A Storm of Songs Book Review

Bhakti movement, is it a movement?

Bhakti is neither a ‘movement’ nor a ‘concept’ but a relationship where bhaktas express through their lives and songs (or writings, paintings, or through any other art form). But in using the modern concept of a ‘movement’, if one tries to dig out a movement, he will be neither successful nor do justice to the very bhakti itself.

This is what Hawley has attempted through this thoroughly researched, well-documented, and very scholarly book, A STORM OF SONGS: India and the Idea of the Bhakti Movement, London, Harvard University Press, 2015.

I would like to begin from what he himself agreed first about this modern concept:

The bhakti movement is a modern idea. It has roots in the early modern period, it answers to a modern search for nationhood and self, and it has crystallized only in the course of the last one hundred years. In fact, as we have just seen, it is unfinished, ongoing….(333)

And tracing back the meaning of it in Indian languages, he further confesses that,

…If the Hindi and Bengali usages of the term andolan suggest agitation—agitations of the sort that labourers make in pursuit of better working conditions, or citizens in pursuit of firmer rights—then we must concede that this progressive struggle has not always been a part of the bhakti andolan. If the English term “movement” implies a well-considered goal, then that sense of implicit teleology is also often absent. If it implies a necessarily oblique relation to patronage and the state—a people’s agenda, not something imposed from above—then that too, on occasion, seems a difficulty: states have been directly involved in our story. So the andolan and the movement that are built into the composite notion of the bhakti movement have their uncertainties. Furthermore there is the difficulty of having to account for the fact that the bhakti movement, so conceived, often failed to achieve the promises it seemed to (p.295) make, namely, to override differences between Hindus and Muslims and to advance the cause of the poor and despised….(295-96)

When Andal wrote her songs because of her bhakti to Narayana, she never had such a concept of ‘agitation’ or ‘movement’ in her mind. The same is the case with other bhakti saints spread over all parts of India. The best way to understand any religious history in India is to understand the endeavours trying to trace back its roots to the orthodoxy. The best example could be the prasthanatrayee.1 Every acharya is expected to have written a commentary on the Upanishad, Vedanta Sutra, and Upanishads to claim credit to his philosophy and sampradaya. (Although we must note that Ramanajua never wrote any commentary1a on Upanishad but this does not stop him from being recognized as an authentic acharya or orthodoxy for his Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya).

So the followers of every sampradaya during or after the time of their founder somehow tried to link their sampradaya back to the orthodoxy which is recognized collectively by the religious authority—however they may have paid lip service to it. This is what one can find in all the information that Hawley furnishes about various sampradays beginning from the 15th or 16th centuries. The Bhagavata Mahatmya and other anthologies and commentaries that appeared in pre-modern times from the followers of various sampradays should be understood from this point of making a connecting link with the orthodoxy of the past. This is noted clearly by Hawley though not recognized in that context but criticized linking with a modern concept of ‘movement’:

…Given such a clear sense of the intellectual past on the part of the theologian who did the most to consolidate a unified Chaitanyite position, and given Jiv’s equally strong sense of the novelty of that position and its location in Brindavan’s theological present, it is remarkable to see that as the eighteenth century dawned, leading figures in the Gaudiya community felt they had to succumb to the task of providing a more “official” smarta version of how the Gaudiyas could be located in a broader Vaishnava past—a southernness that had been transmitted northward not by intellectual paths alone but by the initiatory links that membership in a sampraday would provide.2(202)

Further he points out that:

…there is some evidence of south-to-north movements relevant to bhakti in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, but the record is slim and elite: an affair of Brahmin Bhatts, largely speaking, and not one that corresponds at all with the picture Nabhadas gives us….(307)

The picture Nabhadas could be, not what Hawley tries to paint as a movement, but if we look it from the point of providing an orthodox foundation for various sampradays, and then we can see the correspondence.3

It is interesting to note that while pointing out the ‘slim and elite’ records of such a south-to-north movement, Hawley himself presents so many other valid points and confesses that his point cannot be validated based on clear records. For example he says:

…I suspect that the Ramanandis, who were the first to conceptualize the four sampradays and who were most in danger of being cast into the shadows by the Gaudiyas’ rising star, were initially responsible for this initiative, although one cannot make that specific judgment on the basis of court records that have survived…..(199)

And further,

…Muhammad Hedayatullah reiterated many of the same themes as background to his study of Kabir: The Apostle of Hindu-Muslim Unity (Kabir: The Apostle of Hindu-Muslim Unity, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1977). Hedayetullah, like Tara Chand, {Influence of Islam on Indian Culture. Allahabad: Indian Press. 1936} repeatedly acknowledges that he cannot provide the documentation that would show how this causation actually occurred. He states, for instance, “It may be asserted without any doubt that Namdev’s sayings betray Sufi influence on him, though we have no specific evidence on his acquaintance with Sufis.”{Hedayetullah, 75, 119}….(93)

Without providing any documentation, anybody can assert such influence on anyone as a scholarly guess. I think this is true with Hawley’s reading of ‘movements’ in bhakti, while rightly criticising the claims of a single nationalistic agenda of the 20th century by people like Raghavan that, “Such connections—between languages and periods, between religious communities both Muslim and Hindu, and between sacred registers and secular—all served to enhance the value of bhakti as a resource in the cause of national integration, and to suggest that it had been doing that work for centuries.” (19)

My point is that the Neo-Hindus with a nationalistic agenda can claim that (and will try to prove that) this did not happen with various sampradayas. However Hawley tries to discredit any such ‘movement’ from south to north, he cannot deny the ‘influence’ of the south over the north however slim and elitist the records could be as we can prove with authentic information about the north-south exchange of ideas and rituals tracing back even from Sangam literatures in Tamilnadu.

However scholars dispute regarding the authentic dates of early Sangam literature4, the scholarly consensus could be that we can trace back the Sanskrit influence back from the 3rd century AD in Tamilnadu. And if we accept the theory that Brahmins migrated from north to south, they could have retained some link back with their home in the north to which the ideals and ideas of the south could have travelled as well. The fact that several Brahmins from the Andhra region were brought to settle in new Brahmadeyas is established by rock edicts in the Pallava and Chola time.5 Tamil was credited as the first regional languages which was written down,6 so its worldview, recorded only through poems and not in prose, could have travelled back to the north. A.K. Ramanujan7 could be right to say that Tamil bhakti poets were active [only] in the sixth and seventh centuries. But the spirit of bhakti could be traced back in several Sangam literatures which according to several Tamil scholars, have influenced the later bhakti saints in both Saiva and Vaishnava traditions.8 Apart from this there were ample records in Sangam literatures that Tamil kings launched wars against the Northern kings.  And if such an exchange between south to north and north to south was possible—however slim and elitist those records could be, why couldn’t the spirit of bhakti have travelled back and forth?

There are enough records to show the acquaintance of the two great epics in Sangam literatures.9 Through whom did the Tamil poets learn about them in the Sangam period? If Kamban wrote Ramayana in Tamil based on Valmiki10 in the 10th century and if we can trace back to stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata in early Sangam literatures, it means that the south was also influenced by the North Indian spirit of bhakti.

Like bhakti, beyond the question of who copied from whom, there are several pan-Indian traditions which connected people of this subcontinent with common cultural/social/religious traditions. The one living example is that when one wants to go to Kashi (Varanasi) to take a dip in the Ganga (the dream of every pious Hindu), the general rule is that he should first go to Rameshwaram, particularly Dhanushkodi. After taking a dip in the sea and doing puja there to a sand linga, he has to collect it from the seashore.

When he goes to Kashi, this sand will be taken to Sangam at Allahabad and thrown there after a puja done by the specialised priests who will wait for him on the boat. From there he has to take ‘Ganga water’ and bring back to Rameswara and do oblation to the linga there. Then only his thirtha yatra is ritually complete and fulfilled. Though according to the tradition, once one starts the thirtha yatra he can return back to his home after completing the circle, but concessions are given and he take his own time, i.e. he has to keep the sand at his home in the puja room till he plans to go to Kashi. Similarly after bringing ‘Ganga water’, he can go to Rameshwaram according to his convenience.

I witnessed this when my brother and his wife went to Kashi and I accompanied them to Allahabad.  I cannot furnish any textual reference for this ritual, but going for pilgrimages has been in practice forever, as we read about the Pandavas going to various pilgrim centres during their 13 year exile period.11 Such rituals, various samskaras, flock stories, epic traditions, etc., have a pan-Indian influence and practice.12 Without knowing this and doing research from the practical life of Hindus, if any scholar begins to read a modern concept like ‘movement’ back in the Indian tradition, that too based upon textual evidence, he will end up as done by Hawley.

The Neo-Hindus with a nationalistic agenda tried to dig out any ‘movement’ out of bhakti tradition, I hope Hawley will agree that considering the fact that Bhagavata Mahatmaya’s reference about the origin and growth of bhakti from south to north is not done keeping any such agenda.  Considering the fact that the Bhagavata Mahatmya was ‘…written in or shortly after the sixteenth century….’,(6)13 no sensible person will superimpose such a nationalistic agenda on it. And if I understood Hawley correctly this is even endorsed by him:

What is one to conclude?  It is hard to know whether Bhagavata Mahatmya was composed by a group of northern Brahmins who once had southern origins and felt the power of that pedigree threatened by others’ recently articulated claims to the Bhagavata Purana, or whether we are dealing with a set of strictly northern Brahmins who, similarly pressured, wanted to invoke the sense of deep, unbroken history that was offered by the cultural mystique of the south. Either way, this was a text that emerged from a Brahmin community living somewhere in north India between the mid-seventeenth century and the early years of the eighteenth. (74)

Mahatmya was written not to provide any ‘unbroken history’ with a ‘bhakti movement’ paradigm but to insist the continuity of orthodoxy. Change and continuity is part of the Indian religious tradition. We should keep this in mind before we read any of our modern concepts like ‘movement’ back in Indian religious history. The only way to understand this influence of south on north and north on south should be considered within the wider perspective of tracing orthodoxy rather than any nationalistic agenda.

The consolidation of bhakti as ‘a single, seemingly definitive narrative’ (13) in the first decades of the twentieth century could be a product of a western mindset among some Indians who were ‘taught in British schools’, (14) but common people are not aware of it or have no need for it as ‘expressions of bhakti, coming from all around the subcontinent and from many points in time’ (13) need not be and could not be consolidated as a movement or movements by anyone.

Misguided by the nationalistic agenda, Hawley, in order to refute them, tried to present several ‘bhakti movements’ among various sampradays in the pre-modern time, particularly in North India. For this purpose, he presented and interpreted several historical facts that serve his purpose, but he fails to notice the other paradigm of pan-Indian tradition of claiming orthodoxy.


As the south still looks ‘northwards’ for mukti in Kashi (as the Tamil saying goes, ‘Kasiyil marikka mukti = dying in Kashi to attain mukti’), the north still looks towards the south for orthodoxy. Several contemporary North Indians still say that the real orthodoxy of Hinduism is preserved only in South India, particularly in Tamilnadu. Performing sraddha to the ancestors every year could be the best example. In the north, this ritual is performed one time at Gaya and there it ends. Whereas, unless ‘Gaya sradha’ is specifically performed in order not to do it every year, other (Brahmins) are expected to perform it every year. There are several such orthodoxies related with ritual and philosophy.

According to my understanding, rather than bhakti, it was local cults, rituals, samskaras, festivals, and family traditions that have a pan-Indian picture with local variations rather than bhakti.  Similarly, bhakti never consolidates the society or creates any ‘sense of equality’ (as claimed by Raghavan, p. 24.). That was not the aim of the bhakti saints in the first place. Even the attempt to bring a ‘sense of equality’ by accommodating other non-Brahmins in the temple rituals by Ramanuja14, during and after the Vijayanagara empire, the orthodoxy successfully stopped it through internal and external means.15 As a digression, I will also note that even this reform by Ramanuja to accommodate Sudras in Sri Vaishnava was challenged by other scholars like Dr. K.N. Misra.16

On the other hand trying to find a ‘progressive struggle’ (295) through agitation (andolan) or a ‘well-considered goal’ (p. 295)  to ‘override differences between Hindus and Muslims and to advance the cause of the poor and despised’ (296) in the history of the bhakti tradition will disappoint everyone. Of course we cannot deny the fact that keeping a nationalistic agenda people like Raghava might have their own agenda or Raghavadas’s Bhaktimala and other followers of any other sampradaya might have their own reason for tracing the influence of their sampradaya back to some other orthodox authority. But to read it as a movement or agitation, that too keeping a modern concept of ‘override differences between Hindus and Muslims’ or between any two social groups17 is mere imagination.  All the consenses that are shown to the marginalized people in society by reformers like Ramanuja was more to preserve the orthodoxy than keeping any ‘goal’ to overcome the difference among themselves (viz., Hindus) or with others.  Bhakti, a more personal ecstatic experience, brought some cosmetic changes and reforms on a social level, but always remains a personal ecstatic sadhana than a ‘movement’ or ‘andolan’ to bring radical social change in Indian society.

Of course the congregational aspects of bhakti in the form of sat-sanghs (fellowship), keerthan (singing bhajans), ktha (story telling), etc., are both the effect and result of bhkati. But comparing it with any ‘Protestant Great Awakenings in the history of the United States’ and making it as ‘a widely shared religiosity for which institutional superstructures weren’t all that relevant, and which, once activated, could be historically contagious— a glorious disease of the collective heart’, (Hawley 2) is again imposing a modern concept of religion over a personal sadhana of bhakti. No one can deny that there are congregational aspect in many ritual events in Hinduism. One can find that reading/telling and listening to stories (or puranas) and organizing theological debates were common while performing yajnas.  But all the religious movements (read sampradaya) which came out from personal bhakti of individuals spread because of theological writings by various acharyas like Sankara, Ramanuja, etc., rather than based on the personal bhakti of any individual saints.

I have yet to read about any sampradaya that originated and sustained only based on ‘a glorious disease of the collective heart’, rather than based on a theological foundation provided by an acharya. As my English is not great, I cannot give the difference between a ‘movement’ and ‘tradition’. But if at all we can say something about the continuing influence of any bhakti saint, it should be called as a ‘bhakti tradition’ rather than a movement.

As I will show below, we never read about any movement after Meera, Surdas, and Thyagaraja. Of course Kabir panthis are there, but they were not initiated by him. Even the twelve Vaishnava azhvars were later integrated under Sri Vaishnava by Ramanuja. The same is the case with all the 63 Saiva saints, many among them are more mythological figures than historical persons. For example Manikkavasagar is known as the best bhakti poet saint in Tamil. His Tiruvasagam earned the fame as ‘Thiruvasahattukku uruhar oru vasahattukkum uruhar’ = ‘whose heart won’t melt by Tiruvasaham won’t melt to any other word/poem’.  And he is not included among the 63 Saiva saints, as Sekizhar, the author of Periya Puranam (the hagiography of 63 Saiva saints) never wrote about him. But we cannot think of a Saivam in Tamilnadu without including Tiruvasagam.

At the same time it is important to note that:

…While the Siddhanta philosophers shared in the Nayanars’ world view and their concern with ritual and temple worship imbued with devotion, they rarely established a direct connection between the emotionally charged poems of the saints and their own doctrinal writings, in which they expound the nature of soul, God, bondage, and release. The link between the two lineages of teachers (kuru, acariyar), the poets and the philosophers, remained a tenuous one. Though the theologians treated the saints’ hymns with the reverence due scripture, they did not connect the two streams of thought through commentaries….18

All these bhakti saints, spread over various parts of India at various times, were integrated in several sampradayas but they or their poems never initiated or created any bhakti movement(s), that too as a religion.  Where their poems were integrated as part of their sectarian philosophy/theology like Sri Vaishnavism, it was done later by the acharyas of that sampradaya.19 And interestingly the same saint is made a part of another tradition, as we find the songs of various saints in Guru Grandh Sahib which was later created by the Sikh tradition. Can we say that Tukaram started the Vakari movement or Vakari tradition and included various Marathi bhakti saints in it?

Twentieth century nationalistic Indians like Ragavan, trying to trace a pan-Indian phenomenon that presented a united India and Hinduism, use the word ‘movement’ to counter the view that it was British rule and politics that united India as a nation. But he needed a concept or ideal that was indigenous. And bhakti served that purpose. Though this western term and frame could be questioned and challenged to present some uniform bhakti movement, it is altogether wrong to read it back in the hagiographies and anthologies which evolved out of a need to fulfil the local tradition to give orthodoxy to their sampradays. Though Hawley rightly criticized the nationalistic agenda of 20th century to create one pan-Indian bhakti movement, by projecting many ‘bhakti movements’ Hawley overstretched this concept, based on hypothetical statements.


Understanding the infusion of ideas from south to north and north to south is a complicated subject. No single theory will neatly explain this—either endorsing or denying. Though out of context, what Hardy talks about the ‘history of Krishna devotion’ may help us understand this complexity:

…I shall explore those individual developments that, when interacting, give rise to Krsna emotionalism in the sense defined here—in the bhakti of the south Indian Alvars. Still remaining in basically the same milieu, certain aspects of the Sanskrit Bhagavata-Purana will be investigated; this text was particularly important, because it made the regional religion of the Alvars available for the rest of India and in fact became the basis of almost all further developments of emotionalism in India. In terms of absolute chronology, the period covered runs from the first century A.D. to the tenth century.

Exaggerating somewhat, we can say that traditionally scholars tended to confine themselves to arranging their sources on the single line of chronology, and to describing them as developments from any given point on that line. But some phenomenon in Bengal that happens to be contemporary with other phenomena in Tamil Nadu may have nothing else in common with the latter. Or what about two people living next door to each other? One might be an advaita Brahmin, and his neighbour a low-caste poet of passionate love lyrics in Tamil.  (Fortunately for our purpose, the Indian social system shows ‘next door’ to be an exaggeration.)  Interaction between these two could not be described either in chronological or in geographical terms. The general problems that these examples illustrate has in fact been realized by scholars, and it has become fashionable to speak of the Great and the Little Traditions when trying to describe synchronic interaction. But just as a purely chronological approach is far too limited to account for those vastly complicated processes which constitute ‘historical developments’, I have found this distinction of Great and Little Traditions far too simplistic to be useful for our purposes. The model we must assume has to be multidimensional….20



Part II

On other points, I cannot agree with Hawley.

I have many questions about the so-called Islam-shaping of the bhakti tradition. Of course both Hinduism and Islam were mutually influenced by their traditions. But finally, as usual, Hinduism managed to accommodate so many Islamic cults within it. The Sufism, various dargas spread all over India, many ‘pirs’ who are venerated both by Hindus and Muslims, many new traditions like ‘santanakkuttam’21 conducted in Tamilnadu, festivals called ‘urs’,  demonstrate how Islam succumbed to the Hindu influence and how Hinduism managed to make many Islam pirs a parts of its own cult group. No matter how the Puritanism and revival in Islam tried to reform Islam, it could not cleanse the Hindu influence on it as presented by Bayly in her remarkable work on this subject:

…Once dismissed as alien or marginal implants of European colonial rule, the manifestations of Islam and Christianity which took root in south India should now be seen as fully ‘Indian’ religious systems. Their underlying principles of worship and social organisation derived from a complex and dynamic process of assimilation and cross-fertilization. New doctrines, texts and cult personalities were introduced by a variety of Indian, west Asian and European teachers and churchmen, but over time these were taken over and transformed by their recipients.  Even in the period of direct British rule, which some have seen as a time of ‘revival’ and of a turning towards formal or scriptural religion, the most forceful of the self-styled reformers and purifiers had an impact on the society which was not at all what they had intended.  This applied to the ‘reforming’ nineteenth-century Jesuits as well as the purist Naqshbandiya Sufis such as Rahmatullah of Nellore.  They may have planned to ‘purge’ and standardise indigenous religion, but the would-be converters were themselves ‘converted’; they were made over into tutelaries and cult saints so as to fit in with south India’s existing forms of worship.22

Similarly the so called ‘ignoring’(?) of the Islamic presence in Hindu texts claimed by Hawley was refuted by Nicholson. Hawley says, ‘…However much the author of the Bhagavata Mahatmya wanted to ignore it, this Islamic ambiance substantially shaped the bhakti that flowered in north India during the second millennium C.E.’ (p. 8).  As there was no need for ‘extra-Vedic traditions’ the ‘Sanskrit intellectuals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries responded with silence’, is a telling rebuke by Nicholson to the scholars like Hawley by pointing out that:

The nearly total lack of mention of Muslims in Sanskrit texts has led some historians to suggest that there was little contact between Sanskrit intellectuals and Muslims, or if there was contact, there was no awareness of Islam as a religion or system of belief…. the Sanskrit authors were more accurate, labelling the foreigners they encountered as turuskas (Turks), yet they still did not acknowledge that many of these foreigners (imagined) place of origin, not their beliefs….(p.192) And ask us to notice that , ‘Medieval texts in Indian vernacular languages, however, offer ample evidence to refute the idea that most medieval Indians were unaware of the general tenets of a religions shared by the group of people known as Muslims….” (p.192)23

We should understand even this idea of a ‘bhakti movement’ in its earlier kernel in the North in the context of an emerging political formation by the Mughals24 rather than a religious one.  Because since the coming of Islam, Hinduism has faced a real external challenge. Though there were a few attempts made by some to assimilate certain doctrinal aspects of each other, as ‘Islamic dominance in many part of India was primarily political and military’25 the encounter of both the civilizations, “after a short time”, as Panikkar observed, remained as “a problem of co-existence, with mutual toleration rather than the domination of one by another.”26 This even made Hinduism, “more rigid” in the words of Panikkar.

If Islam influenced the bhakti movement and reformed it, why did that influence not sustain for a long time? On the other hand, see what happened to Islam in various parts of India?  Hinduism without having any structural framework can easily absorb other religious views and make them part of its own. This happened to every sampradayas—beginning from Sramanas, Islam, Christianity, Lyngaytas,.—including Siddhas ‘movements’, who were in the forefront of criticising idol worship and all kinds of rituals. Hinduism, though influenced by outer views, accommodated the changes within it without abandoning its core nature as an un-structural phenomena, which could be named by any terms like ‘way of life; parliament of religion’ etc.


Regarding, “…The bhakti mirror shows Brahmanical Hinduism in a cruel light”, (p.7)27 though there is some truth in this, considering the early bhakti poems and saints in Tamilandu, both in Saiva and Vaishnava sampradayas, rarely one note of the bhakti mirror shows Bramanical Hinduism in a cruel light. Considering the fact that among the four important Saiva Nayanmars—Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Manikkavasagar, three are Brahmins. And few Vaishnavite Alvars are Brahmins.28 If one wants to see any mirror which shows Brahmanical Hinduism in a cruel light in Tamil that is possible only among the Siddhar songs and Marathi bhakti poems in pre-colonial India. Particularly Christian Lee Novetzke’s excellent study, The Brahmin Double: the Brahminical construction of anti-Brahminism and anti-caste sentiment in the religious cultures of pre-colonial Maharashtra, endorses Hawley’s view.29 But in general Siddhar songs never gained the status as bhakti poems in mainline Hinduism, even by the non-Brahmins, particularly in Saiva Siddhanta. Even among the Siddhas in Tirumandiram by Thirumular one can find lots of endorsement for the Brahminical Hinduism. Of course Tamil nationals like Maraimalai Adigal30 try to differentiate these Saiva Brahmin saints as Tamil Andanar (Tamil word for Brahmin) and not Aryan Brahmins, but we need to understand this as Tamil nationalistic propaganda and not historical fact.


Of course the voice of the oppressed is always there in one form or another. But based on the later developments that mostly happened in Maharashtra and the North it seems clear that Brahmins too were part of the same bhakti tradition. On the other hand, if we hypothetically agree that bhakti as an inspiration (not as a movement) started in Tamilnadu, then Brahmins saints were part of it, but never claim any exclusivity on it like yajnas and temple rituals.  Once bhakti is labelled as a ‘movement’, then one can accuse the privileged for becoming part of it. Bhakti always begins from an individual and then takes its own natural course of influencing others. In that course of its growth and development, it brings various consequences which were not even intended by that bhakta. If he gained enough influence and authority over other followers then it managed to gain some form of its own. But that couldn’t be sustained for a long time. During his life time or after, it branches out in various forms and shape, particularly as a sampradaya with religious connotations (with rituals, doctrine, etc) rather than remain a strictly personal inspiration for others to follow. Of course there are a few exceptions to this like Saint Thyagaraja and others. More than their personal bhakti, their lyrics and music continue their legacy.

Another point that I cannot agree with Hawley is that, ‘According to the bhakti movement paradigm, it was the radical perception that the legitimate demands of religion had to be expressed in speech people could actually understand—and that they themselves generated—that brought India’s vernacular language to the fore…..’(8).

As a Tamilian who reads almost all the bhakti poems of the Alvars and Nayanmars in Tamil, I cannot understand what are the ‘legitimate demands of religion’ which forced bhakti saints to write in vernacular with any intension to bring ‘India’s vernacular language to the fore’? Of course since Hawley has made bhakti a ‘movement’, then he has to create such an imagined ‘paradigm’ in the vernacular languages of India. Whereas a bhakta can expresses her bhakti in her own mother tongue without any intention to bring forth vernacular to the fore.

I cannot also understand what is the ‘legitimate demands of a religion’? In a country like India, where nothing is separated in watertight compartments, we cannot separate bhakti songs becoming part of rituals in respective sampradayas. In fact, poems were the natural medium in which almost all the legitimate demands of religion were expressed in Hinduism,31 with a few exceptions like ritual text such as Satapatha Brahmana. Even during their own lifetime, most of the Saiva saints’ poems were integrated as part of ritual both at home and the temple.32 The same is the case with Vaishnavite poems. Even today both in Saiva and Vaishnava temples ritual singing from their Tamil poems of their saints is part of it.33

As of yet, I have never read that any such thought existed in the minds of those Tamil saints who wrote in Tamil. Sheldon Pollock’s argument that, ‘…the first expressive uses of Indian vernacular literatures occurred not in some independent realm of bhakti but in court settings and with political or aesthetic, not religious, intent,’(8) is now challenged by other scholars.34  However acharyas like Vedanda desika35 wrote in both Tamil and Sanskrit. And considering the vocation of the Brahmins, who have to learn Sanskrit, most of the Tamil saints both in Saiva and Vaishnava sampradayas also could have been well-versed in both Sanskrit and Tamil, but they wrote in Tamil not with any ‘bhakti movement paradigm’ or to bring the vernacular to the fore. My point is that whoever brought vernacular language to the fore, no ‘paradigm’ is need for that—whatever it might be. People speak their own mother tongue. And bhakti saints who came out from them naturally sang and wrote in that language. What kind of paradigm is needed for that?

Regarding the connection between the state and the saints Hawley says:

By this somewhat unexpected path, then, the idea of bhakti’s being channelled by means of the four sampradays did indeed endure after the rule of Jaisingh, even if its institutional expression was not fully implemented in his own time.  This is one of the routes by means of which the concept of the four sampradays became available to theorists of the bhakti movement in the early decades of the twentieth century…(204) [and] …If it implies a necessarily oblique relation to patronage and the state—a people’s agenda, not something imposed from above—then that too, on occasion, seems a difficulty: states have been directly involved in our story….(296)


For me, bhakti is always a bhakta’s agenda and no one can impose it from above, as many stories of the bhaktas clearly demonstrate. The involvement of the state or any pattern is to seek the support and recognition of his power in order to sustain his control over the masses, using the religious and bhakti sentiment of people. In a few cases where a bhakta sought the interference of the state, it was not to enhance his/her bhakti but to protect and rescue the orthodoxy mostly related with the temple rituals, since they cannot take the law in their own hands. One hears about Tirunavikkrarasar sitting on an indefinite fast in order to restore back the Siva temple which was covered by the jaina structure in Tajnore. The same Tirunavukkarasar refused to budge to the pressure from the Pallava king to persuade him to give up his faith in Siva36, as he was a recent convert from Jainism to Saivism. In response to the king he even said:

We are slaves to no man,

nor do we fear death.

Hell holds no torments for us,

we know no deceit.

We rejoice, we are strangers to disease,

we bow to none.

Joy alone is ours, not sorrow,

for we belong forever

to Sankara, who is the supreme Lord,

our King who wears the white conch earring on one ear,

and we have reached

his beautiful, flower-fresh feet.37


In the case of Saint Thyagaraja, when the King of Tanjore, Saraboji, sent his ministers with lots of gold and gifts with palanquin to bring him to his palace so that the saint can sing in praise him, Thyagaraja refused to accept those gifts or invitation and even sang, ‘nidi chaala sugama; rama nee sandadi seva sukama’ [Rama, will the wealth give joy or worshiping at your feet?]. When Rana sent poison to Meera to make her to drink it or abandon her bhakti to Krishna, she wrote, ‘vishaka paala rama piyare, Meera piibati haasi re’ [Rana sent poison but Meer drinks it with a laugh] (both quoted from memory).

Seeking and winning the support of bhakti saints, constructing temples, protecting the monasteries (mutt), continuing to support the temple (ritual) maintenance from the royal treasury, etc. are all part of the strategy of the kings to expand and sustain their rule over the people, as Bayly clearly shows through the record:

In both {Tanjore & Travancore} of these wet-zone kingdoms, the traditions of warrior religion were far from being subsumed into Brahmanical ‘high’ Hinduism.  Instead, their warrior culture was broadened and expanded as the two groups of rulers found new sources of strategic and ceremonial support. One important class of recruits came from the special class of celibate renouncer Brahmans who were revered as living repositories of the divine. These sannyasi or ascetic Brahmans were accorded great power in the teachings of the bhakti devotional movements.  By offering complete submission to a chosen renouncer, the devotee could aspire to a state of ecstatic union with the deity. The most eminent of these renouncers were the sectarian leaders and acaryas or ‘swamis’ who controlled the monastic centres (maths) attached to Kanchi and a number of other powerful wet-zone temples. These masters possessed a king’s standing and authority, and so it was a great coup if a ruler could persuade one of them to take on the role of royal guru or spiritual preceptor, and to endow him with the sacred mantra or formula which initiated him as the guru’s disciple. In 1686 the second Maratha raja of Tanjore persuaded the swami of the Sri Sankaracarya math at Kanchi to settle in his new domain.  This was one of the key acts of Maratha state-building in Tanjore, and throughout its history the ruling house retained strong ties to the line of successor-gurus who inherited the power and status of this first royal swami. {Buchanan, Francies,  A Journey from Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar, 3 vols. (London, 1807), I, pp. 21-3, 145; P. V. Jagadisa Ayyar, South Indian Shrines, (Madras, 1920),  p. 80}.—p. 65

…First, there is an account of the acts of war and slaughter by which Martanda Varma first establishes his rule. It is then explained that the ruler has summoned his officers of state and proclaims the building of two great royal temples within the state:

thus we have done in charity but now I am desirous of wearing the Janava [sacred thread]…round the neck and I am informed by the learned Brahmis [sic] that to enable me to do so I should have a Golden Cow made and must worship it, after which I am to entertain many Brahmins and make them glad, then may I wear the sacerdotal thread. {‘Historical Memoir of Malleeyal or Nunjanaud [Nanjenad: southern Kerala]  Dachana’ in Mackenzie Collection,  – General, vol. 5, pp. 310=-6, IOL { India Office Library and Records, London.} (transcribed for Mackenzie in 1804). –p. 6738

We have multiple examples even from North Indian sources like Akbar, Auranzeeb, etc., who for political reasons patronised temples and rituals. This even continued in British rule. I find problem with the term ‘movement’. Is it possible to impose any bhakti movement from ‘above’? I think we need to separate the temple construction by the kings both for political and economic reasons from bhakti even if one imagines any ‘movement’ of a modern concept in it. No bhakta sought the patronage of the kings for her/his bhakti and its influence among the common people, unless it clashed with the temple administration and rituals.39


1.. When Gita along with Upanishads and Vedantasutras became the Canon called ‘prasthanatrayi’  (the Trinity of Systems)…all religious opinions or cults which were inconsistent with these three works or which could not find a place in them, came to be considered as inferior and unacceptable by the followers of the Vedic religion.  The net result of this was that the protagonist acharyas of each of the various cults which came into existence in India after the extinction of the Buddhistic religion had to write commentaries on all the three parts of the prasthanatrayi (and, necessarily on the Bhagavadgita also).— B.G. Tilak, Tr. by A. S. Sukthankar: Srimad Bhagavadgita-Rahasya,seventh edn., Poona, 1986. p. 17

1a. Though Ranjeeta Dutta, claims that Ramanuja wrote commentaries on Upanisads (see From Hagiographies to Biographies: Ramanuja in Tradition and History, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2014, p.58), as far as my knowledge goes he never wrote any independt commentaries on Upanishads as endorsed by Swami Adidevananda:

Sri Ramanuja wrote nine works 2 in Sanskrit on the philosophy of Visishtadvaita. Of these, the Vedartha-sangraha occupies a unique place inasmuch as this work takes the place of a commentary on the Upanishads, though not in a conventional sense or form. The work mirrors a total vision of the Upanishads, discussing all the controversial texts in a relevent, coherent manner. It is in fact an independent exposition of the philosophy of the Upanishads.—p. “Sri Ramanuja on the Upanishads” S.S. Ragavachari,: Vedarthasangraha of Sri Ramanujacharya, By Swami Adidevananda, 1956

2.. ..It is also important to note here the importance of this bathing (sexual) symbolism in later Bengali Vaisnavism, particularly in the elaborate theology of Radha’s and Krishna’s “pools of love’ in the sacred landscape of Braj….much of Bengali Vaisnavism was influenced by forms of South Indian bhakti, not only through the northern spread of texts like the Bhagavata Purana and the Krsnakarnaamrtam, but through the still-mysterious Vaisnava sectarian teacher Madhavendra Puri. Whatever the historical connections might be, Desika’s devotional aesthetics has much in common with (p.203) the bhakti rasa of later Bengali Vaisnavateacher-poet-commentators like Rupa and Jiva Goswami.— Steven Paul Hopkins, Singing the Body of God, New York, Oxford, 2002, pp. 203-04; ‘……Altogether, this survey has sown that from the eleventh century AD onwards the Bhagavata Purana began to influence the poetry of the secular Krsnaite tradition in the North.— Friedhelm Hardy, Viraha-Bhakti: The Early History of Krsna Devotion in South India, New Delhi, Oxford India (1983) Paperbacks, 2001. p. 552

3.. Earlier Hari took on twenty-four bodies—

So, in this kali age, four formations: (p.100)

Sri Ramanuja—ocean of life-giving nectar,

Noble wishing-tree for all the earth;

Visnusvami—the boat that takes you across

To the opposite shore of the sea of rebirth;

Madhavacarya—the rain-cloud of devotion

That fills your baren pond;

Nimbaditya—Aditya, the sun whose fire

Disperses the fog of knowing nothing.

In life and deed they’ve laid out teaching traditions

Of God’s religion for all time.

Earlier Hari took on twenty-four bodies—

So, in this kali age, four formatioins.

Ramanuja follows Rama’s approach,

Visnusvami, that of Shiva,

Nimbaditya, of Sanaka et cetera,

And Madhva, that of our-faced Brahma.—{Jha, Narendra. Bhaktamala: Pathanusilan evam Vivecan. Bhagalpur: Bhagalpur Visvavidyalaya.  (Garland of Devotees),  1978; part 2:10, $$27-28. The symbol $ refers to the chappays {chowpai} and dohas that structure the work.}.—pp. 100-101

For me I see only the tradition of seeking the origin of each sampradaya back to the respective deities, as is common with almost all traditions.  Leaving the sampradayas, even dharmasastras like Manu one can see such tracing back to its origin to God as Manu traces back to Brahma.  Regarding this Olivelle says:

The second innovation in the composition of the MDh is its narrative structure.  The Dharmasutras are not only written in prose but are also presented as nothing more than scholarly works.  There is no literary introduction; the author gets right down to business.  He presents his material in a straightforward manner, and on points of controversy and debate he presents opposing viewpoints.  All this is eliminated by Manu.  Here the real author is presented not as a scholar but as the primeval lawgiver, the Creator Svayambhu, and his intermediaries, his son Mau and the latter’s disciple Bhrgu.  The law is promulgated authoritatively; there cannot be any debate, dissension, or scholarly give and take.— Patrick Olivelle, Manu’s Cod of Law: A Critical Edition and Translation of the Manava-Dharmasastra,  New Delhi, Oxford, 2006, p.26

4..  …However thorny the dating, (p.394) the consensus is that at least before the middle of the first millennium, Cankam poetry, which is a worldly literature comparable to kavya, was established.  However late a written aspect may have come to attach itself to this Cankam poetry, the anthologisation as well as the later creation of a Cankam legend proves that there was an interest for this early literature in the Tamil country, that it was an early revered and known beginning.—‘Praising the king in Tamil during the Pallava period’, by Emmanuel Francis, pp. 394-95, in, Bilingual Discourse and Cross-Cultural Fertilisation: Sanskrti and Tamil in Medieval India, ed. Whitney Cox and Vincenzo Vergiani,  Pondichery, Institut Francais De Pondichery Ecole Francaise D’extreme-Orient, 2013, Pp. 359-409

5..It must also have meant that not only tradition but also Vedic Brahmanas from the land of Aryavarta were imported.  Brahmanas from the north and from the Deccan and Andhra regions being brought and settled in the brahmadeyas and temple centres of the south is known from several Pallava-Pandya and Cola copper plates and inscriptions, and also those of the Deccan and Andhra dynasties…. T.N. Subrahmanian, Ten Pandya Copper Plates, Madras: 1967, which specifies the Vedic Brahmana, who was brought from Magadha (Bihar), Srivaramangalam Plates, pp. 49-70.— Champakalakshmi, Religion, Tradition, and Ideology: Pre-colonial South India, New Delhi (2011), 2012, note. 17, p. 41.  Further, ‘…the flourishing period of the Pancaratra was c, AD 600-800 in Northern India, and it had penetrated the South by about the eighth century. Roughly by that date also the Vaikhanasas must have been settled in South India….’— Friedhelm Hardy, Viraha-Bhakti: The Early History of Krsna Devotion in South India, New Delhi, Oxford India (1983) Paperbacks, 2001. P. 35

6.. …Among India’s regional languages, Tamil, which is spoken in the far south, was the first to be written down. Tamil was pictured as being the root of the bhakti movement, and indeed, we know that Tamil bhakti poets were already active in the sixth and seventh centuries.  But they were just the beginning…. {Ramanujan, A.K. Speaking of Siva. Baltimore: Penguin, 1973:40.}—Hawley, p. 3

7.. As the great poet and critic A. K. Ramanujan once said, these Tamil poets lit a fuse that refused to go out before it had ignited the whole subcontinent, first sparking poetry in the neighboring region of Karnataka, then spreading northward to Maharashtra and Gujarat until finally it ignited the Hindi- or Urdu-speaking regions of north India and beyond.{Ramanujan, A.K. Speaking of Siva. Baltimore: Penguin, 1973:40.}—p. 3

8.. The Tamil bhakti hymnal literature derived all its major themes, myths, worldview and institutional forms from the Puranas and the Agamas, while, at the same time, used purely Tamil classical motifs drawn from the Sangam classics (the Puram and the Akam themes).  Tamil bhakti brings several strands together—the typical Sangam humanism; anthropocentric religion; emotional and sensuous character of worship (ecstatic dancing and singing); and the northern Brahmanical and Sanskritic concept of a transcendental absolute (monotheism, together with several mythological structures)….— Champakalakshmi, Religion, Tradition, and Ideology: Pre-colonial South India, Oxford, New Delhi (2011), 2012, notes. 20. P. 42; also see ‘From Classicism to Bhakti’ by A. K. Ramanujan with Norman Cutler, in the collected essays of A. K. Ramanujan, ed. Vinay Dharwadker, New Delhi, (1999), Eighth impression 2014, pp. 232–259

9.. .…The early Sangam classics, as much as the Satavahana and Iksvakus epigraphic records reveal the presence of the Brahmanical tradition in an amalgamated form, in addition to the visible presence of the Buddhist and Jain religions….—ibid. p. 13

…Standing on the threshold to a new form of poetry, namely, the bhakti hymns, the Paripatal shows evidence of Vedic, Upanisadic and Puranic influence and, as has been admirably shown in Friedhelm Hardy’s study {Viraha-Bhakti: The Early Historyof Krsna Devotion in South India, New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.}of emotional Krsna bhakti, reveals the meeting point of northern Sanskritic devotional themes and the Akam (interior/love) as well as the Puram (exterior/war) themes of Sangam literature….—‘From Devotion and Dissent to Dominance: The Bhakti of the Tamil Alvars and Nayanars’, in  ibid. p. 54

10.. Though A. K. Ramanuja rightly deny the existent of any ‘Ur-text—usualy Valmiki’s Sanskrit Ramayana’ yet recognizes that it was ‘the earliest and most prestigious of them all’, yet traditionally it is believed that Kamban wrote his ‘Iramavataram (The Incarnation of Rama) in Tamil based on Valmiki.  Here is the entire text of A. K. Ramanuja, ‘Obviously, these hundreds of telling differ from one another. I have come to prefer the world {word?} telling to the usual terms versions or variants because the latter terms can and typically do imply that there is an invariant, an original or Ur-text—usually Valmiki’s Sanskrit Ramayana, the earliest and most prestigious of them all.  But….it is not always Valmiki’s narrative that is carried from one language to another.’—Three Hundred Ramayanas, A. K. Ramanuja, in the collected essays of A. K. Ramanujan, ed. Vinay Dharwadker, New Delhi, (1999), Eighth impression 2014,pp. 131-160,  p. 134

11.. Those who cannot accept that thirthayatra is an old practice have to then come up with a modern date for Mahabharata, as this practice is clearly mentioned there.  Taking the sand from Rameswara etc. need not be pan-Indian.  But other kinds of rituals, with regional variations are common everywhere.  When I was in Gomuh (the origin of Ganga) I saw one North Indian taking bath there and collecting water in a ‘kavadi’. When I enquired what he will do with that water, he said that he will go to Rameswaram by walking all the way and after doing the ‘oblation’ to the Linga there with this ‘pure’ Ganga water, will collect sea water from there and pour it at Sangam at Allahabad.

12.. Another pan-Indian dimension is also provided in the Vijayanagara inscriptional references to a new pilgrimage network that covered the (p.637) whole of India….—‘Ideology and the State in South India,’ in  Champakalakshmi, Religion, Tradition, and Ideology: Pre-colonial South India, Oxford, New Delhi (2011), 2012, pp. 637-38

13.. Here is what Bhakti says:

I was born in Dravida,

grew mature in Karnataka,

Went here and there in Maharashtra,

then in Gujarat became old and worn.

There, under the spell of these awful times,

my body was riven by schismatics.

For long I went about in this weakened condition,

accompanied in lethargy by my sons,

But on reaching Brindavan I was renewed,

I became lovely once again,

So that now I go about as I ought:

a young woman of superb appearance.{Bhagavata Mahatmya, in  preface to the Bhagavata Purana, Gita Press, 1995 [1971], 1.48-50}—p. 59

14.. … after Ramanuja … the social base of Srivaisnavism was widened to allow Sudra participation in temple rituals and administration after the reforms introduced by him in major Vaisnava centres….— ‘From Devotion and Dissent to Dominance: The Bhakti of the Tamil Alvars and Nayanars. R. Champakalakshmi.47-80’, in David N. Lorenzen.  Religious Movements in South Asia 600-1800. New Delhi,  Oxford, 2004. p. 65

15… The elimination of significant Sudra influence at Srirangam and Tirupati may therefore be understood as an internal sect adjustment which reduced the tension between Northern and Southern School followers and between the proponents of Pamcaratra and Vaikhanasa, through consensus on the continued significance of Sanskrit learning and the dominance of properly prepared Brahmans in sect leadership and control.

In addition to, and supportive of, the pressure inside the sect by the sixteenth century to reinforce Brahman control of the performance and staffing of ritual roles, there was a primarily external determinant: Vijayanagar espousal of an orthodox Hindu ideology… This ideological posture of the Vijayanagar rulers of South India in general—perhaps with temporary exceptions, such a Saluva Narasimha—could have contributed to the failure of Sudras to extend or even to maintain their prominent place in the Srivaishnava sect.— Social Mobility and Medieval South Indian Hindu Sects. Burton Stein. 81-101, in David N. Lorenzen.  Religious Movements in South Asia 600-1800. New Delhi,  Oxford, 2004. p. 100

16.. …When Ramanuja sat to write commentary on Brahmasuutra, he forgot that he was a Vaishnav.  Take the rights of a Shudra.  Ramanuja goes ten steps ahead of Sankaracharya.  Against Shudras he says, ‘if moksha is possible through knowledge then it will be dangerous one, because both women and Shudras also can attain moksha.’  It is right to accept that mukti is possible only by bhakti.  Then Shudras and women cannot stand in that line.  [but] Ramanuja gives teaching to do bhakti according to the vedic tradition.  First you know the swarup [essence] of Brahman and then learn the rules and regulations to perform puja. Then alone you can do bhakti.  As long as you have no right to say mantras you also cannot do bhakti.  Women and Shudras are unqualified.  According to Sankaracarya, among all the advaitians who are reading and writing in English they have no right to read or understand [vedas].  Ramanujacharya goes two steps ahead of Sankaracharya and says that when there is no right to [read] sruti what will happen….—p. Dr. K.N. Misra, in Bhakti: A Contemporary Discussion (Philosophical Explorations In the Indian Bhakti Tradition), Edited by Daya Krishna, Mukund Lath & Francine E. Krishna, Indian Council of Philosophical Research 2000, New Delhi, 2000, 205

17.. …In other words, once the varna-system was consolidated in the South, many of the Alvars had to appear in a totally new light—as members of low castes or even out-castes, and the myth of the Alvar movement as social/religious revolt against the establishment was born.— Friedhelm Hardy, Viraha-Bhakti: The Early History of Krsna Devotion in South India, New Delhi, Oxford India (1983) Paperbacks, 2001. p. 478

18..  Indira Viswanathan Peterson, Poems to Siva.  Hymns of the Tamil Saints, Delhni, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd. (Reprint:2007), First Indian Edition: Delhi, 1991, p. 53

19..  …Srivaisnava commentators developed elaborate allegorical interpretations of the alvars’ love poems.  Alakiyamanavalaperumalnayanar, the author of Acarya Hrdayam, a theological work of the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century, develops a theological interpretation for every detail in the akapporul verses of Tiruvaymoli….— ‘From Classicism to Bhakti’ by A. K. Ramanujan with Norman Cutler, in the collected essays of A. K. Ramanujan, ed. Vinay Dharwadker, New Delhi, (1999), Eighth impression 2014, pp. 232—259, 253

20.. Friedhelm Hardy, Viraha-Bhakti: The Early History of Krsna Devotion in South India, New Delhi, Oxford India (1983) Paperbacks, 2001. P. 11.

21.. …At some shrines, urs ceremonies take the form of sober mawlid (eulogies of the Prophet) and Quran recitations. AT other Sufi centres urs rites have come to feature the parading of ceremonial chariots and cult objects as well as ecstatic dancing, singing and fire-waling, and buffalo and cock sacrifices which are just like those staged at sakti goddess shrines; all these, and many other ‘superstitious’ or ‘un-Islamic’ acts and practices have been condemned by the so-called Islamic purists. In the Tamil country kanturi rather than urs is term used most frequently for these festivals, and over many centuries the Muslims of Tamilnad have evolved their own distinctive variant of the Sufi death anniversary commemoration. The details have varied from shrine to shrine, but in most Sufi establishments in the region the central act of the kanturi has been a set of rituals known as the santanakkutam or sandalwood paste.— Susan Bayly, Saints, Goddesses and Kings: Muslims and Christians in South Indian society 1700-1900, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, (1989), First Indian Edition, 1992, p. 142

…Just as at the festival of a south Indian goddess, the Pottapudur {dargah of the pir Shaikh Moyiuddin} kanturi included a rite of animal sacrifice….The climax of the festival was a classic south Indian santanakkuttam. This was a rite which transcended formal communal boundaries: thepot of sacred sandalwood paste was carried in procession tot he shrine from the nearby village of Ravanasamudaram, a locality inhabited by Hindu caste groups and containing the usual array of goddess shrines and ‘high’ Hindu temples.—ibid. p. 144

Indian Muslims also use sandalwood paste both as a medicinal agent and as an adjunct to their own specifically ‘Islamic’ religious rites.  In the (p.144) Qanun-i-Islam {Ja’far Sharif, Islam in India or the Qanun-i-Islam. The Customs of the Musulmans of India.  Ed. William Crooke.  Trans. G. A. Herklots (Original edn. 1832; Oxford, 1921)}, a classic account of Deccani Muslim social and religious life during the early nineteenth century….also points out that the use of sandalwood products in Muslim healing rituals bore many similarities to the rites followed by south Indian Hindus…..—ibid. pp.144-45

22.. Susan Bayly, Saints, Goddesses and Kings: Muslims and Christians in South Indian society 1700-1900, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, (1989), First Indian Edition, 1992,p. 454

23.. …Among Islamic intellectuals, Akbar and Dara Shikoh went to great efforts to try to understand the systems of Indian philosophy, going so far as to translate the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Puranas, and Upanisads into (p.190) Persian.  But those on the other side made no attempt to translate philosophical and theological works from Persian and Arabic into Sanskrit, indicative of a worldview that did not see any value or purpose in intercultural or interreligious understanding.  For Akbar and other like-minded rulers, there was obvious practical benefit from creating a court religion that combined Hinduism and Islam.  By creating a distinctively Indian religion incorporating symbols that resonated with all his subjects, Akbar might have been able to strengthen allegiances and solidify his support among groups that might have been uneasy submitting to a Muslim ruler.  No similar utility existed from the standpoint of the sastric scholars of that era. The traditions of Sanskrit grammar, Mimamsa, and Dharmasastra would have convinced them of the a priori uselessness of all extra-Vedic traditions.  At the same time, though, among Sanskrit authors there was no explicit ideological resistance to Islam. Unlike later Hindu nationalist intellectuals, who sometimes recorded their fantasies of heroic and violent resistance to Muslim oppression, Sanskrit intellectuals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries responded with silence.— Andrew J. Nicholson. Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History, Ranikhet, Permanent Black, (2010), 2011. pp. 190-91

The nearly total lack of mention of Muslims in Sanskrit texts has led some historians to suggest that there was little contact between Sanskrit intellectuals and Muslims, or if there was contact, there was no awareness of Islam as a religion or system of belief.  Sanskrit texts were very late to adopt the word musulmana, instead often describing Muslims with the names of other foreigners who had arrived more than a millennium earlier: yavanas (Ionians) or sakas (Scythians).  In other cases, the Sanskrit authors were more accurate, labeling the foreigners they encountered as turuskas (Turks), yet they still did not acknowledge that many of these foreigners (imagined) place of origin, not their beliefs.  The logic of medieval Indian xenology followed the patterns of doxography and sastra generally, applying categories from a millennium earlier to changing sociocultural conditions without concern for their descriptive adequacy.

Medieval texts in Indian vernacular languages, however, offer ample evidence to refute the idea that most medieval Indians were unaware of the general tenets of a religions shared by the group of people known as Muslims.  That this conventional wisdom has persisted for so long is an indication of a heavy reliance on Sanskrit texts, accompanied by ignorance or a (p.192) lack of interest in works in other Indian languages….—ibid. pp. 192-93

…the evidence from medieval bhakti texts suggests that Hindus and Muslims were quite aware of their mutual differences and even indicates a lively tradition of theological debate between the two groups.  One remarkable text was written by the Marathi poet Eknath (1553-1599).  In this work, Hindu-Turk Samvad (Dialogue Between Hindu and Turk), Eknath expresses an awareness of the Muslims’ and Vaisnavas’ differences in both practice and theology….—ibid. pp. 192-93

24..  …We will see how this earlier kernel of the bhakti movement story, like its more fully developed twentieth-century cousin, makes sense only in light of a major emerging political formation. This time it is not the creation of the Indian nation in a contest with the British, but the consolidation of the Mughal state four centuries before.  That means, of course, that this was not a southern idea, as might seem dictated by its content, but a northern one.—Hawley, p. 10

25.. K.M.Panikkar, Hinduism and the West,Chandigarh: Panjab University Publications Bureau, 1964, p.4, –p.11

26.. ibid., p.12

27.. “……The bhakti mirror shows Brahmanical Hinduism in a cruel light —or rather, some would say, shows it for the cruel thing it actually is.  No wonder, then, that on more than one occasion the servants of Brahmanical religion have reached for that bhakti mirror and tried to change its angle of vision, co-opting bhakti and making it their own.  And yet, there is more to the story than co-optation. Other Brahmin actors felt the bhakti impulse deeply enough to train its mirror willingly on the regressive habits associated with the class to which they themselves belonged. This is what Ramanand is said to have done, displaying the progressive, dissenting disposition that in Tagore’s vision made him ready to embrace Ravidas. For Brahmins such as these, as for all the others, bhakti was liberation—a genre of performed self-knowledge that enabled them to situate themselves in the broader social and political fabric in genuinely new ways. If bhakti was a movement, as its historiographical devotees insist, they were a part of it.’—Hawley, p.7)

28..  However according to Hardy only, ‘six of the twelve Alvars have we any indication of their social status: Brahmin: three, Kshatriya two and Vaisya one and continues, ‘Perhaps we can add Maturakavi to any of these three, on the basis of his having a Sanskrit name.54  In other words, even if all the remaining Alvars were ‘Sudras’, one could hardly consider the ‘Alvar movemtn’ to be ‘low-caste’.  And in foot notes 54 says, ‘He uses exclusively the title nampit or nakar nimbi which we have found with Periyalvar in the sense of (Vaisnava) temple Brahmin.’….—Friedhelm Hardy, Viraha-Bhakti: The Early History of Krsna Devotion in South India,Oxford University Press, [1983], Paperbacks 2001, p.255.

29.. South Asian History and Culture, Vol. 2, No. 2, April 2011, 232–252

30.. … Now as to caste differentiation in Tamil society, it is interesting that of the five caste groupings that Adigal divides Tamil society into, the first three all emerge from the very same Vellalar stock that discovered agriculture….So did other institutions such as temples and matams all of which required various professionals such as anthanar (sages/ministers), priests such as aathisaivar, saiva kurrukal, nambiar, and pattar, all of whom came from various segments of the same Vellalar stock. {Adigal, Maraimalai, ‘Poruntumunavum Porunta Unavum [Proper and Improper Foods], Madras: The South India Saiva Siddhanta Publishing Works Ltd (1929), 1957, 49-50)}.  Thus priests and officiants of temples who now claims Aryan Brahmin status are in reality what Adigal depicts as Vellalar Brahmins. Most of the Brahmins in Tamil Nadu today are, in fact, descendants of these Vellalar Brahmins.  A segment of these original Vellalars also went into trade and ce to be called Chetties but again for Adigal they are in reality of the same Vellalar stock….—V. Ravi Vaithees, Religion, Caste, and Nation in South India: Maraimalai Adigal, the Neo-Saivite Movement, and Tamil Nationalism 1876-1950, New Delhi, Oxford University Press,  2015, p. 273

31..  …The saints’ poems are a permanent part of the Hindu religious scene. They live on, in all their full-bodied beauty and devotional power. Subject of sect and temple politics, of allegory and ingenious commentary, of ritual and festival; they are also the moving resource of singers, thinkers, poets and (p.254) ordinary men….— ‘From Classicism to Bhakti’ by A. K. Ramanujan with Norman Cutler, in the collected essays of A. K. Ramanujan, ed. Vinay Dharwadker, New Delhi, (1999), Eighth impression 2014, pp. 232—259, pp. 254-55

32..  …Tamil Vaisnavites and Saivites regularly recite the hymns of the saints in their homes, and at least since the tenth century, the hymjns have been recited in the major temples of Tamilnadu. ibid. P. 244

33.. In Srivaisnava temple processions, the position of the Vedas and the hymns of the Alvars is the reverse of the Saiva case; here the singers of the hymns walk before the image of the deity, while the Veda reciters follow after.  Srivaisnavas see this as a symbolic representation of the ubhayavedanta (“two Vedas”) doctrine….—Peterson, op. Cit. notes, 30, p.58

34.. …The best one that I so far read a scholarly critic on Pollock is: Praising the king in Tamil during the Pallava period. Emmanuel Francis. Pp. 359-409, in Bilingual Discourse and Cross-Cultural Fertilisation: Sanskrti and Tamil in Medieval India, ed. Whitney Cox and Vincenzo Vergiani,  Pondichery, Institut Francais De Pondichery Ecole Francaise D’extreme-Orient, 2013.  The following point is sufficed here : …I will not deny that the history of the Cankam corpus is a complex and debated matter, but when Pollock presents {Sheldon Pollock, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India. Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press. 383-385} a description of Tamil in the first millennium, he only mentions facts that go well with his general theory: the late appearance of the legend of the Cankam, the written character of Bhakti poetry, the commentatorial writing modelled on Sanskrit, the adaptation in Tamil of Sanskrit epics, the philologisation of language, the conceptual borrowing from the Sanskrit grammatical tradition.  Not a word about the Puram literature centred on kings, about the tinai concept so specific to Cankam poetry, about the pirapantams (a specifically Tamil type of work, even though its name is Tamilised Sanskrit) which are the heirs of Tamil Cankam conventions, however subverted they may be sometimes….—p. 393.

First, there is an ancient Tamil literature going back to the first centuries of the first millennium, the so-called cankam corpus known through later anthologies. Pollock quite rapidly dismisses this Cankam corpus as being “obscure” or “opaque” as far as its history and development are concerned.  Even though the date of any particular poem in these anthologies and the status of this literature—the usual opinion is that a bardic oral tradition was taken over by a literary written tradition responsible for its anthologisation—is debatable, it is nevertheless generally accepted that already several centuries before Pollock’s vernacularisation, that is relatively early in the first millennium, there existed an expressive or imaginative Tamil for the description of kings (that is the Puram poetry; see also the theme named paataan in poetics).  However thorny the dating, (p.394) the consensus is that at least before the middle of the first millennium, Cankam poetry, which is a worldly literature comparable to kavya, was established.  However late a written aspect may have come to attach itself to this Cankam poetry, the anthologisation as well as the later creation of a Cankam legend proves that there was an interest for this early literature in the Tamil country, that it was an early revered and known beginning.—pp. 394-95

35.. ‘… …like many of his Acarya predecessors, Desika moves the “Tamil tradition” of passionate devotion forward from its purely local and regional focus to a broader, translocal context through his Sanskrit and Prakrit compositions; but at the same time he composes his own original Tamil poems, which expand and affirm Tamil literary tradition without being diluted or muted by Sanskrit.— Steven Paul Hopkins, Singing the Body of God, New York, Oxford, 2002, p. 8

36. The Saiva hagiographers speak of several incidents in which the Jains used their influence on the Pallava king in Kanchipuram to take revenge (p.292) on Appar for his desertion.  Poem 240, in which Appar rejects the glory, authority, and command of the king, was the saints’ reply (marumarram) to the minister who presented him with a summons from the Pallava court. In spite of his defiance, Appar was taken to Kanchi and subjected to a number of tortures: he was incarcerated in a lime kiln for a week, given poison, thrown in the path of a raging elephant, and then bound to a heavy rock and cast into the sea. The saint emerged unscathed from all these ordeals. The king’s (Mahendravarman’s?) faith in Saivism was restored; he reconverted to Saivism and built a temple for Siva near Atikai.  Of the many miraculous incidents mentioned above, Appar refers to one alone, that of the rock (poem 241@).—Peterson, op. Cit. Pp. 292-93

@ When the Jain rogues bound me to a rock,

and swiftly cast me into the sea—

it was surely because I chanted with my tongue

the good name of Arna

of Nilakkuti, where the paddy grows tall in the fields,

that I was saved!—V.186. 7.

37. –Appar VI.3:312, 1. Marumarrat Tirut Tantakam (The Tantakam Poem of the Reply) Ibid. P. 293.  Here is the Tamil original:

நாமார்க்குங் குடியல்லோம் நமனையஞ்சோம்

நரகத்தி லிடர்ப்படோம்நடலை யில்லோம்

ஏமாப்போம் பிணியறியோம் பணிவோமல்லோம்

இன்பமே யெந்நாளுந் துன்பமில்லை

தாமார்க்குங் குடியல்லாத் தன்மை யான

சங்கரன்நற் சங்கெவெண் குழ்யோர் காதிற்

கோமாற்கே நாமென்றும் மீளா ஆளாய்க்

கொய்ம்மலர்ச்சே  வடிஇணையே குறுகினோமே.

38. Bayly, op. Cit. Pp. 65 & 67

39… In south India all holy places were perceived as repositories of power, and there was no clear distinction here between spiritual or sacred power and the power accruing to kings and would-be state builders.  Peasant magnates and dry-zone warriors had come to express their new-found power through the endowment of temples and the acquisition of prestigious festival honours. In all the kingdoms and petty states of Malabar and the Tamil country, acts of piety such as the embellishment of shrines and the recruitment of client ritualists were as much a part of statecraft as the creation and financing of armies, the building of alliances and the formation of a revenue system.—ibid. p. 48


Few mistakes that I noticed:
Maals (garlands of bhaktas), I it should be ‘maala’ for garland in Hindi.

Chappay (p.100. 119, 131, 133, 144)—is not correct.  Note the spelling the author uses for this as caupaaiis in p. 107, 125

Lakshman became Ramuunuja in Srirangam, the south….—p. 287 it should be Ramanuja

Daaduupathi community….—is it the correct spelling. Because the followers of Kabir are generally called as Kabir panthis.  I think it should be daadupanthi community.