JAC Board Class 7 Social Science Notes History Chapter 8 Devotional Paths to the Divine
→ From the eighth century, various kinds of Bhakti and Sufi movements have evolved.
→ The Idea of a Supreme God
- There was a belief that social privileges came from birth in a ‘noble’ family or a ‘high’ caste was the subject of many learned texts.
- Most of the people were not comfortable with such ideas and turned to the teachings of the Buddha or the Jainas.
- Rest of others felt attracted to the idea of a Supreme God who could deliver humans from such bondage if approached with full devotion or bhakti. This idea was advocated in the Bhagavadgita, which grew in popularity in the early centuries of the Common Era.
- Hence, Shiva, Vishnu and Durga were worshipped as supreme deities which came through elaborate rituals.
- The Puranas also laid down the fact that it was possible for devotees to receive the grace of God regardless of their caste status.
- The idea of bhakti became so popular that even Buddhists and Jainas adopted these beliefs.
→ A New Kind of Bhakti in South India – Nayanars and Alvars
- From the seventh to ninth centuries, they saw the emergence of new religious movements
led by the Nayanars (those were the saints devoted to Shiva) and Alvars (those were the saints devoted to Vishnu) who came from all castes including those considered as ‘untouchable’ such as the Pulaiyar and the Panars.
- They strongly criticized the Buddhists and Jainas and preached avid love of Shiva or Vishnu as the path to salvation.
- In the Sangam literature, the ideals of love and heroism are found. It is the earliest example of Tamil literature, composed during the early centuries of the Common Era and blended them with the values of bhakti.
- In between the tenth and twelfth centuries, the Chola and Pandya-kings built elaborate temples. This was also the time when their poems were compiled. Apart from this, hagiographies or religious biographies of the Alvars and Nayanars were also composed.
→ Philosophy and Bhakti
- In the eighth century, Shankara, one of the most influential philosophers of India, was born in Kerala and was an advocate of Advaita or the doctrine of the oneness of the individual soul and the Supreme God which is the Ultimate Reality. He preached renunciation of the world and adoption of the path of knowledge to understand the actual nature of Brahman and attain salvation.
- In the eleventh century, Ramanuja was born in Tamil Nadu and deeply influenced by the Alvars. According to him, through intense devotion to Vishnu one can attain the salvation. He introduced the doctrine of Vishishtadvaita or qualified oneness in that the soul even when united with the Supreme God remained distinct.
→ Basavanna’s Virashaivism:
- In the mid-twelfth century, the Virashaiva movement was initiated by Basavanna and his companions like Allama Prabhu and Akkamahadevi. This movement began in Karnataka.
- They were strongly supportive for the equality of all human beings and against Brahmanical ideas about caste and the treatment of women and also against all forms of ritual and idol worship.
→ The Saints of Maharashtra
- From the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries, Maharashtra saw many saint-poets. The most important amongst them were Dnyaneshwar (Gyaneshwar), Namdev, Eknath and Tukaram as well as women like Sakkubai and the family of Chokhamela, who belonged to the ‘untouchable’ Mahar caste.
- These saint-poets rejected all forms of rituals. In fact, they even rejected the idea of renunciation and preferred to live with their families and earning their livelihood like any other person.
- As the famous Gujarati saint Narsi Mehta said, “They are Vaishnavas who understand the pain of others.”
- Hence, a new humanist idea emerged as they insisted that bhakti lay in sharing others’ pain.
- Nathpanthis, Siddhas and Yogis
- The Nathpanthis, Siddhacharas and Yogis were from the religious groups that emerged
during this period and criticised the ritual and other aspects of conventional religion and the social order. They advocated renunciation of the world. For them meditation was the path to salvation.
- They advocated intense training of the mind and body through practices likeyogasanas, breathing exercises and meditation. These groups became popular among the Tow’ castes.
→ Islam and Sufism:
- Sufis rejected outward religiosity and emphasized on love and devotion to God and they were Muslim mystics.
- Islam generated strict monotheism or submission to one God. It also rejected idol worship.
- Shariat was a holy law developed by Muslim scholars. The Sufis often rejected the elaborate rituals and codes of behaviour demanded by Muslim religious scholars.
- The Sufis too like saint poets composed poems expressing their feelings and a rich literature in prose, including anecdotes and fables, developed around them.
- The great Sufis of Central Asia were Ghazzali, Rumi and Sadi.
- They developed a detailed method of training using zikr means chanting of a name or sacred formula, contemplation, sama means singing, raqs means dancing, discussion of parables, breath control, etc., under the guidance of a master or pir. Thus, they emerged the silsilas means a genealogy of Sufi teachers, each following a slightly different method (tariqa) of instruction and ritual practice.
- The most influential orders were the Chishti silsila among them. Many teachers were there such as Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki of Delhi, Baba Farid of Punjab, Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi and Bandanawa Gisudaraz of Gulbarga.
- The assemblies of the Sufi masters held in their khanqahs or hospices.
- The tomb or dargah of a Sufi saint became a place of pilgrimage to which thousands of people of all faiths thronged and worshipped.
→ New Religious Developments in North India
- In north India, after the thirteenth century, there was a new swing in the bhakti movement. This was the period when Islam, Brahmanical Hinduism, Sufism, various strands of bhakti, and the Nathpanths, Siddhas and Yogis influenced and transformed each other.
- Kabir and Baba Guru Nanak rejected all conservative and devout religions. Others like Tulsidas and Surdas accepted existing beliefs and practices but wanted to make these attainable to all. Tulsidas’s composition, the Ramcharitmanas is written in Awadhi (a language used in eastern Uttar Pradesh), is important both as an expression of his devotion for Rama and as a literary work.
- Surdas was an avid devotee of Krishna. The Sursagara, Surasaravali and Sahitya Lahari are his composition which express his devotion.
- In late fifteenth century, Shankaradeva of Assam focused on devotion to Vishnu and composed poems and plays in Assamese. He made namghars or houses of recitation and prayer, a practice which continues till date.
- There were some more important saints like Dadu Dayal, Ravidas and Mirabai.
- In the sixteenth century, Mirabai who was a Rajput princess married into the royal family of Mewar. She became a disciple of Ravidas, a saint from a caste considered ‘untouchable’.
- Most of the saints works were composed in regional languages and could be sung. They became immensely popular and were handed down orally from generation to generation.
→ A Closer Look: Kabir
- Kabir was one of the most influential saint in the fifteenth-sixteenth century. We get to know of Kabir’s ideas from a huge collection of verses called sakhis and pads said to have been composed by him and sung by wandering bhajan singers. They were later collected and preserved in the Guru Granth Sahib, Panch Vani and Bijak.
- His teachings were based on the rejection of the major religious traditions. The language of his poetry was understood by ordinary people as it was a form of spoken Hindi.
- He believed in a formless Supreme God and advised that the only path to salvation was through bhakti or devotion.
→ A Closer Look: Baba Guru Nanak
- Guru Nanak (1469-1539) bom at Talwandi (Nankana Sahib in * Pakistan) and he travelled widely before establishing a centre at Kartarpur known as Dera Baba Nanak on the river Ravi.
- Whatever the caste, creed or gender is, his followers ate together in the common kitchen known as langar. Thus, the sacred space created by Gum Nanak was known as Dharamsala. Now it is called as Gurdwara.
- Gum Angad who was appointed by Gum Nanak as his successor, compiled the compositions of Gum Nanak, and he added his own composition in a new script known as Gurmukhi.
- In 1605, Gum Arjan compiled all the compositions under the name of ‘Nanak’. Other people’s writings were added to the compilation such as Shaikh Farid, Sant Kabir, Bhagat Namdev and Guru Tegh Bahadur. In 1706, this compilation was authenticated and approved by his son and successor, Gum Gobind Singh. Now, its known as Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of the Sikhs.
- By the starting of the seventeenth century, the town of Ramdaspur now Amritsar had developed around the central Gurdwara called Harmandar Sahib which is known as Golden Temple.
- The Khalsa Panth is the community of the Sikhs which became a political entity. It was started by Gum Gobind Singh in 1699.
- The ideas of Gum Nanak had a huge impact on the development of the Sikh movement from the very beginning. He emphasized the importance of the worship of one God. He used the terms nam, dan and isnan for the essence of his teaching, which actually meant right worship, welfare of others and purity of conduct.
- Now his teachings are remembered as nam- japna, kirt-karna and vand-chhakna, which also mention the importance of right belief and worship, honest living, and helping others.