10 April 2024 RAS Mains Answer Writing

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Subject – Indian History

Topic – Religious Movements and religious philosophy in Ancient and Medieval India. Socio-religious reform movements in 19th and 20th century

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Click on the question to see the model answer (10 April 2024). Submit your answers below and complete the 90-day challenge for RAS Mains answer writing

Q1 Who were Nayanars and Alvars? (2M)

Some of the earliest bhakti movements (c. sixth century) were led by the Alvars and Nayanars in South India. They travelled from place to place singing hymns in Tamil in praise of their gods.  Perhaps one of the most striking features of these traditions was the presence of women. 

Devoted to Lord Vishnu
12 Alvars’ compositions →Nalayira Divyaprabandham (“Four Thousand Sacred Compositions”) 
Women Devotee: Andal is the only female Alvar.
revered in the Sri Vaishnavism tradition.
Devoted to Lord Shiva
63 Nayanars’ songs are part of the Tirumurai, a twelve-volume compendium. 
The poems of Appar, Sambandar, and Sundarar form the Tevaram
Women devotee → Karaikkal Ammaiyar etc
important in the Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta tradition.

Q2 Swami Vivekananda’s nationalism was based on Indian spirituality, morality, and religion. Comment.(5M)

Swami Vivekananda’s Nationalism:

  1. Indian Spirituality:
    1. Emphasis on Vedanta Philosophy: highlighting the spiritual unity underlying all religions.
    2. Universal Brotherhood: emphasizing the spiritual oneness that transcends religious and national boundaries. (Chicago Conference of 1893)
  2. Morality:
    1. Stressed the significance of moral character in the development of a nation. He called upon his countryman to imbibe a spirit of liberty, equality and free thinking.
    2. Combination of Materialism of the West and Spirituality of the East: for a morally strong and harmonious society. 
    3. Service to Humanity: through Ramakrishna Mission he propagated that the Service of Jiva (living objects) is the worship of Shiva.
  3. Religion:
    1. Harmony of Religions: He called for the junction of Hinduism and Islam as the only hope for the Motherland.
    2. Freedom of Religion and Religious Pluralism : He asserted that all religions lead to the same ultimate truth.

Thus, Swami Vivekananda’s nationalist ideology was deeply rooted in India’s spiritual heritage of Vedanta, morality in Indian tradition, and a vision of the harmonious junction of Hinduism and Islam, reflecting a holistic approach to the nation’s progress

Q3 Compare and Contrast the Bhakti Movement with the Sufi Movement in medieval India. How did 
     these movements contribute to cultural syncretism and religious pluralism ?(10M)

The Sufi and Bhakti movements, despite emerging from different religious traditions, share a common theme focused on intense devotional love and a spiritual connection with the divine.


  • Emphasis on intense devotion and direct personal connection
  • Inclusivity and Equality:
    • Both movements advocated social inclusivity and rejected religious and social hierarchies.
    • Bhakti saints like Kabir and Ravidas challenged the caste system, while Sufi mystics promoted brotherhood and equality before God.
  • Criticism of rituals: focus on spiritual essence
  • spread and impact
    • The Bhakti movement spread to different regions of India from North to South and had a deep impact on Indian society and culture.
    • Similarly, the Sufi movement flourished in various parts of the subcontinent, influencing not only Muslims but also Hindus and other religious communities.


AspectBhakti MovementSufi Movement
Origin and FoundersRooted in Hindu devotional traditions; saints like Alvars and Nayanars, Shankara, Ramanuja, Ramananda, Kabir, Ravidas, and Mirabai etcEmerged within Islamic tradition; figures like Moinuddin Chishti, Nizamuddin Auliya, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, Baba Bulleh Shah.
Focus on Devotionexpressed through poetry, musical hymns like Tevaram, Vachanas(Baswana), Kirtan (Chaitanya Mahaprabhu)Stressed on Ziyarat, methods included qawwalis, Zikr  and sama
Theological DifferencesBhakti focused on personal deities and divine love; incorporated elements of both Dvaita (dualism) and Advaita (non-dualism):Sufi emphasized the oneness of God and mystical union; focused on khanqahs and silsilas 
Religious ContextEmerged within Hinduism; sought to reform and revitalize Hindu practices.Originated within Islam; against the growing materialism of the caliphate; critical of dogmatic interpretation of Quran
Approach To SalvationCritiqued ritualism; emphasized sincere devotion over external forms of worship.Criticised superficial rituals; emphasized on seeking salvation through intense devotion by following the example of Prophet Mohammad

Contribution to cultural syncretism and religious pluralism

  • Both movements encouraged mutual respect and Enriched Indian culture through poetry, music, art, and literature, blending elements from various traditions.
  • Played a crucial role in promoting interfaith dialogue, fostering religious tolerance and coexistence.
  • Bhakti and Sufi literature contributed to vernacular languages, departing from traditional Sanskrit writing.
    • Bhakti: Compositions like Ramcharitmanas and Hanuman Chalisa (Hindi), Nanak’s writings (Gurmukhi), Chaitanya’s works (Bengali) enriched Indian literary traditions. Other notable works include Vachna Sanhita by Basavana in Kannada, and Gyan Lila and Yog-cintmani (Hindi) by Ramananda.
    • Sufi: Chistis adopted local language Hindavi. Composed long poems or Masnavis, emergence of sufi poetry in Dakhnai in Bijapur
  • Agents of Social Change: challenging oppressive norms and promoting ideals of equality and justice.
  • Contributed to cultural fusion and exchange, leading to shared practices and traditions among different religious communities.

In conclusion, Despite their theological differences, both movements contributed significantly to cultural syncretism and religious pluralism in medieval India, leaving a lasting legacy of harmony and mutual respect among diverse communities.

Q4 निम्नलिखित पंक्ति का भाव विस्तार कीजिए: (शब्द सीमा: लगभग 100 शब्द)
होनहार बिरवान के होत चीकने पात

जो पौधा आगे चलकर बड़ा वृक्ष होने वाला होता है, छोटा होने पर भी उसके पत्तों में कुछ-न-कुछ चिकनाई होती है अर्थात् जो होनहार होते है उनकी प्रतिभा बचपन मे ही दिखाई देने लगती है। प्रतिभा अभ्यास से नहीं उत्पन्न होती और वह धनराशि से खरीदी भी नहीं जा सकती । जीवन के सभी क्षेत्रों में अपनी मौलिक प्रतिभा का परिचय देने वाले महापुरुषों का जीवनवृत्त साक्षी है कि उन्होंने बचपन से ही अपनी विलक्षणता की ओर संकेत किया है । 

जो महापुरुष होते हैं, उनमें महानता के लक्षण जन्म से ही दिखाई देते हैं, क्योंकि वे जन्म से ही अपने छोटे– छोटे कार्यों से दूसरों के हृदय पर प्रभाव डालते हैं। उन कार्यों से उनमें महान् गुणों का विकास होता है। मानवीय गुणों के पारखी लोग ऐसे गुणवान जनों को समय से पूर्व ही पहचान लेते हैं।

     पूत के पाँव पालने में ही सूचित कर देते हैं कि यह होनहार बिरवा आने वाले दिनों में कितने विशाल वटवृक्ष के रूप में परिणत होगा । राष्ट्र और समाज के प्रति अपनी प्रातिभ चेतना से विलक्षण योगदान देने वाले लोगों ने बचपन से ही अपनी मनोवृत्ति और क्रियाशीलता का संकेत दिया है । पत्थर पर लगातार रस्सी के घिसने से निशान अवश्य पड़ जाते हैं , लेकिन प्रतिभा का दीप प्रौढ़ावस्था में नहीं प्रज्वलित होता । बचपन की गतिविधियों में किसी भी व्यक्ति की भावी जीवनयात्रा का पूर्वाभास परिलक्षित होता है ।

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