Brief notes on the role of Minor Sects & Saints of Indian Bhakti Movement

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He was the greatest reli­gious reformer of medieval Assam. His message centred around absolute devotion to Vishnu or his incarnation Krishna. Its essence was monotheism, and it came to be known as Eka-Sarana-dharma (religion of seeking refuge in one).

He did not recognize a female associate of the Supreme Deity (Lakshmi, Radha, Sita, etc.). He insisted upon Niskama Bhakti. He recognised the sanctity of the Bhagavata Purana. A copy of it was placed on the altar -like the Grantha Sahib in the Sikh Guradwaras. He preached the rejection of ritualism including idol worship.

Sankardeva denounced the caste system and preached his ideas to the masses through their mother tongue. His creed, generally known as Mahapurshiya dharma, exercised widespread and far-reaching in­fluence on all aspects of life in Assam.

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Narsi (Narsimha) Mehta (15th Century):

Narasi or Narasimha Mehta was a well-known saint of Gujarat, who flourished in the second half of the fifteenth century. He wrote songs in Gujarati depict­ing the love of Radha and Krishna, which are in­cluded in the Suratasangrama. He was the author of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite Bhajan VishnavaJana to Teno Kahiye.

Jagjivan (17th Century):

He was the founder of a sect known as Satnami (of Satyanami). He taught that spiritual realization was possible only through the grace of God, and he insisted on purity as the essence of a religious life. His aspiration was to unite the two streams of Hindu and Muslim religious life through love.

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There were some other sects known by the same name of Satnami, both before and after Jagjivan’s time. One of these was founded by Ghasidasa of the Cobbler caste. The followers of this faith do not touch animal food or wine, do not believe in image- worship and though considered ‘untouchables’, do not acknowledge the superiority of the Brahmana and other castes. According to them, superiority consists in purity of character and conduct and devotion to God.

Lalgir or Lalbeg (17th Century):

Another religious man of the same caste was Lalgir or Lalbeg, who founded a sect known as Alakhnami or A’lakhgir, which has a great following in Bikaner. The followers of this sect do not worship images, but meditate upon the invisible: One who cannot be perceived by the senses.

The primary requirements of a religious life, according to them, are non­violence, catholicity, charity, and purity. ‘Do not be anxious about the next world,’ this way, ‘you will attain the highest bliss in this.

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Heaven and hell are within you.’ They great each other with the words Alakh Kaho’ (take the name of God who is invisible).

The Alakhnami sect also does not acknowledge the superiority of the higher castes. They are not sorry that they are debarred from entering the temples for they regard these as low places, where one is diverted from the truth. The monks of this sect are noted fortheir gentle and restrained behaviour. They do not mind if they are refused alms.

Dariya Saheb (17th Century):

He belonged to a well-known Kshatriya family of Ujjain. Dariya Saheb was deeply influenced in his religious life by the teachings of Kabir. His followers pray like the Muslims in a standing posture called Kornis, while theirprayers in the sitting posture are known as sizda.

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They do not believe in scriptures, rites and observances, pilgrimages, vows, vestments, or mantras. The worship of images or incarnations, caste-distinctions, the partaking of meat or wine, and all forms of violence are strictly forbidden in this sect.

There was another Dariya Saheb who was born in A.D. 1676 in Marwar, in a Musliim family of cotton-traders. On account of a strong similarity of Kabir’s and Dadu’s teachings, he is believed by some to be an incarnation of Dadu. He has many followers in Rajasthan, where the monasteries of his sect are scattered in different places.

He worshipped God under the name of Rama and Parabrahman. The section entitled Brahma-parichaya in his collected poems deals with the mysteries of yoga. His sect includes both householders and ascetics among its members, and his songs are very popular with both Hindus and Muslims.

Shivanarayana (Early 18th Century):

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He was born in a Rajput family in the Ballia District of Uttar Pradesh about A.D. 1710. He was a pure monist, and was completely against image-worship, he believed God to be without form and attributes. Any use of animal food or intoxicants is strictly forbidden in his sect, and the path laid down is one of single-minded devotion, purity of life, ‘self-restraint, and love for humanity.

This sect was open to members of all creeds and castes, and the union of all forms of faith in one universal religion was the dream of Shivanarayana’s life. Shivanarayana was inspired, through not directly, by the ideas of Dara Shikoh, and his philosophy contains elements from both the Hindu and the Islamic religious traditions.

It is said that the later Mughal Emperor.Mohammed Shah (A.D.-1719- 48) was converted to his faith, and the poets Wali Allah, Abru, and Nazi also has a deep reverence for his spiritual life and teachings.

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