Themes In Indian History - Important Questions

Book: Themes In Indian History - Important Questions

Chapter: 6. Bhakti-Sufi Traditions

Subject: History - Class 12th

Q. No. 12 of Long Answer (4 Marks)

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

Nayanars and the State - The Bhakti Movement which began in the 6th Century BCE as a new form of worship in southern India were led by the Alvars and the Nayanars who worshipped specific deities such as Vishnu and Shiva. The Bhakti saints, particularly the Nayanars often opposed Buddhism and Jainism in their compositions and hymns. This hostility has often been explained by historians as a form of competition for royal patronage. Their opposition was viewed in a positive manner by the royalty who supported Brahmanical traditions. Several southern rulers like the Cholas supported Bhakti traditions making land grants and building temples for Vishnu and Shiva. Some of the most magnificent temples at Chidambaram, Tanjavur, and Gangaikondacholapuram were constructed under the patronage of the Chola rulers.

In order to claim divine support and create a legacy of their power and status, the Chola kings often built temples adorned with the images and visions of the Saints who sang in the language of the commoners. This also helped them to garner the support of the Vellala peasants who revered the Nayanars and the Alvars.

The Nayanars also inspired the artists of this stage which led to the production of some of the most spectacular images of Shiva in bronze during this time.

The singing of Tamil Shiva hymns in temples under royal patronage was introduced by the kings who also took the initiative to collect and organise them into a text.

Sufis and the State - The Sufis were a group of religious minded people who turned to asceticism and mysticism in order to seek God In the early centuries of Islam. They did this as a protest against the growing materialism of the Caliphate. In spite of their rigid stances on abstinence and austerity, the Sufi saints accepted grants and donations from the political elites but these were unsolicited.

The Sultans would often grant the saints tax free lands and set up charitable trusts to aid their philanthropy.

During the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate by the Turks in India, the Ulema’s demand for introduction of Sharia was rejected. The Sultans did this to reduce opposition from both the muslims and non-muslims already living in the country. The Sufi saints who believed that their spiritual authority was a blessing from Allah, were enlisted by the Sultans in order to garner support from the general population who revered the Sufi saints.

It was a popular believe during this time that the Auliyas could intercede with God in order to improve the material and spiritual conditions of the common people. Thus, Sultans would often visit the dargahs of Sufi saints and even have their tombs built near the dargahs.


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