Q. 44.6( 13 Votes )

Discuss the ways in which the Alvars, Nayanars and Virashaivas expressed critiques of the caste system.

Answer :

The Bhakti movement was led by Alvars and Nayanars. Alvars are those who worshipped lord Vishnu and Nayanars are those who claimed to be the followers of Lord Shiva. They extensively travelled singing devotional song in the name of their gods. These sects gave a blow to the caste system and Brahminism by their beliefs and practices.

1. Alvars, Nayanars and Virashaivas initiated a movement of protest against the caste system and the dominance of brahmanas and attempted to reform the system.

2. Their followers (Bhaktas) came from diverse social backgrounds ranging from Brahmanas to artisans and cultivators and even the women and “Untouchables”.


a. An Alvar saint, “TONDARA DI PODDI” who was a Brahmana said that even an outcaste, who expresses love for the feet of Vishnu, is more likely, closer to God who is without allegiance to God.

b. NAYANAR: - Appar a nayanar saint said that knowledge of shastras, higher kula or Gotra are of no use. Anyone who shows devotion to Shiva will achieve salvation.

c. VIRASHAIVAS: - Basavanna, who initiated the Varashaiva tradition, challenged the idea of caste and the “Pollution” attributed to certain groups by Brahmanas they also accepted the marginalized groups into their fold.

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