The Bhakti movement, originating in the Tamil south between the 6th and 9th centuries CE, extended its influence to North India during the late Sultanate and Mughal periods.
The movement not only absorbed cultural influences from Muslim rulers but also thrived within the politico-administrative structure of the Sultanate and Mughal regimes.
Influence of Persian Cosmopolitan Culture:
Ghaznavid invasions in the 11th century brought Persian cosmopolitan culture to South Asia, emphasizing the idea of a just, divinely ordained ruler fostering the well-being of diverse religious and cultural groups.
Scholar Patton Burchett argued that North Indian Bhakti was shaped by Persian literary and political culture and popular Sufism.
Notable parallels between Bhakti and Sufism, as observed by scholars:
Diana Eck highlighted the shared emphasis on inner devotion and love over external rituals.
Historian Shahabuddin Iraqi noted mutual influences between the spiritual trends of Bhakti and Sufi movements.
Mughal Patronage and Political Alliances:
Mughal Emperor Akbar’s alliances with the Rajputs facilitated the growth of Bhakti institutions and literature.
The Kachwahas of Amer, followers of the Ramanandi Bhakti sect, played a significant role in Akbar’s court, influencing imperial policies.
Nirgun Bhakti and Social Dynamics:
The Nirgun Bhakti order, led by saints like Ravidas, challenged Vedic scriptures and Brahmin authority.
Differences between Nirgun and Sagun saints: Nirgun saints opposed divine power in Vedic scriptures, while Sagun saints like Mirabai and Surdas worshipped a God with a form.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently linked Sant Ravidas to the Mughals, acknowledging his courage in resisting their “oppressive rule.”
The Bhakti movement under the Mughals showcased a dynamic blend of cultural influences, political alliances, and social transformations, leaving a lasting impact on the religious landscape of India.