If we take note of the religious and literary progress made by the people under the Afghan rule, we shall understand how little the Muslim conquest of India really affected the lives and the peaceful avocations of the people. The sects of Vishnu and Shiva were the prevailing sects in India in the medieval times, and the worship of Rama and Krishna was popular with the million. And from the eleventh century a succession of religious teachers rose in India, preaching the sublime verity of One God to the million under the ancient name of Vishnu. Below we are giving a brief introduction of important figures (Bhakti Saints) who played a great role to spread Bhakti Movement in entire India.
An all-India socio-religious movement spread in the Middle Ages in India. Its aim was to stop conversions to Islam and fight the tyranny of Brahmans in the social set-up of Hindus. Its great exponents were Ramanuja in the South, Jaidev and Chaitanya in Bengal, Ramanand and Kabir in U.P., Namdev, Ramdas, Tukaram in Maharashtra and Nanak in Punjab. They believed in the unity of God, and they regarded true devotion Bhakti as means of attaining God; denounced caste-system, idol worship and pilgrimages; bought about socio-religious reforms in Hindu society.
List of Bhakti Saints
- Sant Dnyaneshwar
- Sant Namdev
- Guru Nanak
- Chaitanya Maha Prabhu
- Mira Bai
- Sant Eknath
- Sant Tukaram
- Samarth Guru Ramdas
It was in the eleventh or twelfth century that Ramanuja preached unity of God under the name of Vishnu in Southern India. He proclaimed the love of God as the way to salvation. It is said that Ramanuja had to fly from the kingdom of the Chola king into Mysore, that he received converts from all classes of the people in that land. Ramanuja established hundreds of Vaishnava monasteries before he died.
Fifth in the apostolic succession from Ramanuja was the great Ramananda, who preached the same ennobling doctrine and faith in Northern India. He traveled far and wide from Varanasi, and preached and wrote in Hindi that was a local language of the people of Northern India. Religious reforms have often led to the improvement and culture of the spoken tongue in India and the Hindi language was greatly strengthened by Ramananda’s life work.
Kabir was a disciple of Ramananda. He followed in the same path. Kabir conceived the lofty ideal of uniting Hindus and Muslims in the worship of one God. “The city of the Hindu God,” he said, “is in the east (Varanasi), and the city of the Muslim God is in the west (Mecca), but search your hearts, and there you will find the God both of Hindus and Muslims.” “If the Creator dwells in tabernacles, whose dwelling is the universe?” Kabir’s teachings known as Kabir Chaura are preserved in Varanasi, and his followers are still numerous in the Deccan, Central India, and Gujarat.
Nanak was born in 1469. He preached the same monotheism and conceived the same great idea of uniting Hindus and Muslims in the worship of One God. The Granth of Nanak is well known, and has been translated into English. His peaceful followers, the Sikhs, were converted by the oppression of later Muslim rulers into the most marital race of modern India.
Chaitanya Maha Prabhu
Almost contemporaneous with the reformer of the Punjab, Chaitanya was born in Nadiya in 1486. Chaitanya preached in Bengal the religion of One God under the name of Vishnu. He too invited Muslims to join his sect, but his following was almost entirely Hindu. Nearly the entire population of Bengal, except the higher castes, are virtually Vaishnavas at the present day.
Later than Nanak and Chaitanya, Dadu was born in Ahmadabad in 1544, and has left a body of sacred poetry in 20,000 lines. His disciples spread his teachings all through Rajputana.