Bhakti: The Great Wave

Few movements have influenced the Hindu faith as we know it, as much as the Bhakti Movement that started as a ripple deep down in what is today’s Tamil Nadu, in the 6th -7th CE . Over the next few centuries this ripple of religious fervour, turned into a tidal wave that spread as far north as the Punjab. Emphasising the idea of a personal God, the Bhakti movement took God to the people, allowing them to break free from the rigidities of the formal Brahmanical traditions that held sway at the time. In doing so, the movement not only revived Hinduism but also took it to the masses, gave it a new definition and ensured that it stood up against the many onslaughts it would, over time, face.
It is very difficult to translate what Bhakti means. It is derived from the Sanskrit word Bhaj which means to ‘to worship’ or ‘to revere’. It all started with the works of the Shaivite and Vaishnavite Poet-Saints in 6th and 7th century CE Tamil Nadu. It is very important to understand the context in which this movement emerged. The Sangam period had ended around the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. Very little records remain of the period between the 3rd and 6th centuries CE. Historians believe that this period marked an important transition in the region. The Kalabhra kings ruled Tamil Nadu between the 3rd and the 7th century CE and the reason we know so little of this period from Tamil literary sources could be because the Kalabhras were great patrons of Buddhism and Jainism. This led to a great influx of Buddhist and Jain monks from the Deccan into Tamil Nadu.

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