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Changing Hinduism

Hinduism remained a religion with much variety. It was less organized and less concerned with heresy than Christianity, and it developed new trends. As early as the fourth century the movement called Bhakti – meaning devotion – arose among some of the poor in southern India, and by the 1100s it began spreading to the north. It was another move away from the religion of aristocrats. Bhakti worshipers rejected Brahmin scholarship and ritual Brahmin sacrifices, for which they lacked time as well as money. And being of lower caste, Bhakti adherents rejected, or at least minimized, caste. The followers of Bhakti practiced humility and sang of their adoration and love for a generous, merciful, supreme god. As in Christianity, women were encouraged to participate and Bhakti had some upper class devotees. And some within the Bhakti movement were made saints.

Hinduism changed again when Krishna became a god apart from Vishnu. Rivalry between Vishnu worship and the worship of another god, Shiva, had grown. The worshipers of Shiva tended to be rural, more intense in their devotion and more concerned with sin, especially the sin of carnality, while the worshipers of Vishnu were more urbane and moderate. The rural Shiva worshippers were closer to fertility worship than the worshippers of Vishnu, and some devoted to Vishnu derided the followers of Shiva as phallus worshipers. The priests of Vishnu worship tended to be Brahmins and saw their god Vishnu as both a god of love and a protector of order. They thought themselves more dignified than the priests of Shiva, and they saw themselves as maintaining Hinduism's noble tradition.

More variety had come to Hinduism back in the 600s after twelve worshipers of Vishnu began wandering through southern India singing songs in praise of Vishnu. These singers believed that worldly enjoyments were ultimately unprofitable and that only a loving surrender to Vishnu was durably satisfying. They sang in temples, villages and markets. The number of singers grew. A book of four thousand of their songs was to be compiled in the 900s and would become the prayer book called the Tamil Veda.

Also in the 600s some Hindus, including worshipers of Vishnu, became involved in rituals called Tantrism. While acknowledging the supreme authority of the Vedas, the Tantrists brought offerings of fruit and sweets to the icons of their gods. Their rituals celebrated the power of motherhood, and they saw birth as the highest form of divine strength.

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