Q. Consider the following pair of terms of the Bhakti movement:
Term Used for
1. Alvar – Vishnu
2. Nayanars– Shiva
3. Nirguna – Avatars of God
Which of the above given pair is/are correctly matched?

[A] 3 only

[B] 1 and 2 only

[C] 2 and 3 only

[D] 1, 2 and 3 only

Answer: B

At a different level, historians of religion often classify bhakti traditions into two broad categories: saguna (with attributes) and nirguna (without attributes).  

  • The former included traditions that focused on the worship of specific deities such as Shiva, Vishnu and his avatars (incarnations) and forms of the goddess or Devi, all often conceptualized in anthropomorphic forms.  
  • Nirguna bhakti on the other hand was worship of an abstract form of god. 
  • Some of the earliest bhakti movements (c. sixth century) were led by the Alvars (literally, those who are “immersed” in devotion to Vishnu) and Nayanars (literally, leaders who were devotees of Shiva).  
  • They travelled from place to place singing hymns in Tamil in praise of their gods. 

Source: NCERT- Themes in Indian History.