knowledge about Islam and perhaps was inspired by it. It was Ramananda
then, who first renounced the rigidity of the Hindu philosophy. His
disciples, thus, became avadhutas or the detached. However, he had some
weaknesses in his thought as he never really recognised the right of the
lower classes to read the Vedas, and did not really preach or work for
social equality. His major contribution was the use of the common
language. The teachings of Ramananda created two distinct schools
among his disciples and the later bhakti saints. Saguna and nirguna are
two important schools which originated during his period.
The former tried to enrich the religion of Hinduism and also preserved the
authority of the Vedas and did not wish to break away from the past.
Chaitanya, Shankardeva, Surdas, Mirabai and Tulsidas are some of the
most important saguna saints.
Another school represented by Kabir was nirguna, a religious system of
monotheism, different from the monotheism of Shankara. Kabir preached
absolute abolition of caste and seriously questioned the authority of the
Vedas. He also made an attempt to learn from Islam and tried to establish
a synthetic movement which made him to declare the famous dictum that
Ram and Rahim are equal. Some of the other important saints of the
nirguna school were Nanak, Dadu Dayal, Raidas, etc. Theirs was neither
an attempt to reform the institutionalised Hinduism by attacking the
system of worship, nor the means of escape through submerging
consciousness of worship. These philosophers denied both the Hindu and
the Muslim ideas of God and even equated them by stating that they were
He pleaded for Hindu-Muslim unity, and emphasised the unity and
formlessness of god. Kabir denounced formal religious practices in both
Hinduism and Islam. He did not suggest the abandonment of the life by a
normal house holder for the sake of a saintly life. He believed that asceticism
and book knowledge were not necessary for true knowledge and salvation.
He sharply condemned caste and religious distinctions and preached
brotherhood of man through his dohas (poems).
Nanak (1469–1539) and Sikhism Born at Talwandi (now Nankana in