Briefly describe the Sikh movement.
Answer: The changes in the historical situation during the 16th and 17th centuries influenced the development of the Sikh movement. The Sikh movement began to get politicised in the 17th century, a development which culminated in the institution of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in the year 1699. The Khalsa Panth, a community of Sikhs, became a political entity.
Who was Mirabai?
Answer: Mirabai was a Rajput princess married into a royal family of Mewar in the 16th century. She became the disciple of a saint named Ravidas who was considered untouchable. She was devoted to Krishna and expressed her devotion by composing many bhajans. Her songs openly challenged the existing norms of the ‘upper castes’. They also became very popular among the masses in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Briefly describe Shankaradeva.
Answer: Shankaradeva was another contemporary of the period. He belonged to Assam and composed poems and plays in Assamese. He emphasized devotion to Lord Vishnu. He began the practice of setting up namgarhs or houses of recitations and prayers. This practice still continues.
Write a note on Islam.
Answer: Islam propagated strict monotheism which means submission to one God. It rejected idol worship and simplified rituals of worship considerably, into collective prayers. At the same time, Muslim scholars developed a holy law that was called Shariat.
Describe Shankara and Ramanuja.
Answer: Shankara was born in Kerala in the eighth century. He was one of the most influential philosophers of India and an advocate of Advaita. Advaita is the doctrine of oneness of the individual soul and the Supreme God which is the Ultimate Reality. He taught that the only or Ultimate Reality was the Brahman who was formless and without any attributes. He considered the world around us to be an illusion or, in other words, maya. He preached renunciation of the world and adoption of the path of knowledge to understand the true nature of Brahman and attain salvation.
Ramanuja was born in Tamil Nadu in the eleventh century. He was deeply influenced by the Alvars. He firmly believed that intense devotion to Vishnu was the best means to attain salvation. He propounded the doctrine of Vishishtadvaita which meant that the soul remained distinct even when united with the Supreme God.
Describe the religious developments in Maharashtra during the period.
Answer: During the period between the 13th and 17th century Maharashtra saw a great number of saint-poets whose songs in simply Marathi still continue to inspire people. Jnaneshwar, Namdev, Eknath and Tukaram were the most important saint-poets. Women like Sakhubai and the family of Chokhamela who belonged to the untouchable Mahar caste were also very prominent figures in this field during the period. This regional tradition of bhakti focused on Vitthala (Vitthala is a form of Vishnu) temple in Pandharpur and also on the notion of a personal god residing in the hearts of all people. These saint poets insisted that bhakti lay in sharing others’ pain. They rejected: ritualism, outward display of piety, social differences based on birth and idea of renunciation.
Describe the kind of Bhakti that existed in South India.
Answer: A new kind of bhakti evolved in South India in the seventh to ninth century, comprising of the emergence of new religious movements which were led by Nayanars and Alvars. Nayanars were saints devoted to Shiva and Alvars were saints devoted to Vishnu.
They belonged to all castes, including the ones who were considered untouchable like the Pulaiyar and Panars. They were highly critical of the Buddhists and Jainas and preached the ardent love of Shiva or Vishnu as the path to salvation. They preached the ideas of love and heroism found in the Sangam literature and blended them with the values of bhakti. Sangam literature is the earliest example of Tamil literature, composed during the early centuries of the Common Era.
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