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Component-I (A) Personal details:

Prof. P. Bhaskar Reddy

Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati
Prof. R. Thiagarajan
Presidency College, Chennai.

Dr. V. Premalatha
Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati

Prof. B. M. Jayashree
Bangalore University, Bangalore

Component-I (B) Description of module:

Subject Name

Indian Culture

Paper Name

Indian aesthetics and fine arts

Module Name/Title

Bhakti and Music

Module Id

I C / IAFA / 32

Pre requisites

Cultural history of India, Contribution of religious

saints and seers, Bhakti movement in India


This module enables a student to know the

various forms of devotion and the contribution of
great saints and seers to the Bhakti movement in
India. An outline knowledge of the contribution of






development of the country through music


Bhakti, navavidha bhakti, Religious leaders,

Saints & Seers, Vacana, Krtana, Bhajan, devotion

E-Text (Quadrant-1)
1. Introduction
Indian music has evolved with a strong relationship to devotion and spirituality. Many of the
brilliant composers of Indian music have been saints whose outpouring of devotion has been
expressed through music. The Bhakti movement was a religious movement that promoted
the belief that salvation could be attained by devotion to a chosen deity. In the sixth century,
the Bhakti movement originated in Tamil nadu. Later, it swept across India during the 14th to
18th Centuries. In this movement, music was the vehicle of propagation of spirituality and
devotion. Therefore in India, Bhakti and music have been invariably intertwined over the
Since Vdic times, in Hinduism, there were three paths specified to attain salvation - Karma
(action), Jnna (knowledge) and Bhakti (devotion). Of the three, Bhakti was the easiest. The
saint composers of the Bhakti movement invoked and nurtured divine love in the common
man using the regional language and lilting music. In the North, the movement was centered
on the stories of Rma and Ka and in the South it had both aivite and Vaiavite
In South Indian classical music, the compositions which are considered the most musically
complex are also many times the ones that have lyrics that express deep devotion to a
chosen deity. In order to reach the masses, the bard-composers of India aimed at the most

effective usage of musical material as a result, much experimentation with Rga, Tla and
musical form took place. These experiments slowly but surely influenced the evolution of
Indian music, in particular, classical music. Thus, much development of Indian classical
music was a by-product of the Bhakti movement that originated in the country.
Many composers of the Bhakti movement seamlessly integrated folk and ritualistic music
some examples of this are Bhramaragt-s (bee-songs) of Srdas and rpdarya, Nrada
Koravaji (a dance-drama) by Vdirja, Ustava Sampradya Ktis (songs sung as
accompaniment to rituals) by Tygarja, Suvvi Plu (songs sung while pounding grain) by
Several composers of Indian music travelled to places of pilgrimage (Ktra-s) and
composed songs in praise of the local deity, examples of this being the Kti-s by Muthusvmi
Dkitar - Tygarja Yga Vaibhavam in praise of the deity Tygarjasvmi at Tiruvrur and
Akaya Liga Vibho in praise of the deity at Kvalr near Tiruvrr.
2. Bhakti - stages & forms
The Skra Bhakti Mrga in Hinduism stands for the path of devotion that visualizes a deity
as having a tangible form.

There are different stages in this path which are tma

Nivdanam (self-criticism and a desire to seek refuge in the deity), Mrti Kalpan (visualizing
the deity), Daranam (seeing the deity in a dream), Sandaranam (actual experience of the
deity), Dvatsktkra (attainment of happiness on actual experience of the deity).
2.1 Nine types of Bhakti
Traditionally, there are nine types of Bhakti (devotion) to the chosen Lord which are
practiced in the Skra Bhakti Mrga. These are have been described in the Bhgavata
Pura, as follows ravaam, Krtanam, Smaraam, Pda Sevanam, Arcanam,
Vandanam, Dsyam, Sakhyam and tma Nivedanam . A brief description of the nine types
of Bhakti is as follows:

ravaam : listening to the glories of the chosen deity - descriptions of his good qualities,
his form etc. .

Krtanam: singing the glories of the chosen Lord.

Smaraam: constantly remembering and reciting the name of ones chosen deity.

Pdasvanam: worshipping the feet of the chosen deity in an expression of complete


Arcanam: ritual worshipping the chosen deity in various ways. Several Sva-s (ritualistic
services) are offered to the deity such as Arghya, Pdya, Abhika, Vastra Samarpaa,
Pupa Pj, Nma Pj, Dhpa, Dpa, Naivdya etc. .

Vandanam: bowing before the chosen deity in reverence.

Dsyam: surrendering completely to ones chosen Lord and becoming his servant.

Sakhyam: considering the deity as a friend. Just as a friend is made fun of and criticized
in a light-hearted manner without any malice, the devotee composes many Nind Stutis or songs which apparently criticize or make fun of their chosen deity. Though the
superficial intent of the song is of criticism, the real intent is of praise.

tma Nivdanam: this involves self-criticism, correction and a strong desire to seek
refuge in the Lord.

There are different ways in which the chosen deity is visualized by the devotee. These are
Dsya, Sakhya, Madhura, Vtsalya and nta Bhva-s. Apart from Dsya and Sakhya
bhva-s which have been described above, a brief description of the other Bhva-s is as

Madhura: This is the feeling of considering ones chosen Lord as ones beloved.
Vtsalya: This is the feeling of considering ones chosen deity as a child and the devotee
showing motherly love towards him.

nta: This is the feeling of complete peace and happiness with which a devotee worships
his chosen Lord.
3. Bhakti movement in India and its impact on Indian music:
In this section, we look at how the Bhakti movement originated and flourished in various
parts of the country, and how it played a pivotal role in the evolution of Indian music.
3.1 Tamil nadu
Siddhars were aivite saints of South India who were said to have Yogic powers. They were
knowledgeable in Science and Fine Arts such as music, dance and drama. They have
written many religious poems. These saints were eighteen in number. Some of their
ideologies are considered to have originated in the First Sangam period.
Then the lvr-s and Nyamr-s nurtured the Bhakti movement between the 6th and 9th
centuries in Tamil nadu. The Alvrs were a set of twelve saints who composed Tamiz songs
in praise of Lord Viu. They have composed 24 Prabandham-s, songs of varying sizes,

totally having 4000 hymns and are collectively known as Divyaprabandham. These were
revived by Nthamuni in the 10th century. He is believed to have set the songs to particular
Rga-s and Tla-s and introduced the practice of singing them at the temple in rragam.
Prominent among the lvrs were Poigai lvr, Ptattalvr, Pey lvr and l (who was
the only female saint in the group).
The Nyamr-s were aivite saints who were sixty-three in number. Their hymns were
popularized by Nambir Nambi in the eleventh century. The hymns of the first three

Nyamr-s Tirunvukkarasar, Tirujnnasambandar and Sundarar, with the works of

Mikkavsagar along with the entire aiva religious poetry then available was arranged in
twelve books known as Panniru Tirumurai. From the eighth century, the twelve Tirumurai-s
were edited into seven and began to be sung in all aiva temples by designated singers
known as Oduvr-s. This tradition continues even to this day. There is a references to isai
(music) throughout the Tevram works. A number of instruments such as Yz, V, Kuzal,
Cagu, Nagri etc. have been referred to in them. Tvram-s are classified as Pa-murai
and Tla-murai, the former having a formatted tune and Tlam and the latter having hymns
set in three speeds. In Tvram, the grammer for compiling and formatting of lyrics, svara,
the Pa (musical mode) to be used etc. is called Kaalai. The Tvram and
Divyaprabandham form the bulk of known devotional music in the early period in South
Aruagirinthar was a aivite saint who lived in the later part of the 15th Century AD. A
devotee of Lord Muruga (the son of iva), he has composed 16,000 songs, collectively
known as Tiruppugaz. These are in Saskta and Tamiz and are known for their rythmic
Another aivite saint, Thyumnavar, who lived in the eighteenth century, wrote Tamiz
songs espousing aivite philosophy. Sadiva Brahmendra composed many songs in
Saskta that are known for their poetic and melodic content. Rmaliga Swmigal or
Valllar was one of the greatest Tamiz poets of the 19th century and composed 5818 poems.
Nryaa Trtha, who lived between the 17th and 18th centuries composed many songs and
operas, of which r Ka Ll Taragii is the most famous. Annmalai Reddiar was a
nineteenth-century Tamiz poet who composed songs known as Kvai Cindu-s in the
Madhura-Bhakti Bhva.
3.2 Karnataka
The Vraaiva (Ligyata) sect was founded by Basavaa of Karnataka in the 12th century.
Other saints such as Allama Prabhu, Akkamahdvi and Cennabasavaa played an

important role in the growth of this sect. The saint-composers belonging to this sect
composed Vacana-s and Svara-Vacana-s. The latter were associated with specific Rga-s
and Tla-s. The opening section of the Vacana-s is called Pallava. This was followed by a
two-line section (which is akin to Anupallavi of Kti-s) and several sections. In their works,
references to musical concepts such as Gamaka, 32 Rga-s and some musical instruments
such are found. Among the Vraaiva saints, several were musicians and instrument-players.
Narahari Trtha, the disciple of Madhvcrya (the founder of the Dvaita school of philosophy)
is believed to have started the Vaiava Haridsa sect of Karnataka in the early fourteenth
century. He is said to have composed many Krtana-s in Kannada, out of which only three
are available. Narahari Trtha is credited with starting a monastry in Srkkulam in ndhra
Pradesh. It is said that Siddhndra Ygi (the founder of the Kcipui style of dance) was
influenced by the followers of Narahari Trtha. Narahari Trtha also is believed to have
founded a dance-drama troupe of Davatra ta, a precursor to Yakagna, in Udupi. The
Haridsa sect received impetus under the saint rpdarya and his disciple Vysatrtha (
who was a Rjaguru to the Vijayanagara Kings) in the 15th and 16th centuries. These two
monks, apart from being great Theologians, composed many Pada-s (or Krtana-s), Sudi-s
and Ugbhga-s in Kannada. Vysatrtha founded the two sub-sects - Vysaka (the order
of the ascetics) and Dsaka (the order of the householder Haridsa-s). His disciples
included Purandara Dsa, Vdirja and Kanaka Dsa who were prolific and brilliant
composers. Among them, Purandara Dsa was the most famous and is said to be the father
of Karnataka Music. The Haridsa saints created the musical compositional form called
Sudi which consisted of stanza-s set to different Tla-s. They brought about a major
change in the Tla system of South Indian classical music by implementing the Sudi Tla
system which replaced hundreds of D Tla-s that were in vogue earlier. Haridsa-s also
composed long poems such as Daaka-s, Vttnma-s and an opera Nrada Koravaji.
Apart from using ancient Rga-s, they experimented with newer Rga-s. The Haridsa
tradition continued from the 17th century onwards under Vijayadsa, Jaganntha Dsa,
Prasanna Vekaa Dsa and others.
3.3 Andhra and Telangana
Plkurk Smantha, a writer and poet belonging to the Vraaiva sect who lived between
the 13th to 14th Century AD, composed many Vacana-s and poems in the Ragale meter in
Telugu. Ptana was a Telugu writer of the 15th century who composed the Bhgavatam in
Telugu. Though born to a aivite family, he became a devotee of Viu.

Tllapkam Annamcrya (who lived between the 15th to 16th centuries) was a great
composer-saint who composed a large number of devotional songs in Telugu. He is hailed
as Sakrtana Pitmaha and Padakavita Pitmaha on account of his pioneering
contribution to Karaka Music by composing 32,000 Pada-s in Telugu and Saskta
mainly in praise of Lord Viu. His wife Tirumalamma or Timmakka was the first female poet
in Telugu literature and composed a poem called Subhadr Kalyam. Annamcrya was
the first composer to compose Kti-s or Padam-s in Telugu in the Pallavi-Anupallavi-Caraa
format. He has composed Sudi-s too. His son, Pedda Tirumalcrya composed several
Sakrtana-s along the lines of his fathers songs. He also composed Prabandha-s and a
Gta. Pedda Tirumalcryas sons Cinna Tiruvekaa , Cinnaa and Cinna Tirumalcrya
too were composers of Padam-s. The Tllapkam Composers have composed many long
poems like atakam-s and 12 atakam-s (poems with 100 verses), Daakam-s and
Kacrla Gpanna who lived in the 17th century in a village near Bhadrcalam, Telangana
composed many Sakrtana-s and attained fame as Bhadrcala Rmadsu. He acquired
the name due to his renovation of the Rma temple in Bhadrcala. He has composed
between 130 to 150 Sakrtana-s.
Ktrayya or Ktraja was a great Telugu poet and singer of the 17th Century who was
acquired his name as he is said to have visited many Ketra-s or places of pilgrimage. His
real name is not known. He has composed many Padam-s of Madhura Bhakti in praise of
his favourite deity Gopla (Ka).
3.4 Kerala
Kerala is known for its Spna Sagtam or music that is performed along the steps leading
to the sanctum Sanctorum of temples. This genr of music probably originated from the time
of the king Kulakhara Varman, founder of the second Cra dynasty in the 9th century AD.
It is said to be a mix of Vdic, tribal and folk music of the region. There are several schools
of Spnam music and there is a long oral tradition of this music being carried down in
generations of families dedicated to the art. It is characterized by use of a kram (singing
using the a sound) and some typical instruments like the Iakka (glasshour shaped drum)
and cengila (metallic gong).
Bilvamagalam alias Lluka composed a romantic poem called Ka-Karmta which
deals with Kas early life. He is said to have been born in Kerala in the 13th or 14th
century. Nryayam, a devotional poem of 1036 verses which is sung in Guruvyr temple
in Kerala to this day, was composed by Nryaa Bhaatiri in the 16th century.

Maharja Svti Tirul r Rma Varma Kulakara Peruml was the king of Travancore in
the 19th century. A polyglot and a very talented musician, he composed different types of
songs such as Gt, Tna Vara, Cauka Vara, Pada, Svarajati, Tillna, Jvali and
Rgamlik in several languages Malaylam, Samsktam, Hindi etc. His Bhakti Majari
on Lord Padmanbha contains 1020 lka-s. He also composed the devotional poem
3.5 Maharashtra
Vrkar tradition is a religious movement in which the Vihba or Vihal form of Ka is
worshipped. In Maharashtra, one of the important saints of the Vrkar tradition was Sant
Jnnwar, who wrote a commentary on the Bhagavadgt called Jnnwari. This was
written in Marh in the Ovi metre, traditionally used for womens songs. He also composed
many songs called Abhag-s. Other than this, he composed a philosophical work called
Nmadev was another saint belonging to the Vrkar tradition who composed hundreds of
Abhag-s between the 13th and 14th centuries. kanth, who lived in the late 16th century,
too was a prolific composer of Abhag-s in addition to variations of Bhgavata and
Rmyaa. In the 17th century, the tradition of Abhag composition was continued by the
prolific composers Tukrm and Samarth Rmads. The latter, who also became the Guru
of the great Marha king ivj wrote many Ov-s and literary works in addition to Abhag-s.
3.6 Gujarat, Rajasthan and Sindh
Narasimha Mehta or Naras Mehta/Naras Bhagat was the di Kavi (first poet) of Gujart
literature who lived in the 15th Century AD. A devout Vaiava, he composed many songs in
praise of Viu including the popular Vaiava Jana To. He also composed narrative
works based on Bhgavata.
Mrbai was a Rjput princess who was born into a family known as Matiya-s in the late
15th century and passed away in mid-16th century AD. She was a staunch devotee of Ka
and composed many Bhajans in the Madhura Bhakti-Bhva. Apart from Rjasthn and
Brajabha, she has also used Gujart in some places in her compositions. She is said to
have used nearly seventy-five Rga-s (including some rare ones) in her songs.

Shh Abdul Latf Bhiai who lived between the late seventeenth and early eighteenth
centuries was a Sf poet who composed many poems in Sindh. The tenets of Sfsm,
though based on Islm, were in some ways similar to the tenets of the Bhakt tradition.
3.7 Kashmr
Lallwar alias Lall or Lal Dd was a aivite poet from Kashmir who lived in the 14th
Century AD. Her poems known as Lal Vakhs are among the earliest known poetry in
Kashmr language. She interacted with and inspired many Sf-s of Kashmr.
3.8 Punjab
The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nnak, lived in the period between the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries. Nine other Guru-s of the Sikh religion followed him in the next few centuries. The
songs composed by all the ten Sikh saints, along with those of some other earlier saints of
Maharashtra, Benaras etc. are preserved in the work Guru Granth Shib which is
considered as a permanent Guru of the Sikhs after the tenth Guru. This work has been
divided by musical settings or Rga-s. There are 31 Rga-s in the Sikh system, divided into
14 Rga-s and 17 Rgini-s (which are relatively less important than the Rga-s).
3.9 Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh
Amr Khusrau was a great poet and musician whose father lived in Uttar Pradesh and was in
the service of the slave King Iltutmish of Delhi in the 13th century. Khusrau was a disciple of
the Sufi saint Nizmuddn Auliya. Many new forms of religious music like Qual, Qualwna,
Gul, Naka etc. were composed by Khusrau. He is credited with inventing new Rga-s, Tlas and musical instruments.
The Saint Rmnand, who lived between the 14th and 15th centuries in the holy City of
Varans had twelve disciples, prominent among them being Kabr, the Sf-Bhakti saint.
Apart from philosophical works, Rmnand has composed poems in Hind. Kabrdsa, a
weaver composed Hindi poems (couplets or Dh-s) in a pithy and earthy style. Gsvm
Tulasds was another brilliant poet-saint who belonged to the Rmnand tradition. His
magnum opus was the Rmacaritmnas in Avadh, a dialect of Hind. Apart from long poems
such as Vinay Partik and Shitya Ratna, he has composed many songs in Braj Bh as
well as Avadh.
Vallabhcrya was a great Vaiava saint who lived between the 15th and 16th centuries. He
lived near Allahbd and Braj near Mathur. For the Vaiava saints, an important part of
the devotional service was music. Vallabhcrya selected four of his disciples to render this
service at different times of the day, who were Kumbhanads, Srads, Paramnandads

and Kads. Among these, the blind poet, Srds is said to have lived for more than 103
years and composed about a lakh songs. He is said to have used nearly 75 Rga-s in his
compositions, prominent among which are those describing the childhood of Ka. After
Vallabhcryas death, four more musicians were selected by his son Vihalnthj to perform
the musical service. They were Govindasvm, Citasvm, Caturbhujads and Nandads.
There were also some Muslim saints who composed poems on Lord Ka such as
Raskhn and Abdul Rahm Khnkhna.
3.10 Bihar, Bengal, Assam and Orissa
In the 12th century, the masterpiece Gta-Gvinda was composed by Jayadva, who is said
to be either from West Bengal or Orissa. This poem is considered the greatest lyrical poem
in the world and has been composed in the Madhura Bhakti -Bhva. Each song in this work
have been composed in the Prabandha style with specific Rga-s and Tla-s assigned.
Nearly thirty-five commentaries were written on this work, the best being Rasikapriy by
Mahra Kumbha in the 15th century.
Vidypati of Mithil (Bihar) was a great composer of musical poetry who flourished in the 15th
century. Cadsa was a great Vaiava poet and musician of Bengal, who probably lived
between the 14th and 15th centuries.
akaradeva was a great Vaiava poet who flourished in Assam in the 15th-16th centuries.
He was a great devotee of Ka. Along with his disciple Mdhvadeva, he has composed
Baragt-s or Varagt-s, which were sung either with or without fixed Tla-s. He also
composed Akiya Gt-s, which had fixed Tla-s. These were part of dramas such as

Bhaktiratnval, Kliyadamana etc. that were composed by akaradva and became

popular throughout Assam.
Rmaprasd was one of the finest akta (female goddess) worshipper-composer of West
Bengal in the 18th century AD, who has also composed songs in praise of Ka and iva.
Caitanya Mahprabhu (1486 1534 AD) was a Ka worshipper who wrote two stotra-s in
Saskta and was responsible for a fresh upsurge of Bhakti in West Bengal.
4. Summary
We see that from the early Christian Era upto the modern times, the saint-composers of
India who have propagated the path of devotion and spirituality have deeply influenced the
evolution of music in the country. Their message of complete surrender to ones chosen
deity and worshipping him/her by visualizing him/her in different ways was made to reach
the masses by encapsulating it in lilting music. This led to many creative experiments taking


place in Indian music with the introduction of new types of musical form, Rga and Tla. The

Bhakti movement brought together people from different religions and communities unified in
a common cause of devotion, thereby causing cross-cultural interaction in language and
music. The study of the Bhakti movement is an essential step in the study of the evolution of
Indian music.