Updated December 20, 2022
The 15th-16th Century Religious Movements makes vital part of syllabus to many competitive exams. India saw major changes in its social religious order during the period that had far reaching impacts on societal living.
When we talk about Religious Movement (1500- 1600 AD), there are numerous aspects deal with. Such as “Why was religion important in the 16th century?”, “What were the different Religious Movement took that place between 15-16th Century ? ” and so on.
A Primer on 15th- 16th Century Religious Movements
To 15th-16th Century time period we call Medieval India. And, it had two major religious movements viz. Bhakti Movement and Sufi Movement
The Bhakti movement refers to the theistic devotional trend that emerged in medieval Hinduism and later acted as the de facto catalyst to the formation and subsequent revolutionization in the form of Sikhism. It originated in eighth-century south India (now Tamil Nadu and Kerala) and spread northwards. It swept over east and north India from the 15th century onwards, reaching its zenith between the 15th and 17th century CE.
The Bhakti movement regionally developed around different gods and goddesses, and some sub-sects were Vaishnavism (Vishnu), Shaivism (Shiva), Shaktism (Shakti goddesses), and Smartism. Bhakti movement preached using the local languages so that the message reached the masses. The movement was inspired by many poet-saints, who championed a wide range of philosophical positions ranging from theistic dualism of Dvaita to absolute monism of Advaita Vedanta.
The movement has traditionally been considered as an influential social reformation in Hinduism, and provided an individual-focused alternative path to spirituality regardless of one’s birth or gender. The Bhakti movement began with the aim of reforming Hinduism. Postmodern scholars question this traditional view and whether the Bhakti movement ever was a reform or rebellion of any kind. They suggested Bhakti movement as a revival, reworking and recontextualization of ancient Vedic traditions. Bhakti refers to passionate devotion (to a deity).
Coming to Sufi Movement, the scenario and objectives was nothing much different from Bhakti Movement. The Sufi movement was a socio-religious movement of fourteenth to sixteenth century. The exponents of this movement were unorthodox Muslim saints who had a deep study of vedantic philosophy and Buddhism of India. They had gone through various religious text of India and had come in contact with great sages and seers of India. They could see the Indian religion from very near and realized its inner values. Accordingly, they developed Islamic Philosophy which at last gave birth to the Sufi Movement.
The Sufi movement therefore was the result of the Hindu influence on Islam. This movement influenced both the Muslims and Hindus and thus, provided a common platform for the two. Though, the Sufis were devout Muslims, yet they differed from the orthodox Muslims. While the former believed in inner purity, the latter believed in external conduct. The union of the human soul with God through love and devotion was the essence of the teachings of the Sufi Saints. The method of their realizing God was the renunciation of the World and Worldly pleasures. They lived a secluded life.
They were called Sufis as they wore garments of Wool (suf) as their budge of poverty. Thus, the name ‘Sufi’ is derived from the word Suf. They consider love to be the only means of reaching God. Historian Tara Chand says, “Sufism indeed was a religion of intense devotion, love was its passion; poetry, song and dance, its worship and passing away in God its ideal”.
The Sufis did not attach importance to namaz, hajj and celibacy. That is why they were misunderstood by orthodox muslims. They regarded Singing and dancing as methods of inducing a state of ecstasy which brought one nearer to realisation of God. There were some leading Sufi saints like Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti, Fariuddin Ganj-i-Shakar, Nizam-ud-din Auliya etc.
Crucial facts of 15th-16th Century Religious Movements
Some of the Most Important Facts and Information about Religious Movement (1500-1600 AD) related, Bhakti Movement and Sufi Movement are here.
I. Bhakti Movement
1.The Bhakti movement was based on the doctrine that the relationship between God and man is through love and worship rather than through performing any rituals or religious ceremonies.
2. It was in South India for the first time that Bhakti Movement grew from a mere religious doctrine to a broad-based popular Movement based on social and religious equality. It was led by popular saint poets called Alvar who represented emotional side of Vaisnavism through collective songs called Prabandhas. It declined after the 10th Century.
3. But it was revived as a philosophical and ideological movement by “Acharyas” (who represented intellectual side of Vaishnavism in the 11th Century). Most important among them was Ramanuja whose disciple Ramananda took it to North India.
4. Main features of the Movement are: (a). Discard rituals and sacrifices (b). Emphasized on purity of heart and mind, humanism and devotion (c)Monotheistic in nature (d). God is either have form (saguna) or be formless (Nirguna) (e). knowledge was a constituent part (f). An egalitarian movement, Denounced casteism (g). Best form of worship is singing Bhajans and realization of God by personal effort and No need of priestly class (h). Saints preached in local languages.
5. Ramanuja, Ramananda, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Chaitnya, Vidyapati, Purandar Das, Mirabai, Vallabhacharya, Surdas, Tulsidas, Shankra Deva, Dudu Dayal and Thyagraja are the Important Bhaktis saints.
6. Jnanesvara/Jnadeva, Namadeva, Eknath, Tukaram and Ramdas are the important Bhakti saints of Maharasht
II. Sufi Movements
7. Sufism is the mystical movement in Islam. The Sufis while accepting the Shariat did not confine their religious practice to formal adherence and stressed cultivation of religious experience aimed at direct perception of God.
8. The sufi doctrine was based on union with God which can be achieved through love of God, prayers, fast and rituals without reference to Hindu or Muslim.
9. Main features of the Movement are: (a). Organised indifferent Silsilas (Order) (b). Absorbed variety of ideas and practices from Hinduism, Christainity, Buddhism and Zorastrianism (c). Sufis aimed at service of Mankind through spiritual self-development (d). Eager for Hindu-Muslim unity and cultural synthesis (e). Opposed to orthodoxy, they preached faith and devotion to God (f). Discouraged materialistic life but not in favour of complete renunciation.
10. Khwaja Ali Hujjwiri, Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya, Khwaja Minuddin Chisti, Shaikh Badruddin Samarkandi and Shah Nayamatu Lah Qadiri & Shah Abdullah Shuttari are the important sufi saints.
11. Achievement of Bhakti & sufi Movements: (a). The influenced each other and inherited from each other (b). Bhaktism reformed Hinduism and Sufism liberalized Islam (c). Both put breaks on orthodox (d). Both took social reform measures (e). Atmosphere of fraternity was created. Hindu and Muslim reconciled (f). A cultural synthesis took place which transformed a Muslim rule in India to a National govt. under Akbar.
15th-16th Century Religious Movements in fact was inclusive, moderate Islam. That they never attached much importance to many practices, Muslims often profess. It projected a way of life where Islam could grow naturally.
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