Sharanaas and the Bhakti movement in India
The Bhakthi Movement originated in 6th Century in south India, and spread northwards. It swept over east and north India from the 15th century onwards, reaching its zenith between the 15th and 17th century CE.
The movement has traditionally been considered as an influential social reformation in Hinduism, and provided an individual-focused alternative path to spirituality regardless of one’s birth or gender. The Bhakti movement began with the aim of reforming Hinduism. It was a revival, reworking and re-contextualisation of ancient Vedic traditions.
The Bhakti movement witnessed a surge in Hindu literature in regional languages, particularly in the form of devotional poems and music.
This literature includes the writings of the
|Alvars or Azhwars||Paasurams||Tamizh|
|Nayanars or Nayanmars||Thevaram||Tamizh|
|Basavanna, Allama Prabhu, Akka Mahadevi,||Vachanas||Kannada|
|Sripadaraja, Vyasatirtha, PurandaraDasa, Kanakadasa, Vijaya Dasa,||Devaranaamaas||Kannada|
|Nanak (founder of Sikhism)||Shabad||Punjabi|
|Kabir, Tulsidas, Mirabai||Bhajans||Hindi|
|Namdev, Eknath, Tukaram, Jnandeva||Abhangas||Marathi|
Sharanaas – their Origin and Philosophy
In the twelfth century in Karnataka there was a galaxy of Lingayat Saints, the pre-occupation with whom was to realize God and to remould the individual life and social institutions by that realization. They tried to remove caste discrimination and make God/ Spiritual path easily accessible to all.
The number of these Lingayat Saints or Mystics, that is, the Sharanaas (Lingayat Saints) ranged from two to three hundred amongst whom there were about sixty women mystics, of whom Akka Mahadevi was the beacon-light. It is important to note that although these vachanakaaraas came from all sections of society, the vast majority of members were those marginalised along the lines of caste, class and gender in 12th century Karnataka.
Basava and Allama Prabhu were the two distinguished names that shone in the firmament of the Lingayat Faith. It was they who dominated all the other saints and gave a decisive turn to the religious renaissance of the twelfth century. Almost all the saints have sung their realization in different strains and expressed their views and opinions on men and society in varied sayings. The collection of these sayings is known as the Vachana Shastra – the Scripture of the Lingayat Faith.
Popular Sharanaas are
- Amuge Rayammma
- Allama Prabhu
Principal tenets of the Lingayath Faith :
|A . Ashtaavarana|
The Ashtaavarana are the eight fold shields or protective coverings of the devotee. They protect the Anga from the onslaughts of Maya on him and guide him safely for final beatitude in the world. They guard and guide him on the way to enduring happiness by means of spiritual discipline and exercises.
The eight fold Aavaranas are
The word Shatasthala is derived from “Shat means six and ‘sthala which means stage. The latter in the philosophical context means God.
Let us see what the need of Panchacharaas is; and what the Panchacharaas in Lingayat Religion are. Basically the ordinary human beings in their daily living encounter the following three needs;
(a) Body needs (food, sleep, and sheathing)
(b) Mind needs (recreation, knowledge)
(c) Social needs (including religious needs).
Therefore, the Panchacharaas are the code of conduct to prevent the satiation of human needs illegally or forcefully or by snatching or by killing/hurting other creatures in the world.
Panchacharas are intending to convey the principles of religion and religious conduct. These Panchacharas are
Sharanaas and their literature – Vachanaas
Sharanaas have chronicled their experiences and path towards divinity in unique literature known as Vachana . The word Vachana means ‘Speech’. It also means a verbal promise. Vachanaas of the Sharanaas are the means to purify one in word, action, and vision. Composed in simple language, yet carrying profound philosophy and thought provoking ideas.
Vachanaas were primarily targeted at the common person and sought to demystify God, as large sections of society had been deprived of access to the texts. The Jangamaas played a central role in the propagation of the Vachanaas.
It is interesting to see how Sharanaas convey complex concepts in simple Vachanaas. Often, they draw examples from familiar day-to-day experiences and use them as similes and metaphors to drive home profound ideas. Some Vachanaas convey different meaning based on the level of an aspirant. Some Vachanaas state the message and follow it with an example or explanation. Yet others use common images and experiences to orient the minds of the reader to the proper context and then deliver the message.
Vachanaas can be categorised as
- sarala – refers to vachanaas communicated in simple language
- bedagina – employs a complex language of ‘paradoxes and inversions’ to most often communicate mystical experience
Vachanaas can be classified based on the themes they portrayed as
- Basavanna’s Vachanaas are strong commentaries on the socio-political realities,
- Allama Prabhu is mostly mystical in his Vachanaas and employs an esoteric language.
- Akkamahadevi’s Vachanaas are astounding in their lyrical expanse and the force of devotion in them sways one.
The Vachanaas also stand distinct from other religious scriptures as seen in their opposition to both the agamicand vedictraditions. The vachanakaaraas restrained themselves from purely outworldly spiritual explorations and chose to expound a devotion grounded firmly in the philosophy of kayakaor labour. This had a lot to do with the large number of members who came from the labouring classes, such as Chowdiah, the ferryman; Madivala Macayya, the washerman; the barber Hadapada Appanna; Ketayya, the basket maker and so on.
In terms of musical structure, the Vachanaas were distinct from other religious literature and literary forms. They did not adopt a Metre form such as the champuor tripadhi,which were the dominantforms then. It is said to use the metre called Amsha.
Listen to some Vachanaas
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6Faq4Y6C_I – Vacahandalli Naamaamrutha – Basavanna
- Bettadhamelondu Maneya maadi – AkkamaDevi – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SqFJ9eVztY
- Bhaavadalobba – Basavanna – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuwP2hedNdI
- Pranati Ide – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26xbbCDMKYc
Wikipedia – Bhakti Movement
The Vachanaas of Akkamadevi – Varsha Nair – Sahapedia