(Last Updated on : 31/01/2009)
Hinduism in the South was divided into two main sects- Saivism and Vaishnavism. Both these sects laid stress on the "spiritual equality of all castes, the worship of idols, pilgrimages, suppression of desires, devotion and respect for animals life". The Bhakti movement, which was led in the south by Sankaracharya, Nathamuni and Ramanuja was aimed at reforming Hindu society. It condemned the caste system and unneccassry rituals, laid strss on the unity of the Godhead and brotherhood of man. Jnaneshwar, a leading saint of Bhakti movement, played a leading role in demolishing social and religious barriers. He was instrumental in bringing the maratha people together. This also led to establishing closer ties among the people of different faiths.
Nath Sampradaya was another sect of the Hindu bhakti cult, which flourished in Srisailam (kurnool district). The Nathapanthis were all Jogis and wandered about the whole of the region. We may also refer here to the existence of another sect mahanubhavas who refuted the Vedic gods and believed only in their guru Chakradhara.
However, they did not attract much following. The impact of Islam was most discernible in the Lingayat Movement, which was started in Karnataka by Basava in the 12th century A.D. Like the Bhakti movement, it advocated on God, and condemned rituals and discrimination on the basis of caste. But it went a step further and wanted its followers to give up cremation, purificatory death ceremonies and adopt simple marriage rites. This movement spread with rapidly during the bahmani period. The settlement of a large number of Muslims in the south gave further impetus to this movement, which led to softening of the rigidity of the caste system and re-emphasis on the oneness of God. Worship of Shakti (Durga) continued to be popular.
The overwhelming population of the Bahmani kingdom comprised of Hindus. There was, however, a colony of Jews had settled there from remote times and had become completely Indianized with Marathi as their mother tongue. They enjoyed complete freedom to practice their religion.