Sometime in medieval India., a
new religious movement broke out in India that emphasized the devotion to
God, as sole means of salvation. Collectively known as the Bhakti Movement, it left a very profound
impact on the life and culture of Indians in the subsequent centuries.
Numerous religions (like Sikhism), and cults sects (like Vaishnavism, and
Veerashaivism) born then are strong and
alive today. The following is a list of some of the important saints and
teachers of the Bhakti movement.
The Alvars (a.k.a. Alwars):
Earliest mystics of India following the Buddhist era. There were twelve
saints collectively known as Alvars (c. 7-9th century A.D.)
Shankara (c 788 - 820 AD., picture
): gave new interpretations to the
ancient Vedic religion, and integrated essence of Buddhism in Hindu thought.
Ramanuja (1017-1137 A.D.,): wrote commentaries on Brahma Sutras, Bhagavad Gita and the
Upanishad; expounded Visishtadvaita or qualified monism
Basava (12th Century, picture), treasurer turned
saint of Karnataka preached equality to all and taught the way to reach God
through one's vocation; his followers constitute the Lingayat or the
Veerashaiva cult. His promise poems known as the Vachanas
preached devotion to Lord Shiva as the means of salvation
Madhva (1238-1319, picture):
broke away from the doctrine of unity of God and the human soul prevalent at
the time. He preached "Dvaita" or dualism, where the divinity was
separate from the human conscience.
Ramanada (15th century): A disciple of Ramunuja, he was a worshipper of
Lord Rama. He taught perfect love for God and human brotherhood.
Kabir (1440-1510, picture, biography): Disciple of Ramananda, he believed in formless God.
He was the first to reconcile Hinduism and Islam.
Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1538): He was the founder of Sikh religion. He
preached against idol worship and caste system, and taught worship of one God through prayer and
Purandara (15th century) A singer-saint of Karnataka who sang the praises
of Lord Krishna; among the greatest composers of South Indian (a.k.a.
Dadu Dayal (1544-1603) A disciple of Kabir, he was a supporter of
Hindu-Muslim unity. His followers were known as Dadu Panthis.
Chaitanya (1468-1533): A devotee of Lord Krishna, he was the
founder of modern Vaishnavism in Bengal. He popularized Kirtan.
Shankaradeva (1499-1569): Spread the Bhakti cult in Assam.
Vallabhacharya (1479-1531): Exponent of Krishna cult. He worshipped. Krishna under the
Surdas (1483-1563): A disciple of Vallabhacharya, he showed intense devotion
to Radha and Krishna.
Mirabai (1498-1563, picture
): Staunch devotee of Lord Krishna, she composed
number of songs and poems in honor of Krishna.
Haridas (1478-1573, picture):
a great musician saint who sang the glories of Lord Vishnu.
Tulasidas (1532-1623, picture): Depicted Rama as the incarnation. He wrote
Namdeva (1270-1309) (Maharashtra): A disciple of Vishoba Khechar, he was a devotee of
Jnanesvar (1275-1296, picture): Wrote "Jnaneswari", a commentary on the
Eknath: Wrote commentary on verses of the Bhagavad-Gita: A devotee of Vithoba.
Tukaram : Contempotary of Maratha king Shivaji; a devotee of Vithal he founded the
Varkau sect. His teachings are contained in Abhangas.
Ram Das: Author of Dasabodh, his teachings inspired Shivaji to establish
an independent kingdom in Maharashtra.