Chapter 6- Bhakti Sufi Tradition Notes | Class 12 History | NCERT


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Key concepts in a nutshell

  • From eighth to eighteenth century striking features was a visibility of wide range of gods and goddesses in sculpture and texts.
  • There was integration of cults – composition, compilation and  presentation of Puranic texts in simple Sanskrit verses.
  • Explicitly meant to be accessible to women and shudras who were generally excluded from Vedic learning.
  • Tantric forms of worship – more prevalent among women. Often associated with the goddess were forms of worship that were classifies as Tantric. Tantric practices were widespread in several parts of the subcontinent they were open to women and men, and practitioners often ignored differences of caste and class within the ritual context.
  • Bhakti traditions classified into saguna (with atheist) and nirguna (without from attracts worship of abstract form).
  • The Alvars and Narayanars of Tamil Nadu – The worshipers of Vishnu and Nayanars – devotees of Shiva – common features – traveled singing hymns in Tamil.
  • Alvars and Nayanars initiated movement against caste system & dominance of Brahamans. Nalayira Divyaprabandanam – important composition of Alvars equal to four Vedas.
  • Status of women – composition of Andal (a women Alvar) popular, songs of Karaikkal Ammaiyar – were widely sung.
  • State patronage in south for Vedic gods rather than Jainism & Buddhism, cholas patronized brahamanical tradition, making land grant as to lord Shiva at Gangaikonda Cholapuram bronze sculpture of Shiva.
  • Singing of hymns under royal patronage were encountered – Chola ruler Parantaka I consecrated metal image of Appan, Sambandan and sundarar in Shiva temples.
  • Karnataka saw a new movement under basavanna a brahamana in court of Chalukyan ruler – his followers Virashaivas (heroes of Shiva) or Lingayat wearers of Linga) – important community to this day – who worship Shiva in form of a linga. Of the group of Sufis who migrated to India in the late twelfth century, the Chishtis were the most influential.
  • By the sixteenth century the shrine had become very popular, in fact it was the spirited singing of pilgrims bound for Ajmer that inspired Akbar to visit the tomb.
  • He went there fourteen times, sometimes two or three times a year to seek blessings for new conquests, fulfillment of vows and the birth of sons. He also had a mosque constructed with the composer of the dargah.
  • Lingayats challenged idea of caste and questions the theory of rebirth.They encountered remarriage of widows. North India saw the emergence of Rajput states which patronized Brahmans – performed secular and ritual function. The Naths, Jogis, siddhas also.
  • Through guided by ulema, rulers followed a flexible policy granting religious tax exemptions to non Muslims sometimes.
  • Those who accepted Islam in India accepted in principal the five pillars of faith but these were overlooked with diversion in practice derived from local customs and affiliations (sunni, shia) some like in Malabar court.
  • adopted local language Sufism – Sufis were critical of dogmatic definitions & scholastic method of interpreting – Quran.
  • They emphasized interpretation of Quran on basis of personal experiences. Chishtis – were a part of Sufis – hospices of khanqah were small room & hall for students to live and pray.
  • Life in chisti khangah was like the life of a monastery & catered to all travellers rich or poor. Shaikh Nizamuddin chishti had many followers.
  • The practice of visits to dargahs gained prominence by 14th century – shrines became very popular.
  • Also music, dance and mystical chants were performed to evoke divine ecstasy. The Bhakti movement saw the emergence of poet saint like kabir where poems written in form in which every meaning are inverted.
  • The message of Baba Guru Nanak is spelt out in his hymns and teachings. These suggest that he advocated a form of nirguna Bhakti.
  • Guru Nanak’s Hymns in the Adi Granth Sahib called “Gurubani”, are composed in various languages. Mirabai (c. fifteenth – sixteenth centuries) is perhaps the best known woman poet within the Bhakti traditions.
  • She defied her husband and did not submit to the traditional role of wife and mother, in stead recognizing Krishna, the avatar of Vishnu as per lover.
  • Historaians draw on a variety of sources to reconstruct histories of religious traditions.
  • Virtually all these religious traditions continue to flourish to date.


  • 1206 – Delhi Sultanate was set up
  • 1236 – Death of Shaikh Muinuddin Chishti
  • 1469 – Birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji
  • 1604 – Compilation of Guru Granth Sahib
  • 1699 – Foundation of Khalsa Panth by Guru Gobind Singh Ji Some Major Religious Teachers in the Subcontinent. This Timeline indicates the period of the major saints and reforms era
  • 500-800 – CE Appar, Sambandar, Sundaramurti in Tamil Nadu
  • 800-900 – Nammalvar, Manikkavachakar, Andal, Tondaradippodi in Tamil Nadu The teaching of these saints influence entire the people of India.
  • 1000-1100 – Al Hujwiri, Data Ganj Bakhsh in the Punjab, Ramanujacharya in Tamil Nadu
  • 1100-1200 – Basavanna in Karnataka
  • 1200-1300 – Jnanadeva, Muktabai in Maharashtra; Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti in Rajasthan; Bahauddin Zakariyya and Fariduddin Ganj-i Shakar in the Punjab; Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki in Delhi.
  • 1300-1400 -Lai Ded in Kashmir, Lai Shahbaz Qalandar in Sind; Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi; Ramananda in Uttar Pradesh; Chokhamela in Maharashtra; Sharafuddin Yahya Maneri in Bihar
  • 1400-1500 – Kabir, Raidas, Surdas in Uttar Pradesh; Baba Guru Nanak in the Punjab; Vallabhacharya in Gujarat; Mir Sayyid Muhammad Gesu Daraz in Gulbarga, Shankaradeve in Assam; Tukaram in Maharashtra.
  • 1500-1600 – Sri Chaitanya in Bengal; Mirabai in Rajasthan; Shaikh Abdul Quddus Gangohi, Malik Muhammad Jaisi, Tulsidas in Uttar Pradesh.
  • 1600-1700 – Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi in Haryana; Miyan Mir in the Punjab.

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