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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : I Dream of a Middle Path


Source: Indian Express

  • Prelims: Bhakti Movement, Mahabharat etc
  • Mains GS Paper I: Salient features of the Indian society, Diversity of India etc


  • India at 100 should be confident, joyous and secure in its composite cultural identity.
  • Quotes:
    • “Diversity is to be prized, not policed”.
    • “Plurality is to be embraced, rather than erased”.
    • “Indianness is an inheritance that is falsified as soon as it is rigidly defined.”




Bhakti Movement:

  • The development of the Bhakti movement took place in Tamil Nadu between the seventh and twelfth centuries.
  • Nayanars and Alvars: It was reflected in the emotional poems of the Nayanars (devotees of Shiva) and Alvars (devotees of Vishnu).
  • These saints looked upon religion not as a cold formal worship but as a loving bond based upon love between the worshiped and worshiper.
  • In the 9th century Shankaracharya spread over all parts of India.
  • Other important Bhakti Saints: Kabir, Nanak and Shri Chaitanya.


Reasons that led to the rise of Bhakti movement:

  • Evils in the Hindu Society like caste system, irrelevant rituals and religious practices etc
  • Complexity of religion: The high philosophy of the Vedas and Upanishads were very complicated.
  • Challenge from Rival Religion: the impact of the Muslim rule and Islam.
  • Influence of Sufism: The Sufi saints of the Muslim community also inspired the movement.


Importance of Bhakti Poets for modern India:

  • They are proud upstarts(risen suddenly in rank or importance), not card-carrying gatekeepers
  • Their spirituality is based on achievement, not ascription
  • They hail from varied caste, class, gender, language and sectarian backgrounds: reminding us of the plural aspects of our spiritual genealogy.
  • They remind us of the power of the reclaimed heart and the examined life.
  • They make us aware that all darkness can be transformed by the act of acknowledgement and inclusion.
  • Their finest poems do not present easy hierarchies between flesh and spirit.
    • Basavanna: body is “the moving temple” and Chandidas: , “man is the greatest truth of all”.
    • Janabai: “I eat god, I drink god, I sleep on god”, while Soyarabai: divine is not bloodless: “If menstrual blood makes me impure/ tell me who was not born of that blood”.
  • They are not meek worshipers; they are radical improvisers who question every hierarchy.
  • Nothing is taboo, nothing sacrilegious: because the underlying premise is simple.
    • The self and the other cannot be kept apart.


Way Forward

  • Cultural skins with affectionate irreverence and freedom: That mix can be inspirational to a country seeking a middle path between cultural apathy and cultural dogmatism.
  • Mahabharata: Yudhishthira finds every moral certainty shattered
    • Vyasa offers us a vision of a many-sided truth that lies beyond the polarities of dark and light, virtue and vice.
  • This makes them inspirational for any culture seeking to heal its wounds and move forward, without getting mired in rage or recrimination.
  • Bhakti poets: Collectively, they offer us a less divided gaze, reminding us that we are dual citizens of earth and sky, body and mind, the immanent and the transcendent.
  • The bhaktas’ rage stems from love, not ridicule: Even while they disagree with their gods, they never stop loving them.
  • For the bhakti poet, there is no “versus”, because there is no “them: There is no outsider, no adversary, because there is, indeed, no “other”.
    • God is simply treated as a disobedient member of one’s own family.
  • India should offer the world its radiant template of spiritual freedom and cultural democracy that holds colliding perspectives in harmony.



Q. Evaluate the nature of the Bhakti Literature and its contribution to Indian culture.(UPSC 2021) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)