History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2014: Q.5 (b)

Q.5 (b) Evaluate the contribution of Vaishnava saints to the growth of medieval Bhakti literature.


Evaluating the contribution of Vaishnava Bhakti Movements on medieval Bhakti literature:-

TheVaishnava bhakti saints preached through vernaculars and in the local dialects of the people, which could be easily understood by them. The theme of Bhakti contributed to the growth of the medieval Bhakti literature in different languages.

South India: Tamil, Telugu, Kannada

  1. Tamil:Bhakti movement has originated in South India. Alvar were Vaishnavite saints and they composed several Tamil texts to spread their ideas. Their religious works, songs of love and devotion, are compiled as Divya Prabandham.
  2. Telugu:Earliest major work to survive is the Telugu Mahabharata produced by three successive poets, Nannaya, Tikkana and Erra Pragada. Vaishna saints influenced the next stage of the development of Telugu bhakti literature in the reign of Vijayanagara king Krishna Deva Raya.
  3. Kannada: The Vaishnava  Bhakti movement involving well-known Haridasas (devotee saints) of the 14th through 16th centuries made an indelible imprint on Kannada literature, with the development of a body of literature called Haridasa Sahitya (“Haridasa literature”). Purandara Dasa (1484–1564), a wandering Vaishnava bard who visited Vijayanagara during the reign of king Achyuta Raya, is believed to have composed several songs in the Kannada and Sanskrit languages.

Eastern India: Bengali, Oriya, Assamese and Maithili

  • Bengali: In the east, Chaitanya and the poet Chandidasa, to spread their ideas of Vaishnavism, used Bengali. A new genre of Vaishnava biographies in Bengali came into being like Brindabandas’s Chaitanya Bhagvata and Krishnadas Kaviraj’s Chaitanya-Charitamitra.
  • Oriya: The Bhakti movement of Chaitanya and of the Vaishnava poets made a lasting influence on Oriya literature. Sarladeva, an Oriya writer, wrote Mahabharata in 14th Century.   
  • Assamese: The fifteenth century the Vaishnavabhakti leader, Shankaradev, popularized the use of Assamese in the valley of the Brahmaputra. He wrote short plays and poetry in Assamese to spread his ideas. He was followed by Madhavadas who wrote famous work Bhakti-Ratnavali in Assamese which dealt with various aspects of Bhakti.
  • Maithili: The development of Maithili language in modern Bihar was associated with Vaishnava bhakti culture. Vidyapati is most prominent poet and writer in Maithili who wrote story and poetry devoted to Radha-Krishna.

Western India: Rajasthani, Gujarati

  1. Rajasthani: The Bhakti saint, Mirabai, composed her songs in Rajasthani for Krishna.
  2. Gujarati: Narasimha Mehta was an 15th century Bhakti Saint from Gujarat who composed his devotional lyrics in Gujarati. His bhajan,’Vaishnav Jan To’  is Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite.


Important Vaishnava contributors in Marathi literatures were Janadeva (wrote Jnanesvari and Amritanubhava), Eknatha, Tukaram (wrote Abhangas) and Ramdas.

Marathi literature received its high level due to the writings of Ekanth and Tukaram. Eknath compiled his great commentary on the Bhagwadgita in 1563. He also wrote Bhavartha Ramayana. Mukteshwar completed the translation of Mahabharata. Tukaram’s devotional lyrics have become popular among the masses.


Adi Kala, the first stage of Hindi literature was the richest period in the history of Hindi literature; major literary contributions were made by many Vaishnava bhakti saints. Vaishnava bhakti poets were Sundaradasa, Tulsidasa (wrote Ramcharitamanas), Surdas (wrote Sur-Sagar), Mirabai etc.


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