The following points highlight the fifteen popular saints of bhakti movement. The chief saints are: 1. Ramanuja 2. Nimbarka 3. Madhva 4. Vallabhacharya 5. Ramananda 6. Chaitanya (1486—1533) 7. Kabir 8. Guru Nanak 9. Dadu Dayal (1554—1603 A D.) 10. Mira Bai (1498—1546) 11. Tulsidas (1532—1623) 12. Sur Das 13. Maluk Das (1574—1682) 14. Sundardas (1596—1689) 15. Birbhan.
Saint # 1. Ramanuja:
The earliest exponent of the Bhakti movement was Ramanuja, who was born at Sri Perumbudur in Southern India in the year 1017 A.D. He received his education at Canjeevaram and Shrirangam. On account of his scholarship he was appointed as the successor of his teacher Yamunamuni, the well- known Vaishnava saint. Thus Ramanuja acquired a position of authority.
Ramanuja gave a philosophic basis to the teachings of Vaishnavism. He wrote a commentary on the Brahma sutras, refuted Shari Kara and offered his own interpretation based on the theistic ideas. His commentaries on Brahma sutras are popularly known as Sri Bhasya.
According to Prof. K. A. Nilikanta Sastri, Ramanuja “refuted Mayavada of Sankara, demonstrated that the Upanishads did not teach a strict monism, and built up the philosophy of Visishtadvaita which reconciled devotion to a personal God, with the philosophy of the Vedanta by affirming that the soul, though of the same substance as God and emitted from him rather than created, can obtain bliss not in absorption but in existence near him.”
Ramanuja believed Brahma as Supreme and individual souls as modes or attributes of Brahma. God is attainable by soul through Bhakti. He believed in Sapuna Ishwara or god endowed with many auspicious qualities and virtues. According to him Brahma has two attributes—purusha and prakriti. Brahma is container while, purusha and prakriti are the contained.
The kernel of Ramanuja’s teachings has been summed by Prof. R C. Zaehner thus “to realize the nature of one’s immortal soul as being conditioned by time and space and to see all things in the soul and the soul in all things, is inherent in all men naturally, and it is a godlike state. But this is not to know God, to know God is to love him, and without a passionate and all coming love there can be neither communion nor union with the beloved. Any mystical state which is one of the undifferentiated oneness is the experience that one individual soul enjoys of its own individual self, it has nothing to do with God. Thus, in any form of mystical experience from which love is absent there can be no question of God. He is absent too. To interpret the experience as being identical with the One or All is absurd; beguiled by the beauty and apparent infinity of its own deep nature, the liberated soul so Ramanuja holds mistakes the mustard seed for Mount Mera the drop for the sea.”
In simple words Ramanuja laid emphasis on Bhakti as the principle means of attaining the supreme realty (God) or final bliss. He held that even the Sudras and outcastes could also attain salvation by completely surrendering to the will of the guru.
No doubt the Sudras and other out-castes were permitted to visit the temples only on certain fixed days in a year, but it marked the beginning of the movement for their upliftment.
Saint # 2. Nimbarka:
Nimbarka was a younger contemporary of Ramanuja, who also rendered great service to the spread of Bhakti movement. He wrote Vedanta-Parijatasourabha, a commentary on the Brahma Sutra, in simple language. Nimbarka also wrote Dasa Sloki, which deals with three realities (tri-tattava) —Brahma (Krishna), soul (Chit) and matter (Achit).
Nimbarka declared that the individual soul is a part of Brahma, both in the state of ignorance and in that of knowledge or emancipation Nimbarka attached great importance to attainment of knowledge and devotion.
Though Nimbarka belonged to the South, he spent most of his life at Braja near Mathura in the north. To him Gopala Krishna, along with Radha and Gopies, is God. He propounded the Radha Krishna cult, one of the most popular and influential cults of India. The doctrine propounded by Nimbarka has much to commend itself from the point of view of philosophy, religion and ethics.
“Its most distinctive feature” according to Roroa Chaudhuri is “that it strikes a happy balance between the rigid intellectualism of Adventism and the effusive emotionalism of later dualistic schools.” Prof. Chaudhuri further points out that “Nimbarka does the greatest service to mankind by pointing to a path which satisfied both intellect and feeling, head and heart, without over-emphasizing the one at the expense of the other.”
Saint # 3. Madhva:
Madhva was another devotee of Vishnu from the South. He took to monastic life when he was 25 years old. He wrote four bhasyas on Brahma Sutra; on the opening passages of the Rig-Veda; on the ten philosophical Upanishads; and on the Bhagavad-Gita. He also wrote expositions of Mahabharata and Bhagavata. It is said that Madhva in all wrote thistly-seven works
In these works he revealed his scholarly ability and logical penetration. Madhava did not believe in the qualified monism of Ramanuja and emphasised the doctrine of duality, based mainly upon the Bhagavata Purana. He held that the greatest obstacle in the path of salvation was the belief in the identity of Brahma and Jiva.
Madhva divides the universe into two parts:
i.Swatantra (independent being) and
ii.Aswatantra (dependent being).
God is the only independent being which possesses the qualities of omnipotence, omniscient and omnipresence. Matter and souls are dependent. God controls souls and matter, though he does not create or destroy them.
Though absolutely dependent on Brahma, individual souls are essentially active agents and have responsibilities of their own. Madhva classified the souls also into three categories—those which were fit for attaining final bliss ; those continually traversing the round of birth and death ; and sinners of the worst sort, with demons of all kinds, fit only for eternal hell.
In addition to these prominent Visahnavites, certain other -teachers also spread Bhakti among the people in the South. One such saint was Vishnusvamin, a great scholar and prodigy of learning. He wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sutra of Badarayana and Bhagavad Gita.
Saint # 4. Vallabhacharya:
Vallabhacharya was another prominent Vaishnava saint from the South. He hailed from a Telugu Brahman family, and gained great popularity for his talents, scholarship and deep knowledge of philosophy. He had intense love for the divine incarnation of God—Shri Krishna. He wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sutra, the Jaimini Sutra and Brahma Sutra and Anubhshya and Tattvarthadipa. In addition he wrote numerous other small works.
Vallabhacharya advocated a system of pure non-dualism devoid of the concept of Maya. Vallabha glorified the intense love of Radha and Krishna. He advocated a universal religion which did not believe in distinctions of sex, caste, creed or nationality.
Vallabha believed in self surrender. He admitted the efficacy of the path of knowledge, selfless work and devotion if one could attain spiritual growth. In his Siddhanta Rahasya (Secret of Truth) he said that every sin, whether of body or soul, is put away by union with the creator. “In other words Vallabha insisted on complete identity of both soul and world with the Supreme Spirit.”
According to Govindlal Hargovind Bhatt “the doctrine of grace, the ideal of self-dedication, and the sublimation of human life are some of the peculiar features of the teachings of the Acharya. And what is still more remarkable is the attitude of the Acharya towards the Vedas and the allied literature. He has accepted the Vedas as the highest authority and followed them most faithfully, with the result that logic can never get the better of faith. It is because of this attitude that Vallabhacharya differs from Shankracharya. Vallabha exercised tremendous influence on saints like Mira Bai and Narsi Metha.
Saint # 5. Ramananda:
The credit for the spread of Vaishnava religion in northern India goes to Ramananda. He was born at Prayag (Allahabad) of Kanya-kubja parents. He got his schooling at Prayag and Banaras and visited the various religious places in northern India, where he preached Vaishnavism. He preached the worship of Ram and Sita in place of Vishnu. He believed in Vishistadvaita philosophy of Ramauja and carried his teachings much further. He strongly opposed sectarianism and rites and insisted on adoption of Hindi in place of Sanskrit.
He simplified the worship and emancipated the people from the traditional caste rules. He imparted devotional knowledge to all without distinctions of religion or caste, but he was not prepared to make a complete departure from the past traditions. In his Anand Bhashya he did not recognise the right of a Sudra to read the Vedas.
He could not even cast off the sense of superiority of a Hindu over the Mohammedan. Similarly he accepted the superiority of the regenerate classes (dwijas) -over Sudras. Thus Ramananda, like the other saints of the South, did not believe in social equality. He enjoined strict segregation and perfect privacy in the matter of food.
Though Ramananda did not believe in the equality of the four varnas and numerous castes, but he made disciples from almost all castes. His disciples included members of the higher castes as well as lower castes like Jat (Dhana), barber (Sena), cobbler (Ravi Das) and Muslims (Kabir). Even women became his disciples (Padmavati and Sursari). Thus he treated disciples from all the castes on footings of equality. In short, he opened the doors of Vaishnavism to all without distinctions of caste, creed or sex.
Talking of the contributions of Ramananda to the Bhakti movement of north, Prof. Radhakamal Mukerjee has said “From the South he imbibed the mystical devotion of the Tamil saints and the Visirtadvaita doctrine of absolute self surrender (prapatti) and reliance upon God’s redemptive love and goodness, but he protested against Southern caste orthodoxy, which would not admit the Sudras to religious education, let alone to religious equality and brotherhood for in the discipline of Ramanuja these ideals were not translated into practice.
He also repudiated the barren ceremonialism of the Mimansa School and the Vedic way of life, which he found to be an anachronism; in the fourteenth century.” Prof. Mukerjee further says that from him sprang the three great mystical schools; the major branch was Ramaite, another was Krishnaite, and the third under the leadership of Kabir and other Nirguna Saints, preferred a combination of the Vedantic conception, Advaita or Visistadvaita, with the yoga and mediation on the chakras of the Natha and Sahaja traditions, a combination that held greater appeal for Muslim devotees and Hindu outcastes.”
But probably the greatest contribution of Ramananda to the Bhakti movement was that he made use of Hindi in place of Sanskrit and his message could be easily followed by the general public. It also gave fillip to the spread of Hindi literature. It would not be wrong to say that he democratized the movement. No doubt he did not make any effort to establish social equality, but the rigours of caste distinctions were greatly softened. In those times even this was no mean achievement.
Saint # 6. Chaitanya (1486—1533):
Chaitanya also known as Sri Gauranga, was a popular Vaishnava saint and reformer from Bengal. He was born of Brahman parents at Nadia. After his education he became a teacher. At the age of 25 he took to monastic life at the feet of Kesava Bharti. Some time later he went to Puri, where many disciples gathered round him.
He visited various religious places located in the southern and western parts of the country like Pandharpur, Som Nath, Dwarka etc. and preached his teachings there. He also paid a pilgrimage to Vrindaban, Mathura and other places in the north. However, he finally settled down at Puri and stayed there till his death in 1533.
Chaitanya believed in one supreme being, whom he called Krishna or Hari. Chaitanya held that the presence of the God could be realised through love, devotion, song and dance. He attached great importance to the inner and esoteric way of realisation, which he believed could be attained through a guru alone.
The essence of Chaitanya’s teachings has been beautifully summed by Krishnadas Kaviraj thus: “If a creature adores Krishna and serves his Guru. he is released from the mashes of illusion and attains to Krishna’s feet”, and leaving these (i.e. temptations) and the religious systems based on caste (the true Vaishnava) helplessly takes refuge with Krishna”. Chaitanya denounced caste system and believed in universal brotherhood of man.
He was opposed to the domination of the priests and the outward forms and ceremonies of religion. To him’ love ‘alone could lead a man to Hari. He originated the Sankirtan, or service of song and the institution of celibacy among monks or gosains. He wrote Shiksha Ashtak in which he gave the cream of the Shastras.
According to Prof. Radhakamad Mukherjee, “The Chaitanya Vaishnava movement added a new strand of morality and goodness to the Indian character; the maturing, and the transcendent quality of authentic human approach to the deity. Through him Vaishnavism, which is the philosophical expression of the ideal of love for God, ushered in a new era.”
Theodore Gold tucker says that Chaitanya comprehended five stages of Bhakti—quietism, as that of sage; servitude, which every votary takes upon himself; friendship for the deity honoured with his acquaintance; tender affection for the deity of the same nature as Jove of parents for their children; and the highest degree of affection; such passionate attachment as the Gopies felt for their beloved Krishna”. Though Chaitanya did not directly organise any sect, his teachings inspired his disciples to start a new sect. Chaitanya himself began to be worshipped as an incarnation of Krishna.
Saint # 7. Kabir:
Another prominent saint of the Bhakti movement in northern India was Kabir. There is much controversy among scholars regarding his date of birth, but it is certain that he lived either in the closing years of the fourteenth century or early fifteenth century.
It is said he was the son of a Hindu widow, who in order to hide her shame left the baby by the side of the tank in Banaras. wherefrom he was picked up by a Muslim weaver named Niru. From his childhood itself Kabir was a meditative child.
When he grew young he became the disciple of Ramanand and stayed most of the time at Banaras. He learnt the Vedanta philosophy in a modified and more acceptable form from Ramananda. But Kabir felt highly dissatisfied with the asceticism of the Hindu devotees who subjected themselves to austere bodily mortification.
He wanted a life which provided a temporal and spiritual satisfaction and therefore was greatly impressed by the teachings of the Muslim saint Pir Taqi. Taqi was opposed to exclusive pursuit of the contemplative life.
Kabir did not believe in extreme asceticism and abstractions from the world. He condemned idolatry and useless ceremonies. He believed in the equality of man and declared that before the high throne of God all were equal.
He preached a religion of love which aimed at promoting unity amongst all castes and creeds. In fact he was the first saint who tried to reconcile Hinduism and Islam. Kabir was not interested in organising any religion.
He merely wanted to popularize the current ideas of Bhakti. According to Prof. Yusuf Husain, “The chief aim of the teaching of Kabir was to find a modus vivendi,an acceptable means of reconciling the different castes and the religious communities of northern India.
He wished to abolish the caste system as well as the antagonism of the religions based on blind superstition or on the selfish interest of the minority exploiting the ignorance of others. He desired to establish social and religious peace among the people who lived together, but who were separated from one another by religion.
Kabir made an attempt at a fusion of Islamic mysticism, having as its object a loving devotion to a single God, and Hindu traditions”. Kabir’s teachings do not give preference either to Hindus, or Muslims. On the other hand he admired whatever was good in the two cults and condemned whatever was dogmatic.
The different appellations of God, according to Kabir, are only expressions of one and the same truth. He said: “Brother ! from where have the two masters of the Universe come ? Tell me, who has invented the names of Allah, Ram, Keshav, Hari and Hazrat? All ornaments of gold are made of a unique substance.
It is to show to the world that two different signs are made, one is called Namaz, while the other is termed Puja. Mahadev and Muhammad are one and the same; Brahma and Adam are one and the same. What is a Hindu? What is a Turk? Both inhabit the same earth one reads the Veda, and the other Quran and the Khutba. One is a Maulana and the other a Pandit. Earthen vessels have different names, although they are made from the same earth. Kabir says: both are misled, none has found God.”
According to Gertrude Emerson Sen, Kabir was not only a saint but a stern reformer, hating religious cant and hypocrisy, as can be gartered from his terse and often caustic verses which are still sung all over Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.”
He further says, “His (Kabir’s) rejection of rituals and image worship might well have been inspired by the tenets of orthodox Islam, and his ridicule of caste might as easily have sprung from the underlying Islamic doctrine of social democracy. But when he attacked fasts and ablutions and pilgrimages as useless performances and found the outward insignia of religion just so much foolishness, he attacked both orthodox Islam and orthodox Hinduism. Added to this he proclaimed that Allah and Rama were names of one and the same God, that he was to be found neither in the temple nor in Mosque, neither in Banaras nor in Mecca, but only in the heart of his devotes.”
Kabir laid great emphasis on Bhakti and said “Neither austerities, nor works of any kind are necessary to obtain the highest and this is only to be obtained by Bhakti (fervent devotion) and perpetual mediation on the Supreme—His names of Hari, Ram, Govind being ever on the lips and in the heart. The highest end is absorption in the Supreme and reunion with Him from whom all proceeded, and who exists in all.”
Though Kabir was opposed to the division of mankind into sects, yet differences cropped up between his disciples regarding the disposal of his last remains after death. While the Musalmans wanted to bury him, the Hindus demanded that he should be burnt.
It is said that the dispute was resolved because the body of Kabir lying under the shroud disappeared and only a handful of flowers were left. These flowers were divided by the Hindus and the Muslmans and they disposed them off according to their religious rites, This also led to division amongst the disciples of Kabir and two sects with their headquarters at Kabir Chaura in Banaras and Chattisgarh respectively continued to exist, Occasionally the relations between these two Kabir-Panthis were strained.
Saint # 8. Guru Nanak:
Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion was another prominent saint, who greatly appreciated the teachings of Kabir. Guru Nanak was born at village Talwandi near Lahore in 1460. Right from his childhood he took delight in religious discussions with holy men.
The initial efforts of his parents to involve him in worldly things did not yield the desired results. Though he was married and had children, he renounced the world and paid visits to various holy places to preach spiritualism.
Guru Nanak believed that the married life and secular business did not obstruct the spiritual progress and emancipation of man. Nanak not only visited various parts of India but also visited a number of foreign countries like Ceylon, Persia, Arabia. He is also said to have visited Mecca.
Guru Nanak laid much impress on the oneness of God as truth, and fraternity of men, righteous living, the social virtues of dignity of labour and charity. To him Islam and Hinduism provided two paths for meeting the God.
He laid emphasis on purity of deeds and said “man shall be saved by his works alone. God will not ask a man his tribe or sect, but what he has done. According to Guru Nanak man could attain salvation by doing four things—Fearing God, doing the right, trust in the mercy of his name and taking a guide to direct him upon the path which leads to the goal.
Nanak believed in God as the omnipotent reality and the human soul could attain union with him through love and devotion, and not by knowledge of ceremonial observance. He believed in oneness of God and the brotherhood of man. Nanak preached in the language of the people and his preaching’s became very popular during his lifetime itself. His disciples included both the Hindus and the Muslims.
Nanak decried caste system and challenged the monopoly of spiritual evolution and religious sanctity of higher castes. Unity of God and unity of mankind were the two fundamental doctrines of his creed. According to Cunningham “Instead of the circumscribed divinity, the anthropomorphous God of Ramanand and Kabir, he loftily invokes the Lord as One; the Sole, the Timeless Being, the Creator, the Self-existent, the Incomprehensible, and the Everlasting. He likens the Deity to Truth which was before the world began, which is, and which shall endure for ever, as the ultimate idea or cause of all we know and behold. He addresses equally the Mullah and the Pandit, the Darwesh and the Sanyasis and he tells them to remember that Lord of Lords, who had seen come and go numberless Muhammad’s, Vishnu’s and Shivas.”
“The sweetness of his character and the simple truth behind his teachings” says Dr. Banerjee “made him an object of love to all and even today he is remembered as Guru Nanak Shah Fakir, Hindu ka Guru, Mussalman ka Pir.”
Though Guru Nanak did not intend to start any distinct religion of his own, but gradually his followers evolved a new religion known as Sikhism, which was quite distinct from Hinduism.
Saint # 9. Dadu Dayal (1554—1603 A D.):
Dadu Dayal was a weaver from Ahmedabad, who made significant contributions to the Bhakti movement. He was a mochi by caste and renounced the world at an early age. He visited a number of places of pilgrimage and became a saint.
In his teachings Dadu laid stress upon the promotion of love, union, sentiments of brotherhood and toleration among people of various faiths. He said “The Illusion of Allah and Rama hath been dispelled from my mind; since I see Thee in all, I see no difference between Hindu and Turk.”
Dadu was opposed to idol-worship, caste distinctions, the theory of avatars (reincarnation of God), external formalities of religion and the practice of worship at the shrines of the departed saints. Dr. Tara Chand has rightly said that his ideas of God, of the world and of man do not differ from those of his predecessors. He insists upon the unity of God and he regards him in his twofold aspect of transcendence and immanence. To him he is one changeable immortal, incomprehensible being. He is brightness, effulgence, light, illumination, perfection. He is within the heart of all beings”.
Dadu expressed his ideas which are contained in the granth known as Dadu Ram Ki Bani. Dadu like Kabir and Nanak was an embodiment of free spirit from any taint of religious bigotry or sectarianism, remarkable in any age. He tried to assuage religious quarrels and did his best to bring Hindus and Muslims and all other sects together. He dwelt upon the greatness of Guru even over the sacred books—the Vedas and the Quran.
Dadu established a sect the followers of which are known as Dadu-panthis.
Saint # 10. Mira Bai (1498—1546):
Mira Bai was another great saint of the medieval times. She was born at the village of Kudki in the Merta district in 1498 and was married to Bhoj Raj, the son of renowned warrior Rana Sanga of Mewar in Rajasthan. Mira became a devotee of Krishna right from childhood and always carried a small image of Girdhar Gopal with her. After marriage she continued her devotion towards Krishna and became popular as a Divine singer.
Hermits of various religions visited Chittor to watch her Singing in ecstasy and absorbed in divine consciousness, it is said that even Akbar along with Tan Sen paid a visit to her in disguise and offered a necklace. Bhoj Raj, her husband did not like her mixing with people of all types and reprimanded her.
Mira became widow, but continued with her devotion to Lord Krishna and service of the saints. This was not liked by the brother of her late husband and he tried to kill her through poison and snake bite, but without any success in his mission. Therefore, Mira Bai left for Brindaban at dead of night and started doing public kirtan.
All the efforts of the Rana to pursuade her to return to Rajasthan failed and she continued to live a life of devotee till her death in 1546 A. D.
Mira’s massage was that none by reason of birth, poverty, age or sex will be debarred from his divine presence. The way is but one—that of Bhakti. The portals will open when the teacher will bless the devotee with his company and teach him the mysteries of the Sabda.
Once he is reached, is no further or future separation possible. Sooner or later every one is to meet his Lord. Time is a great factor, and can be shortened by intensity of one’s affection for the Lord. Burn in the fire of separation from the Lord. But this is to come through practice of no yogic exercises nor through mere learning. It is a gift and a boon from the Lord himself.
Bankey Behari says, “To me Mira is the moth that burn itself in the candle of love for Girdhar and for all times filled the temple of devotion with gragrance. Undaunted by fire or frown, unperturbed by persecutions, this devotee of Sri Krishna sang her songs of princely renunciation and self surrender, that shall infuse courage in the aspiration the Path of Love. Mira lived the message she preached, scoffed at cold intellectualism and boldly proclaimed the doctrine of absolute faith in and devotion to the Lord.”
Saint # 11. Tulsidas (1532—1623):
Tulsidas was a great poet and a devotee. He was born in a Brahman family in 1532. On account of a taunt of his wife Ratuawali he is said to have taken to life of religious hermit. His works, apart from his magnum opus Ram Charit Manas (popularly known as Ramayana) include Gitawali, Kavitawali, Vinaya Patrika etc.
In Ram Charit Manas, Tulsi Das makes an exposition of religious devotion of the highest order. Tulsi Das was a humanist and universalist and laid stress upon knowledge, devotion, worship and mediation He has blended in his work the philosophical monist of the past with stress on Bhakti, the poetry and dignity of Valmiki’s Ramayana with the devotional fervour and humanism of Bhagvata.
To Tulsidas, Rama was a personal and supreme God, which had feeling of compassion for the humanity which suffered. Tulsidas says, “There is one God; It is Rama, creator of heaven and earth and redeemer of mankind….For the sake of his faithful people a very god, Lord Rama, became incarnate as a king and for our sanctification lived as it were; the life of any ordinary man.”
He further says “The Supreme spirit, the All pervading, who has become incarnate and done many things for the love that he bears to his faithful people.”
According to J. E. Carpenter “Tulsi Das starts from the fundamental conception of philosophical theology, the ethical Brahman, passionless,’ formless, without attributes (nirguna) and yet possessing the fundamental quality of goodness (sattva); nay, in still bolder speech, at once the sum and the negation of all qualities self, same in all time-past, present, and to come.”
Though Tulsi Das did not start any new sect or advocate any new doctrine, yet by his own pure life and the magic of his poetry he rendered great service to the Bhakti-marga.
Saint # 12. Sur Das:
Sur Das was another saint, and poet who preached religion of love and devotion to a personal God and provided inspiration to millions of men and women in northern India. There is lot of controversy amongst the scholars regarding the dates of birth and death of Sur Das.
It is commonly held that he was born sometimes in the last quarter of the fifteenth century. His works include Sur Sagar, Sahitva Ratna and Sur Sarawali. In Sur Sagar, Sur Das deals with the life of Krishna’s childhood. He displayed himself not merely as a master of child psychology but also as a devotee of the Almighty.
The works and poems of Sur Das exercised tremendous influence on the people and encouraged them to follow the path of Bhakti.
Saint # 13. Maluk Das (1574—1682):
Maluk Das was born at Kara in the district of Allahabad. He also founded a sect which mainly consists of laymen. Like other saints and reformers of his time Maluk das also condemned the externals of religion like pilgrimage, idol worship, etc.
According to Dr. Tara Chand he teaches that the true religion is an inward faith, that Maya is the enemy of man, and God’s name is the only protection against it, that the world is transitory and the worldly relations of no avail, that man is born of dust and will return to dust, that those who are not devoted to spiritual life are the dogs of the world, that salvation is obtained by knowing the self, killing pride and egotism, controlling passions, trusting the Guru, and loving God.
Maluk Das also laid great emphasis on the unity of the Hindus and Muslims and said:
“Where is the string of beads (mala) and the rosary (tasbih) now awake and rely not on them. Who is infidel (kafir) and who is barbarian (malechcha) look upon sandhya (Hindu worship) and the prayer (namaz) as one. Where does Yama live ant where is Gabriel? He himself is the judge (Qazi) who else keeps accounts? He calculates the good and the evil deeds, and render account and send one where he deserves to go. Malukdas, why art thou in error, Rama and Rahim are the names of One.”
Saint # 14. Sundardas (1596—1689):
Sundardas was a disciple of Dadu. He was born in the family of a Bania in Rajasthan in 1596 A.D. He spent most of his early childhood with Dadu at Naraina, and soon gained popularity as a great poet and a saint. He returned to his home in 1603 after the death of Dadu and spent the rest of the life spreading the religion of Bhakti taught by Dadu.
He spent the later part of his life in travels and visited numerous places in Rajputana and Punjab.
The reputation of Sundardas rests on his work Sundarvilasa, In this work he deals with the six philosophic systems of the Hindus and emphasises their inadequacy in securing salvation of man. He insisted on the teachings of Dadu as an easy way for salvation.
Saint # 15. Birbhan:
Birbhan was a contemporary of Dadu. He was born near Narnaul in Punjab in 1543 and founded the famous sect of Sadhus or Satnamis. Birbhan was a monotheist and described God by the name of Satnam or Truth. Birbhan did not believe in caste and other distinctions and was opposed to idol worship.
He insisted on meditation and virtuous life with a view to attain ultimate absorption with God. Birbhan insisted on his followers to abstain from intoxicants and animal food as well as unnecessary accumulation of wealth. The sect founded by Birbhan is known as Satnamis and their religious granth is known as Pothi, which is revered like the Granth of the Sikhs.
In addition to the above saints and reformers a number of other saints and reformers also tried to bring about religious synthesis and to reconcile the ideas of Islam and Hinduism. It is not possible to make a mention of the ideas of all these saints within the limited space at our disposal. However, the prominent amongst them included Lal Das of Alwar; Bawa Lal of Malwa, Dliarnidas of Chapra, Jagjivandas of Barabanki district, Charandas of Rajputna, Ramcharan of Shahpur, and numerous others.