MALI / SAINI COMMUNITY AND BHAKTI(DEVOTION) MOVEMENT IN INDIA
Bhakti movement has played a revolutionary role in the history of Indian religion.This movement was started about 1200 AD when different sampardayas such as NATH, VARKARI ,NAGESH, DATTA, MAHANUBHAV, SAMARTH etc. were founded by our great saints who are called as poet-saints and sufi saints.Sant Jnaneshwar, Sant Namdev and Sant Swata Mali were pioneers of this movement as they stood in a rebellion against orthodox religion.
This was the time when only the knowledge of Sanskrit and Gyan was believed to be the only way to attain Godliness. Only Brahmins were enjoying the right to perform various Rituals that were considered to be the only medium to attain Godliness. The masses were cut off from the religion due to lack of knowledge of Sanskrit and the dominance of Brahmins. All religious books were written only in Sanskrit and they were denied the right to learn Sanskrit Due to the Brahmin lobby as administrators of the kingdoms. Both Sant Jnaneshwar and Sant Namdev through their works and devotion initiated a Sampardaya which did not attach any importance to caste but only devotion to Lord. This was the birth of BHAKTI MOVEMENT. The enchanted masses could attain Godliness through devotion. Also the format of chorus singing could be easily adopted and practiced by commoners. They founded the VARKARI- NAMASKIRTANA SAMPARDAYA . Sant Jnaneshwar(1275-1296) translated “BHAGWAT GITA” In Marathi , the language of masses. The contemporary saints belonging to different castes such as Sant Namdev , Sant Sawata Mali, Sant Narahari Sonar, Sant Chokha Mela, Sant Janabai, Sant Sena Nhavi, Sant Gora Kumbhar, Sh. Sheikh Mohammad and other saints also wrote and sung hundreds of Abhangs(Shabads which can not be destroyed). The central ideology of this sect was chanting of Namaskirtana(Kirtan) daily. This sampardaya attached least importance to the position/status of person in society. Rendering of Namaskirtana attaches a great importance to “NAMA” (Nam Japna) and chorus singing (Kirtan).Varkari sect followers walk down to the shrine from long distances i.e. pilgrimage.
They preached that we do not need rituals to attain NIRVANA (Moksha) and do not need priests to worship God.They fought for equality and asked not to follow superstitions.They propounded Bhakti and Mukti are open to all castes including women folk.This Sampardaya contributed to simplify the Religion and thoughts mentioned in it, to understand and follow the path of one God. Pandharpur in Sholapur district was the centre of this movement and with the diety of VITHOBA(Krishna) established here by Raja Rajdeo Rao Yadav of the contemporary regime. This Yadav dynasty of Deogiri (Daultabad) also made Marathi as their court language. The Varkari saints wrote poems to purify the essence of religion. Sant Jnaneshwar`s Jnaneshwari, Sant Namdev`s Abhang Gatha , Sant Swata Mali`s Abhangs and Sant Tukaram`s Abhang Granth are main writings of Sampardaya. As the Vaishnavism(Krishan Bhakti) was already followed by masses and these saints recognised (Prakrit) Marathi as the religious language and became popular so.This movement slowly spread to whole of Maharashtra, Punjab and so on. This Sampardaya`s traditions in North India were continued by Sant Kabir, Sant Surdas, Meerabai and Sant Namdev`s visits. Sant Namdev Ji stayed for a long time in Punjab and served as a role model to Sikh Gurus and other sufi -saints. A few centuries later, Sant Tukaram and Sant Eknath (17 th century) further reinforced the Varkari- Namaskirtana Sampardaya.
In 15th century, during Deccan Udhasi- Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji visited almost all the key religious centres and places of political importance in Maharashtra and met followers of these famous saints and collected their Abhangs/Hymns(Bani) and were greatly influeced by their contribution to religion as well as social work. They visited Sholapur(the birth district of Sh Namdev Ji and Sh Sawata Mali) and Pandharpur whrere saints like Sh Namdev, Sh Sawata Mali and Sh. Jnaneshwar spent long time of their life. Sh. Guru Nanak Dev Ji held discussions with followers of this sampardaya and collected verses. Later Shabads/Abhangs of Sh. Namdev, Bhai Parmanand and Bhai Trilochan were included into Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji by Sh. Guru Arjun Dev Ji. Sh. Guru Nanak Dev Ji started a new sampardaya in Punjab that came to known as Sikh sampardaya whose central ideology of one God, Nam Japna, Denouncing of Casteism, Bhakti and Mukti are open to all and to attain Godliness there is no need of priests were same as that of Varkari-Namaskirtana Sampardaya. Sh. Guru Nanak Dev Ji also preached against the idol worship and said that pilgrimage is not necessary. . Sh. Guru Nanak Dev Ji also wrote The Gurbani in people`s language i.e. Punjabi (Prakrit) by using Gurmukhi script.This sampardaya with course of time developed as Sikh religion.
Shiromani Sant Sh. Sawata Mali Ji --- Sant Sawata Mali Ji was born in 1250 AD in a Mali farmer family at Aran in Sholapur district of Maharashtra.His father Sh. Devoo Mali was an ardent devotee of Lord Vithal/Vithoba and used to visit Pandharpur situated at the holy river of Chanderbhaga.Original village of family was Astha in Miraj Sansthan and moved to Aran. Sant Swata Mali ji was contemporary of Sh. Namdev Ji and Sh. Jnaneshwar Ji and played an important part in the formation of Varkari- Namaskirtana Sampardaya. Sant Sawata Mali Ji and Sant Namdev Ji accompanied Sh. Jnaneshwar Ji on his pilgrimage of holy places of North, East and West India. He wrote many Abhangs (devotional songs) in his mother tongue Marathi which met the spiritual needs of the masses to achieve Godliness. Sant Sawata Mali Ji preached for a long time at Pandharpur. He left for his heavenly abode on 12th July 1295 AD at Aran.
Shiromani Bhagat Jamala Singh Nanuan—was a sufi-poet of 17th century and served as a darbari kavi at Shri Anandpur Sahib.He spent his whole life in close association of 8th, 9th and 10th Sikh Gurus.He was baptised by Sh. Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Bhagat Nanuan Ji was a true believer of Sikhism and he sacrificed his life in battle of Chamkaur Sahib fighting the Mughals , his two sons also laid their lives in Sikh -Mughal wars
In 19 th century , Mahatma Jyoti Rao Govind Rao Phule (Mali)- Saint of Modern India propagated the message of teachings of Sanits of Bhakti Movement through his movement of social reforms and fight against Brahamanism.
Saini -Mali community and other rural communities explored avenues for upward mobility through Bhakti movement and sectarian model. Mali- Saini farming class of Maharashtra was greatly influenced by the Varkari-Namaskirtana Sect as it was a branch of Vaishnav bhakti ( Krishna - their ancestor). They followed the teachings of these saints in their daily lives to fullfill their spiritual needs. They have great respect for Pandharpur.They visit Pandharpur twice a year on the eve of Ashadhi and Kartik ekadishies.Abhangs of these saints are the source of inspiration to them to lead an honest life by remembring God. They pay rich tributes to Sant Sawata Mali Ji by organising Kirtans.A devotional song “ Aamuchi Mali yati jaat” is very popular in the community. In North Saini- Mali community has great faith in Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and they follow the teachings of Sikh Guru Sahiban. Sh. Guru Granth Sahib Ji has a large collection of Shabads written by these Poet- Saints of Varkari-Namaskirtana sect from Maharashtra as well as from North. Large population of this community has adopted Sikhism as their religion. S.Gursa Singh Gahunia was among the first sikhs to get baptised by Sh. Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Anandpur Sahib on Vaisakhi of 1699 AD.