The Concept of 'devotion' with reference Haridasas

History of Devotion/Bhakthi

The existence of relationship between God and devotee is not of now it is there since the vedic times ie about 5000 years back. This relationship is considered to be devotional.

The beginning of bhakthi may be traced in the hymns of the R^igveda where (Rg I, 62.11) "longing prayers are said to touch Indra who is Longing just as a wife with desires gets her husband". This idea is amplified in another hymn (Rg X, 43.1) which says "All my hymns in unison praise Indra: as wifes embrace their husbands so do my thoughts embrace Indra the divine bestrew of gifts. For the sake of a favor they cling to the liberal God (Indra) as wives do their lords (or as a woman) does her handsome lover". In another hymn (Rg VI 45.26), Indra is addressed as a friend and it is said that there is no limit to his friendship and he gives cows to those who want cows, and horses to those who want horses.

Even bhakti is traced in Sindhu civilization according to researchers who have traced in Harappa and Mohenjadaro research sites which is very strange. In that research they found big buildings which are identical of temples and concludes that their innovation reveals that they found traces of existence of Shiva idols, Naga devataas, animals, trees, stone idols and these are identified as worshipping deities at that time.


Religion in India is more a direct experience than a code of conduct and from an early age different systems or margas (paths) have been prescribed for attaining the goal, variously called liberation, bliss and heaven. However, the different margas were not contradictory and in some respects they supplemented each other; for example proficiency in Jnana-yoga, Raja-yoga and Bhakthi yoga are demanded from the highest sadhakas (devotees).

The word bhakthi is derived from the root bhaj by the application of the ktin suffix, which expresses an action, (Panini III, 3, 94) and means among other things service, devotion, attachment, loyalty, worship and homage.

The Narada bhakti-sutra states that:

  • According to the son of Parsara (ie Vyasa) bhakti is attachment to worship of God, etc.
  • According to Garga, bhakthi is fondness for hearing the stories of the various sports of Lord;
  • According to Sandilya, bhakti is such attachment to God which is opposed to self;
  • According to Narada bhakti consists of offering all activities to God and inducing a feeling of extreme restless ness and misery at the slightest lapse in rememberance of God; and then the author of Narada-bhakti-sutra adds asty-evam-evam, that is bhakti is exactly as described above.

    Sri Sankara in his commentary on the Gita (VIII, 19, XIV, 26) says that worship is bhakti (bhajanam bhaktih) and defines ananya bhakti (Gita XI 54) as non-experience of anything other than Vasudeva. In explaining dhyana in the Gita (XIII, 24) Sankara says that meditation is a continuous and unbroken thought; like a line of flowing oil.

    The great protagonist of bhakti was Sri Ramanuja, to whom meditation (dhyana) and devotion (bhakthi) were interchangeable terms. Commenting on the first aphorism of the Brahmasutra he states: 'Meditation' means steady remembrance that is continuity of steady remembrance, uninterrupted like the flow of oil... steady remembrance of this kind is designated by the word 'devotion' (bhakthi); for this term has the same meaning as upasana (meditation or worship). Thus according to him, continuous meditation or dhyana is bhakthi which is a synonym of upasana.

    According Sri Madhvacharya bhakti and jnana are practically synonymous terms. In his Anu-vyakhyana (III, 4, p 51) he writes "Jnana being a constituent of bhakti, the latter is often referred to as jnana. Where the aspect of attachment is sought to be emphasized, their fusion is designated by the term bhakti. As mediacy and immediacy are integral parts of knowledge, similarly bhakti is particular kind of jnana. Thus whenever the scriptures speak of jnana as the means of release, bhakti is certainly indented. Sometimes the two are referred to separately".

    In the same context Sri Madhva declares "By bhakti one attains jnana, which leads to bhakti, when comes perception which again lead to bhakti; then come mukti, which is of the essence of bliss and (in the nature of) an end in itself".

    The supremacy of bhakti is made clear by Sri Madva in his commentary on the Brahmasutra (III, 2.19) where he observes that the soul's essential nature does not become fully manifested without bhakti.

    It is this conception of bhakti as propounded by Sri Madhva which formed the basis of the Haridasa Movement or bhakti movement.

    Haridasas and Bhakti

    Of the four sadhanas (paths) to liberation or reality ie Karma Marga, Gnana Marga, Yoga Marga and Bhakti marga most of the Karnataka Haridasas has recognised the last one, which was the easiest and most fruitful in their early life. Of all the passions the unappeased hunger of the heart of God, Bhakti is ultimate.

    Total surrender to the almighty is signal on the path of devotion. Based on the Upanishads, the Puranas and personal experience, the builders of the path of devotion have chosen to reach God by their master-servant mother-child, preceptor-disciple (Guru-Shishya), vatsalya (friendly) and madhura (love) Relationship. Love and devotion lead one to release from the trammels of worldly sufferings. The royal road starts with the directions in Bhagawatha Purana and the Geetha. Liberation is devotion slave.

    The two scriptures, the Srimad Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavata purana are considered to be one of the basis of the bhakti philosophy of the middle ages. The Gita as is well known is a part of the Mahabharata, while the Bhagavata is an independent work.

    Haridasas Lineage centered their affections on Vittala of Pandharapur as the patron deity of their order. There is evidence to show that Karnataka had cultural sway over Pandharpur and its neighborhood, where the worship of Vithala developed in ancient times, though the later days, the region passed under the political and cultural hegemony of Maharastra mysticism. Even as late as the time of the great Maharastra saint Janesvara, Vittala of Pandharpur was still spoken of as the deity beloved of the Karnataka Enshrined in Karnataka.

    The Dasas of Karnataka were thus the first to develop the cult of devotion to Vitthala and make it a living faith and a powerful instrument of mass uplift through the aid of their soul-stirring music and bhajana in the language of their province. Their example was subsequently taken up and carried further by the saints of the neighboring province of Maharashtra like Ramadasa, Tukarama and others. But the essential Features of this cult viz. emphasis laid on true devotion to Vithala and the comparative unimportance of social and caste barriers in the Spiritual realm, are to be found no less passionately voice in the songs of the early Dasas of Karnataka than in those of the Maharashtra saints. The Dasa Kuta may therefore be regarded as the earliest movement of religious devotionalism in the Deccan, and then it spread to other parts of upper India and produced kindred movements.

    Components of Bhakti

    Sri Narada-bhakti-sutra defines eleven components of bhakti. They are Guna, Rupa, Puja, Smarana, Sakhya, Kanta, Vatsalya, Madhurya, Atmanivedana, Tanmaya and Virah. Although bhakti is only one; this has been defined based on the liking and interest of the devotees.

    In the Srimad Bhagavata (II, I.21) it is stated that "being fully practised in meditation one attains bhakti-yoga in a short time", which indicates that bhakti is not a means to an end but the end itself. In the seventh chapter of the Bhagavata (VII, 5.23) the nine components of bhakti are enumerated as shrvana bhakti, kirtana bhakti, smarana bhakti, padasa sevana bhakti, archana bhakti, vandana bhakti, dasya bhakti, sakhya bhakti and atmanivedana bhakti.

    All Haridasas amazingly versatile compositions are illustrative of the above modes of approach to Paramathma through bhakti. These modes of approach are favored because of the difficulty of Jnana Marga, wherein God is conceived as Nirguna and Nirakara, remote and transcedental. In the 14th verse of Gita, lord Krishna says that the location of both Manas and Buddhi in Paramathma is adequate for the realisation of the Divine. Thus, Bhaktimarga is unique in transcending Karma Marga, Jnana Marga and Yoga marga and the easiest mode of approach to reality.

    To illustrate the Nine Forms of Bhakti; K Vasudevacharya has drawn a comparative study of Sri Thygaraja and Sri Purandra Dasa with their compositions respectively. It goes like this

    Comparative Study of Sri Thygaraja and Sri Purandara's Compositions on Nine Forms of Bhakti
    Nine Forms of Bhakti Sri Purandara Compositions Sri Thygaraja Compositions
    Shrvanam kathA Shrvana mAdO rAmakathA sudhi
    kIrtanam harinAma kIrtanE rathadE dhanyudi nAma kIrtanaparadu
    smaranaM smaranavOde sAlade smaranE sukhamU
    pAdasEvanaM bIde nInna pAdava srI rAmapAdama
    archanaM karagaleradu nInnarchisali nAmakusuM
    va.ndanam SharNu ninage.mbE va.ndanumU raghUna.ndana
    dAsyaM dAsana madIkO dAsOhaM
    AtmanIvEdanaM mAtapItaru ninaga.ndE mAridarEnna sw.aMtamani sarOja mUnu sama^rpaNamUjEU
    sakHyam ya.ndapIko.mbhe athadE..salpamanaya.du

    Source : K.Vasudevacharya : A Comparative Study of Sri Thygaraja and other Vaggeya Karas- Coimbatore, Sri Purandradasa Souvenir, 1964, 33p.

    Assumptions of Five Forms of Bhakthi (pancha vidha bhava bhakti kalpane)

    The components of bhakti has been narrated from narada-bhakti-sutra and Srimad Bhagavata and out of these components or aspects Five forms has been derived in order to explain the nectars of bhakti to elicit more knowledge from the haridasa sahitya. This is called pancha vida bhava. This five division of bhakti is only to excercise and to get more mileage out of it. The five forms of bhakti is :

  • dasya bhava
  • sakhya bhava
  • madhura bhava
  • vatsalya bhava
  • shanta bhava

    dasya bhava carries the meaning that devotee is servant or God is treated as his holiness, master, swamy, king (dore), sir (dani), leader (odaya) etc. to him. While worshipping Sri Hari these forms are considered. Those who considered Sri Hari as King (odaya) and devotee as servant is called Haridasas. If you go further into the compositions, understanding of Haridasas these aspects can be further divided in to the following types :

  • Ambition to become Haridasas and taking refuge with God for the same
  • knowing much about how haridasas will be
  • eager to join or mingle with other haridasas
  • preaching yourself and others to become haridasas
  • By pure devotion charging to become dasa and considering Bhagavantha (God) as King (odaya) and others are his servants and achieve the goal.

    sakhya bhava is knowing or have understanding of the knowledge that Sri Hari is utmost/superior and worshipping him in that mind is sakhya (friendly) bhakti bhava. In this form devotee himself considers that God is his friend and always will be with him. At time the devotee will question, punish, rag him (God) thinking that he is his friend and even he will show his anger towards him. But suddenly he will consolidate and comeback to normal. These things has been explained by Haridasas in their compositions very well.

    The importance of of sakya bhava is realized by the saint, for, he knows for good or evil a man's moral and spiritual outlook is altered by the ineffable influence of his comrade.

    Friendship is an incalculable enlargement of human responsibility, because it constitutes us, in a measure, as guardians of each other's soul, for there is a fuller and deeper self realization on either side. It is deliverance from bondage, a refuge from pride. The great gifts of the Lord as a comrade, makes the Bhakta recognizes his own deep unworthiness and how his head in unspeakable gratitude. The friendship of the Lord is not checked or foiled by the discovery of faults or blemishes in the Bhaktha, whom he has taken into His life; for the essence of friendship is entirety, a total magnanimity and trust.

    madhura bhava In this form devotee-bhagavantha are considered to be husband-wife form and worship is called madhura bhakti. The form is called madhura bhava. In this form there is no physical (body) relationship and it is only through atma-paramathma's evolution is madhura bhava. Some of them are considered that the sex which is very existence in man is the basement for this bhava. But only with pure love worshipping with Sri Hari is madhura bhava. In this bhava the devotee will be reach ecstasy when he gets Sri Hari and also suffer heavily when he feels separation with him.

    From the compositions of Haridasas madhura bhava may be again further divided into five fold to understand better. They are:

  • inclination of Gopikas to see Krishna and invitation to him
  • one seeing him and after his knotty plays; requesting him not to do the same
  • reporting/complaining to Yashoda
  • Gopikas abandonment (viraha) and
  • other seperation assumptions.

    This form of bhakthi may cease to be sensual prurience of rebellious adolescence and become the true soul's ardor of a Radha to Krishna; then earthly beauty may be seen to be but a tiny, evanescent spray of the Immortal ineffable sea of splendor; the life may be deemed as a travail of the spirit towards fuller and longer realizations, and death not as grisly phantom, but as merciful awakening into a more spacious existence.

    The Bhaktha seeks the companionship of God all through, and the Paramathma is always a fellow traveler with him. He limps when the pilgrim limps, walks with the Bhakta when he walks, and induces him to move on till the very end.

    Samsara or family existence is full of sorrow and the individual is committing daily, either through the flesh or mind or the senses, sins of the spirit or of the flesh from which there is no escape except through th bhaktimarga.

    vatsalya bhava Though there is saying that 'mat^ru devObhava, pit^ru devObhava' devotees will consider God as their child and they consider them selves as mother for the God child. Having such assumption they will flow their vatsalya or parental fondess towards Sri Hari and look after him in that angle. This form is pure love which is equal to mother-child affection. It is this association that binds the two with the tie of blood as in the case of the mother and the child, and the little one is never weaned away from the mother, whose existence and movements are intuitively sense by the child. Like any mother who is considerate for her kid for whatever misdeeds they do when the kid gives smile she will forget everything and gives everything in her life for the welfare. All Haridasas has expressed this form through their songs in praise of Krishna and Yashoda.

    Haridasas fondness towards mother Yashoda and Krishna can be put into four different ways. They are:

  • Mother Yashoda's fondness towards Krishna
  • Hearing Complaints and knotty plays from Gopikas by Yashoda and Krishna's answer for all those complaints.
  • Praising Yashoda's virtues and Haridasas happy feeling
  • Other assumptions

    Haridasas have shown their own life that bhaktas do not fly from passions, but they transform them and raise them to a higher level where life is freed from the limitations of sense. The deepest and most intense of early passions of Bhakti for God then attains unlimited satisfaction and the marriage of soul and God is a harmony without discord, freedom without bond, reality without illusion, satisfaction without striving, love without longing, and life without death.

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