Bhakti and Sufi Movements in India

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Bhakti and Sufi  Movements: It was a religious reform movement during medieval times which emphasized single-minded intense devotion to God.Bhakti movement was based on the doctrine that the relationship between god and man is through love and worship rather than through performing any ritual or religious ceremonies.

The Sufi movement was a socio-religious movement of 14th-15th century whose exponents were unorthodox Muslim saints who had a deep study of vedantic philosophy and had come in contact with great sages and seers of India. 

Bhakti and Sufi  Movements in Mediaeval India

Bhakti Movement


  • The development of Bhakti movement took place in Tamil Nadu between 7th and 12th CE.
  • t was reflected in the emotional poems of the Nayanars (devotees of Shiva) and Alvars (devotees of Vishnu).
  • These saints looked upon religion not as a cold formal worship but as a loving bond based upon love between the worshipped and worshipper
  • Discarded rituals and sacrifices.
  • The emphasized purity of heart and mind, humanism and devotion.
  • Monotheistic in nature.
  • An egalitarian movement, they casteism,These saints preached in local language.
  • They rejected the austerities preached by Jainism and Buddhism. These religions saw a decline in their growth due to Bhakti movement

Social Reformer

  • Disregarded caste system.
  • Attacked, institutionalized religion ,dominance,idol worship,methods of elaborate rituals etc.
  • Opposed Sati and female infanticide
  • Women were encouraged to join Kirtans.
  • Women were encouraged to join kritans
  • Bridging the gulf between Hindu and Muslim

Philosophical SchoolPhilosophy.                           Founder

Philosophy.                           Founder

  • Vishishtadvaita.   -.          Ramanuja
  • Dvaitadvaita / Bhedabhed -Nimbarka
  • Dvaita. -. Madhava
  • Shudadvaita. -Vishnu swami
  • Advaita (non dualism) -Sankaracharya

Appar, Sambandar, Sundaramurti, and Manikkavasagar were prominent Nayanars. The hymns of the first three are mentioned in Thiruvasagam was Manikkavasagar.

Tirumurais is the collection of works of Nayanars which is called as the fifth Veda.

The saints wrote in local languages, Tamil and Telugu and were, therefore, able to reach out to many people. They also translated Sanskrit works in local languages. Few saints are

  1. Jnanadeva – Marathi
  2. Kabirdas, Surdas, Tulsi das Hindi
  3. Shankaradeva – Assamese
  4. Chaitanya and Chandidas Bengali

Bhakti Saints

Ramananda -first great saint in North India

Kabir – the disciple of Ramananda, Nirguna saint, sought Hindu-Muslim unity, his followers are called Kabir Panthis

. Guru Nanak – founder of Sikhism, social reformer and Nirguna saint

Chaitanya – Krishna bhakti cult and founder of Gaudiya or Bengal Vaishnavism

Purandara das –laid the foundations for modern Carnatic music

Vallabhacharya – propounded the – principle of Pushti Marg

Sufi Movements

Word ‘Sufi’ derives its name from another Arabic word ‘Suf which means wool. The Muslim saints who wore garments of coarse wool began to be called Sufi saints. Sufism entered India in the 12th century with Muslim invaders and became popular in the 13th century.

It developed first in Iraq. The first Sufi saint was Begum Rabia of Bashera in Iraq. The Sufi’s main theme was Wahadut-ul-Wajud (Unity of God). Sufi orders were called as Silsilas

features related to Sufism

  • Sufis were a group of religious-minded people who turned to asceticism and mysticism in protest against the growing materialism of the Caliphate as a religious and political institution
  • Sufism derives is inspiration from Islam
  • These Sufis had a deep study of vedantic philosophy and had come in contact with great sages and seers of India.
  • Sufism emphasized upon leading a simple life. Sufi saints preached in Arabic, Persian and Urdu etc.
  • The Sufis were divided into 12 orders each under a mystic Sufi saint like Khwaja Moinuddin Chisthi, Fariuddin Ganj-i-Shakar, Nizam-ud-din Auliya etc
  • While the orthodox Muslims depend upon external conduct and blind observance of religious rituals, the Sufi saints seek inner purity.
  • They were critical of the dogmatic definitions and scholastic methods of interpreting the Qur’an and Sunna (traditions of the Prophet) adopted by theologians
  • The liberal views of Sufis influenced the Din-i-Illahi of Akbar.

Some of the important Sufi orders are:


  • It was founded by Sheikh Abdul Chisti
  • It was introduced in India by Sheikh Moinuddin Chisti. His Dargah is at Ajmer
  • Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki was the chief disciple of Moinuddin.
  • Iltutmush dedicated Qutub Minar to Bakhtiar Kaki
  • Sheikh Nizamuddin was the most popular Sufi saint in India. Amir Khusro, the greatest musician and literary giant was also the disciple of Sheikh Nizamuddin


  • It was founded by Shihabuddin Shuhrawardi
  • It was introduced in India by Bhauddin


  • It was the only Sufi order which was founded and developed within India
  • It was founded by Sharafuddin, it was confined to Bihar
  • He composed Maqtubat and Mulfazat literature


  • It was the most secular Sufi silsila
  • It was founded by Sheikh Jilani Qadri
  • Dara Shikoh, son of Shah Jahan followed this order

Thus, we see that Sufi and Bhakti movements created a new spirit in religious life and took on social reforms in creating an egalitarian society.

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