Meaning of Bhakti Movement:

The literal meaning of Bhakti is devotion. But the Bhakti movement implied the movement which emphasized intense devotion to God.

This devotion was expressed by a devotee through the repetition of the name of Almighty. The mode of expression was usually singing and dancing in the praise of God.

The saints of the Bhakti movement also emphasized that there was no distinction of class, colour, caste etc. All were equal. All had the right to salvation i.e. freedom from the cycle of births and deaths.

November | 2012 | The Hare Krishna Movement

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The saints of the Bhakti movement believed in leading a pure and simple life.

The saints emphasized that one need not go to pilgrimages to holy places for securing salvation.

Causes for the rise of the movement:


The Bhakti movement was the outcome of a number of causes. The root of the movement lay deep into the soil of India. There was nothing new in the bhakti cult, which did not already exist in India. The elements of the cult could be traced from the Vedas onwards.

Secondly the impact of the Muslim rule and Islam put dread in the heart of Hindu masses. The Hindus had suffered a lot under some of the fanatic rulers. They wanted some solace to heal their despairing hearts.

The bhakti movement brought them hope and support and inner strength to save Hinduism. The Sufi saints of the Muslim community also inspired the movement. Some similar chords in the two evoked resonance.

The Muslim society firmly believed in the unity of God, the equality and fraternity of mankind and complete surrender to God. It is a coincidence that the Hindu reformers and the mystic saints were also trying to stress these features besides others.


Kabir’s (1425-1518) emphasis on Ram and Rahim: Unity of religions:

Kabir’s mission was to bridge the gulf between the Hindus and the Muslims and so he described himself “Kabir is the child of Allah and Ram.” “Hindus and Turks were pots of the same clay. Allah and Rama were but different names.” His God is the nirguna Supreme Being, the God of gods. He equated Rama with Rahim (the Merciful) and it went a long way to make the bhakti movement a unique religious experience.

Pure heart i.e. pure living:

To him, the prayers, pilgrimages and fasting of the Hindus as well as of the Muslims were equally mechanical. He was against idolatry, as he said, “If by worshipping stones one can find God, I shall worship a mountain.” To him what mattered was total absorption in the devotion to the Supreme with a pure heart. He was fond of oral teachings in the shape of couplets in Hindi which were later collected in the Bijaka (the Seed Book). The simple fine rhythm of these couplets helped their easy remembrance and great popularity.

The essence of his teachings may be found in his couplets and poems like the following:

“Mo Ko Kahan dhunro bande…”

O Servant where dost thow seek me, Lo I am beside thee.

I am neither in temple nor in mosque…

If thou art a true seeker, thou shall at once see me…”

Kabir’s teachings may be summed up as:

(i) God is one but has different names

(ii) Devotion to God.

(iii) Harmony between the Hindus and the Muslims,

(iv) No caste system,

(v) Welfare of others

(vi) No lust for riches.

Guru Nanak Dev’ teachings: Hindu Muslim Unity: glory of one God: Love and devotion:

Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539) from whose teachings, the Sikh religion was founded, was one of the foremost apostles of the Bhakti cult. His catholic approach aimed at bridging the gulf between the Hindus and the Muslims. The hymns of Guru Nanak have been preserved in the Adi Granth. In these he sang the glory of one great God, and man’s duty of meditating his name with a pure heart, bereft of all desires. Guru Nanak believed that the religious acts and austerities practised by different religious sects were useless. Love and devotion to one God is the only way of obtaining his grace.

Purity of conduct:

He laid emphasis on the purity of character and conduct as the first condition of approaching God.

No caste system: simple like: religious Equality:

He opposed priestly ritualism, blind faith, the caste system and idol worship. His disciples were from different castes and creeds, religions and regions. He preached through his hymns, which he sang to the accompaniment of the rebele (a stringed musical instrument) played by Mardana. The following hymn closely echoes the teachings of the great saint.

Religion consisteth not in patched coat, or in a Yogi’s staff, or in ashes smeared over the body,

Religion consisteth not in earring worn or a shaven head, or in the blowing of horns.

Abide pure amidst the impurities of the world;

Thus, shalt thou find the way of religion.