Poet-Singer has been main force behind the Bhakti movement. This can break rigid caste system and the complicated ritualism that constituted the practice of worship. Most of the Bhakti poets emphasized surrender to god. Equally, many of the Bhakti saints were rebels who chose to defy the current thinking through their songs and work.
The movement probably began in the Tamil region around the 6th and 7th century AD and achieved a great deal of popularity through the poems of the Alvars and Nayanars, the Vaishnavite and Shaivite poets. Hailing from both high and low castes, these poets created a formidable body of literature that firmly established itself in the popular canon.
In the Kannada region, the movement begun by Basavanna, Akkamahadevi, Allama Prabhu, Devara Dasimayya and others. Basavanna, used his considerable powers to initiate programmes of social reform and saw his verses as extending his message to the masses. Bhakti movement emphasized the individual's direct connection to god and the possibility of salvation for all through good deeds and simple living.
In Maharashtra region, the popular figures were Jnanadev, Namdev (1270-50) and Tukaram. Tukaram chose to write on religious matters in Marathi and not in Sanskrit was yet another issue.
In northern India, speaking of a formless god, and local deities in Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Maithili and a number of other languages. Kabir upturned the religious notions and social conventions of his time.
Kabir preached a monotheism that appealed directly to the poor and assured them of their access to god without an intermediary and denounced hypocrisy. Guru Nanak rebelled against a society that preferred ritual to devotion. Eventually, Nanak founded a separate religion, Sikhism. Like Nanak, Ravi Dass too spoke of the need for a casteless society. Meera’s intense devotion to Krishna in defiance of patriarchal norms was a rebellious act.
In 19th century Karnataka, Shishunala Sharif (1819-89) was an influential figure. A Muslim by birth, Sharif also accepted the tenets of Hinduism and often sang of communal harmony. During the freedom struggle, the poet-revolutionary Ram Prasad “Bismil” (1897-1927) composed the songs Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai and Rang de basanti chola that were sung by many revolutionaries.
Sri Ramananda, was a disciple of Yamuna Muni and an exponent of the Visishtadvaita philosophy or qualified monism. Ramananda was born in Prayag, in 1299 A.D. His followers worship Lord Rama. They are known as Ramanandis or Ramavats. Ramananda admitted all, high and low alike, into his Satsang. The twelve disciples were: Kabir, the weaver; Raidas, the cobbler; Pipa, the Rajput king; Dhanna, the Jat; Sena, the barber; Narhariyananda, Sursurananda, Sukhananda, Bhavananda and Anantananda; and Padmavati and Surasari, two lady disciples.
The initiatory Mantras of the sect are Sri ram and Om Ram Ramaya Namah. The Ramanandis’ marks on the forehead are the same as those of the followers of Ramanuja, except that the red perpendicular line on the forehead is varied in shape and extent, and is generally narrower.
The followers of Ramananda are numerous in Gangetic lindia. They encompass the whole of the country along the banks of the Ganga and the Yamuna.
Ramdas was one of the greatest saints of the world. He was the inspirer of Shivaji. He was born of Suryaji Panth and Renuka Bai in Jamb, ‘Maharashtra, in 1608 A.D. His original name was Narain’.
Ramdas was a contemporary of Sant Tukaram. He was a great devotee of Hanuman and Lord Rama. He had Darshan of Lord Rama even when he was a boy. Lord Rama Himself initiated him.