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Examine how and why rulers tried to establish connections with the traditions of the Nayanars and the Sufis.

One of the major themes in Tamil bhakti hymns is the poet’s opposition to Buddhism and Jainism. This is particularly marked in the compositions of the Nayanars. Historians have attempted to explain this hostility by suggesting that it was due to competition between members of other religious traditions for royal patronage.

(ii) What is evident is that the powerful Chola rulers (ninth to thirteenth centuries) supported Brahmanical and bhakti traditions, making land grants and constructing temples for Vishnu and Shiva.

(iii) In fact, some of the most magnificent Shiva temples, including those at Chidambaram, Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram, were constructed under the patronage of Chola rulers.

(iv) This was also the period when some of the most spectacular representations of Shiva in bronze sculpture were produced. Clearly, the visions of the Nayanars inspired artists.

(v) Both Nayanars and Alvars were revered by the Vellala peasants. Not surprisingly, rulers tried to win their support as well. The Chola kings, for instance, often attempted to claim

divine support and proclaim their own power and status by building splendid temples that were adorned with stone and metal sculpture to recreate the visions of these popular saints who sang in the language of the people.

II. How and why rulers (state) made efforts to establish connection with tradition of Sufis :

1.    Sufi Saints and Sultans : The Sultans knew that most of his people belonged to Islam. So when the turks established the Delhi Sultanate, they rejected the demand of Ulema to introduce Sharia. They did so to avoid any kind of opposition from their people who were mainly non-Muslims. So they took the help of Sufi saints who considered their spiritual authority as the blessing of Allah.

Some People believed that the Auliya could intercede with God in order to improve the metarial and spiritual conditions of the common people. That is why, the kings often wanted to have their tombs in he vicinity of the Sufi shrines. They used to visit the dargahs of Sufi saints. The king who first visitied the dargah of Shaik Muinuddin Chishti at Ajmer was Sultan Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq (1324-51). However the first monument on the tomb of Shaikh was got built by King Giasuddin Khalji in the fifteenth century. As this dargah was on the road that linked Delhi with Gujarat, it was visited by many travellers.

2.    Sufi Saints and Mughal Emperor Akbar : The dargah at Ajmer had become quite popular in the 16th century. The devotional hymns of those travellers who visited this dargah over the years inspired the Emperor Akbar to visit this shrine. Akbar came to this dargah fourteen times. Sometimes he visited this dargah to seek blessings for new victory and sometimes he came to seek the fulfilment of his desires. He also visited this holy place on the birthday of his son. He donated a lot on all such occasions. For example in 1568, he donated a big cauldron (degh) so that food may be prepared for all the pilgrims. e also got built a mosque in the compound of the dargah.


Read any five of the sources included in this chapter and discuss the social and religious ideas that are expressed in them.

Social and religious ideas expressed in different historical sources:

(i)    Different types of religious structures are stupas, monasteries, temples etc. If these typified certain religious beliefs and practices, others have been reconstructed from textual traditions, including the Puranas, many of which received their present shape around the same time, and yet other remain only faintly visible in textual and visual records.

(ii)    New textual sources available from this period include compositions attributed to poet-saints, most of whom expressed themselves orally in regional languages used by ordinary people. These compositions, which were often set to music, were compiled by disciples or devotees, generally after the death of the poet-saint.

(iii)    What is more, these traditions were fluid-generations of devotees tended to elaborate on the original message, and occasionally modified or  even abandoned some of the ideas that appeared problematic or irrelevant in different political, social or cultural contexts. Using these sources thus poses a challenge to historians.

(iv)    Historians also draw on hagiographies or biographies of saints written by their followers (or members of their religious sect). These may not be literally accurate,but allow a glimpse into the ways in which devotees perceived the lives of these path breaking women and men.

(v) In the course of the evolution of these forms of worship, in many instances, poet-saints emerged as leaders around whom there developed a community of devotees. Further, while Brahmanas remained important intermediaries between gods and devotees in several forms of bhakti, these traditions also accommodated and acknowledged women and the “lower castes”, categories considered ineligible for liberation within the orthodox Brahmanical framework.

(vi) The twelfth century witnessed the emergence of a new movement in Karnataka, led by a Brahmana named Basavanna (1106-68) who was initially a Jaina and a minister in the court of a Chalukya king. His followers were known as Virashaivas (heroes of Shiva) or Lingayats (wearers of the linga). Lingayats continue to be an important community in the region to date.


On an outline map of India, plot three major sufi shrines, and three places associated with temples (one each of a form of Vishnu, Shiva and the goddess).





Discuss the major beliefs and practices that characterised Sufism.

Major beliefs and practices of Sufism : In the early centuries of Islam, a group of religous minded people turned to asceticism and mysticism. They were called as Sufis. Major beliefs and practices of Sufism are given below:

(i)    Sufis criticised the dogmatic definitions and scholastic methods of interpreting the Quran and Sunna (traditions of the Prophet) given by theologians. Sufis thus interpreted the Quran on the basis of their personal experiences.

(ii)    They gave emphasis on seeking salvation through great devotion and bhakti of God.

(iii)    They regarded Prophet Muhammad as a perfect human being and preached to follow the Prophet Muhammad.

(iv)    They were in favour of zikr, sama, singing, dance and training of mind, through different methods under the guidance of any Auliya or Pir.

(v)    They gave stress on mendicancy and celibacy. They ignored rituals and observed extreme forms of asceticism.

(vi)    They used to go for ziyarat, to tombs of Sufi saints. Music and dance were also parts of ziyarat. The Sufis remember God either by reciting the Divine Names or evoking his presence through sama or performance of mystical music. Sama was integral to the Chishtis, and exemplified interaction with indigenous devotional traditions.

(vii)    According to Sufis God is one and is all-powerful. Every one is his creation. That’s why all are equal.

(viii)    According to Sufism service of mankind and needy people is as equal to the devotion of God. That’s why a common kitchen (langar) was being run in Khanqah of Shaikh Nizamuddin Aulia which was being run on ‘futuh’ (unasked for charity). From morning till late night this kitchen was being run to provide food for all sections of society.

(ix)    A major feature of Sufism was austerity including maintaining a distance from worldly power.



Analyse, with illustrations, why Bhaktland Sufi thinkers adopted a variety of languages in which to express their opinions.

The Bhakti and Sufi thinkers used the languages of the common people to expressh their opinions. They often spoke in local languages. So they were well-understood by the common people. Had they used a few distinct languages, they would not have reached to all the people. They would have gone extinct. Hence their use of the local languages proved very significant.

(i) Sanskrit was used by traditional Bhakti saints to sing hymns at different occasions, places of worship and ceremonies.

(ii) The Alvars and Nayanars of Tamil Nadu travelled from place to place singing hymns in Tamil in praise of their Gods. These developed as centres of pilgrimage. Singing compositions of these poet-saints became part of temple rituals in these shrines, as did worship of the saint images.

(iii) Kabir’s poems have survived in several languages and dialects, and some are composed in the special language of nirguna poets, the sant bhasha. Others, known as ulatbansi (upside-down sayings), are written in a form in which everyday meanings are inverted.

(iv)    Baba Guru Nanak, Baba Farid, Ravidas (Raidas), composed their hymns in various languages such as Punjabi and Hindi etc.

(v)    Amir Khusrau wrote and sang in Hindavi or Persian, Punjabi, Urdu and some other form oflanguages.

(vi)    It was not just in sama that the Chishtis adopted local languages. In Delhi, those associated with the Chishti Silsila conversed in Hindavi, the language of the people. Other sufis such as Baba Farid composed verses in the local languages, which were incorporated in the Guru Granth Sahib.

(vii)    Other writers, thinkers, saints etc. composed long poems or masnavis to express ideas of divine love using human love as an allegory. For example, the prem-akhyan (love story) Padmavat composed by Malik Muhammad Jayasi revolved around the romance of Padmini and Ratansen, the king of Chittor. Their trials were symbolic of the soul’s journey to the divine. Such poetic compositions were often recited in hospices, usually during sama.

(viii) The poets of Bigapur and Karnatana wrote short poems in Dakhani, a variant of Urdu.