Bhakti and Sufi Movement-Bhakti Saints & Bhakti Movement Importance in UPSC | Founder | Origin


Vaishnavism and Shaivism were given new emphasis and expression by the Alvar and Nayanar saints of South India in the early medieval period. Using devotion to achieve salvation was a key component of the Bhakti Movement, which was started as a religious reformation in medieval India. 

Bhakti and Sufi Movement | USPC Exam
Bhakti and Sufi Movement | USPC Exam

The spread of Islam in India also resulted in the Bhakti Movement. The thinking of Bhakti reformers like Kabir, Nanak, and Ramananda were shaped by the preaching of Sufi teachers


• It originated in the seventh century in South India and spread northwards. It reached its peak between the 15th and 17th century 

• The Alvars (devotees of Vishnu) and Nayanars (devotees of Shiva) led the early period of the Bhakti Movement. 

• They travelled from place to place, singing Tamil hymns that praised their gods. 

• The Naalayira Divya Prabandham is a collection of 4,000 Tamil verses composed by the 12 Alvars and compiled by Nathamuni. 



• She was the only female Alvar

• She saw herself as the beloved of Vishnu; her verses expressed her devotional love for the deity. 

Karaikkal Ammaiyar 

• She was one of the three women Nayanars amongst the 63 Nayanars. 

• A devotee of Shiva, she adopted the path of asceticism in order to attain her goal. 

Adi Shankaracharya

• He started a Hindu revivalist movement. 

• His birthplace was Kaladi, Kerala. 

• His doctrine was of Monism or Advaita Vedanta. 


• He was born at Sriperumbudur — near modern Chennai. 

• He preached Visishtadvaita in the 12th century 

• He encouraged Prabattimarga or path of self-surrender to god. 


• His preaching prevailed in the 13th century. 

• He was the chief proponent of the Dvaita (dualism) school of Vedanta. 

Nimbarka and Vallabhacharya 

• They were also the preachers of Vaishnavite Bhakti. 


• He was the disciple of Vallabhacharya. 

• He popularised the Krishna cult in North India. 


• She was a great devotee of Krishna. 

• She became popular in Rajasthan for her bhajans. 


• He was a worshipper of Ram. 

• He composed the famous Ramcharitmanas, the Hindi version of the Ramayana. 


• He was born in Allahabad. 

• He was inspired by Ramanuja. 

• He founded his own sect and preached his principles in Hindi in Varanasi and Agra. 


• He was the most famous disciple of Ramananda. 

• He is regarded as the greatest of the mystic saints. 

• His followers are called Kabirpanthis. 

Guru Nanak 

• He was born in Talwandi near Lahore. 

• He was the founder of the Sikh religion. 

• He condemned caste differences and rituals. 


• He was another renowned saint and reformer who popularised the Krishna cult. • He believed that a devotee can feel the presence of god through songs, dance, love, and devotion. 


• Also known as Sant Dnyaneshwar, he was the founder of the Bhakti Movement in Maharashtra. 

• He wrote Dnyaneshwari, a commentary of the Bhagavad Gita. 



• He is said to be a contemporary of Shivaji.

• He is best known for his Abhanga (devotional poet-ry) and Kirtans (community-oriented worship with spiritual songs). 

• His poetry was devoted to Vithoba, an avatar of Vishnu. 


Nathpanthis, Siddhas, and Yogis 

• They condemned the ritual and other aspects of orthodox religions and the social order, using logical arguments. 

• They encouraged the renunciation of the world. 

• To them, the path to salvation lay in meditation, and to achieve this, they advocated intense training of the mind and body through yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation. 


Importance of the Bhakti Movement

• It boosted the development of regional languages such as Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, etc. 

• It gave equal importance to men and women, which gave way to the importance of women in the society.



Sufism was a liberal reform movement within Islam. It is also termed as Islamic Mysticism. It spread in India in the 10th and 11th century. 


Sufi saints

Shaikh Ismail of Lahore

• He was one of the pioneers of Sufism.

Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti

• He was one of the most famous Sufi saints who settled in Ajmer, which became the centre of his activities.

 Bahauddin Zakariya

• He is another renowned Sufi saint who was influenced by Shihabuddin Suhrawardi.

Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya

• He belonged to the Chishti Order, which is regarded to be a mighty spiritual force.


Importance of Sufism

• Sufism highlighted the essentials of love and devotion as the effective means of the realisation of god.

• It believed that service to humanity was equal to service to god.

• It also taught a spirit of tolerance among its followers.

• It emphasised on good actions, meditation, prayers and pilgrimages, repentance for sins, fasting, charity, and suppression of passions by austere practices.