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Bhakti movement

The Bhakti movement was a Hindu religious movement of the medieval period that promoted
the belief that salvation was attainable by everyone. The movement is closely related
to Islamic Sufism, which appeared around the same time: both advocated that a personal
expression of devotion to God is the way to become at one with him.
The Bhakti movement originated in seventh-century Tamil Nadu and spread northwards through
India. While the southern movement favoured devotion to Shiva, Vishnu and his avatars, the
northern devotional movement was centered on Rama and Krishna, both of whom are believed
to be incarnations of Vishnu. Despite this, the sects of Shiva or of Vishnu did not go into decline.
In fact, for all of its history, the Bhakti movement co-existed peacefully with the other
movements in Hinduism. It was initially considered unorthodox, as it rebelled against caste
distinctions and disregarded Brahmanic rituals, which according to Bhakti saints were not
necessary for salvation. In the course of time, however, owing to its immense popularity among
the masses (and even gaining royal patronage) it became 'orthodox' and continues to be one of
the most important modes of religious expression in modern India.
During the 14th17th centuries, a great Bhakti movement swept through India, initiated by a
loosely associated group of teachers orsants. They taught that people could cast aside the
heavy burdens of ritual and caste, and the subtle complexities of philosophy, and simply
express their overwhelming love for God. This period was also characterized by a spate of
devotional literature in vernacular prose and poetry in the ethnic languages of the various Indian
states or provinces.
While many of the mystics focused their attention on Krishna or Rama, it did not necessarily
mean that the sect of Shiva was marginalized. In the twelfth century Basava founded the
ViraShaiva school or Virashaivism. He rejected the caste system, denied the supremacy of the
Brahmins, condemned ritual sacrifice and insisted on Bhakti and the worship of the one
God, Shiva. His followers were called Vira-Shaivas, meaning "stalwart Shiva-worshipers". One
of the prominent figure in this tradition is Akka Mahadevi, a contemporary of Basava.
Sant Kabir with Namdev, Raidasand Pipaji, early 19th century
Seminal Bhakti works in Bengali include the many songs of Ramprasad Sen. His pieces are
known as Shyama Sangeet. Coming from the 17th century, they cover an astonishing range of
emotional responses to Ma Kali, detailing philosophical statements based on Vedantateachings
and more visceral pronouncements of his love of Devi. Using inventive allegory, Ramprasad had
'dialogues' with the Mother Goddess through his poetry, at times chiding her, adoring her,
celebrating her as the Divine Mother, reckless consort of Shiva and capricious Shakti, the
universal female creative energy, of the cosmos. In 19th century Ramakrishna Parmahansa led
a life of devotion and surrender to Ma Kali.