movement in Medieval India is responsible for the many rites
and rituals associated with the worship of God by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs
of Indian subcontinent. For example, Kirtan at a Hindu Temple, Qawalli at a
Dargah (by Muslims), and singing of Gurbani at a Gurdwara are all derived from the
Bhakti movement of medieval India (800-1700).
"The word bhakti is derived from Bhakta meaning to serve, honour, revere, love
and adore. In the religious
idiom, it is attachment or fervent devotion to God and
is defined as "that particular affection which is generated by the
knowledge of the attributes of the Adorable One." The concept is traceable
to the Vedas where its intimations are audible in the hymns addressed
to deities such as Varuna, Savitra and Usha. However, the word bhakti
does not occur there. The word occurs for the first time in the
Upanisads where it appears with the co-doctrines of grace and
self surrender." ( Heritage of the Sikhs, Harbans Singh) Bhakti movement spawned into several different movments all across North
and South India. In North India, Bhakti movement is nonethless not
differentiable by a Sufi movement of Shia Muslims of Chisti fame.
People of Muslim faith adopted it as a Sufis while Hindus as Vaisanava Bhakti.
Sufi saints of Chisti order produced first punjabi sufi saint named
Baba Sheikh Farid Shakarganj, who
paved the way for the punjabi nationalism as well as brought peace among
Hindus and Muslims.
" In the north the cult was essentially Vaisnava-based, but instead
of being focussed on Visnu, it chose to focus itself on Vishnu's human
incarnations, Rama and Krisna, the respective avatars or deities central
to the two epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. For bhakti now Visnu's
incarnations ( Rama and Krisna) were the direct objects of devotion.
Adoration of the devotees was focussed on them in association with their
respective consorts: Slta with Rama; and Rukmini, his wedded wife,
or Radha, his Gopika companion, with Krisna. Images of these deities and
their consorts installed in temples were worshipped. The path of bhakti
was not directly accessible to the lower castes; for them the path
of prapatti (unquestioned self-surrender) was prescribed. Singing of
Bhajans and dancing formed an important part of this worship. The dancers
were deva-dasis (female slaves of the deity) inside the temple, but
nagar-badhus (public wives) outside. Apart frorn being overwhelmingly
ritualistic, the worship tended to be intensely emotional." (Heritage of
the Sikhs, Sardar Harbans Singh) Followers of
Bhakti movement in twelveth and thirteenth Century included the
saints such as Bhagat Namdev, and
Saint Kabir das who insisted on the
devotional singing of praises of lord through their own compositions.
Since Bhakti movement was started before Guru Nanak, many historians have
implied that Sikhism as started by Guru Nanak was nothing more then a Bhakti
movement of Punjab. This is totally wrong and is against the basic Sikh virtues of
equality of humans and worship of one God. There is no doubt that Sikh Gurus
adopted the singing of devotional songs in praise of lord from Bhakti but there is
a huge difference between Bhakti, sufiism and Sikhism. Although Sufi and Bhakti
saints are revered and recognized by Guru Granth Sahib but they do not form the
main basis of Sikhism. Sikhism lay emphasis on equality of Male and Female,
good work ethic and as well as leading a good virtuous married life, which
is Maya according to many Bhakti and sufi saints. Thus although Sikhs revere
saints such as Bhagat Namdev, Bhagat Kabir and Sheikh Farid, but the ultimate
Guru (or teacher) of a Sikh is Guru Granth Sahib which include about 10% of the
verses of these Saints. As a famous Sikh
author says "Sikhism undoubtedly accepted some of the aspects of radicalized
bhakti, and admitted some of its practices into its own ordained set.
It did lay down spiritual love as the way to the deity, but the deity to
be worshipped was neither Shiva nor Vishnu nor even any of their
incarnations, nor any of the gods or goddesses of the Hindu pantheon.
It was the One and the Only God, the Lord of Universes who was at once
transcendent (nirguna) and immanent (saglma). Although immanent in his
Creation He was yet apart from it, being its Creator. Since He in he
real in the world that He had created, the world could not be considered
unreal or illusionary (mithya or maya). It was real and sacred
("the abode of the True One"). It is therefore blasphemous to renounce
it in quest of God. "He that is immanent in the Universe resides also
within yourself. Seek, and ye shall find" (ee, 695). Renunciation of
the world as a spiritual pursuit thus stood totally rejected. Celebacy
was no longer countenanced, either. Full participation in life in a
spirit of 'detachment' was prescribed instead. "Of all the religious
rules and observances grihasthya (the homestead) is supreme. It is
from here that all else is blessed" (Guru Granth Sahib, 587). Guru is paramount in
bhakti as well as in Sikhism ."