Devotional Paths to Divine (Class 7 History Chapter 8 Notes)

Guru Nanak Dev/Sikhnet
The Bhakti and Sufi movement in the Subcontinent have their roots in the 8th century.

The idea of Supreme God
  1. Before the emergence of large kingdoms, different groups of people worshipped their own local deities. As they came closer, a range of new idea developed over time such as cycle of birth and rebirths, karma and moksha.
  2. The belief of social privilege of high caste came from birth was the crux of several brahmanical text. Though, many people were not ease with such idea and they turned to new belief systems such as Buddhism and Jainism.
  3. The idea of Supreme God who can liberate humans from worldly bondages by worship (bhakti) came from the Bhagavada Gita.
  4. Shiva, Vishnu and Durga emerged as new chief Hindu deities and various local deities merged with them.
  5. The idea of bhakti became so popular that even Buddhists and Jainas adopted it.

Nayanars and Alvars
  1. During the 7th-9th centuries, the Southern India saw emergence of two religious movements - Nayanars (saints devoted to Shiva) and Alvars (saints devoted to Vishnu).
  2. They comprised people from all social groups. Even people from groups which are considered untouchables. They were critical of the Buddha and Jaina, and preached devotion for Shiva or Vishnu. They went from place to place and composed poems about their beloved gods.
  3. Between the 10h and 12th centuries, the Chola and Pandya kings built several Shiva and Vishnu temples. These temples further strengthen the Bhakti movement.

Philosophy and Bhakti

  1. Shankara was an eight century philosopher from present day Kerala. He was an advocate of Advaita philosophy.
  2. His doctrine talks about oneness of the individual soul and the Ultimate reality. He considered the world around us as an illusion or maya and only if we renunciate maya and adopt the path of knowledge, we can understand true nature of the reality.

  1. Ramanuja was an elventh century philosopher from present day Tamil Nadu region. He was deeply influenced by the Alvars. He says one can only attain salvation through the bhakti of Vishnu.
  2. He propounded the doctrine of Vishishtadvaita where the soul even when united with the Supreme God retains its individuality.

  1. The Virashaiva movement was started by Basavanna and his companions like Allama Prabhu and Akka Mahadevi.
  2. They argued for the equal human rights and were against Brahmanical ideas about caste and women.

The Saints of Maharashtra
  1. Maharashtra saw a great number of saint-poets from the 13th to 17th century. Some of them are Dnyaneshwar (Gyaneshwar), Namdev, Eknath, and Tukaram. The list also comprise of Sakhubai a woman saint and the Chokhamela family from the “untouchable” Mahar caste.
  2. They rejected all sort of ritualism, display of piety and social discrimination on the basis of birth. They also rejected the idea of renunciation and preferred to live with their families.

Nathpanthis, Siddhas and Yogis
  1. Nathpanthis, Siddhas and Yogis challenged the conventional form of religion. They advocated reunincation and realization of oneness with the ultimate soul through mediation.

Islam and Sufism
  1. Sufis were Muslim mystics who rejected outward religiosity and emphasised on love and devotion to God.
  2. Their philosophy in many regards similar to Hindu saint-poets, but they followed Islam.
  3. They rejected idol worship, religious codes such as Shariat and talked about simple prayer.
  4. Like nathpanthis and yogis, they developed elaborate methods of training using zikr (chanting of a sacred formula), contemplation, sama (singing), raqs (dancing), discussion of parables, breath control and so on under the guidance of a pir (master).
  5. A large number of Sufis from Central Asia settled in India during 11th century. The process was strengthen by the rise of the Delhi Sultanate. Some of the well known Sufi masters are Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki of Delhi, Baba Farid of Punjab, Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi and Bandanawaz Gisudaraz of Gulbarga.

New Religious Developments in North India
  1. A new wave of the bhakti movement was observed in the north India after the rise of 13th century. This is the time when several different beliefs influenced each other.
  2. Some saints such as Kabir and Guru Nanak rejected all orthodox ideas and others like Tulsidas and Surdas propagated old beliefs with reforms.
  3. This tradition also included saints like Shankaradeva, Dadu Dayal, Ravidas and Mirabai.
  4. Interestingly, most of these saints composed their work in their regional languages. Most of their poems can also be sung.

  1. Kabir probably lived during 15th or 16th century. He was brought up by a Muslim julaha (weaver) couple settled in Varanasi.
  2. He propogated his philosophy through his compositions (sakhis and pads). Some of his compositions were later collected and preserved in the GuruGranth Sahib, Panch Vani  and  Bijak.
  3. He completely rejected major religion traditions such as Brahmanism and Islam.
  4. The language of his poetry was a local form of the Hindi and easy to follow.
  5. He talked about formless Supreme God and preached the path to salvation is through devotion.

Baba Guru Nanak
  1. Baba Guru Nanak (1469-1539) was born at Talwandi (now Nankana Sahib, Pakistan). He travelled widely before finally settling down at Kartarpur, a town on the bank of River Ravi.
  2. He started the community kitchen (langar) where all his follower irrespective of their caste, creed and gender ate together.
  3. Before his death in 1539, he appointed Guru Angad as his successor. He compiled all the composition of Baba Guru Nanak in Gurumukhi script. Three other Guru, also wrote under the name of Nanak and their compositions were compiled by Guru Arjan in 1604.
  4. A few more composition from Shaikh Farid, Sant Kabir, Bhagat Namdev and Guru Tegh Bahadur were added to this compilation, and later this compilation came to be known as Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of Sikh community.
  5. By the 17th century, a new Sikh centre added on the map, Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple) in the town of Ramdaspur (Amritsar).
  6. The Harmander Sahib was self-governing  and virtually ran a parallel government within the Mughal empire. The Mughal saw this as a threat and Jahangir ordered the execution of Guru Arjan in 1606. This led to the politisation and formation of Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
  7. Baba Guru Nanak emphasized the importance of one Supreme God and insisted caste, creed or gender was irrelevant for achieving the salvation.
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