The Sufi and Bhakti saints had many thoughts and practices in common. Their essential belief was in the need to unite with God. They laid stress on love or devotion as the basis of the relationship with God. To achieve all this a Guru or a Pir was needed.
The Bhakti saints attacked the rigidity in religion and the objects of worship. They disregarded caste and encouraged women to join in their religious gatherings. The Bhakti saints did their entire teaching in the local vernacular language to make it comprehensible even to simple minds.
Guru Nanak was born of a Khatri family in the village of Talwandi which is now called Nankana. Though Guru Nanak was trained in accountancy, he preferred the company of saints and sufis.
Ramanuja was from the South and he taught in the langauge of the common people. His disciple was Ramananda who took his Guru’s message to the northern parts of India.
Ramananda was born at Allahabad and educated at Varanasi. He preached at both these places. He wanted to rid the Hindu religion of its evil customs and practices. He wanted people to know that all men were equal in the eyes of God and there was nobody high born or low born.
Kabir was Ramananda’s favourite disciple. Like Nanak, he criticised the existing social order and called for Hindu-Muslim unity. Kabir, the son of a Muslim weaver, strongly denounced idol worship, taking part in formal worship such as Namaz, pilgrimages or bathing in rivers. He wanted to preach a religion which was acceptable to all and that would unite all religions. He emphasised the unity of God. He called Him by several names such as Rama, Gobinda, Hari and Allah.
Chaitanya was a saint from Bengal. He was a devotee of Lord Krishna. Though he was a Brahman he condemned the caste system and emphasised on the equality of all. He wanted the people to know that true worship lay in love and devotion. He used to go into a trance singing devotional songs in praise of Lord Krishna.
Mirabai was another Bhakti Saint who worshipped, composed and sang songs in praise of Lord Krishna. Like Chaitanya, she too would go into a trance in her love for the God.