Bhakti and Sufi


In medieval South India, poet-saints emerged as leaders around whom there developed a community of devotees. This led to the creation of Bhakti movement that acknowledged not just women but people of lower castes as well. Bhakti movement was started by Alvars (worshippers of Vishnu) and by Nayanars (worshippers of Shiva). Both Alvars and Nayanars were against the caste culture and dominance of Brahmanas. They used the language of the masses (Tamil, Telugu) to preach and propagate their ideas and this gained them support from both the masses and the rulers.

Adi Shankaracharya was the most prominent Bhakti Saint in South India. He wrote commentaries on Upanishads and gave the doctrine of Advaita. From South India, Bhakti reached Maharashtra where it was popularized by Jnaneshwar, Namdev, Eknath and Tukaram. It then reached North India where it was a byproduct of the Delhi Sultanate. In North India, Bhakti Movement was divided into Saguna (with attributes) and Nirguna (without attributes) Bhakti. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Tulsi Das, Mira Bai were some important  Saguna Bhakti saints whereas Nirguna Bhakti was practiced by Kabeer Das and Guru Nanak among others.

Sufism was started in West Asia as an Islam reform movement against the materialism of the Caliphate as a religious and political institution. Sufis were divided into Be Shari’a (those who did not follow Islamic laws) and Ba Shari’a (those who followed Islamic laws). According to (Ba Shari’a) Sufi saints, the ultimate aim of humans should be to achieve Wisal-e-yaar (The Union of God and his devotees). Mast Qalandars (Be Shari’a) Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti started Chisti Silsila and Pir- Murid (teacher-student) Parampara.

Sufi Saints never promoted conversion; they believed in universal brotherhood and never accepted the services of the state. Sufism stated that people should go for pure contemplation rather than Namaaz, Hajj.

Sufism and Bhakti movements are parallel concepts. They influenced each other and were influenced by each other. Together they developed an atmosphere of harmony called Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeele which was a combination of both Hindu Islam cultures.

What is interesting to note is that the word ‘Muslim’ was never used when India was developing culturally and religiously. History teaches that Hindu and Islam cultures have lived and thrived together. Hindu and Muslims have been brothers since the very beginning. Why the fights then? Why are we still living in the ‘Divide and Rule’ phase?


2 thoughts on “Bhakti and Sufi

  1. An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.
    The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Socialism principles: All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).
    After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
    The second test average was a D! No one was happy.
    When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.
    As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
    To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. Could not be any simpler than that. These are possibly the 5 best sentences you’ll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:
    1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
    2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
    3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
    4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
    5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.
    Can you think of a reason for not sharing this?

    Diii , wt u say on this?

    1. Totally agree with it. Though socialism is required to ensure (a little) equal distribution of production, I don’t think it can ever be the end game. USSR and pre-1990 India are prefect examples.
      You should read The Soul of Man under Socialism by Oscar Wilde, in case you’re interested in this debate.

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