existence of a divine creator (lsvara). Hence everyone could find his own
  level in this magnificent synthesis of ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ truths. In this
  way he was able to combine popular Hinduism with orthodox
  Brahmanism in a lofty philosophical system.
The Bhakti Movement
In contrast with the Brahmin’s emphasis on right action (karmamarga) and
the philosopher’s insistence on right knowledge (jnanamarga), the path of
love and devotion (bhaktimarga) aimed at self-effacing submission to the
will of god. Earlier evidence of this mystical devotion can be found in the
Bhagavad Gita, but the proper bhakti movement started only in the sixth
century AD in Tamil Nadu. The movement then spread to other parts of
southern India and finally also to northern India, giving an entirely new slant
to Hinduism.
    The idea of holy places which would attract pilgrims was deeply linked
with these popular religious cults. The two great gods, Vishnu and Siva,
manifested themselves at numerous places on earth as well as in their
heavenly abodes. In the beginning a devotee could have seen them in a tree or
a stone or a hermitage. The traditions of many great temples refer to such an
immediate local origin of the gods worshipped in them. Legends of this kind
are called Sthala Mahatmya (local sanctity). The statues (archa) worshipped
by the devotees are considered to be incarnations of gods who had appeared
before the people in tangible form.
    Once the great gods were worshipped in terms of such local
manifestations, lesser gods and even village gods (gram a devatas) also
claimed admission into the rapidly expanding Hindu pantheon. Many a local
god then made a great career by becoming identified with one of the great
gods and being served by Brahmir: priests. Such local gods (previously often
worshipped in primitive non-iconic forms such as rocks) then underwent a
process of ‘anthropomorphisation’, culminating in the installation of fully
Hinduised icons in temples constructed at sites reputed to be holy.