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Religious Movements in History

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Indian Religious Movements
History of Sufis :

  • There were 3 chief orders of Sufis in India : The Chishti, The Suharawadi and the Silsilah of Firdausi.
  • The link between the teacher or pir and his disciple or Murid was a vital part of Sufi system. Every pir nominated a successor or Wali to carry out work. Khanqah was the place where Sufi mystics lived.

1. The Chishti History :

  • The Chisti order was established by Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti (Ajmer). His two main disciples were Bakhtiyar Kaki and Shaikh Hamiduddin Sufi.
  • Others were Nizamuddin Auliya, Nasiruddin Chiragh – i – Dehlvi, the historian Barani and the poet Amir Khusro.
  • It was popular in Delhi and the Doab region.

2. The Suhrawardi Sufi Order :

  • It was popular in Punjab and Sindh.
  • Popular saints were Shaikh Shihabuddin Suhrawardi and Hamid – ud – din Nagory.
  • Saints of this order had big jagirs and had close contact with the state.

3. The Firdausi Order : It was a branch of the Suhrawardi order and its activities were confined to Bihar. It was popularized by Shaikh Sharfuddin Yahya who was a disciple of Khwaja Nizamuddin Firdausi.

4. The Qadiri Order :

  • It was founded by Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani of Baghdad. It was popularized in India by Shah Niamatullah and Makhdum Muhammad Jilani.
  • Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan, was a follower of this order.

5. Nakshabandi Sufi Order :

  • It was founded in India by the followers of Khwaja Pir Muhammad. It was popularized in India by Khwaja Baqi Billah who came to India from Kabul in the last years of the reign of Akbar.
  • Of all the Sufi orders, it was nearest to orthodoxy and it tried to counteract the liberal policies of Akbar who was considered by them as heretic.

6. Shattari Sufi Order :

  • Shah Abdullah brought the Shattari order to India during the Lodhi Dynasty. Muhammad Ghhauth of Gwalior was the most important saint of this order.
  • Tansen was the follower of this order.


Bhakti Movements in India :

  • Among the Hindus, the Bhakti movement preached religion which was non – ritualistic and open to all without any distinction of caste or creed.
  • The real development of Bhakti took place in south India between 7th and 12th century. The bhakti saints came usually from lower castes. They disregarded castes, encouraged women to join in the gatherings and taught in the local vernacular language.

Ramanuja (12th century) : Earliest exponent of Bhakti Movement. According to him, the way of Moksha lies through Karma, Gyan and Bhakti. The performance of duty without any selfish motive purifies the mind. He gave the concept of Vishishtadvaita.

Nimbarkara History : The next leader of the bhakti movement was Nimbarkara, a younger contemporary of Ramanuja. He was a worshipper of Krishna and Radha.

Madhavacharya (1238 – 1317) : He ranks with Ramanuja in the Vedanta system. He said that release from transmigration can be secured only by means of knowledge and devotion. His successor was Jayatirtha.

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Ramanand (15th century) : First great Bhakti saint of north India. Worshipper of Lord Ram. He put emphasis on Bhakti and avoided both Cyan marg and Karma marg. His followers were Ravidas, Kabir, Dhanna, Sena, etc.

  1. Namadeva – Tailor.
  2. Ravidas – Cobbler (His 30 hymns are in Guru Granth Sahib).
  3. Kabir – Weaver.
  4. Sena – Barber.
  5. Sadhana – Butcher.

Baba Guru Nanak History :

Histoey of Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539) was born in the village of Talwandi (now called Nankana in present day Pakistan). He undertook wide tours all over India and then to Sri Lanka, Mecca and Medina. He laid great emphasis on the purity of character and conduct as the first condition of approaching God and the need of a gurufor guidance.

He laid emphasis on the oneness or unity of God. His concept of God was Nirguna (attributeless) and Nirankar (formless). He used the name of Hari, Ram, Allah and Khuda for God. He didn’t believe in the Vedas and the Quran.

History of Kabir :

History of Kabir (1440 – 1518) was not only concerned with religious reform but also wished to change the society. He emphasized the unity of God and expressed his ideas in dohas or couplets. He composed Bijak, Sabads, Sakhis, Mangal, Basant, Holi, Rekhtal, etc. He did not make any distinction betwee Hinduism and Islam.

Note : The followers of Kabir and Nanak founded independent religious communities, the Kabirpanthis and the Sikhs.

Vaishnavism : Popular in north India. They can be distinguished from other Ehakti saints as their teachings were not influenced by Islamic ideas.

Chaitanya : (1485 – 1534) of Bengal traveled throughout India and popularized Krishna cult. ‘Kirtan system’ was given by Chaitanya only.

Meerabai History : (1498 – 1546) of Rajasthan was the follower of Lord Krishna. She was married to Rana Sanga’s eldest son and heir-apparent Bhojraj. But Bhojraj died in the lifetime of his father leaving Mira a widow in her youth. After the death of her husband, she devoted herself completely to religious pursuits. She wrote some poetic stanzas on Lord Krishna.

Surdas History : (1479 – 1584) of western UP wrote lyrical poems on Radha and Krishna. Wrote Sur – Sarawali, the Sahitya Lahari and the Sur – Sagar.

Vallabhacharya : (1479 – 1531), a Tailanga brahmana, advocated the worship of Krishna and dedication of everything to Him alone.

Tulsidas History (1532 – 1623) was born in a Brahmin family in Varanasi. On account of a taunt of his wife, he is said to have to the life of a religious hermit. Wrote Ram Charit Manas, Gitawali, Kauitawali, Vinay Patrika, etc. He also used Arabic and Persian words in his writings.

Narsingh Mehta : was a saint from Gujarat who wrote songs in Gujarati depicting the love of Radha – Krishna. He is the author of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite bhajan ‘vishnaoajan ko’.
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Religious Movements in History – The Chishti History – The Firdausi Order – Bhakti Movements in India – History of Kabir

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