Bring out the nature and significance of Bhakti Movements in Medieval India

The Bhakti was the mystical union of the individual with God. It was a single-minded intense devotion to God. It was a complete surrender of oneself to God. Bhakti was accepted, along with jnana and karma, as one of the recognized roads to salvation. It took various forms such as Saivism, Vaishnavism, Shakti Cult, Sikhism, Nath Panthis, Sufism in Medieval India.

Nature of the Bhakti Movement

  • The mystical union of the individual with God.
  • Bhakti was accepted as one of the recognized roads to salvation.
  • Prapathi – Self surrendering to God.
  • More emphasis was on Bhakti rather than rituals and ceremonies.
  • Idol worship was not emphasized by many saints but it still was the major worship.
  • Social reforms were part of the Bhakti movement.

Significance of the Bhakti Movement

  • Up to the Thirteenth Century, the period when Islam penetrated into the interior of India, Bhakti to a greater extent remained within the folds of Vedic intellectualism and Brahmanism. This is evident from the fact that the caste division is recognized in the Bhagavadgita. The establishment of the Turks and Mughals shattered the prestige of Brahmanas.
  • Social reforms were the primary significance of the Bhakti Movement. Saiva Nayanars and Vaishnava Alvars disregarded the austerities preached by Buddhism and Jainism. They stressed that anyone irrespective of caste can reach God in early medieval India. Nath Panthi movements challenging the caste system and the superiority of Brahmanas gained popularity.
  • Kabir and Nanak were critical of the existing social order ad made a strong plea for Hindu-Muslim unity. But Kabir was not a social reformer but he stressed the reform of the individual under the guidance of the true guru or teacher. Ideas of Nanak gave birth to a new creed, Sikhism while the followers of Kabir shrank into a sect, the Kabir Panthis.
  • They promoted the regional languages of the common people. Chaitanya in Bengal, Eknath and Tukaram in Maharashtra, Kabir and Guru Nanak all preached in regional languages and written in regional languages.
  • Sufism also emphasized social harmony and adopted many Hindu practices such as Yoga, Meditation and Music, etc.

Bhakti and Sufi saints had worked out in a remarkable manner a common platform on which harmonious relations could be maintained between Hindu-Muslims and among different sects within these two religions. This was the essential background to the ideas of Akbar and his concept of tauhid or unity of all religions which was considered the climax of religious toleration.


KeywordsBhakti Movement
QuestionBring out the nature and significance of Bhakti Movements in Medieval India
PaperAPPSC Group I 2008 Mains Paper II : Section I   – History and Culture
SourceHistory of Medieval India – Satish Chandra


The focus here is on the features of Bhakti instead of different movements. Characteristics and how these movements impacted the then society and religion were the most important points to be written.