The Classical Period and Bhakti

1.     The Classical Period (300 C.E. – 1000 C.E.):

a.     Gupta Empire: 320 – 550 CE

                                      i.     More centralized, wealth in sharing productivity of the land, notion of the god-like and protective emperor minimally involved in the people’s lives

b.     Indian religion makes a major shift in the direction of Devotionalism (popular):

                                      i.     Hinduism: The Baghavadgita 

1.     From Vedic sacrifice and renunciatory traditions to devotion (esp. nishkamakarma)

                                     ii.     Jainism: Increasing worship of the Tirthankaras

                                   iii.     Buddhism: the devotional attitude and the figure of the bodhisattva

c.      The Cholan Dynasty – Saiva

d.     Late Classical (600 – 1000 CE) – growth in outward forms of religious expression

2.     The Emergence of Hindu Devotionalism: Bhakti

a.     Rise of devotional movements

                                      i.     Early dev in 4th cent Tamil, flourished from 12-18th century in all regions and languages

1.     Nayanmars (Saiva) and Alvars (Vaisnava) – new forms of piety

                                     ii.     Rise of temples as religious centers

                                   iii.     Vaisnava, Saiva, Shakti

b.     Puranas (“stories of old”):

                                      i.     Vast body of complex narratives containing genealogies of deities and kings, cosmologies, law coded, descriptions of ritual and pilgrimage.

                                     ii.     Oral traditions written down – absorbed influences from epics, Upanishads, dharmasastras, samhitas.

                                   iii.     18 major Puranas – bulk of the material established  c. 320-500 CE.  Some are more sectarian than others (focused on a particular deity)

c.      Basic Characteristics of Bhakti: love, service

                                      i.     Exterior manifestation in temples, images, processions, feasts, popular gurus

                                     ii.     General Characteristics: Populist, Vernacular Poor, dispossessed and oppresses linked in their religious attitudes with orthodox, upper class devotees.

2.     Rites of worship in devotionalism: Puja, darsan, murti, and prasad

a.     Darsan: auspicious seeing

                                      i.     The prominent role of the eyes in apprehending the sacred

                                     ii.     Giving and taking darsan

                                   iii.     Iconic and aniconic images

b.     Murti: iconic images of the gods

c.      Divine descent

d.     Embodiment of the deity: from formlessness to form

3.     Puja: rites of worship and honor

a.     Divine-human reciprocity

4.     Prasad: offerings of food