Question 2: Choose a Bhakti poet from your region and discuss a few of his/her poems, illustrating how the Bhakti movement had an impact on Indian writing.
Ans: The term Bhakti is derived from the Sanskrit root “Bhaj” which means to serve. The term Bhakti is defined as “devotion” or passionate love for the Divine. Moksha or liberation from rebirth was not in the following of rules, regulations or societal ordering, but it was through simple devotion to the Divine. In the early beginning, the word Bhakti is first mentioned in Rig-Veda as worship to Indra and Surya Devata. The meaning of “movement” is the practice that influences a large section of a society. Within the movement at large, useful distinctions have been made by contemporary scholars between the poet saints who composed verses extolling God with attributes or form, namely, “saguna” bhaktas, and,
Those extolling God without and beyond all attributes or form, “nirguna.” The great epic Ramayana emphasized Pitra Bhakti and Guru Bhakti.
The main principles of Bhakti movement are:
(1) God is one,
(2) To worship God man should serve humanity,
(3) All men are equal,
(4) Worshipping God with devotion is better than performing religious ceremonies and going on pilgrimages,
(5) Caste distinctions and superstitious practices are to be given up. The Hindu saints of the Bhakti Movement and the Muslim saints of the Sufi movement became more liberal in their outlook. They wanted to get rid of the evils which had crept into their religions. There were a number of such saints from the 8th to 16th century A.D.
A Bhakti poet from our region that I would like to choose is Goswamy Tulsidas. Tulsidas was a devotee of Rama. His work gives the story of Rama in Hindi. He was the foremost in popularizing Rama cult. His other works in Hindi are Janaki Mangal and Parvathi Mangal. In his writings he insists the duty of a son to his parent, duty of a student to his teacher and duty of a king to his people.
Tulsidas appeared at a time when the Hindu society was groping in dark and was losing luster of life. The foreign invaders, with a few exceptions, had found the land suitable for making it their homeland and settle in India permanently. With the mentality of a ruling class, they got engaged in converting people into their religion of Islam to widen their support base. Hinduism was being challenged in its own land.
Moreover there were inner challenges as well. The differences in sects and within sects were weakening the grip of religion over the people. The Shaivites and the Vaishnavites were at loggerheads and quarreled with and criticized each other. Even the Shaiva sect was sub-divided into a number of sects, united in disagreeing with and opposing one another. Rituals had become commercialized. Differences, distortion of values, divisions, and sub-division in religion and society was sapping its very vitality and the whole society was crumbling.
India needed a co-ordinator, integrator, and reformer and in Tulsidas, she found a safe haven. He rose equal to the occasion and infused the Hindu life and religion with vigor and freshness. He coordinated various sects and gods. He exposed real religion in his epic ‘Ram Charit Manas’ for the understanding of common people. It is important to glance at the political map of the time in order to valuate his contribution. Tulsi wrote in conformity with different scriptures. He was a true integrationist. He incorporated different groups as equals in society. He starts with reverence to Vani (God of speech) and Vinayaka (God of welfare) as they are the originators of sounds represented by alphabets, the meanings the sounds contain, the objects they describe and the poetic sentiments they carry. Thereafter he greets the goddess Parvati and her consort Shankar. He makes obeisance to Shankar as an Eternal Preceptor. He pays homage to his Guru and all other pious souls in various spheres of life. He acknowledges the gift of Valmiki, Narada and Agastya for speaking out Rama’s story on various occasions.
He wrote for the common people and his Manas is read and sung by all people, regardless of age, caste and sex. Thus he successfully embraces in his fold the different sections of society and gives them hope. Ramcharit Manas is a world-class voluminous work. It is divided into seven Kandas (chapters)-1- Balkand,2- Ayodhya kand,3- Aranya Kand,4- Kishkindhya kand,5- Sunder Kand 6-Lanka kand, and 6-Uttar Kand respectively. In this sacred work, he revives the religious and spiritual message of Upanishads and Geeta. He describes the golden age of Rama and his kingdom. He picks up almost every sphere of life and human behavior and inspires us to act and behave in that ancestral way and according to the ethical code as laid down by scriptures. As an adept integrator, Tulsi brought the different sects together. In Manas Rama says, “Those who love me but dislike Shiva or love Shiva and dislike me go to hell. My devotee if he dislikes Shiva can not reach me even in dream.’( 6/1/4&6/2). Through such depictions Tulsi set aside the differences and united the sects. He adopted both the prevalent dialects of the time, Braj and Avadhi, though in his Manas, he predominantly uses Avadhi. He also adopts in his epic Manas all the prevalent styles of expression like couplets, quadruplets, sestets and quartets etc. He imbibes all the nine Rasas (Sentiments of poetry)—Srungar (Love), Hasya (Humor), Karuna (Pathos), Veer(Valor), Bibhatsya (Disgust), Bhayanaka (Terror) Adbhuta (Marvelous), and Santa (quietude) and Raudra (wrath, fury), He was absolutely all inclusive and versatile.
The medieval age of Tulsi was influenced by Islam and remained man- dominated. For consideration of security and escape from imitation of Muslims, the attitude towards woman remained reserved. Tulsi did not propound any new philosophy or establish any sect. He simply reproduced the scriptures for the common lot of people in a language they easily followed and understood. He emphasized on the supreme object of human life, the four goals of life—Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. He showed the way to a religious life. He considered the universe as the manifestation of Sita Rama.