Sufism and Bhakti Movement - Civil Services Preparation Online! UPSC & IAS Study Material

Sufism and Bhakti Movement

by Devender

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Sufism is a supernatural and parsimonious Islam rehearsed by a huge number of Muslims. It is known as "Tasawwuf" in the Muslim world.


Sufism has originated in Persia and spread to India in the 11th century. The first Sufi saint was Shaik Ismail of Lahore and the most famous Sufi saint of India was Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti.

He settled in Ajmer and it became his center of activities. His disciples were known as Sufis of the Chisti order. One of his disciples, Nizamuddin Aulia of the Chisti order became a mighty spiritual force.

  • Sufism focused on Love and dedication as a viable
  • It just means acknowledgment of God and achieving salvation
  • As per Sufism, Love of God implied love of humankind
  • They accepted the support of mankind approaches administration of God
  • Self-restraint was vital to acquire information on God by discernment
  • Sufism had faith in internal virtue not in ceremonies
  • They had confidence in fellowship and in one God
  • They did not believe in class division
  • According to Sufi saints, everyone should have the guidance of a pir or guru, without whom spiritual development cannot be attained. Sufism puts a spirit of tolerance among its followers and it puts focus on Meditation, Good action, Repentance of sins, Performance of prayers, Pilgrimage, Fasting, Charity & Suppression of passions by ascetic practices.

  • At the time when Sufism was becoming famous in India, the Bhakti cult also gained some strength among Hindus
  • The liberal & unorthodox features of Sufism had a profound influence on medieval Bhakti Saints

  • Bhakti Movement

  • Shankaracharya in 900 AD
  • He was born in Kaladi, Kerala and he followed the doctrine of Advaita/monoism which means Non-duality & oneness of God. He faced a lot of oppression for his concept of Nirgunbrahamana due to the emergence of the idea of Sagunabrahamana.

  • Ramanuja in 1200 AD
  • He was born in Sriperumbur, Chennai, and advocated for Prabhattimarga which means the path of self-surrender to god.

  • He was a follower of the philosophy of vishishtavaida according to which God is Sagunbrahamana
  • He taught that God is an inner substance and rest are his attributes
  • He believed God, Soul, and matter are all real
  • According to him, the creative process & all objects in creation are real, not illusionary as told by Shankaracharya
  • Madhava in 1300 AD
  • He was from Kannada and he propagated the philosophy of Dvaita, Dualism of Jivatma & Parmatma. According to him, the world is not an illusion but a reality & God, soul & matter are unique in nature.

  • Ramananda, Kabir & Nanak in 1400 – 1500 AD
  • They were great pillars in the Bhakti movement and they helped common people to let go of old superstitions. They believed in salvation by Bhakti and devotion.

  • They never linked themselves with any particular religion
  • They put focus on the fundamental unity of all religion
  • They never believed in rituals & ceremonies and also condemned polytheism
  • They denounced all types of idolatry & believed in one god. They believed that Bhakti is the only way to salvation.

  • Ramananda
  • He was born in Allahabad and he was a Ram worshipper. He was a follower of Ramanuja but later he founded his own sect. He preached to his disciples in Hindi at Banaras and Agra. He believed in 2 ideals strongly:

  • Simplification of Worship
  • Emancipation of people from traditional caste rule
  • He even chose his disciples from all sections of the society without worrying about their castes. For example, Kabir was a Muslim Weaver, Raidasa was a cobbler, Sena was a barber, Sadhana was a butcher, Dhanna was a Jat farmer, Naraharai was a goldsmith and Pipa was a Rajput prince.

  • Kabir:
  • Kabir was born near Banaras in a Brahmin family but he was brought up by a Muslim weaver. He was familiar with both Hindu and Muslim teachings and believed in devotion to god with a pure heart is a way to salvation where pure heart meant free from cruelty, Dishonesty, hypocrisy & insincerity.

  • His prime aim was the unity of Hindus and Muslims
  • He wanted to establish harmony between them
  • He put focus on the oneness of all religions and described Hindus & Muslims as Pots of the same clay
  • According to him, Ram & Allah, Mandir & Masjid were all the same. He laid emphasis on the equality of man before God and denounced idolatry & rituals like Pilgrimage, Bathing in the holy river, Namaz & Prayers, etc.

  • Guru Nanak:
  • He was born in 1469 at Talwandi near Lahore and he was trained in Accountancy. He became a disciple of Kabir and later founded the Sikh religion. His disciples were known as Sikhs. Just like his teacher, he denounced caste distinctions & rituals like Pilgrimage, Bathing in the holy river, Namaz, etc.

  • He stressed on letting go of selfishness, falsehood and hypocrisy and living life with truth, honesty & kindness
  • He also composed hymns and sang them to the accompaniment of the "Rabab", a musical instrument
  • One of his famous teachings was "Abide pure amidst the impurities of the world". He dedicated his life to the establishment of harmony among Hindus and Muslims.

  • Chaitanya:
  • Chaitanya was born in Bengal and he popularized the kirtan of Krishna. He was a brahaman but he believed in the equality of all people and was against the caste system.

    He renounced the world and became ascetic. He used to believe that through love & devotion, song & dance a devotee can feel the presence of God.

  • Eknath in 1600 AD:

He opposed the caste system and created many lyrics and Bhajans.

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  1. Sam Jul 27, 2023

    where can we download these pdf ..