Short Essay on the Bhakti Movement in Maharashtra

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The liberal religion preached by the saint poets of Maharashtra is popularly known as Maharashtra Dharma, which was a stream of the medieval Bhakti movement, but socially it was more profound, unitary and far more liberal in the field of social reforms.

The Bhakti cult in Maharashtra centred around the shrine of Vithoba or Vitthal the presiding diety of Pandharpur, who was regarded as a manifestation of Krishna. This movement is also known as the Pandharpur movement.

The Pandharpur movement led to the development of Marathi literature, modification of caste exclusiveness, sanctification of family life, elevation of the status of women, spread of the spirit of humaneness and toleration, subordination of ritual to love and faith, and limitation of the excesses of polytheism.

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The Bhakti movement in Maharashtra is broadly divided into two sects. The first school of mystics is known as Varakaris, or the mild devotees of God Viththala of Pandharpur, and the second as Dharakaris, or the heroic followers of the cult of Ramadasa, the devotee of God Rama.

The former are more emotional, theoretical, and abstract in their view­point, while the latter are more rational, practical, and concrete in their thoughts. The difference between the two schools is, however, only apparent and not real, realization of God as the highest end of human life being common to both. The three great teachers of the Vithoba cult were Jnaneswar Jnandeva or, Namdeva and Tukanam.

The dates of birth and of other important events in the lives of all Maharashtra saints accept Ramadasa are only approximately known. It is, however, an underable historical fact that Nivrttinatha and Jnaneswar are the founders of the mystical school in Maharashtra, which later developed and assumed different forms at the hands of Namadeva, Ekanatha, and Tukarama.

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