schools of Hindu philosophy, or the fourdivisions of life prescribed by the Brahmans.

He held that religion without bhakti was no religion at all, and that asceticism, fasting and alms-giving had no value if unaccompanied by bhajan(devotional worship)”.

By means of ramaini,sakhas and sakhis he imparted religious instruction to Hindus and Muslima alike.

Kabir was a great satirist

He opposed the popular belief in the institution of sati.

He was equally against the veiling of women.

He advocated perfect equality of Shudras and Brahmis.

Though he led religious life, Kabir married, and it is said that the name of his wife was Loi.

His son Kamal was both a thinker and a devotee.

After Kabir’s death, his Muslim disciples organized themselves in Maghar, where they founded a monastery; his Hindu disciples were organized into an order by Surat Gopal, with their sect is the well-known Bijak a
compilation of Kabir’s couplets.

He himself wove and sold it in the market like any ordinary weaver.


One of the many followers of Kabir,

Born in the District of Allahabad.

He was kind and compassionate, and, though a religious man, he lived the life of a householder.

The monasteries of his sect are found all over North India and even beyond, from Bihar to Kabul.

He too preached against the worship of images.

His followes rely entirely on the grace of God for their salvation.

He was against mortification of the flesh.


Most famous of the followers of Kabir’s ideals was Dadu.

He was born of Brahmana parents in Ahemadabad in A.D. 1544 and died in 1603 in the village of Narana or
Narayana in Rajasthan, where his followers(Dadu-panthis)have now their chief centre.

He founded the Brahma-sampradaya or Parabrahma-sampradaya to give effect to this great ideal.

Dadu taught:

The path of realization becomes easier, if you can find a true teacher.

At the request of Dadu, his disciples made a collection of thedevotional writings of all thedifferent sects, caluculated to help men in their striving towards God.

Such an anthology of the religious literature of different sects was perhaps the first of its kind in the world, for the Granth Sahib was first compiled in A.D.1604, while this anthology was completed some years before A.D.1600.

This collection includes many sayings of Muslim saints like KaziKadam,Shaikh Farid, Kazi Mohammed Shaikh Bahawad, and Bakhna.

Among the many disciples of Dadu,Sundaradasa (A.D. 1597-1689), Rajjab, and others were distinguished personalities.

He also made it a practice among them to write in Hindi, prose and verse.

Even today, in Rajjab’s branch of Dadu’s sect, any one who attains to the height of spiritual realization is accepted as the head of the order, whether he be a Hindu or a Muslim.

The songs and prayers of Rajjab are universal in appeal and superb for their spirit of devotion.
Rajjab saya:

This universe is the Veda, the creation is the Qur’an’.

Guru Nanak(1469-1538):

Hindu and Muslim nomenclatures for God, Rama, Govinda; Hari, Murari, Rab and Rahim.

He wanted to demolish the wall that stood in the way of the two communities and unite them.

He says “God knows man’s virtues and inquires not his caste; in the next world there is no caste”.

Guru Nanak started free community kitchens called Guru ka langar.

His followers, irrespective of their caste, were persuaded to eat together.

Guru Nanak did not believe in the doctrine of chhut(theological contamination) which had compartmentalized

He conceived of God as Nirakara(foumless).

Unlike Kabhir, Nanak was a well-educated man.

He had studied Persian and Hindi,besides him mother tongue Punjabi.

He travelled all over India and also to some countries of Central Asia including Arabia.

He wrote inspiring poems and songs which were collected in a book form subsequently published as the Adi Grantha.

He was recognized as a Guru, and died at Kartarpur in 1538.

Nanak was a revolutionary religious reformer.

Guru Nanak was a monist and his monotherism, unlike that of some other bhaktas, was undiluted.

He did not believe in the incarnation of God.

He regarded himself as the prophet of God who had come from the divine Court.

He taught that there is one God in the world and no other and that Nanak, the caliph(son)of God, speaks truth.

Remembrance of god is the primary duty of a seeker of truth remember the name of God and give up everything else.

Simran is the practice of devotion to God.

He (God) is high and worthy of worship.

Nanak’s mission was to reform the Hindus religion on the basis of unity of the Godhead and to bring about friendly relations between the Hindus and Muslims.


Greatest saint

Founder of modern Vaishnavism in Bengal gave a great impetus to Vaishwambhar and made it popular all over Bengal and Orissa.
Chaitanya’s original name was Vishwambhar and he was born at Navadwip in February 1486.

The boy was given the name of Nimai.

His father Jagannath Mishra was a religious and scholarly man and his mother Shachi too was deeply religious and pious.

Vishwambhar was sent to a private school to learn and afterwards entrusted to a well-known Pandit, Ganga Das, for higher studies.

Mastered the Sanskrit language and literature, grammer and logic, at the early age of fifteen.

Shortly after he completed his education, he was given the title of Vidyasagar(the ocean; of learning).

He was married to a girl named Lakhmi but she died of snake-bite.

He married again and this lady survived her husband’s sanyas and death.

He was not yet 22 when he received diksha(initation)from a saintly man, named Ishwar Puri, whom he met at Gaya during a pilgrimage.

Chaitanya a settled permanently at Puri where he died.

Ishall wander from house to house giving the holy name of God to all.

The Chandals, lowest caste, women and children all will stand with wonder and love to hear name.
Boys and girs will sing his praise.

He preached the religion of intense faith in one Supreme Being whom he called Krishna or Hari.

He was a great exponent of Krishnite form of Vaishnavism.

He adored Krishna and Radha and attempted to spiritualise their lives in Varindaban.
Chaitanaya accepted that Krishna alone is the most perfect God.

Although Chaitanya had many followers, he did not seem to have directly organized them into a sect or cult.

It was his followers and devoted disciples, who after the maste’s death, systematized his teachings and organized themselves into a sect called Gaudiya Vaisnavsim.


She was the only child of Ratna Singh Rathor of Merta.

She was born at the village of Kudvi in Merta district in or about A.D. 1498and was married to Rana Sanga’s eldest son heir-apparent Bhoraj in 1516.

Like her father and grandfather, was a followed of the Krishna cult of Vaishnavism.

Owing to the strained raltions with the rulers of Mewar, she went to reside with her uncle Biram Deva who was
the Chief of Merta.

She spend years at Merta; but when that city was invaded and captured by Mal deva of Jodhpur, she decided to undertake pilgrimage to Dwarka.

There she lived the life of a devoted and died in 1546.

Mira is said to have composed numerous poems.

They are written in Brijbhasha and party in Rajasthani, and some of her verses are in Gujarati.


Next great saint of the Krishna cult of Vaishnavism.

He was born at Varanasi in 1479.

His father Lakshman Bhatt from Telengana was on a pilgrimage along with his family to Kashi, where his second son Vallabhacharya saw the light of day.

He travelled much and he took his residence in Varindaban where he started preaching the Krishna cult.

He worshipped Lord Krishna under the title of Srinathji.

Like Kabir and Nanak, he did not consider married life a hindrance to spiritual progress.

He wa the author of a number of scholarly works in Sanskrit and Brijbhasha.

Vallabhachary’s philosophy centres round the conception of one personal and loving God.
He believed in the marga(path)of pushti(grace)and bhakti(devotion).

He looked upon Sri Krishna as the higest Brahma, purushotama and parmanand(the highest bliss).

In the expression of pushtimargam,the word marga means path or way and the word pushti means grace of God.

Mukti or salvation can be attained by it and in no other way.

Devotion or bhakti must be without any object in view and without any desire of fruit.

Surdas(sixteenth-seventeenth century):

Surdas and Tulsidas.

Both were saints of a high order.

We have not much information about the principal events of Surdas’s life, not even the dates of his birth and death.

Surdas was the devotee of Lord Krishna and Radha.

He believed that salvation can be achieved only through the devotion of Krishna who is Saguna God.

Three of his works are very popular.

They are sur sarawli, Sahitya Ratna and Sur Sagar.

The Sur Sagar, which is said to cotain 1,25,000 verses, is not only saturated with love and devotion,but is also notable for depicting Krishna as a child.

Surdas had displayed a masterly knowledge of child psychology and also expressed his sincere devotion to the Almghty.


He was born in a Saryuparian Brahmin family in or about 1532 in Varanasi.

His father’s name was Atma Ram Dubey and his mother was Hulsi.

On account of his wife Ratnavali’s taunt, he took to the life of a religious hermit.

It is presumed that he began writing hs Ram Charit Manas in 1574, when he was 42 years of age.

Besides this, he wrote several other books, such as Gitawali, Kavitawali, Vinay Patrika,etc.

The Ram Charit Manas is an exposition of religious devotion of th highest category.
Tulsidas died at the age of 91, in 1623.

Minor Sects and Saints


Greatest religious reformer of medieval Assam.

His message centred around absolute devotion to Vishnu or his incarnation Krishna.

Its essence was monotheism, and it came to be knowne as Eka-Sarana-dharma (religion of seeking refuge in one).

He did not recognize a female associtate of the supreme Deity(Lakshmi, Radha, Sita, etc.).

He insisted upon Niskama Bhakti.

He recognized the sanctity of the Bhagavata Purana.

A copy of it was placed on the altar-like the Grantha Sahib in the Sikh Guradwaras.

His creed, generally known as Mahapurshiya dharma, exercised widespread and far-reaching influence on all aspects of life in Assam.

Narsi(Narsimha)Mehta(Fifteenth Century):

A well-known saint of Gujarat.

He wrote songs in Gujarati depicting the love of Radha and Krishna, which are included in the Suratasangrama.

He was the author of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite Bhajan Vishnava Jana To Teno Kahiye.
Jagjivan(seventeenth Century):

Founder of a set known as Satnami(of Satyanami).

He taught that spiritual realization was possible only through the grace of God, and he insisted on purity as the essence of a religious life.

His aspiration was to unite the two streams of Hindu and Muslim religious life through love.

There were some other sects known by the same name of Satnami, both before and after Jegjivan’s time.

One of these was founded by Ghasidasa of the Cobbler caste.

The followers of this faith do not touch animal food or wine, do not believe in imageworship and though considered ‘untouchables’, do not acknowledge the superiotiry of th Brahamana and other castes,

Lalgir or Lalbeg(Seventeenth Century):

Another religious man of the same caste was Lalgir or Lalbeg, who founded a sect known as Alakhnami or Alakhgir, which has a great following in Bikaner.

The followers of this sect do not worship images, but mediate upon the invisible;

One who cannot be perceived by the senses.

They great each other with the words ‘Alakh Kaho’(take the name of God who is invisible).

They are not sorry that they ars debarred from entering the temples, for they regard these as low places, where one is diverted from the truth.

Dariya Saheb (Seventeenth Century):

He belonged to a well- known Kshatriya family of Ujjain.

Deeply influenced in his religious life by the teachigs of Kabir.

His followers pray like the Muslims in a standing posture called Kornis,while their prayers in the sitting posture are known as sizda.

There was another Dariya Saheb who was born in A.D.1676 in Marwar, in a Muslim family of cottontraders.

On account of a strong similarity of Kabir’s and Dabu’s teachings, he is beliebed by some to be an incarnation of Dadu.

He has many followers in Rajasthan

He worshipped God section entitled Brahma-parichaya in his collected.

Poems deals with the mysteries of yoga.

His sect includes both householders and ascetics among its member, and his songs are very popular with both Hindus and Muslims.

Shivanarayana(Early 18th Century):

Born in a Rajput family in the Ballia District of Uttar Pradesh about A.D.1710.

He was a pure monist, and was completely against image-worship.

One of sigle-minded devotion, purity of life, self-restraint, and love for humanity.

Shivanarayana was inspired by the ideas of Dara Shikoh.

It is said that the later Mughal Emperor Mohammed Shah(A.D.1719-48)was converted to his faith, and the poets Wali Allah, Albru, and Nazi also has a deep reverence for his spiritual and teachings.

The Bhakti Movement in Maharshtra(Maharashtra Dharma)

The Bhakti cult in Maharashtra centred around the shrine of Vithoba or Vitthal the presiding diety of Pandharpur.

Who was regarded as a manifestation of Krishna.

This movement is also known as the Paddharpur movement.

The Pandharpur movement led to the development of Marathi literature, modification of caste exclusiveness, sanctifiacation of family life, elevation of the status of women, spread of the spirit of humaneness and toleration, subordination of ritual to love and faith, and limitation of the excesses of polytheism.

The Bhakti movement in Maharashtra is broadly divided into two sects.

The first school of mystics is known as Varakaris,or the mild devotees of God Viththala of Pandharpur, and the second as Dharakaris,the devotee of God Rama.

The three great teachers of the Vithoba cult were Jnaneswar Jnandeva or, Namdeve and Tukaram.

Nivrttinatha and Jnaneswar are the founders of the mystical school in Maharashtra, which later developed and assumed different forms at the hands of Namadeva, Ekanatha and Tukarama.

Bhakti Saints of Maharashtra:

Jnaneswar or Jnanadeva:

One of the earlist Bhakti Saints of Maharashtra Jnaneswar flourished in the 13th century.

He wrote the Marathi commentary on the Gita known as Jnaneswari.

His other works are Amratanubhava and Changadeva Prasasti.


Was born in a tailo’s family.
A great saint and a gifted poet.

He was suddenly converted to the spititual life, when he heard the piteous criesand curses of the helpless wife of one of his victims.

He passed the major part of his life at Pandharpur, and was mainly responsible for building up the gloriouys tradition of the school of thought knownas Varakari-sampradaya.

He was intiated into mystic life by Visoba Khechara, who convinced Namadeva of the all-pervading nature of God.

He travelled with his younger contemporary, Jnaneswar.

Some of his lyrical versas are included in the Granth Sahib.

He wrote a number of abhangas to show people the path to God through repetition of His name.


Born at Paithan(Aurangabad).

He poured the holy waters of the Godavari (brought from a long distance at the risk of life for the worship of the Lord)into the throat of an ass that was dying of thirst.

He published for the first time a reliable edition of the Jnaneswari.

Commentary on four verses of the Bhagavata.

It was his custom to sing kirtana(devotional composition)every day, and he observed it to the last day of his life.

He popularized the Vedanta philosophy and the mystic teachings of earlier saints.

He passed away in A.D.1598.


Born in the family of a farmer.

He had some cattle and landed property, but lost them all in a great famine, together with his parents, one of his two wives, and a son.

He became a bankrupt and got disgusted with his life.

His other wife was a shrew, who abused his companion-devotees

Troubled both at home and outside, Tukarama took to the study of th works of Jnaneswar, Namadeve, and Ekanatha, and began to meditate on God in solitary place on the hills of Bhamhanatha and Bhandara.

He was a contemporary of Shivaji and refused to accept the offer of rich presents made by him.

Born in 1608.

He wandered throughout India for twelve years an finally settled at Chphal on the banks of the Krishna where he built a temple.

He was the spiritual guide of Shivaji.

In his monumental work, Dasabondha, be combines his vast knowledge of various sciences and arts with the synthesizing principla of spiritual life.

The greatest contribution of the Bhakti movement in Maharashtra was in uniting the people of Mahrashtra into a nation, which greatly helped in the rise of the Maratha movement under Shivaji.

The Mahanubhava Panth:

All their holy works were

Written in symbolic script, a key to decipher which was supplied for the first time by V.K Rajavade.
Govinda Prabhu, agreat mystic, was the founder of this cult, and Cahkradhara its first apposite.

Nagadeva organized the cult on a systematic basis.

Bhaskara, Kesavaraja Suri, Damodara Pandita,Visvantha, and Narayana pandita were, amongst others, the most learned and important followers of the cult.

Of the women followers, Mahadamba was an advanced mystic and a poetess of no mean order.

The Mahanaubhavas were, in reality, the followers of the Bhagavata cult.

They regarded the Gita, the Bhagavata,and the Sutrapatha(a collection of aphorisms of Chakradhra) as thestandard and classical religious works.

Sri Krishna and Dattatreya were their prominent deities.

Devotion to Krishna is, in thir opinion, the only way to the realization of God.

This was, therefore, primarily a cult of Sri Krishna.

But later they accepted Dattatreya-a trinity in unity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, representing the principles of creation, sustenance, and dissolution of the universe,with emphasis on Vishnu, or Vishnu as Krishna.

Thus the Mahanubhava cult seems to combine the cult of Krishna, represented by the Nathas of Maharshtra, with that of Dattatreya, represented by Narasimha Sarasvti and Janardana Svamin.


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