Sufi and Bhakti Movements

The spirit of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence led to the development of two liberal religious reform movements in India—the Sufi and Bhakti movements in India.

Sufi and Bhakti Movements

Sufi Movement

Sufism was a Muslim movement whose followers seek to find divine truth and love through direct encounters with God. The Sufi saints were organised into 12 orders or ‘silsilas’ meaning a chain or a continuous link between the master and the disciple. The leader of the order was called a ‘pir’, while the disciple was called a ‘murid’. The Chisti and Suhrawardi orders became extremely popular in India.

Composite Culture

The Chisti order was introduced in India by Khwaja Muin-ud-Din Chisti. He came to India with Mahmud of Ghazni and settled in Ajmer. An annual festival called ‘Urs’ is celebrated at his dargah or the tomb. Nizamuddin Auliya, Sheikh Nasiruddin Mahmud and Salim Chisti were popular Sufi saints of the period. The Suhrawardi order was founded by Sheikh Bahauddin Zakariya.

Bhakti Movement

The Bhakti Movement originated in India as a reaction against the caste system and ritualism. It was started by the Vaishnava and Saiva saints of south India. The Tamil Vaishnavites in the 11th and 12th centuries preached personal devotion to God as a means to reach God. The Bhakti Movement was a religious reform movement. Ramanujacharya, Kabir, Nanak, Namdeo and Mirabai were followers of the Bhakti cult.

Doctrines of Sufi and Bhakti Movements

The main doctrines of the Sufi and Bhakti Movements were:

Doctrines of the Sufi Movement

  • All religions are equal. It preached the fundamental unity of all religions.
  • It is possible to reach God only through personal devotion and not by following any ritual.
  • The human soul is the manifestation of the supreme God.
  • All people are equal irrespective of their caste, class, creed and religion.
  • Inner purity and self-discipline are essential for gaining knowledge about God.

Doctrines of the Bhakti Movement

  • There is only one God and all people are equal in the eyes of God.
  • One can attain God not through rites and rituals but through love, devotion and salvation.
  • Everyone should live a pure and simple life.
  • A guru is an enlightened teacher whose help is necessary for realising God or for attaining salvation.

Impact of Sufi and Bhakti Movements

Following are the impact of Sufi and Bhakti Movements

Impact of the Sufi Movement

  • It led to unity between Hindus and Muslims.
  • It played a great role in promoting feelings of tolerance among the rulers.
  • People began to understand and appreciate the faiths and beliefs of other religions.
  • It influenced literature and many poets such as Amir Khusro and Malik Muhammad Jayasi composed poems in praise of Sufi principles.

Impact of the Bhakti Movement

  • Bhakti movements emphasised the feelings of universal brotherhood and religious tolerance. As a result, an environment of mutual love and respect was created among different sections of society.
  • The Bhakti saints preached their teachings in the local language. This led to the development of the local and vernacular languages.
  • The teachings of Kabir, Nanak and Ravidas denounced the caste system and promoted the idea of equality. They discarded rituals. This brought about a new social awakening among the people.

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