1st Edition

The Bhakti Movement Renaissance or Revivalism?

By P. Govinda Pillai Copyright 2023
    282 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This is a Comprehensive Survey of the Bhakti Movement as it sprang in South India to spread across the subcontinent in independent and multifarious manifestations yet marked with amazing commonalities. Spanning a period of 11 centuries starting from the 6th CE, the movement encompassed in its sweep a vast range of dimensions; Social, political, economic, religious, cultural, linguistic, ethical and philosophical. Among the multifarious movements which contributed to the formation of India and its Culture, the Bhakti was undoubtedly the most pervasive and persistent, says the author. Besides its sweep and depth, what proved most remarkable about the movement was that it arose almost everywhere from the masses who belonged to the lowest class and castes. Though spirituality was its leitmotif, Bhakti proved to be a stirring song of the subaltern in their varied expressions of resistance and revolt. A seemingly conservative phenomenon became a potent weapon against entrenched hierarchies of orthodoxy and oppression, in a wonderful dialectical expression. This qualifies Bhakti movement to be reckoned on a par with European renaissance as it marked a massive upsurge in the societal value system to directly impact a range of fields like arts, politics, culture or religion. Even as he takes note of the elements of reactionary revivalism that also marked the Bhakti movement, the author convincingly argues that those of renaissance and progress far outweighed the former.


    1. The Cult and Movement

    2. Declining Buddhism, Resurging Hinduism

    3. The Problems of Origin and Nature

    4. The Chronology and Geography

    5. Social and Political Background

    6. ‘Kali’: A Curse or Blessing?

    7. The Warring Princes and Foreign Conquerors

    8. The Triumvirate and Duumvirate

    9. Heartland Moves South


    10. Bhagavata Purana

    11. The First Blossoms from the Deep South

    12. Hindu Reformation

    13. Nayanars

    14. The Alvars

    15. Vridhim Karnatake Gata

    16. Bhakta Mira

    17. Surdas: The Blind Singer

    18. Ramananda and the Ramanandis

    19. Varkaries, Vithoba and Pandharpur

    20. Chokhamela: The Untouchable Saint

    21. Tulsidas and Rama Bhakti

    22. Guru Nanak and the Sikhs

    23. Sufism and Bhakti

    24. Bhakti and Fanaticism in Kashmir

    25. Assam and Sankara Deva’s Vaishnavite Reforms

    26. Chaitanya and Bengal Vaishnavism

    27. Many Streams of Bhakti in Andhra

    28. Dadupanthis and Panchavani

    29. Kerala: A Latecomer

    30. Conclusion


    P. Govinda Pillai (b.1926) graduated from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. He became a full time political, social and cultural activist after his student life and was elected four times to the Kerala State Legislature, first as a representative of the Communist Party of India and later, the Communist Party of India (M). He was the Chief Editor of Desabhimani, the CPI(M)’s mouthpiece in Malayalam, for more than two decades. He has headed many institutions including the Kerala State Film Corporation, Centre for Imaging Technology, Kerala State Press Akademi etc. He is the author of about 35 books based on a range of subjects including Marxist asesthetics, literarture and culture, social movements and science.