Notes of Chapter 8 Devotional Paths to Divine Class 7th History

• Since the eighth century, the legacy of various kinds of bhakti and Sufi movements have evolved.

The Idea of a Supreme God

• Before the existence of large kingdoms, different groups of people worshipped their own gods and goddesses.

• The belief that social privileges came from birth in a “noble” family or a “high” caste was the subject of many learned texts.

• Many people were uneasy with such ideas and turned to the teachings of the Buddha or the Jainas.
→ Others felt attracted to the idea of a Supreme God who could deliver humans from such bondage if approached with devotion (or bhakti).

• Gods and goddesses worshipped in different areas came to be identified with Shiva, Vishnu or Durga.

• The idea of bhakti became so popular that even Buddhists and Jainas adopted these beliefs.

A New Kind of Bhakti in South India – Nayanars and Alvars

• The seventh to ninth centuries saw the emergence of new religious movements, led by the Nayanars (saints devoted to Shiva) and Alvars (saints devoted to Vishnu).

• The Nayanars and Alvars went from place to place composing exquisite poems in praise of the deities.

• Between the tenth and twelfth centuries the Chola and Pandya kings built elaborate temples strengthening the links between the bhakti tradition and temple worship.

Philosophy and Bhakti

• Shankara born in Kerala, one of the most influential philosophers of India advocated Advaita or the doctrine of the oneness of the individual soul and the Supreme God.

• Ramanuja, born in Tamil Nadu in the eleventh century, was deeply influenced by the Alvars described best means of attaining salvation was through intense devotion to Vishnu.

Basavanna’s Virashaivism

• Virashaiva movement initiated by Basavanna and his companions like Allama Prabhu and Akkamahadevi. 

• This movement began in Karnataka in the mid-twelfth century. 

• The Virashaivas argued strongly for the equality of all human beings and against Brahmanical ideas about caste and the treatment of women.

The Saints of Maharashtra

• From the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries Maharashtra saw a great number of saint-poets such as Dnyaneshwar (Gyaneshwar), Namdev, Eknath and Tukaram as well as women like Sakhubai and the family of Chokhamela, who belonged to the “untouchable” Mahar caste.

• These saint-poets rejected all forms of ritualism.

Nathpanthis, Siddhas and Yogis

• A number of religious groups that emerged during this period criticised the ritual and other aspects of conventional religion and the social order.
→ These were the Nathpanthis, Siddhacharas and Yogis.

• To them the path to salvation lay in meditation on the formless Ultimate Reality and the realisation of oneness with it.

Islam and Sufism

• Sufis were Muslim mystics who rejected outward religiosity and emphasised love and devotion to God and compassion towards all fellow human beings.

• In the eighth and ninth centuries religious scholars developed different aspects of the Holy Law (Shariat) and theology of Islam.

• The Sufis often rejected the elaborate rituals and codes of behaviour demanded by Muslim religious scholars.

• A large number of Sufis from Central Asia settled in Hindustan from the eleventh century onwards.

• The Sufi masters held their assemblies in their khanqahs or hospices. 

New Religious Developments in North India

• The period after the thirteenth century saw a new wave of the bhakti movement in north India.

• People, especially craftspersons, peasants, traders and labourers, thronged to listen to these new saints and spread their ideas.

• Some of them like Kabir and Baba Guru Nanak rejected all orthodox religions. 

• Others like Tulsidas and Surdas accepted existing beliefs and practices but wanted to make these accessible to all.

• This tradition also included saints like Dadu Dayal, Ravidas and Mirabai.

• A unique feature of most of the saints is that their works were composed in regional languages and could be sung.

A Closer Look: Kabir

• Kabir, who probably lived in the fifteenth-sixteenth centuries, was one of the most influential saints.

• He composed vast collection of verses called sakhis and pads which was sung by wandering bhajan singers.

• His teachings openly ridiculed all forms of external worship.

A Closer Look: Baba Guru Nanak

• Baba Guru Nanak (1469-1539) born at Talwandi and travelled widely before establishing a centre
at Kartarpur.

• Before his death in 1539, Baba Guru Nanak appointed one of his followers as his successor known as Guru Angad.

• Guru Angad compiled the compositions of Baba Guru Nanak and added a new script known as Gurmukhi.

• The number of Baba Guru Nanak’s followers increased through the sixteenth century under his successors.

• By the beginning of the seventeenth century the town of Ramdaspur (Amritsar) had developed around the central Gurdwara called Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple).

• The Sikh movement began to get politicised in the seventeenth century.

• Guru Nanak emphasised the importance of the worship of one God.
→ He insisted that caste, creed or gender was irrelevant for attaining liberation.

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