History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2005: Q.5 (d)

History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2005: Q.5 (d)

Q.5 (d) Write a short essay on: “Chaitanyadeva and Vaishnavism”


One of the greatest saints of the bhakti movement was Chaitanya, who was born in a Brahmin family of Nadia in Bengal in 1485. He showed great promise as a student and mastered all branches of Sanskrit learning. He became an ascetic at the age of twenty-five and adopted the Krishna cult. He travelled over most parts of the country, both in the north and in the south. He stayed at Mathura and Vrindavan for many years and attracted lakhs of devotees.

Like other bhakti saints, Chaitanya also denounced all rituals and caste distinctions. Most of his disciples came from the lower classes and even Muslims. Haridas, one of the greatest leaders after Chaitanya, was a Muslim.

Chaitanya was greatly responsible for popularizing Vashnavism in Bengal. His influence on the people was so great that, some of his devotees considered him to be the incarnation of Krishna himself.

The main peculiarity of his theology is the following:

  1. Chaitanyadeva was the proponent of Achintya-Bheda-Abheda which is a school of Vedanta representing the philosophy of inconceivable one-ness and difference. It states that the soul or energy of God is both distinct and non-distinct from God, whom he identified as Krishna, Govinda, and that this, although unthinkable, may be experienced through a process of loving devotion (bhakti). It can best be understood as an integration of a strict dualist (Dvaita) view of Madhvacharya and the qualified monism Vishishtadvaita of Ramanujacharya while rejecting the absolute monism Advaita of Adi Sankara.
  2. Krishna is considered to be not a mere incarnation of Vishnu but the highest aspect of the divine in its true essence. In this aspect, he is united with the highest Shakti which expresses the blissful power of divine life and his manifest in Radha.
  3. Krishna is an abode of the contrary quality. Although infinite, he incarnates in the form of finite mortals and is subject to love. He is the all pervading yet he lives in the highest haven which is beyond the sphere of He is immanent and transcendent. He is inconceivable both with regard to His being and powers. He is the creator, the preserver and the destroyer of the world.
  4. The aim of devotee is gradually to ascend the ladder of Bhakti till he reaches the supreme state of madhurya or sweetness in which he emotionally identifies himself with Radha and achieves the blissful state of union with Krishna.
  5. It should be stressed that this mystical theology insists strongly on virtue and ethical training as the necessary pre-requisite for the full realization of Bhakti.
  6. Chaitanya expressed himself the Sankirtana (a session of him singing by a group of devotee). These songs were often accompanied by ecstatic dancing to the sound of tambourines. Session took place in homes or temple or erupted in the streets in the form of possessions.

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