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Medieval Indian Ideas of Devotion

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Medieval Indian Ideas of Devotion - Lesson Summary

Religion is an organized approach to belief in a divine power and creates a bond between unrelated people to form cooperative groups. This intermingling led to the development of many new ideas within the Indian subcontinent like social privileges by birth into a certain family or caste and inequality.

Some people were against such ideas and hence they started towards the teachings of the Buddha and Jainas. There were some people who accepted the idea of Bhakti or devoting oneself to God. The three main deities were Shiva, Vishnu and Durga while all the other gods and goddesses were their avatars.

People started worshiping as per rituals recommended in the Puranas. However, later even the Puranas mentioned that God blessed people on their devotion and irrespective of their caste. This was the beginning of the Bhakti movement which quickly gained popularity and also adopted by the Buddhist and Jain belief system.

In South India, this movement was propagated by the Nayanars and the Alvars where the former worshiped Lord Shiva, the latter worshipped Lord Vishnu. The rulers that time built temples for the saints to strengthen the link between the Bhakti tradition and temple worship.

The hagiographies and poems compiled by the saints are an invaluable source of information for us today. The Bhakti movement was greatly influenced by philosophers like Shankaracharya and Ramanuja.

Shankaracharya, a firm believer of Lord Brahma said Advaita or the oneness of the individual soul and the Supreme God leads to salvation. While Ramanuja, a loyal devotee of Lord Vishnu said that Vishishtadvaita or the separateness of the individual soul even when merged with the Supreme God leads to its salvation. Their teachings inspired a new way of Bhakti that became popular in North India.

In Karnataka, a new Bhakti tradition was started by Basavanna, called the Virashaiva movement. Its followers believed in equality of all humans, and were against all forms of ritual and idol worship.

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