Since the dawn of history, India has been the cradle of religious movements. In the previous chapters we have discussed the Vedic and Later Vedic (i.e. Upanishadic) ideas to the emergence of Bhagavatism and other Brahmanic sects, such as Shaivism, Saktism etc.

In the early medieval period two parralled movements, in Hinduism and Islam, respectively representing the Bhakti and Sufi movements emerged in India, which reached their fullest development in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Both these religious developments have hardly anything to do with the coming of Islam or with the so-called ‘Muslim rule in India’. The seeds of the Bhakti movements are to be found in the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavata Purana, etc.

The various Sufi saints had come to settle down in India in the eleventh-twelfth centuries, the earliest and the most well known being Sheikh Muinuddin Chisti, who made Ajmer his home when Prithviraj Chauhan (III) was still ruling over there. The greatest merit of both these parallel religious movements is that they freed the Indian society from the dogmatic beliefs, ritual­ism, caste and communal hatred and so on.


It was in the true spirit of Indian history and culture that both these movements prospered without even the least ill-will and conflict. On the contrary, both contrib­uted to each other’s religious ideas and practices. Both these movements were democratic movements, which preached simple religion in the language of the masses and neither craved for politi­cal patronage nor bothered for the political develop­ments around them.

At any rate, one can easily find many common points in the Bhakti and Sufi movements. In both, the elements of intellectuality went hand in hand with that of devotion and in both ritualism and ceremoni­alism were not as important as the search of and love for one Supreme Reality.

Love and liberalism were the keynotes of the Sufi and Bhakti movements. Mystic discipline in both was canalized towards the moral advancement of the individual and society by making them rise above the barriers of colour, creed, wealth, power and position.

The Indo-Muslim strands have woven into the texture of India’s national existence a new design of composite culture’ by intertwining the threads of the Bhakti Marg with the Islamic Sufi (mystic) tradi­tions, the Indian social customs with the Turko- Iranian modes of collective life, thereby creating a new inter-cultural synthesis, in which the values of man and social ethics reflected a new ethos.


It is not surprising, therefore, to realize that the composite culture in India originated in an environ­ment of reconciliation rather than refutation, coopera­tion rather than confrontation, co-existence rather than mutual annihilation.