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The Saffron Book

Traumatized by invasions, Hinduism survived with the help of its bhakti stints who took the spirit of the Hindu faith to the masses. Shivaji waged a struggle for Hindu revival.

18. Medieval Phase

Dear Esther
During the medieval period, the cause of Hindutva was pursued socio religiously through a galaxy of bhaki saints. They played a yeoman's role in integrating the caste ridden Hindu society. They helped to transfer the Hindu ethos from the philosophical to the devotional, from the intellectual to the popular, from the meditational to the mystical level. The benefits of the culture were distributed widely from the portal of the learned to the hutment of the commoner.

Ramanuja was the first and the greatest among the Vaishnava mystics. He died in 1137 A.D. Madhva was a Kannada Brahmin who founded a sect known by his name in the following century. About the same time, the Telugu Brahmin Nimbarka settled near Mathura to sing the praises of Sri Krishna and his consort Radha.

In Maharashtra, between 1271 and 1296 A.D., Jnaneshwara wrote the Bhavarthadipika, or a commentary on the Bhagwat Gita, which proved to be the fountainhead of devotionalism in this region. Namdev, 1270 to 1350 A.D., was a tailor by caste who took to the bhakti of Vithoba, an incarnation of Vishnu, at the still popular temple at Pandharpur. He was surrounded by several holy men who had, like him, humble origins. Gora the potter, Samvata the gardener, Chokha the untouchable, Sena the barber and Janabai the maid.

Two centuries later came Eknath who revived the bhakti tradition in Maharashtra. He gave the people a popular commentary on the Ramayana. Above all, he showed how every Hindu could aspire to the deepest religious experience no matter how many obstacles the Muslims put in his way, for example by razing temples to the ground as had been done to the one at Pandharpur.

As is well known, Tukaram, 1598 to 1650 A.D., was the outstanding bhakti poet from Maharashtra. Ramdas, (1608 to 1681 A.D.) orphaned as a child, left home and, after long years of spiritual training and wandering, settled down on the banks of the rived Krishna where he built temples of Sri Ram. The threat of Islam was on his mind. He, therefore, stood for activism and Shivaji, the great Maratha ruler, was his pupil.

In Bengal, devotionalism had several inspirations; the Vaishnava impetus began with Jayadeva and his Geeta Govinda. Chandidas, in the fourteenth century was an unforgettable name in bhakti literature. Then came the even more famous and revered Chaitanya who lived, sang, danced and reformed between 1485 and 1533 A.D.

The Hindi heartland also produced its galaxy of bhaktas or distinguished devotees. Sri Ram was the more popular avataar unlike the other areas where Sri Krishna inspired more bhakti. Ramananda, 1400 to1470 A.D., was the first of the great bhaktas followed by Kabir who was four decades his junior. Tulsidas was the other famous spiritual heir of Ramananda. He wrote the 'Ram-charit-manas' which really was the Ramayana in Hindi instead of the original Sanskrit by Valmiki. The blind Surdas, who lived earlier between 1483 and 1563 A.D., expressed his devotion through song and music.

This mystic outburst across north India led to the growth of  the popular languages later called vernaculars by the British to distinguish them from the classical Sanskrit, Pall or Ardhamagadhi. As the epics were translated or rewritten as for example Tulsidas' Ramayana, literature flourished in prose as well as poetry. Countless bhajans or devotional songs fertilised both verse and music.

Sankaradeva in Assamese, Chandidas in Bengali, Vidyapati in Maithili, Narsi Mehta in Gujarati, Mira Bai in Rajasthani, Kabir in Bhojpuri-cum-Urdu, Surdas in Brajbhasha, Namdev and Eknath in Marathi, Saraladas in Oriya and above all Guru Nanak in Punjabi contributed not only to bhakti but also to the popular languages and literature.

Why should we remain content with what the Muslim rulers choose to give us ? We are Hindus. This whole country is ours by right and is yet occupied and held by foreigners. They desecrate our temples, break holy idols, plunder our wealth, convert us forcibly to their religion, carry away our womenfolk and children, slay the cows and inflict a thousand wrong upon us. We will suffer this treatment no more. We possess strength in our arms. Let us draw the sword in defence of our sacred religion, liberate our country. Are we not as brave and capable as our ancestors of  yore? Let us undertake this holy mission and God will surely help us. We are the captains of our fortunes and the makers of our freedom ". SO said Shivaji.

A close look at Shivaji's life discloses his incense regard for Religion. He indeed cared more for religious emancipation of his land than mere political dominion. The religious persecution practiced by Muhammed Adil Shah and Aurangzeb moved Shivaji intensely and influenced his actions. At the same time he realized that religious freedom could not be obtained without political power, and to that extent, he exerted himself in freeing his homeland from Muslim control. As a result of his visit to the emperor's court he was perhaps convinced of the hollowness of the Moghul empire, and thereafter exerted himself in bringing India under Hindu control. The imposition of chauth or one fourth revenue on lands outside his immediate sway was a means to that end. His coronation ceremony and the grand title he assumed suggest his intention of establishing a Hindu empire, certainly by degrees according to his means.His expedition to Karnataka was a clear move towards a Hindu India in which pursuit he roped in Qutab Shah of Hyderabad. If he had been gifted with a little longer span of life, he might have brought about the deposition of Aurangzeb, so clearly emphasized a little later by his son Shambhaji in his Sanskrit letter to Ram Singh. That Hindustan is essentially a land of the Hindus, and other similar phrases scattered through out Sanskrit and Marathi literature are sentiments actuated by Shivaji's endeavour, so closely followed after him by the Peshwas Mahadaji Sindhia indeed felt the glory of having achieved some of these dreams when he attained supreme power at the court of Delhi. The Peshwas, over several generations, carried the Maratha bhagwa orsaffron flag far and wide, as did the other Maratha families like the Scindias, the Holkars and the Gaekwads. The territories they captured ranged from Delhi in the north to Karnataka in the south; from Bengal in the east to Gujarat in the west.

The Saffron Book
Prafull Goradia
1. Awake and Unite!
2. Why The Saffron Book?

10. Small States
3. Vision
4. Economic Face
5. Abolish Casteism
6. Bride Burning, Divorce
7. Rape, Prostitution
8. Revolutionising Education
9. The Constitution

11. Nationalism
12. Pan-Islamism
13. Communism
14. Subnationalism
15. Casteism

16. Hindutva is Dialectical
17. Origin of Hinduism
18. Medieval Phase
19. Modern Resurgence
20. Not Fundamentalism
21. Not Fascism
22. Tolerance
23. Strengths
24. Weaknesses
25. Opportunities
26. Threats
27. Individual Brilliance

Hindu Paradoxes
42. Idolatry
43. Fatalism
44. Double Standards
45. Masochistic Fringe
46. Fifth Column
47. No Soul before Birth

48. Proselytising Unwelcome
49. Myth of Divide and Rule

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