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Bhakti tradition across India : an emotional Integration

From: V. Sadagopan (
Date: Tue Dec 30 1997 - 19:09:06 PST

Dear Friends : Few days ago , there was  a comment 
about the Bhakthi traditions of South and North . I wish to
add to Sri Mani's observation that there is no big chasm 
between the two traditions and there is only one tradition
that permeates the Indian thought on this important subject . 

The Bhakthi tradition is deep and interconnected across
every corner of India . Tradition is society's memory as 
Dr.S. RadhAkrishNan has pointed out and the Bhakthi
tradition in the four corners of Bharatha Varsham brings
forth a rich memory of integrative history of many saints ,
achAryAs and BhakthAs , who have contributed to 
Sri VaishNavism and other religions . Let me share  
a few thoughts with you to illustrate the rich concept 
referred to by GeethAchAryan as " suthrE maNigaNA iva " .

To quote (late ) Dr. V.Raghavan , " There appeared all over the country 
a succession of men (and women ) of divine grace and realization ,
who mediated between the hoary heritage and future generations ,
and who translated and intrepreted the ancient heritage from 
the learned levels to the people at large  , using for the mission 
the local languages and the art ofmusic ( nAma sankeerthan) 
 ---these saint-singers in the Indian languages had to appear to make 
the heritage live again , gaining in the process fresh dimensions 
and widening participation . " They blossomed forth and influenced
each other across India during the past thousand plus years . 

A two fold renaissance , one adopting Sanskrit and the other
adopting the medium of the local language ( Tamil , KannadA ,
Telugu and MalayALam in the South and Hindi , Bengali , 
Gujarathi , Maratti in the east , west and the north ) arose .
These two streams are complimentary to each other over time. 
>From 700 to 900 AD , a mighty tide of Bhakthi swept across 
India and the waves arising from it continues even today . 
The NaalAyira divya Prabhandham ( 4000 divine  verses
on the Supreme being , Sriman NaarAyaNA ) arose during this 
period and took its inspiration from the VedAs and 
Bahgavatha PurANam .

A series of AchAryAs starting from Naathamuni , 
AlavandhAr , Periya nampi , RaamAnujA 
and the  many that followed this great AchAryA spread 
the gospel of Bhakthi to the four corners of India . 

The Daasa -kUtA of KarnaatakA  ( Purandara , kanaka , Vijaya ,
Jaganaatha and Gopala dAsA ) , the fifty plus maharAshtrA
saints ( Jn~ana EvA , Namdeva , BopadEva , TukArAm , EknAth
and Samartha Raamdaas ) ,  two major Gujarathi/
RajasthAni saints ( Narasimha MehtA of Junagadh and 
MeerAbai of MewAr ) , BengAli Saints ( RaamAnandA 
and his 12 disciples including Tulasi Daas and Kabir ,
Chaithanya MahA Prabhu ) , VallabhAchAryA and GoraknAth 
from the central part of India , JayadEvA in OrissA , VidhyApathi 
and Sankara dEvA of Assam ( great KrishNa bhakthAs ) ,
Telegu saints ( AnnamAchAryA and BhadrAchala Ramdas ) ,
Tamil Naadu Saints ( AzhwArs , Saint ThyagarAjA , OothukAdu
Venkatasubba Iyer , a great  devotee of KrishNA ) ,
KeralA saints ( NaarayaNa Bhattadhiri and other
devotees of GuruvAyUrappan ) are some of 
the Bhaktha SirOnmaNis representing the four 
corners of India .

At the end of this PradakshiNa pAda-yAthrA of Bhaaratha
Desam , one recalls the insightful observation of Sri Aurobindo:
" As the Sanskrit literature begins with the vedAs and Upanishads , 
these later literatures begin with inspired poetry of the saints and
parama Bhagavathas & BhakthAs -- it was always the poetry of 
this type that was nearest ( dearest ) to the heart and mind 
of the people -- the same (integrative ) culture reigns and many 
variations of form in all this work of the regional people , but 
each creates on the lines of its own peculiar character and temperament
and this gives a different stamp , the sources of a rich variety 
in the UNITY , to each of these beautiful and vigorous 
( Bhakthi ) literature " . 

ANDAL and MeerA Bai as brides of KrishNA , the lyrical 
love cycle of RadhA and KrishNA as portrayed by JayadEvA 
in his Ashtapathis , the Vedanthic spirituality expressed by
the MaharAshtrA saints , the devotional outpourings of 
Saint ThyagarAja , AnnamAchArya and Purandara DaasA 
have all one theme in common , (Viz)., Bhakthi to Sriman 
NaarAyaNA . Their voices are heard even today and will
continue to be heard across the next millenium and onwards .

NamO NaarAyaNAya 
Oppiliappan Koil VaradAchAri SadagOpan