NCERT Class 7 History Chapter 8: Devotional Paths to the Divine YouTube Lecture Handouts

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NCERT Class 7 History Chapter 8: Devotional Path to the Divine

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Idea of Supreme God

  • Before large kingdoms – idea was about small kingdoms and individual gods and goddesses

  • Focus on birth and rebirth

  • All human beings are not equal at birth

  • Social privilege came from birth in noble family and high caste

  • Some turned to Buddha & Jaina teachings

  • Others bonded to bhakti (Shiva, Vishnu or Durga) or Bhagavad-Gita

  • Methods of worship recommended in Puranas were introduced into the local cults

  • Bhakti was adopted by Buddhist & Jainas

Bhakti in South India

  • 7th-9th Century: Nayanars (saints devoted to Shiva) and Alvars (saints devoted to Vishnu) who came from all castes including “untouchable” like Pulaiyar & Panars

  • They were critics of Buddhist and Jainas

  • Based on ideals of love and heroism in Sangam literature (earliest example of Tamil literature)

  • 63 Nayanars – untouchables and different castes - Appar, Sambandar, Sundarar and Manikkavasagar. 2 sets of compilations of their songs – Tevaram and Tiruvacakam.

  • 12 Alvars from equally divergent backgrounds. Best were Periyalvar, his daughter Andal, Tondaradippodi Alvar and Nammalvar. Their songs were compiled in the Divya Prabandham.

  • 10th -12th century: Chola & Pandya king temples, poems and bhakti traditions – hagiographies (writings of saints lives) or religious biographies of the Alvars and Nayanars were composed


  • Philosophers of Kerala in 8th century

  • Advocate of Advaita or doctrine of oneness of the individual soul and the Supreme God which is Ultimate Reality

  • Considered world as illusion or maya

  • Preached renunciation of world or adoption of path of knowledge to understand Brahman & attain salvation


  • Born in Tamil Nadu in 11th Century

  • Influenced by Alvars – devotion of Vishnus

  • Propounded doctrine of Vishishtadvaita or qualified oneness in that soul even when united with Supreme God remained distinct

  • Inspired bhakti in North India

Image of Poet Saints of India

Image of Poet Saints of India

Virashaiva Movement

  • Initiated by Basavanna and his companions like Allama Prabhu and Akkamahadevi

  • Connection between Tamil bhakti movement and temple worship

  • It began in Karnataka in the mid-twelfth century

  • Equality of human beings

  • Against Brahmanical ideas of caste

  • Against ritual and idol worship

Saints of Maharashtra

  • 13th-17th century – saint poets – in simple Marathi

  • Janeshwar, Namdev, Eknath and Tukaram (wrote abhang – Marathi devotional hymns)

  • Sakkubai & Chokhamela (women) - “untouchable” Mahar caste

  • Focused on Vitthala (a form of Vishnu) temple in Pandharpur

  • Rejected ritualism & outward display of piety and social differences based on birth

  • Rejected the idea of renunciation and preferred to live with their families

Sharing Others Pain

  • Gujarati saint - Narsi Mehta - Vaishnavas who understand the pain of others

Nathpanthis, Siddhas and Yogis

  • Criticized conventional religion and social order

  • Advocated renunciation of the world

  • For salvation lay in meditation on the formless Ultimate Reality and realisation of oneness with it.

  • Training mind and body by Yogasanas, breathing exercise and meditation

Islam & Sufism

  • Sants had common with Sufis (Muslim mystics)

  • Rejected religiosity

  • Emphasized love, devotion and compassion

  • Strict monotheism or submission to one God

  • Rejected idol worship

  • Developed holy law Shariat

  • Rejected elaborate rituals

  • Composed poems and had rich literature

  • Great Sufis of Central Asia were Ghazzali, Rumi and Sadi

  • Training the heart: zikr (chanting of a name or sacred formula), contemplation, sama (singing), raqs (dancing), discussion of parables, breath control etc. under guidance of pir

  • Silsilas: Genealogy of Sufi teachers, each following a slightly different method (tariqa) of instruction and ritual practice

  • Sufi centers developed in India under Delhi Sultanate

  • Chishti silsila: Most influential orders - teachers like Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki of Delhi, Baba Farid of Punjab, Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi and Bandanawaz Gisudaraz of Gulbarga.

  • Assemblies were held in khanqahs or hospices – spiritual matters, blessings of saints, music and dance were part of it.

  • Sufi saints have miraculous powers that could relieve others of their illnesses and troubles.

  • Tomb or dargah of a Sufi saint - place of pilgrimage

  • Jalaluddin Rumi was a 13th century Sufi poet from Iran who wrote in Persian

Religious Development in North India

  • Kabir and Baba Guru Nanak rejected all orthodox religions

  • Tulsidas and Surdas accepted existing beliefs but wanted to make these accessible to all

  • Tulsidas – Wrote Ramcharitmanas in Awadhi (language of eastern UP) – Rama Devotee

  • Surdas – Krishna devotee - Sursagara, Surasaravali and Sahitya Lahari

  • Shankaradeva – Vishnu devotee – Assam – established namghars or houses of recitation and prayer

  • Mirabai – Rajput princess married family of Mewar in 16th century – disciple of Ravidas (untouchable) – Krishna devotee – challenged norms of upper caste & got popular in Rajasthan & Gujarat – mainly works were in regional language and oral

  • Kabir - brought up in family of Muslim julahas or weavers settled in or near the city of Varanasi - collection of verses called sakhis and pads – later preserved in Guru Granth Sahib, Panch Vani and Bijak, ridiculed external worship of both Brahmanical Hinduism and Islam, pre-eminence of priestly classes and caste system & believed in formless supreme God

  • Baba Guru Nanak: Born at Talwandi (Nankana Sahib in Pakistan), he established centre at Kartarpur (Dera Baba Nanak on Ravi river), followers ate in common kitchen – langar, created sacred space – dharmsal (Gurudwara), before his death in 1539 – appointed Lehna (Guru Angad)

  • Guru Angad: Compiled Guru Nanak’s work, added his language Gurumukhi

  • Guru Arjan in 1604: 3 successors of Guru Angad wrote under the name of “Nanak” and all of their compositions were compiled

  • Guru Gobind Singh: added writings of Shaikh Farid, Sant Kabir, Bhagat Namdev and Guru Tegh Bahadur. In 1706, he compiled it as Guru Granth Sahib

  • Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple): 17th century – in town of Ramdaspur (Amritsar) – as state within a state. He ordered execution of Guru Arjan in 1606

  • Sikh movement got politicized in 17th century - culminated in the institution of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. Community of the Sikhs, called the Khalsa Panth, became a political entity

Guru Nanak Ideas

  • Worship of one God

  • Caste, creed or gender was irrelevant for attaining liberation

  • Idea of active life with social commitment

  • Used terms nam, dan and isnan for the essence of his teaching, which meant right worship, welfare of others and purity of conduct

  • Teachings known as nam-japna, kirt-karna and vand-chhakna, which explain right belief and worship, honest living, and helping others

Martin Luther & Reformation

  • 16th century – reformation in Europe

  • Against Roman Catholic

  • Insisted use of language of ordinary people rather than Latin

  • Translated Bible to German

  • Opposed practice of indulgences or donations to church

  • Spread with growing use of printing press

  • Protestants suggest there origin to ideas of Martin Luther

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