EMERGENCE OF THE BHAKTI MOVEMENT
The bhakti movement which influenced large number of people during 14th-17th centuries in North India appeared due to a number of political, socio-economic and religious factors.
Political Factors for the Rise of the Bhakti Movement
It has been pointed out that as the popular bhakti movement could not take root in Northern India before the Turkish conquest because the socio-religious milieu was dominated by the Rajput-Brahman alliance which was hostile to any heterodox movement. The Turkish conquests brought the supremacy of this alliance to an end. The advent of Islam with the Turkish conquest also caused a setback to the power and prestige commanded by the Brahmans. Thus, the way was paved for the growth of non-conformist movements, with anti-caste and anti-Brahmanical ideology. The Brahmans had always made the people consider that the images and idols in the temples were not just the symbols of God but were gods themselves who possessed divine power and who could be influenced through them (i.e. the Brahmans). The Turks deprived the Brahmans of their temple wealth and state patronage. Therefore the Brahmans suffered both materially and ideologically.
The non-conformist sect of the nathpanthis was perhaps the first to gain from the declining power of the Rajput-Brahman alliance. This sect appears to have reached its peak in the beginning of the Sultanate era. The loss of power and influence by the Brahmans and the new political situation ultimately created circumstances for the rise of the popular monotheistic movements and other bhakti movements in Northern India.
It has been argued that the bhakti movements of medieval India represented sentiments of the general people against feudal oppression. According to this viewpoint, elements of revolutionary opposition to feudalism can be establish in the poetry of the bhakti saints ranging from Kabir and Nanak to Chaitanya and Tulsidas. It is in this sense that sometimes the medieval bhakti movements are often seen as Indian counterpart of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. Though, there is nothing in the poetry of the bhakti, saints to suggest that they represented the class interests of the peasantry against the surplus-extracting feudal state. The vaishnava bhakti saints broke away from orthodox Brahmanical order only to the extent that they believed in bhakti and religious equality. Normally, they continued to subscribe to several vital principles of orthodox Brahmanism. The more radical monotheistic saints rejected orthodox Brahmanical religion altogether but even they did not call for the overthrow of the state and the ruling class. For this reason, the bhakti movements cannot be regarded as Indian variant of European Protestant Reformation which was a distant greater social upheaval connected to the decline of feudalism and the rise of capitalism.
This, though, does not mean that the bhakti saints were indifferent to the livelihood circumstances of the people. They used images of daily life and always tried to identify themselves in one wsy or another with the sufferings of the general people.
Economic and Social Changes
The widespread popularity of the monotheistic movement of Kabir, Nanak, Dhanna, Pipa etc. can be explained fully only in the context of some important socio-economic changes in the era following the Turkish conquest of Northern India. The Turkish ruling class, unlike the Rajputs, lived in cities. The extraction of large agricultural surplus led to enormous concentration of resources in the hands of the ruling class. The demands of this resource- wielding class for manufactured goods, luxuries and other necessaries led to the introduction of several new techniques and crafts on a big level. This, in turn, led to the expansion of the class of urban artisans in the 13th and 14th centuries.
The rising classes of urban artisans were attracted towards the monotheistic movement because of its egalitarian ideas as they were now not satisfied with the low status accorded to them in traditional Brahmanical hierarchy. It has been pointed out that some groups of traders like the Khatris in the Punjab, who benefited directly from the growth of cities, urban crafts manufacture and expansion of markets, were also drawn into the movement for the similar cause. The popularity of the monotheistic movement was the result of the support it obtained from one or more of these different classes of the society. It is one or more of these parts which constituted the social base of the movement in different parts of Northern India. In Punjab, the popularity of the movement did not remain confined to urban classes: it acquired a broader base through the incorporation of the Jat peasants in its ranks. The support extended by the Jats of the Punjab to Guru Nanak’s movement ultimately contributed to the development of Sikhism as a mass religion.
MAIN POPULAR MOVEMENTS AND THEIR FEATURES
We will talk about some of the main monotheistic and vaishnava movements in North India, including Maharashtra and Bengal during the era under review.
Monotheistic Movements of North India:
Kabir (c. 1440-1518) was the earliest and undoubtedly the most powerful figure of the monotheistic movements that began in the fifteenth century. He belonged to a family of weavers (Julaha) who were indigenous converts to Islam. He spent greater part of his life in Banaras (Kashi). The monotheistic saints who succeeded him either claimed to be his disciples or respectfully mention him. His verses were incorporated in the Sikh scripture, the Adi Granth in large numbers than those of other monotheists. All this indicate his pre-eminent location in the middle of the monotheists.
Raidas (or Ravidas) most probably belonged to the generation after that to Kabir’s. He was a tanner through caste. He also lived in Banaras and was influenced by Kabir’s ideas.
Dhanna was a fifteenth century Jat peasant from Rajasthan. Other prominent saints of the similar era were Sen (a barber) and Pipa.
Guru Nanak (1469-1539) preached his ideas much in the same way as Kabir and other monotheists, but due to various developments later his teachings led to the emergence of a mass religion, Sikhism. The vital parallel of his teachings with those of Kabir and other saints and the vital ideological agreement between them creates him an integral part of the monotheistic movement. He belonged to a caste of traders described Khatri and was born in a village in Punjab now recognized as Nankana Sahib. In his later life he travelled widely to preach his ideas. Eventually he settled in a place in Punjab now recognized as Dera Baba Nanak. There he attracted big number of disciples. The hymns composed by him were incorporated in the Adi Granth by the fifth Sikh Guru Arjan in 1604.
Common Characteristics Features:
The teachings of all the saints who are associated with the monotheistic movement have certain common features which give the movement its basic unity:
- Most of the monotheists belonged to the “low” castes and were aware that there lived a unity of ideas among themselves. Most of them were aware of each other’s teaching and influences. In their verses they mention each other and their precursors in such a way as to suggest a harmonious ideological affinity among them. Therefore, Kabir speaks of Raidas as “saint in the middle of saints”. Raidas, in his turn, respectfully mentions the names of Kabir, Namdev, Trilochan, Dhanna, Sen and Pipa. Dhanna takes pride in speaking of the fame and popularity of Namdev, Kabir, Raidas and Sen and admits that he devoted himself to bhakti after hearing their fame. Kabir’s influence on Nanak also is beyond dispute. It is, therefore, not surprising that the later traditions link Kabir, Raidas, Dhanna, Pipa, Sen, etc. jointly as disciples of Ramananda. The ideological affinity in the middle of the monotheists is also clear from the inclusion of the hymns of Kabir, Raidas, etc. along with those of Nanak by the fifth Sikh Guru Arjan in the Adi Granth.
- All the monotheists were influenced in one way or another and in varying degrees by the vaishnava concept of bhakti, the nathpanthi movement and the Sufism. The monotheistic movement symbolizes the synthesis of elements from these three traditions. But more often than not they did not accept the element of these traditions in their original form and made several innovations and adaptations which gave new meanings to old concepts.
- For the monotheists, there was only one way of establishing communion with God: it was the way of personally experienced bhakti. This was also the method of the vaishnava bhakti saints, but there was one fundamental difference of perceptions: ‘they all have been called monotheists because they uncompromisingly believed in only one God. Then, God of Nanak, was non-incarnate and formless (nirankar), eternal (akal) and ineffable (alakh). The monotheistic bhakti, so, was nirguna bhakti and not saguna — which was the case with the vaishnavites who whispered in several human incarnations of God. The monotheists adopted the notion of bhakti from the vaishnava bhakti tradition but gave it a nirguna orientation. Quite often Kabir described God through the name, Ram. For this cause he has been described Ram-bhakta. But Kabir himself made it clear in his utterances that the Ram he was devoted to was not the one who was born as an incarnation in the homes of king Dashratha of Ayodhya or who had killed Ravana, but a formless, non-incarnate God. In addition to the oneness of God and nirguna bhakti, the monotheists also emphasised the crucial importance of repetition of divine name, spiritual guru, community singing of devotional songs (kirtan) and companionship of saints (satsang).
- The monotheists followed a path which was independent of both dominant religions of the time—Hinduism and Islam. They denied their allegiance to either of them and criticized the superstitions and orthodox elements of both the religions. They launched a vigorous ideological assault on caste system and rejected the p0authority of the Brahmans and their religious scriptures. Kabir, in his harsh and abrasive approach, uses ridicule as a powerful method for denouncing orthodox Brahmanism.
- The monotheists composed their poems in popular languages. Some of them used a language which was a mixture of diferent dialects spoken in several parts of North India. The monotheistic saints preferred this common language to their own native dialects because they measured it fit for the propagation of their non-conformist ideas among the masses in several regions. The use of general language is a striking feature of the movement considering that the saints belonged to different parts of North India and spoke different dialects. The monotheists also made use of popular symbols and images to propagate their teachings. Their utterances are expressed in short verses which could be easily remembered. Thus, for instance, Kabir’s poetry is unpolished and has a rustic, colloquial excellence but it is essentially poetry of the people.
- Most of the monotheistic saints were not ascetics. They led worldly life and were married. They lived and preached among the people. They had aversion to and disdain for professional ascetics. They regularly refer to professional caste groups in their verses which would suggest that they continued to pursue their family professions. They were also not like the medieval European Christian saints who were recognized as “holy” through the Church. The expression which has been used for them and by which they themselves referred to each other is sant or bhagat. In the adi Granth, Kabir, Raidas, Dhanna, Pipa, Namdev, etc. have been listed as bhagat.
- The monotheistic saints travelled widely to propagate their beliefs. Namdev, a 14th-century saint from Maharashtra travelled as distant as Punjab where his teachings became so popular that they were later absorbed in the Adi-Granth. Kabir, Raidas and other saints are also believed to have travelled widely.
- The ideas of Kabir and other monotheists spread to several regions and became popular among the “lower” classes. The popularity of the monotheists broke territorial barriers. This is clear from the high location accorded to Kabir in the Sikh tradition and in the Dadu panthi tradition of Rajasthan. Their continuing popularity even almost two hundred years after their time and in a distant region is clear from the way a mid-17th century Maharashtrian saint Tukaram looks upon himself as an admirer and follower of Kabir, Raidas, Sen, Gora, etc. A 17th century Persian work on comparative religion Dabistan-i Mazahib testifies to the continuing popularity of Kabir among the people of North India.
- Despite the widespread popularity that the teachings of monotheists enjoyed among the masses, the followers of each one of the major figures in the monotheistic movement like Kabir, Raidas and Nanak slowly organized themselves into exclusive sectarian orders called panths such as Kabir panth, Raidasi panth, Nanak panth, etc. Of all these panths, the Nanak panth alone eventually crystallised into a mass religion while mainly of the others continue to survive till today but with a vastly reduced following and a narrow sectarian base.
Vaishnava Bhakti Movement in North India:
Ramananda was the most prominent scholar saint of the vaishnava bhakti in Northern India during this period. He belonged to the late 14th and early 15th century. He lived in South India in the early part of his life but later settled in Banaras. He is considered to be the link between the South Indian bhakti tradition and North Indian vaishnava bhakti. However, he deviated from the ideology and practice of the earlier South Indian acharyas in three significant respects:
- He looks upon Ram and not Vishnu as object of bhakti. To him, Ram was the supreme God who is to be adored with Sita. In this sense he came to be regarded as the founder of the Ram cult in North India within the framework of vaishnava bhakti tradition.
- He preached in the language of the general people, and not in Sanskrit, to propagate the Ram cult.
- The most important contribution to vaishnava bhakti, was that he made bhakti accessible to all irrespective of caste. He greatly relaxed the caste rules in respect of religious and social matters. Though himself a Brahman, he took food with his “low” caste vaishnava followers.
It is perhaps for the last mentioned point that some later vaishnava traditions link Kabir and some other monotheists to him as his disciples. The innovations were probably due to the influence of Islamic ideas. It has also been suggested that he made these innovations in order to counter the rising popularity of the heterodox nathpanthis, the “lower” classes of the society.
His followers are described Ramanandis. A hymn attributed to him was incorporated in the Adi Granth.
Another prominent Vaishnava preacher in the Sultanate era was Vallabhacharya, a Telugu brahman of the late 15th and early 16th century. He, too, was born in Banaras. He was the founder of Pushtimarga (method of grace). It also came to be recognized as Vallabha sampradava (Vallabha Sect). He advocated Krishna bhakti. Well-known Krishna bhaikti saint-poet, Surdas (1483-1563) and seven other Krishna bhakti poets belonging to the ashtachhap were believed to have been the disciples of Vallabha. The sect later became popular in Gujarat.
In North India, howevet, the vaishnava bhakti cult acquired a more popular base only in the Mughal era. Tulsidas (1532-1623) championed the cause of Rama bhakti while Surdas (1483-1563), Mira Bai (1503-73) and several others popularized Krishna bhakti.
Vaishnava Bhakti Movement in Bengal
In many significant ways the vaishnava bhakti in Bengal was different from its North Indian and the older South Indian bhakti. The sources which influenced it can be traced to two different traditions—the vaishnava bhakti tradition of the Bhagavata Puran with its glorification of Krishnalila on the one hand, and Sahajiya Buddhist and nathpanthi traditions on the other.
The vaishnava influence was transmitted by several bhakti poets beginning with Jayadeva in the 12th century. Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda was composed in Sanskrit. He also wrote songs in Maithili dialect which were later absorbed in the Bengali Vaishnava bhakti tradition. He highlighted the erotic-mystical dimension of the love with reference to Krishna and Radha. Several non- vaishnava cults such as those of Sahajiya Buddhists and nathpanthis that survived in Bengal and Bihar influenced the growth of bhakti movement in Bengal. These cults preached an easy and natural religion focusing on esoteric and emotional elements. Vaishnava bhakti poets such as Chandidas (14th century) and Vidyapati (14th to 15th centuries) came under the influence of these non- vaishnava Cults, though the Bhagavata tradition was always the major source of influence.
The songs of Chandidas who was the first Bengali bhakti poet and those of Vidyapati who wrote in Maithili, highlighted the Krishna-Radha connection. These songs became part of the rising vaishnava movement in Bengal. Chaitanya himself did not come under the direct influence of Sahajiya doctrine. It is, though, possible that elements of esoteric cults entered into his movement through the power of Chandidas and Vidyapati. But the mostly significant source of inspiration was the Bhagavata Purana.
Chaitanya (1486-1533) was the mainly prominent vaishnava saint of Bengal. He popularized Krishna-bhakti in several parts of Eastern India. His popularity as a religious personality was so great that he was looked upon as an avatara (incarnation) of Krishna even in his life. The advent of Chaitanya marks the shifting of the focus of the Bengal vaishnava bhakti from devotional literary compositions to a full-fledged reform movement with a broad social base.
Chaitanya disregarded all distinctions of caste, creed and sex to provide a popular base to Krishna-bhakti. His followers belonged to all castes and societies. One of his most favorite disciples was Haridas who was a Muslim. He popularized the practice of sankirtan or group devotional singing accompanied through ecstatic dancing.
However, Chaitanya did not give up traditional Brahamanical values altogether. He did not question the power of the Brahmans and scriptures. He upheld the caste prejudices of his Brahman disciples against the “lower” caste disciples. Six Sanskrit-knowing Brahman Goswamins who were sent by him to Vrindavan close to Mathura established a religious order which recognized caste restrictions in its devotional practices and rituals. These Goswamins slowly distanced themselves from Chaitanya’s teachings and from the popular movement that had grown around him in Bengal.
But Chaitanya‟s movement had a great impact on Bengali society. His disregard for caste distinctions in the sphere of devotional singing promoted a sense of equality in Bengali life. In Bengal and in Puri in Orissa, his movement remained popular. In these spaces, his followers were not always scholarly Brahmans but incorporated general people. They wrote in Bengali, propagated his bhakti and looked upon Chaitanya as the living Krishna or as Radha and Krishna in one body.
Bhakti Movement in Maharashtra:
Like other vaishnava bhakti movements, the Maharashtra bhakti tradition drew its basic inspiration from that of the Bhagavata Purana. In addition, however, it was also influenced by the saiva nathpanthis who were quite popular in the “lower” classes of the Maharashtrian society during the 11th and 12th centuries and who composed their verses in Marathi.
Jnaneswar (1275-1296) was the pioneer bhakti saint of Maharashtra. He wrote an extensive commentary on the Bhagavad Gita popularly called Jnanesvari. This was one of the earliest works of Marathi literature and served as the foundation of bhakti ideology in Maharashtra. He was the author of several hymns called abhangs. He taught that the only method to attain God was bhakti and in bhakti there was no place for caste distinctions.
Namdev (1270-1350) belonged to tailor caste. He is considered to be the link between the Maharashtrian bhakti movement and North Indian monotheistic movement. He lived in Pandharpur but travelled to North India including the Punjab. His bhakti songs have also been incorporated in the Adi Granth. In Maharashtra, Namdev is considered to be a part of the varkari tradition (vaishnava devotional tradition), but in the North Indian monotheistic tradition he is remembered as a nirguna saint.
Other prominent bhakti saints of Maharashtra were Eknath (1533-99) and Tukaram (1598-1650).
Bhakti Movements in Other Regions:
Saiva bhakti flourished in Kashmir in the 14th century. Most prominent of the saiva bhakti saints was a woman, Lal Ded. In Gujarat, bhakti was preached by the vallabha sect of Vallabhacharya and another significant saint, Narsimha Mehta (1414-1481, or 1500-1580). He knew of Jayadeva and Kabir and was followed by a number of poet-saints.
The Vallabha sect became popular among merchants and landowners of Gujarat. In Karnataka, the saiva bhakti cult of the Kannad speaking virasaivas urbanized developed during the 12th and 13th centuries. They preached a strongly radical and heterodox concept of bhakti through incorporating social criticism in their religious outlook.
In Assam, Sankaradeva (1449-1568) introduced bhakti both in the Brahmputra valley as well as in Cooch-Behar. He was born in the family of non-Brahman Bhuyan chiefs. He became an ascetic during the later part of his life and is believed to have visited several spaces of pilgrimage in North and South India. He preached absolute devotion to Vishnu or his incarnation, Krishna. He had to face persecution at the hands of orthodox Brahmanical priesthood of the Ahom kingdom and took shelter in the territories of the neighboring Cooch-Behar where its king gave him the freedom to preach bhakti. Monotheistic ideas influenced his concept of bhakti which came to be recognized as the eka-sarana-dharma (“religion of seeking refuge in one‟). He denounced the caste system and preached his ideas to the people in their language (an Assamese form of Brajaboli). He made some important innovations in the devotional practice such as inclusion of dance- drama-music form in the preaching of bhakti. He also founded the institution of satra which means a sitting during which people of all classes assembled for religious as well as social purposes. Later the satras grew into full-fledged monasteries. His sect is called mahapurashiya dharma.
INFLUENCE OF OTHER TRADITIONS AND MOVEMENTS
It is clear that the bhakti movement of the Sultanate era cannot be connected in anyway with the older South Indian bhakti. But they were influenced in one way or another by certain existing traditions and movements whose history goes back to the pre-Sultanate era. These included the bhakti tradition of the Bhagavat Purana, religious ideas and activities of scholar-saints such as Ramananda, and such heterodox movements as that of the nathpanthis.
The doctrine of bhakti is fully developed in the most famous of the Puranas—the Bhagavat Purana, a Vaishnavite work composed around the 9th century. Its most important feature is its emphasis on the bhakti of Vishnu in his several incarnations, especially in the form of Krishna. The Bhagavata accepts the orthodox Brahmanical theory of the origin of the varna system but does not accept the superiority of the Brahmans basically on the foundation of their status or birth. For it, bhakti is the main criteria. It has been pointed out that Bhagavata Purana is the link between several vaishnava bhakti movements of the medieval era. However, the influence of the Bhagavata tradition on monotheistic saints such as Kabir and Nanak was not exerted in a direct manner. Most of these saints were illiterate and did not have any direct access to the Bhagavata and other scriptures. Kabir’s concept of bhakti is characteristically dissimilar from that of the Bhagavata. Kabir and other non-conformist saints did not consider in incarnations either and rejected the Brahmanical and scriptural authotity altogether.
Popular Monotheistic Saints and Ramananda
Ramananda’s teachings are considered to be the source of popular monotheistic movement of Kabir, Raidas and others. Ramananda was strongly opposed to caste restrictions and opened the path of bhakti to all. He also preached his ideas in popular dialect. But, on the whole, his ideas and his concept of bhakti were essentially a part of the vaishnava bhakti. On the other hand, Kabir and other monotheists went several steps further than even the mainly liberal vaishnava bhaktas like Ramananda and denounced the Brahmanical religion in its entirety. In fact, none of the monotheists, who are claimed to have been Ramananda’s disciples, make any mention of him or any other human guru in their utterances.
Influence of the Nathpanthi Movement on Monotheistic Saints:
Some of the ideas of Kabir and other monotheists can be traced to the influence of heterodox movements like that of the nathpanthis. A large number of nathpanthi preachers called siddhas belonged to the “lower” castes—doma, chamara, (tanners), washerman, oilman, tailor, fisherman, wood-cutter, cobbler etc. With the establishment of Turkish rule in northern India, the popularity of the nathpanthi movement reached its peak during the 13th and 14th centuries. Anybody could be initiated into the sect of the nathpanthi yogis irrespective of caste.
Nathpanthi influence on Kabir is clearly seen in his non-conformist attitudes, in his independent thinking, in the harsh approach of his utterances, in his “upside-down” language (described ulatbasi containing paradoxes and enigmas) and partly in his mystical symbolism. Though, Kabir and other monotheists, in their characteristically critical and innovative manner adopted the nathpanthi ideas on a selective basis only and even when they did so, they adapted these ideas to their own purpose. Kabir rejected their asceticism and esoteric practices and also their physical methods such as breath control.
Therefore, the power of the nathpanthis on the monotheistic saints of medieval era can be seen more in their heterodox’ attitudes towards the recognized Brahmanical religion than in their practices.
Influence of Islamic Ideas and the Role of Sufism:
Several scholars have argued that all the variants of the bhakti movement and the doctrine of bhakti itself came into being as a result of Islamic influence both before and after the 12th century. This claim has been made on the foundation of several similarities between Islam and the bhakti cults.
On the other hand, it is pointed out that bhakti and bhakti movements had indigenous origins. It has been noted that bhakti as a religious concept had developed in the religious traditions of ancient India. The older South Indian bhakti movement also cannot be explained in terms of Islamic influence as its history goes back to the period before the advent of Islam in South India. Conceptually, a movement based on the idea of devotion or grace is not particular to any scrupulous religion but could grow independently in different religions at different times depending on the concrete historical conditions.
It would be more appropriate to understand the bhakti movements of medieval India in their immediate historical context rather than searching for far-fetched sources of inspiration in any scrupulous religion. However, Islam influence the bhakti cults and, in scrupulous, the popular monotheistic movements in other ways. Non-conformist saints such as Kabir and Nanak picked up some of their ideas from Islam. These incorporated their non-compromising faith in one God, their rejection of incarnation, their conception of nirguna bhakti and their attack on idolatry and the caste system. But they did not uncritically borrow from Islam and rejected several elements of orthodox Islam.
The vaishnava bhakti movements, on the other hand, cannot be interpreted in terms of such an influence of Islam as they neither denounced idolatry and the caste system nor the theory of incarnation. They believed in saguna bhakti.
The telationship between monotheistic bhakti movement and Islam appears to have been one of mutual influence and Sufism provided the general meeting ground. Sufi concepts of pir and mystic union with the “beloved” (God) coincided in several compliments with the non-conformist saints’ concepts of guru and devotional surrender to God. Kabir is even believed to have had affiliations with Chishti sufi saints, though concrete historical proof is lacking. Gura Nanak’s encounters with sufis are described in the janam-sakhis. Though the Sufism and the monotheistic movement were historically independent of each other, there was extra ordinary parallel in several of their vital ideas, including their general rejection of Hindu and Muslim orthodoxies. The interaction between them, however indirect, must have given impetus to both of them.
Theory of Islamic Challenge to Hinduism:
One contemporary viewpoint, associated with communal interpretation of Indian history, tends to attribute the rise of the medieval bhakti movements to alleged persecution of the Hindus under Muslim rule and to the challenge that Islam is supposed to have posed to Hinduism through its doctrines of “Unity of God”, equality and brotherhood. According to this theory, the bhakti movements were a two-pronged suspicious mechanism to save the Hindu religion by purging it of such evils as caste system and idolatry and at the same time defending its basic tenets by popularizing it. The former task is believed to have been undertaken by Kabir, Nanak, etc., and the latter project was accomplished by Tulsidas in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Such a notion of the medieval bhakti movement is not borne out by evidence.
- This theory of imagined Islamic threat to Hinduism is in essence a projection of contemporary communal prejudices into the past. Through the time Islam reached India, the Islamic doctrine of “brotherhood” had lost much of its appeal and social, economic and racial inequalities had crept into the Muslim society. The Turkish ruling class possessed a strong sense of racial superiority and looked upon “low caste” Indian converts to Islam as low-born and not fit for high offices.
- The Hindu population continued to observe their religious practices and to celebrate their religious festivals. In fact, the overwhelming majority of population remained Hindu even in the vicinity of Delhi, the capital of the Sultanate.
- The monotheistic saints denounced the characteristics of both orthodox Brahmanism and orthodox Islam and their ritualistic practices.
- To assume that all monotheistic and vaishnava bhakti saints were reacting on behalf of the Hindus to Islamic threat is not convincing because Kabir and other “low caste” saints hardly saw any unity of purpose with the saints belonging to the vaishnava bhakti cults.
- Lastly, the poetry and the teachings of the vaishnava bhakti saints of all the regions are either not concerned with Islamic influence or at best illustrate indifference in this regard. In fact, it has been pointed but that Hindus and Muslims both stood side by side aming Chaitanya’s disciples, as they had done under Ramanand, Kabir Nanak or Dadu Dayal.