Explain the nature and characteristics of Bhakti movement. Discuss various factors that helped its development.

Nature of Bhakti Movement

Bhakti movement is called by this name because this was a non ritualistic movement and totally based on Bhakti. In the whole religious life of India, the glory of this period is most magnificent. This period spreads over almost 250 years from 1300 to 1550. It emphasized a religion or faith, which was essentially Hindu but reflected the forceful monotheism of Islam. All Bhakti cults are essentially monotheistic. It is the religion; philosophy and social thinking that were created during this revival, which enabled Hinduism to reassert itself in the following period. Ramanand, Kabir, Mira, and Vallabhacharya in the north, Chaitanya in Bengal, Madhava, Vedanta Desika and numerous others contributed a lot in this movement.

Characteristics of Bhakti Movement

  1. There was no need to perform rituals, yagas or complicated methods to praise god. One could worship god by love and devotion.
  2. There was no need to worship different idols or deities. Bhakti movement emphasized belief in one god.
  3. Bhakti saints emphasized stress on equality of all castes. They said that, no one is high or low in front of god. Everyone is equal.
  4. Due to stress on castes equality, other religions came closer to Hindu religion. This emphasized Hindu Muslim unity.
  5. Before bhakti movement, Sanskrit language was used to perform yagas or rituals. Religious books or scriptures were in Sanskrit language. This language was mostly understood by Brahamans. Common people were not able to understand this language. But bhakti saints preached in language of common people. So it became easy to understand for everyone.
  6. Before bhakti movement, it was a deal of complicated rituals to realize god or have grace of god. But bhakti saints preached everyone that you only need a true, honest and kind heart to reach and realize god.
  7. Due to this movement religion became a matter of spirituality and devotion; instead of rituals and propagandas.

There were many factors that helped in the development of the Bhakti movement. Some important factors are as follows:

  1. During the medieval period, Hindus were mistreated by Muslims rulers. Hindus were forced to convert their religion to Islam and imposed jaziya on them. To preserve their religion, Hindus supported and strongly contributed in bhakti movement.
  2. Hindu society was divided in lower castes and upper castes. The people of lower castes had to suffer discrimination, injustice and cruelties by the persons of the upper castes. So, people of lower castes supported bhakti saints because these saints preached equality of castes.
  3. Rituals and complicated methods were performed to praise god. But due to insufficient knowledge and lack of money, a common man was not able to do such kind of things. Bhakti saints preached the path of devotion and discarded all rituals. Bhakti saints told a common man that to realize god, one needs only a kind, loving and devotional hearth and nothing else.
  4. There were many evils in Hindu society. Bhakti saints tried to remove these evils and emphasized on a moral life. So everybody supported them.
  5. Due to mechanical methods of rituals, Hindu religion had become a dead religion. There was no scope for any new idea, creativity and thought. Bhakti saints tried revive this religion. They make it more intellectual; instead of mechanical. This was a rebirth of Hinduism.


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