What were the major contributions of the bhakti movement to indian literature and art

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The Bhakti movement, which emerged in medieval India, had a profound impact on Indian literature and art. This socio-religious reform movement emphasized personal devotion to a deity and sought to transcend the rigidities of orthodox religious practices. The movement’s contributions to literature and art are manifold, reflecting its inclusive, devotional, and reformist ethos. Here is a detailed analysis of the major contributions of the Bhakti movement to Indian literature and art:

Contributions to Indian Literature

  1. Development of Vernacular Languages:
    • The Bhakti movement played a crucial role in the development and popularization of regional languages. Saints and poets composed their works in local languages, making religious and philosophical ideas accessible to the common people.
    • Marathi: Saints like Tukaram and Eknath wrote extensively in Marathi, enriching the language with devotional literature.
    • Punjabi: The Sikh Gurus, including Guru Nanak, composed their hymns in Punjabi, leading to the development of the Gurmukhi script.
    • Assamese: Shankaradeva popularized Assamese through his devotional songs and plays.
    • Bengali: Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and poets like Chandidas contributed to the growth of Bengali literature.
    • Hindi: Poets like Kabir, Tulsidas, and Surdas wrote in various dialects of Hindi, making it a prominent literary language.

  2. Creation of Devotional Poetry and Songs:
    • The Bhakti movement gave rise to a rich tradition of devotional poetry and songs, which expressed intense love and devotion to God.
    • Kirtans and Bhajans: These devotional songs became an integral part of religious worship and community gatherings. They were composed in simple, lyrical forms that could be easily sung and remembered.
    • Vachanas and Abhangas: In Karnataka, the Vachanas of Basava and the Abhangas of Tukaram in Maharashtra are notable examples of devotional poetry that conveyed profound spiritual messages in simple language.

  3. Philosophical and Theological Works:
    • The Bhakti movement also produced significant philosophical and theological literature. Saints and scholars wrote commentaries on sacred texts and developed new theological concepts.
    • Ramanuja: His works, such as the “Sri Bhashya” and “Gita Bhashya,” laid the foundation for the Vishishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism) philosophy.
    • Madhvacharya: He propagated the Dvaita (dualism) philosophy through his works like the “Brahma Sutra Bhashya.”
    • Tulsidas: His epic poem “Ramcharitmanas,” a retelling of the Ramayana in Awadhi, became a cornerstone of devotional literature in North India.

  4. Inter-Religious Harmony:
    • The Bhakti movement promoted inter-religious harmony by incorporating elements from different religious traditions.
    • Kabir: His poetry bridged the gap between Hinduism and Islam, emphasizing the unity of God and the futility of religious divisions.
    • Guru Granth Sahib: The Sikh holy scripture includes hymns from both Bhakti and Sufi saints, reflecting a synthesis of Hindu and Islamic spiritual traditions.

Contributions to Indian Art

  1. Temple Architecture and Sculpture:
    • The Bhakti movement influenced temple architecture and sculpture, leading to the construction of numerous temples dedicated to various deities.
    • South India: The temples built during the Bhakti movement in Tamil Nadu, such as the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai and the Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur, are renowned for their architectural grandeur and intricate sculptures.
    • North India: The temples in Vrindavan and Mathura, associated with the worship of Krishna, reflect the devotional fervor of the Bhakti movement.

  2. Iconography and Murals:
    • The Bhakti movement inspired the creation of religious iconography and murals depicting scenes from the lives of deities and saints.
    • Radha-Krishna Paintings: The love and devotion of Radha and Krishna became a popular theme in Indian art, depicted in various forms of painting, including miniature paintings and murals.
    • Temple Murals: Temples were adorned with murals illustrating stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas, bringing these narratives to life for devotees.

  3. Music and Dance:
    • The Bhakti movement had a profound impact on Indian music and dance, integrating devotional themes into these art forms.
    • Carnatic and Hindustani Music: The compositions of Bhakti saints like Tyagaraja in Carnatic music and the devotional songs of Surdas and Mirabai in Hindustani music enriched these classical traditions.
    • Devotional Dance Forms: Dance forms like Bharatanatyam, Kathak, and Odissi incorporated themes from Bhakti literature, with performances often depicting stories of devotion and divine love.

  4. Folk Art and Performance Traditions:
    • The Bhakti movement also influenced folk art and performance traditions, making them vehicles for devotional expression.
    • Folk Dramas and Plays: The stories of Bhakti saints and their devotion were dramatized in folk plays and performances, such as the Ramlila and Krishna Lila.
    • Puppetry and Storytelling: Traditional puppetry and storytelling forms, like Kathputli and Harikatha, were used to narrate tales of devotion and moral values.


The Bhakti movement’s contributions to Indian literature and art are vast and enduring. By promoting the use of vernacular languages, it democratized religious and philosophical discourse, making it accessible to the masses. The movement’s devotional poetry, songs, and philosophical works enriched Indian literature, while its influence on temple architecture, sculpture, music, and dance left a lasting legacy in Indian art. The Bhakti movement not only transformed the cultural landscape of medieval India but also laid the foundation for a rich tradition of devotional expression that continues to inspire and resonate with people today. 

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