Devotional Paths to the Divine
Text Book Page No. 105
You can observe this process of local myths and legends receiving wider acceptance even today. Can you find some examples around you ?
(1) Hinduism, the religion of the majority of the citizens of India, is a varived faith whose local manifestations are diverse.
(2) Folk religion in Hinduism may explain the rationale behind local religious practices, and contain local myths that explain the existence of local religious customs or the location of temples.
(3) One such example is as under :
India possesses a large body of heroic ballads and epic poetry preserved in oral tradition. One such oral epic, telling the story of Pabuji, has been collected by Dr. John Smith from Rajasthan. It is a long poem in the Rajasthani language, traditionally told by professional storytellers, known as Bhopas. They deliver it in front of a tapestry that depicts the characters of the story and functions as a portable temple, accompanied by a ravankattho fiddle.
Text Book Page No. 106
How does the poet describe his relationship with the deity ?
The poet feels the presence of his lord inside his body. Due to this presence, the poet is set free from sorrow, birth, death and illusion. He believes that nobody can separate him from God.
Text Book Page No. 107
Try and find out more about the ideas of Shankara or Ramanuja.
Some of the major ideas of Shankara are as under :
- His teachings aimed at cleansing Vedic philosophy of its obscurities and inconsistencies and thereby making it intelligible and acceptable to the common man.
- According to him, Brahman was only an existence without any quality by which it could be described.
- It was pure consciousness, not a subject knowing an object.
- Maya was neither an existence nor a non-existence and was therefore indescribable.
- His ideas were based on Upanishads and some of them were borrowed from Buddhism.
Text Book Page No. 108
What is the temple that Basavanna is offering to God ? ‘
Basavanna is offering the temple of his body to his beloved God. According to him, his legs are pillars, his body the shrine, and head a Cupola of gold.
Text Book Page No. 109
Discuss the ideas about the social order expressed in these compositions.
The ideas expressed by these compositions are as follows :
- Lower caste people were a rejected lot of society.
- They were beaten.
- They had to eat left-over food.
- But there were few people who identified the beaten and battered people. Tukaram calls such people assaints.
- Saints treated a slave as his own son. It can be concluded that the social order had mixed people.
Text Book Page No. 115
Why do you think Mirabai left the Rana’s palace ?
Mirabai left the Rana’s palace because there she had to face restrictions and Rana’s opposition in her devotional activities.
Text Book Page No. 116
In what ways are the ideas in this poem similar to or different from those of Basavanna and Jalaluddin Rumi ?
The central ideas of Kabir, Basavanna and Jalaluddin Rumi emphases that the God resides within one’s heart. It cannot be found anywhere else on this earth.
Text Book Page No. 120
You are attending a meeting where a saint is discussing the caste system. Relate the conversation.
- Saint would critically examine the caste system.
- He would present its disadvantage and prove them with suitable examples.
- He would also suggest ways in which the caste system can be reformed. Otherwise he would denounce the caste system and ask his followers to breakaway from it.
- He would suggest the path of Bhakti (personal devotion to beloved God) to his followers.
- He would sing devotional songs Cbhajan) to end the meeting.
Exercise Questions and Answers
Match the following :
|The Buddha||questioned social differences|
|Nizamuddin Auliya||Sufi Saint|
|Nayanars||worship of Shiva|
|Alvars||worship of Vishnu|
Fill in the blanks :
(a) Shankara was an advocate of ______
(b) Ramanuja was influenced by the ______
(c) ______ ,______ ,and ______ were advpcates of Virashaivism.
- Allama Prabhu
(d) ______ was an important centre of the Bhakti tradition in Maharashtra.
Describe the beliefs and practices of the Nathpanthis, Siddhas and Yogis.
The beliefs and practices of the Nathpanthis, Siddhas and Yogis were as under:
- They criticised the ritual and other aspects of conventional religion and the social order.
- They used simple and logical arguments to present their thoughts.
- They advocated renunciation of the world.
- According to them Salvation could be attained by meditation on the formless ultimate reality and realisation of oneness with it.
- To achieve Salvation, they advocated intense training of the mind and body through practices like yogasanas, breathing exercises and meditation.
What were the major ideas expressed by Kabir ? How did he express these ?
The major ideas of Kabir were as follows :
- He believed in a formless Supreme God and preached that the only path to Salvation was through bhakti or devotion.
- His teachings were based on a complete, indeed vehement, rejection of the major religious traditions.
- He openly ridiculed all forms of external worship of both Brahmanical Hinduism and Islam.
- He also ridiculed the pre-eminence of the priestly classes and the caste system.
- To express his ideas, he used a form of spoken Hindi.
What were the major beliefs and practices of the Sufis ?
(1) Sufis rejected outward religiosity and emphasised love and devotion to God and compassion towards all fellow human beings.
(2) They often rejected the elaborate rituals and codes of behaviour demanded by Muslim religious scholars.
(3) They sought union with God much as a lover seeks his beloved with a disregard for the world.
(4) Sufi saints composed poems and prose literature including anecdotes and fables.
(5) They believed that the heart can be trained to look at the world in a different way.
(6) They developed elaborate methods of training using zikr (chanting of a sacred formula), contemplation, sama (singing), raqs (dancing).
(7) The Sufi saints held their assemblies in their khanqahs or hospices.
Why do you think many teachers rejected prevalent religious beliefs and practices ?
It has the following reasons :
- The social order had many unequal social castes. The lower castes were oppressed by the upper castes.
- The teachers of Bhakti or Sufism wanted to free the right of worship God and simplify it by abandoning elaborate rituals to please God.
- They believed in the power of personal devotion.
- The upliftment of lower castes and equality among social castes could be attained by rejection of prevalent, religious beliefs and practices.
What were the major teachings of Baba Guru Nanak ?
The major teachings of Baba Guru Nanak were as under :
- He emphasised the importance of the worship of one God.
- He insisted that caste, creed or gender was irrelevant for attaining liberation.
- His idea of liberation was not that of a state of inert bliss but the pursuit of active life with a strong sense of social commitment.
- He, himself, used the terms nam, elan and insan for the essence of his teachings which actually meant right worship, welfare of others and purity of conduct.
- He directed to the importance of right belief and worship, honest living and helping others.
For either the Virashaivas or the sants of Maharashtra, discuss their attitude towards caste.
- The attitude of Virashaivas towards caste was as follows :
- They reacted to the temple worship.
- The Virashaivas argued strongly for the equality of all human beings.
- They rejected Brahmanical ideas about caste and the treatment of women.
Why do you think ordinary people preserved the memory of Mirabai?
Due to the following reasons, the ordinary people preserved the memory of Mirabai :
- She was a queen and devotee of Krishna. .
- She composed innumerable bhajans expressing her intense devotion to his beloved Lord. .
- She left her husband’s palace in order to follow the path of devotion.
- She even drank poison, sent by her husband, but she did not die. This popularised her as being saved by Lord. Thus, her authenticity as a true devotee was proved.
- Her songs openly challenged the norms of the “upper” castes and became popular with the masses in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Find out whether in your neighbourhood there are any dargahs, gurudwaras or temples associated with saints of the bhakti tradition in your neighourhood. Visit any one of these and describe what you see and hear.
Students, do it yourselves.
[Hint : There wouldn’t be any picture or idol of any God. The religious shrine would be devoted to some saint, etc.]
For any of the saint-poets whose compositions have been included in this chapter, find out more about their works, noting down other poems. Find out whether these are sung, how they are sung, and what the poets wrote about.
Students, do it yourselves.
[Hint : You can look for Kabir’s poems in Hindi textbooks.]
There are several saint-poets whose names have been mentioned but their works have not been included in the chapter. Find out more about the language in which they composed, whether their compositions were sung, and what their compositions were about.
Students, do it yourselves.
[Hint : You can search internet for the subcontinental Bhakti and Sufi literature of various saints and Sufi masters. Also, you can discuss with your History teacher.]