Bhakti among women in Medieval India.doc - The nature of...

This preview shows page 1 - 2 out of 4 pages.

The nature of bhakti among women in Medieval India The word ‘bhakti’ is generally understood as meaning ‘selfless devotion’ to the Divine. When we talk of the bhakti movement per se, we mean the religious movement in which the main spiritual practice was devotion to God, or bhakti. The devotion was directed towards a particular form of God, such as Shiva, Vishnu, Murukan or Shakti. The bhakti movement started in southern India and slowly spread north during the later half of the medieval period (800-1700 CE). This movement is known to have played a crucial role in shaping the cultural and religious life of people of all religions in the subcontinent. The bhaktas asserted the equality of all souls before God and denounced caste and class. There is a vast amount of bhakti literature available to us for study today. It needs to be made clear that the bhakti movement did not start as a movement of the lowest and the poorest classes. A. K. Ramanujan reasonably suggests that to ‘give up something’ necessarily implies having that ‘something’ in the first place. The bhakti movement did start with people from the ‘upper castes’, but soon began to enlist people from all castes and occupations . It is surprising, however, that women bhaktas inspite of having flouted societal norms and having defied convention ‘were not persecuted as heretics or dismissed as lunatics’, but were given much respect and their teachings later became a part the living and growing tradition. This is made clearer by the fact that it is nearly impossible to study poetry without coming across works by eminent women bhaktas such as Mira in the case of North India or Andal in the case of the South (Tamil literature). Given their belief in the centrality of personal devotion, poet-saints were highly critical of ritual observances as maintained and fostered by the Brahmin priesthood. Another thing in common was their usage of the vernacular , or regional languages of the masses, as opposed to the sacred language of the elite priesthood, Sanskrit. This practice, too, stemmed from the movement’s focus on inner, mystical, and highly personal devotion to the Divine.

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture