The pioneering saints of the first group who played significant roles in identifying and redressing the sufferings of mankind are being summarily introduced below:
Born in Kashi in a Brahmin family, Ramanand was the fourth disciple of great saint Ramanujacharya. Since he was very sensitive and generous, he was moved to see the pathetic conditions of the poor, caused by the age-long caste system. He pledged to eradicate this chronic social malady of caste system to reshape a healthy society where everyone would share the bounty and blessings of the supreme without any discrimination. His poems are so simple and pregnant with meaningful messages that even a layman can easily comprehend the meaning and taste the fruit of his expressions. He is credited to have initiated the ̳Sant cult‘ which was further carried forward by his successors. Kabir is said to have been deeply influenced by his preaching and practical approach to handle the intricate situations of life.
As he himself utters: “aisi meri Jati vikhyat chamar” [I am famous to be born in a chamar caste], he was born in Kashi in a ‘chamar‘ family. He laid stress on meditation which he thought would successfully lead to the realization of the self and God.
Born in Talvandi village near Lahore, Nanak is credited to have founded the ‘Nanak Panth’. From the very childhood he had inclination towards serving mankind entangled inextricably in the narrow bonds of caste, religion and vicious social practices. Since he had mastery over Hindi, Punjabi and Sanskrit languages, he could easily convey his messages effectively to the masses by his powerful poetic utterances.
Dadudayal and Malukdas
They were also acknowledged as saint poets and were commmited to serve mankind by their songs written in both Avadhi and V [B]raj languages. Malukdas‘s couplets are still very popular and cited as the most befitting quotations for all kind of occasions.
The second group of saint poets followed the Bhakti cult of Krishna. They considered Him as their God and presented their devotional songs about him. Sri Ballabhacharya founded the Bhakti cult of Krishna. The followers of this cult believed in the saguna theory and accepted Krishna as an incarnation, who is born to perform Krishna Leela to please and preach his devotees and ease them of the spell of satanic forces. The followers of the Krishna cult are Surdas, Nabhadas, Kumbhandas, Meerabai, Paramanandadas etc.
Surdas enjoys the highest status among the other poets of Hindi Literature, who devoted their lives in praising the glory of Krishna and his charismatic roles executed by him for the redemption of mankind. He is designated as the pioneer of Pushtimarg by Goswami Vitthaldas. The tenure of Surdas is ascertained as between 1478 and 1583. He is said to be born blind. But his literary contribution in form of Sursagar, Sahityalahari and Sursarawati has enriched not only Hindi but also the literature of the world. His philosophical approach is based on purely Adwaitvad. Though his treatment of God,Jeev,Maya and world have made his poetry highly philosophical and mystic, his poetic expression does not suffer the paucity of emotion and delicacy of poetic sensibility.
He was born in Gaurawa Kshatriy family. Besides being a man of worldly responsibility, he was blessed with a saintly temperament devoted himself completely to Lord Krishna. He took Diksha as the first shishya of Mahaprabhu Vallbhacharyain 1429. His poetic composition does not enjoy so much of literary merit as much as of aesthetics of music and melody.
She was born in a well reputed Rathod family in Medata in 1504. As a widow, she relinquished all the pleasures of the Royal Palace and went finally to Vrindvan to dedicate herself to the feet of Krishna. From the very childhood, she had devotional leaning towards Krishna which was sharpened again after the death of her husband. As a mystic, she accepted Krishna as her lover and devoted her whole life in praising him through her devotional songs. She clearly mentions:
Mere to Girdhar Gopal, doosarau na koee.
Jaake sir mormukut mero pati hoee.
Other major poets of Krishna cult who made notable contribution to Bhkti literature were Paramanand Das, Govind Swami, Nand Das, Chhet Swami and Chaturbhuj Das.
The last group of saint poets belongs to the Bhakti cult of Ram. The literature of Ram cult is characterized by the blend of devotion and knowledge, establishment of an ideal social code, necessity of right conduct and inspiration to emulate an ideal character, right exercise of conscience, and proper analysis of what ought and ought not to be done. The literary luminaries of this school of the poetry include:
He occupies significant place among the leading saint poets of Hindi literature. His contribution includes Mahabharat katha, Rukmanimangal, Swargarohan, and Snehleela.He has also translated Balmiki Ramayan from Sanskrit into English.
Agradas ̳s name is taken with great respect among the shishya parampara of Swami Ramanand. Dyanmanjari, Ashtayam, Rambhajan Manjari, Upasana –Bawani and Padawali are his major works.
He is the greatest poet of Ram Bhakti cult who has acquired international dimension by presenting before the world a classical work called Ramchritmanas. In addition, Gitawali, Kavitawali is his well known literary manifestation which brought glory not only to Hindi literature but to the literatures of regional languages as well.
He is contemporary of Tulisdas and remembered for his excellent work, Bhaktamal.
Basically he is looked upon as a significant signature of Reetkal in Hindi literature, though he was a contemporary of Tulsidas. Ramchandrica is his significant work which was created for the purpose of salvation and can be treated as one to carry the philosophical thoughts of Keshavdas.
All these poets of Bhakt were primarily concerned in reaching out the masses to convey the fragrance of their messages in commonplace language rather than propagating their pedantic scholarship. Tulsidas was a great scholar of Sanskrit and initially wished to complete his ‘Ramcharit Manas‘ in Sanskrit. But then he found that Sanskrit was not a common man‘s language and if he continued writing the Ramayan in classical language, it would be confined to only limited readers and his purpose of conveying the message wouldn‘t be served. Therefore he changed his original plan and completed his magnum opus in ‘Avadhi‘ language. Ramleela based on the ‘Ramcharit Manas‘ is the most popular performing art in India and even abroad. Keshavdas was also a Sanskrit Acharya but he tried his pen in Hindi in order to have proper dialogues with people to convey his views.