Bhakti Movement

A Project Report
By Shivani Kuddyady Class X • The Bishops School, Kalyani Nagar • 3 June 2013

Shivani Kuddyady • email: k242466@thebishopsschool.net • Class X • Kalyani Nagar,

Invisible Force that created. Spirituality is ‘Adhyatma’ in Sanskrit is the primordial discipline of Being Human. 2. Intelligent. 3. Yes. Both Schools of Thought that define the discipline of Spirituality determine ‘God’ as ‘1’ Eternal. Unchanging.Ma Sharada Saint Dnyanabai Saint Mahadevi Saint Bahinabai PRELUDE To be able to appreciate the real essence of the Bhakti Movement it is necessary to understand the founding principle that inspired its origin & energized its momentum for many centuries. Religions are frameworks of faith & following that urge Worship to enrich realization of one’s Self & God. It is important to follow a true guru for realizing God. Literature. 4. Drama. the driving force of Worship. Bhakti (Devotion) stems from Spiritual Realization of Mankind’s association with God which defines People to be ‘Spirits’. Dvaita (Duality) defines dependency of Human Beings on Supreme Being for sustenance.. . Devotion. All people are equal and no one is superior or inferior. Poems & Songs. preaching absolute love for God. Bhakti (Devotion) approach unifies both schools of thought. it expounds timeless tenets & techniques of realizing one’s True Self to enable good living. on Earth. It is Bhakti or devotion to God alone that can help man attain salvation. Caste distinctions. Spirituality is the root of Religion but is independent of Religious influences. fasts. in the Universe. rituals. The Key Principles of the Bhakti Movement were as follows: 1. experiencing ‘Life’. All Humans should be tolerant. materialized as Idolization. Invincible. in Human form. 1. Inexhaustible. Advait (Non-Duality) defines Oneness of Supreme Force & Life Force of Human Beings. etc. 2. Bhakti Movement was a Spiritual Renaissance that swept across of India for centuries. catalyzing collective Consciousness of the Masses into a Unified Conscience that sustained the movement for several centuries sans the aid of today’s modern technology! In the grand scheme of things the Bhakti Movement practiced absolute Love for God without socio-religious restrictions to lead a more meaningfully life of purpose. pervades & powers the whole Universe and all forms of Life in it with a very subtle difference. are useless and lead to nowhere. 5.

Female poet-saints also played a significant role in the bhakti movement at large. including their status as married women. Their new focus was utter devotion and worship of their Divine Husbands.WOMEN IN THE BHAKTI MOVEMENT Many of the bhakti poet-saints rejected asceticism as the crucial means toward liberation. While it is tempting to see women’s participation within the bhakti movement as a revolt against the patriarchal norms of the time. . both at the bottom of the traditional hierarchy ordering society. utterly submissive to His desires. Nonetheless. choosing to become wandering bhaktas. some bhaktas were instead householders. Women and shudras. they rejected traditional women’s roles and societal norms by leaving husbands and homes altogether. returning at will to their privileged social status as males. the privileges of their original high caste status. while male bhaktas could engage in this role playing on a temporary basis. and restrictions of married life. As well. their outstanding poetry and stubborn insistence of their spiritual equality with their contemporaries were these women reluctantly acknowledged and accepted within their ranks. Caste status and even masculinity were understood as barriers to liberation. Women bhaktas wrote of the obstacles of home. Nonetheless. familiar language of ordinary people. the absent husband. Women bhaktas were simply individuals attempting to lead lives of devotion. meaningless household chores. a general rejection of institutionalized religion. The imagery of bhakti poetry is grounded in the everyday. themes of universalism. Male bhaktas often took on the female voice calling to her Beloved. In many cases. in some instances they formed communities with other poet-saints. there is little evidence to support this perspective. Only through demonstrations of their utter devotion to the Divine. women bhaktas faced overwhelming challenges through their rejection of societal norms and values. Staying largely within the patriarchal ideology that upheld the chaste and dutiful wife as ideal. Injustices and the patriarchal order itself were not a major focus of these poet-saints. in essence a rejection of the hierarchy laid out by the Law Books of the Classical Period. However. many of these women had to struggle for acceptance within the largely male dominated movement. without having the ability to revert back to their normative roles as wives. family tensions. and a central focus on inner devotion laid the groundwork for more egalitarian attitudes toward women and lower caste devotees. became the examples of true humility and devotion. that their poetry became an integral aspect of the bhakti movement at large is highly significant and inspirational for many who look to these extraordinary women as ideal examples of lives intoxicated by love for the Divine. Their struggle attests to the strength of patriarchal values within both society and within religious and social movements attempting to pave the way for more egalitarian access to the Divine. mothers and in some cases. these women transferred the object of their devotion and their duties as the “lovers” or “wives” to their Divine Lover or Husband.

one of the most revered of the bhakti poet saints. all-encompassing love for Shiva.It seems appear the movement’s northward advancement (15th through 17th centuries). also known as Akka or Mahadevi was a bhakta from the southern region of Karnataka and devotee of Shiva in the 12th century C. The poetry of women bhaktas from this latter time period is generally not indicative of a rejection of societal norms in terms of leaving family and homes in pursuit of divine love. Yet Mirabai’s reputation of devotion. Through Shiva and Shiva alone is her love fulfilled. Mirabai. Mirabai. and intellectual astuteness eventually led to her inclusion within the community of the saints of Brindavan. was tempered.E. Some were extraordinarily radical in their rejection of social norms and values. Mirabai left her husband and family in pilgrimage to various places associated with “her Dark Lord. Yet the numerous legends surrounding Mira tell of an undying devotion toward Krishna.” including Brindavan. Legends tell of her wandering naked in search of her Divine Lover. but Krishna is ardent in his pursuit of Mira. the “lifter of the mountain. through separation from her “lord white as jasmine” is her heart broken. WOMEN BHAKTI (POET SAINTS) The poets outlined below represent a panorama of female poet-saints within the Bhakti movement. Mirabai’s poetry tells of her vision of Lord Krishna when she was a child. or Mira is said to have been born into a ruling Rajput family. Instead. families. their eternal love for the Divine. in it she is not only the devoted bride of Krishna. she continued to serve Namdev. her poetry. Akka Mahadevi. There she was initially rejected because she was a woman. Janabai wrote over three hundred poems focusing on domestic chores and the restrictions facing her as a low caste woman. Greater numbers of women took part in the movement’s earlier development (6th to 13th centuries). Others attempted to fit into more traditional roles in society by maintaining their responsibilities as wives and mothers. or vacanas tell of her frustration with societal norms and roles that restricted her. They also bear witness to her intense. Krishna’s holy city. Janabai was born around the 13th century in Maharashtra in a low caste sudra family. While within this household. some of the later poet-saints stayed within the confines of the household while expounding on their souls’ journeys. actions deemed utterly improper for a woman of her highcaste status. Eventually. from that point on Mira vowed that she would forever be his bride. piety.” she can be perceived as simply upholding the “wifely” duties of women and patriarchal norms in general. and society behind in order to extol their love for God. . it is largely male bhaktas and sants that are today perceived as the spokes persons for the movement in its later manifestations. As a young girl she was sent to work in the upper-caste family of Namdev. including unsuccessful attempts made by her jealous husband to kill her. whom she addresses as Chennamallikarjuna. as well as their never-ending search for truth. Because of Mirabai’s singular focus and intense devotion of her Husband. both as a servant and as his devotee. remains for many a symbol of resistance of social impositions of her time. Central to these accounts are Mirabai’s struggles within the family she had been married into. her true husband. Others focus on her sisters-in-law’s efforts to obstruct Mirabai in her desires to join the company of wandering saints. its radical edge as it pertained to women’s inclusion. All wrote exquisite poetry that has been passed on through bards and singers throughout India. leaving husbands. Mirabai’s poetry portrays a unique relationship with Krishna. Despite her wishes she was married into another princely family at a young age.

a Brahmin scribe. she became his devotee. for it propagated the equality of all men. her poetry reflects an attitude of duty and respectful empathy toward both her marriage and her spouse. Firstly. This also helped in checking conversions. another name for Krishna. This becomes clear through her writings on the responsibilities of women toward their husbands. the Bhakti reformers preached in the common language of the people. Her poetry recounts visions she experiences of the low-caste poet-saint Tukaram. Thirdly. Both became more tolerant towards each other. which gave rise to the vernacular languages such as Bengali in the east. Though highly unusual. especially in the fields.Bahina bai was a poet-saint from 17th century Maharashtra. Despite having obvious conflicts with her husband due to her overarching and ecstatic love for her Divine Lover in the form of Lord Vithoba. despite her high caste status. SOCI0-ECONOMIC IMPACT ON THE LIFE OF INDIANS The Bhakti movement had far-reaching effects on the people. Her writings are particularly autobiographical. recounting her childhood. it is believed that Bahinabai received some classical training from her father. Secondly. Gujarati and Marathi in the west and Punjabi in the north. writing in the form of abangas. the Bhaktas exposed the hollowness of empty rituals and ceremonies and taught the people to give up evils like belief in superstitions etc. . thus choosing the path of devotion over brahmanical norms of ritual purity. it helped a lot in removing the existing bitterness between the Hindus and the Muslims. women’s songs that accompanied their labours. Nonetheless. she took her role as wife and responsibilities to her earthly husband seriously. puberty and married life. This movement delta a blow to the superiority of the Brahmins. Her husband was also critical of her allegiance to the Bhakti poet-saint Tukaram.

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