There is a close relationship between socio-political and economic trends and religious activity, the bhakti movements cannot be seen in isolation.

The 14th and 15th centuries saw the decline of the powerful and centralized state.

Economic Front

  • Artisans were coming from the ranks of people outside the professions
  • They were not accepted as equals among the Indian artisans.
  • Merchants also did not find a place in the social hierarchy.

Religious Equality

  • People opposed to the traditional, rigid, elaborate and meaningless rituals that had crept into the society.

Social Participation

  • The people who did not fit into the broad varna set-up were termed as the chandalas or the out-castes

Characteristics of Bhakti & Sufi Movement

  • Term ‘Bhakti’ symbolises ‘devotion or passionate love for the Divine’.
  • Focused on singular devotion, mystical love for God
  • These saints spoke of a direct relationship between man and god
  • They had no desire to set up a separate religion, nor did they have blind faith in any of the sacred scriptures.
  • The bhakti saints preached in simple vernaculars
  • They came from the lower sections of society and worked for their living.
  • Most of the bhakti saints were artisans by origin or belonged to the class of less prosperous cultivators

Phases of Bhakti Movement

1st phase

  • The first phase can be traced back to the origin of the Bhagavata cult
  • In south India, Bhakti grew from a religious tradition to a popular movement in the 7th and 12th century CE

2nd phase

  • The second phase, spanning nearly four centuries, extended from the 13th to the 16th centuries
  • They were not linked with any particular religious creed and did not believe in rituals and ceremonies.
  • They condemned polytheism and believed in one god.
  • Greatly emphasized on the fundamental unity of all religions.

1st phase of Bhakti Movement


  • Hindu revivalist movement of the 9th century
  • He was born in Kaladi (Kerala)
  • he propounded the Advaita (Monism) philosophy and Nirguna brahman (god without attributes).
  • In Advaita, the reality of the world is denied and Brahman is considered as the only reality.
  • According to him, gyaan (knowledge) alone can lead to salvation.
  • He wrote commentary on the Bhagvat Gita, Upadesh Shastri, Vivek Chudamani, Bhaja Govindum Stotra
  • Established mathas at Sringiri, Dwarka, Puri, and Badrinath.


  • Born at Sriperumbudur near modern Chennai in the 12th century.
  • He opposed the mayavada of Shankara
  • He advocated the philosophy of Vishihsta Advaitavada (qualified monism),
  • He founded the Sri Vaishnava sect.
  • According to him, God is Saguna Brahman.
  • He wrote Sribhashya, Vedanta dipa, Gita Bhasya, Vedantasara


  • In the 13th century, Madhava from Kannada region
  • He propagated Dvaita or the dualism of the Jivatma and Paramatma.
  • He also founded the Brahma Sampradya


  • Nimbraka propounded the Dvaita advaita philosophy and the philosophy of Bheda Abheda
  • Preacher of Vaishnavite Bhakti in the Telangana region.
  • Worshipper of Krishna and Radha and established his ashrama in Braja (Mathura).
  • He also founded the Sanak Sampradaya


  • Born in Benaras in the 15th century and lived at the court of Krishnadeva Raya.
  • He propounded the Shudhadvaita (pure monism)
  • He was a preacher of the Krishna cult.
  • Its philosophy is Pushtimarga.
  • He founded the Rudra Sampradya
  • Surdas was the disciple of Vallabhacharya who was blind and popularized the Krishna cult in north India.


  • Vidyapati was a 14th century Maithili poet known for his
  • His poetry dedicated to Shiva

Bhakti movement in Maharashtra

Jnaneswara or Jnanadeva

  • A 13th century pioneer bhakti saint of Maharashtra
  • commentary on the Bhagvat Gita called Jnanesvari
  • Arguing against caste distinctions
  • Known as Maharashtra dharma


  • He was a poet-saint from Maharashtra belonging to the 14th century
  • He was greatly influenced by Islam
  • One the five revered gurus in the Dadu panth tradition, other four being Dadu, Kabir, Ravidas, and Hardas

Sant Eknath

  • He was a Marathi saint Varkari sampradaya, belonging to the 16th century.
  • In the development of Marathi literature, Eknath is seen as a bridge between his predecessors Dnyaneshwar and Namdeva and the later Tukaram and Ramdas.
  • He introduced a new form of Marathi religious song called Bharood.


  • Tukaram was a 17th century poet-saint in Maharashtra
  • He was a Sudra by birth.
  • Tukaram is known for his Avangas (dohas)
  • He was a contemporary of Shivaji and was responsible for creating a background for Maratha nationalism, ‘Parmaratha’.


  • He was born in 1608 and was the spiritual guide of Shivaji.
  • He wrote Dasabodha, combining his vast knowledge of sciences and arts with the principles of spiritual life.

2nd phase of Bhakti Movement


  • Ramananda lived in the 15th century, born in Allahabad
  • He was a follower of Ramanuja.
  • Later, he founded his own sect and preached his principles in Hindi at Benaras and Agra.
  • He considered it to be the link between the South Indian Bhakti and North Indian Vaishnava Bhakti traditions
  • He was the founder of the Ram cult in north India.
  • Ramananda like the monotheist bhakti saints, also rejected caste hierarchies
  • He was against the rigidity of the Hindu philosophy
  • His major contribution was the use of the common language
  • The teachings of Ramananda created two distinct schools among his disciples and the later bhakti saints.



  • Nirguna school represented by Kabir
  • Kabir preached absolute abolition of caste and seriously questioned the authority of the Vedas.
  • He also made an attempt to learn  from Islam and tried to establish a synthetic movement which made him to declare the famous dictum that Ram and Rahim are equal.
  • Some of the other important saints Nanak, Dadu Dayal, Raidas, etc.
  • These philosophers denied both the Hindu and the Muslim ideas of God and even equated them by stating that they were identical.


  • Suguna tried to enrich the religion of Hinduism and also preserved the authority of the Vedas and did not wish to break away from the past.
  • Chaitanya, Shankardeva, Surdas, Mirabaiand Tulsidas are some of the most important saguna saints.

Nirguna School

Kabir (1398 – 1518)

  • Kabir was a Bhakti poet whose verses are found in the Sikh holy scripture, Adi Granth.
  • He was born near Benares to a Brahman widow, but was brought up by a Muslim couple
  • Kabir laid great emphasis on the equality of man before God.
  • His dohas and sakhi (poems), whose collection is found in the Bijak
  • Other writings are ‘Sakhi Granth’, ‘Anurag Sagar’ and ‘Kabir Granthawali
  • Sikandar Lodhi was his contemporary

Sikh Gurus

Dadu Dayal (1544–1603)

  • Dadu Dayal is one of the major representatives of the Nirguna Sant
  • He was from Gujarat, who spent the best part of his spiritual life in Rajasthan.
  • ‘Dadu’ means ‘brother’, and ‘Dayal’ means ‘the compassionate one’
  • Emperor Akbar was one of his followers.
  • His followers, Dadupanthis, expose their dead like the Parsis.

Saguna School

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1436 – 1533)

  • Well-known saint, ascetic Hindu monk, and social reformer of Bengal
  • He popularised the Krishna cult in the 16th century.
  • Popularised the Sankirtan/Kirtan system
  • biography of Chaitanya was written by Krishnadas Kaviraj.

Surdas (1483—1563)

  • He popularized the Krishna cult in UP
  • He was the author of Sur Sagara, Sur Sarawali

Mirabai (1498—1569)

  • Hailing from the Sisodia dynasty of Chittor
  • She was a great devotee of Krishna
  • Popularised his cult in Rajasthan through her songs.

Sankaradeva (1463—1568)

  • A contemporary of Chaitanya, he spread Vaishnava bhakti in Assam.

Tulsidas (1532—1623)

  • He was a worshipper of Rama
  • Tulsidas composed the famous Ramcharit manas in Hindi
  • Expounding the various aspects of Hindu dharma.

Narsingh Mehta

  • Saint from Gujarat who wrote songs in Gujarati depicting the love of Radha–Krishna.
  • Author of Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite bhajan –“Vaishanava jan ko”

Saint Tyagaraja

  • He was one of the greatest composers of Carnatic music,
  • Saint Tyagaraja composed thousands of devotional compositions, most in Telugu and in praise of Lord Ram.
  • He was a prolific composer and composed the famous Pancharatna Kritis

Sufism in India

  • The word ‘sufi’ is derived from ‘suf’, which means wool in Arabic, it also means ‘purity’,Sufism or mysticism emerged in the 8th century,The early known Sufis were Rabia al-Adawiya, Al-Junaid, and Bayazid Bastami.Well-developed movement by the end of the 11th century.Al Hujwiri, is regarded as the oldest Sufi in the sub-continent.By the 12th century, the Sufis were organised in Silsilahs

Sufism in India

Impact of Bhakti Movement

  • Development of Regional Literature
  • Lower classes and women were raised to a position of greater importance.
  • Interaction and unity among the two communities, Hindu and Muslim

New Languages Emerged


  • The Hindi language originated between the 7th and 10th centuries.
  • The first stage of Hindi literature, known as adi kala (1206—1318)
  • Narapati Nalha and Amir Khusrau were the two major poets of the adi kala.
  • The second stage, known as bhakti Kala (1318—1643


  • It emerged due to the interaction of Persian and Indian languages in the military camps of Alauddin Khalji
  • The Deccan was the cradle of Urdu and the language flourished first in the kingdoms of Bijapur and Golconda
  • Amir Khusro interspersed it with Persian as the first school of ghazal poets emerged in the Deccan during the 15th and 16th centuries
  • The works of Vali reached Delhi in 1720, the town was in an uproar and,within a decade, Urdu became the language of poetry


  • Although Oriya originated in the 8th century, major works in the language appeared only in the 13th and 14th centuries.
  • Important Oriya writers were Sarladasa (Mahabharata in the 14th century),


  • The first stage covered the period between the 10th and 12th centuries.
  • Its literature was mainly in the form of folk songs and influenced by the philosophy of the Sahaja cult


  • The first phase, from the 13th to 15th centuries
  • It was marked by two main forms—the prabandha (narrative poem) and the mukta (shorter poem)
  • Important poets of this phase were Sridhara and Bhima


  • Marathi literature emerged in the latter half of the 13th century.
  • A major contribution was made by the saint poets of the Natha cult (founded by Gorakhanatha) such as Mukundaraja


  • The literature of the Alvars or Vaishnava saints was known as Prabhanda, the most important among them being Nalayiram


  • The group of poets called kavitraya were Nannaya (1Ith century), Tikkana (13th century) and Yerrapragada(13th and 14th century).
  • They translated the Mahabharata into Telugu.


  • The earliest extant work in Kannada is Kavirajamarga by Rashtrakuta Amoghavarsha I.


  • The earliest literary work in Malayam is Unnunili Sandesam, a work by an unknown writer of the 14th century
  • Ramanuja Elluttoccan (greatest of all) wrote Harinamakirtanam, Bhagavatam Kilippattu


Who started Bhakti movement?

In the 14th and 15th centuries, Ramananda, Kabir and Nanak emerged as the great proponents of the Bhakti cult.

Why is the Bhakti movement important?

The Bhakti movement emphasized the unity of all the different Hindu gods, the surrender of the self to God, equality and brotherhood of all people, and devotion to God as the number one priority of life. One of the most important impacts of the Bhakti movement on Indian society was the rejection of the caste system.

Where is Bhakti movement started?

The Bhakti movement started in the 7th Century-8th Century in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Later it spread to Karnataka, Maharashtra, and it reached North India in the 15th Century.

What caused the Bhakti movement?

The Bhakti movement started in the South in response to the conquest of northern India by Muslim rulers. From 8th century A.D. to 15th century A.D. this movement gathered its momentum in the south. The earliest reformer-saint in South was Adi Shankaracharya who had a unique success.

Who was the first Bhakti saint?

Ramananda (1360-1470) was the first Bhakti saint to use Hindi for the propagation of his message. Q. 26.

Who were the propagators of the Bhakti Movement?

One of the leaders of this Hindu revivalist movement was Shankaracharya, a great thinker and a distinguished philosopher. And this movement was propounded by others like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Namadeva, Tukaram, Jayadeva.