Importance of Bhakti Movement
The Bhakti Movement played a significant role in transforming the character of Vedic Hinduism.
By introducing the cult of Bhakti as the means of salvation, Bhagavatism reduced the importance of the ritual of Vedic sacrifices.
Although the Vedic rites survived, their popularity declined due to the influence of Bhakti cult. Bhagavata worshippers were mainly responsible for the introduction of image worship in the fold of Brahmanical Hinduism.The image of Vishnu paved the way for image worship of other deities.
After its amalgamation with Brahmanical Hinduism, Bhagavatism became the main plank for Brahmanism for its defence against Buddhism. Towards the end of the Hindu period many Buddhists were admitted into the fold of the Bhagavatism. The inclusion of Buddha in the list of avataras of Vishnu points to the influence of Bhagavatism on Buddhism.
The doctrine of Ahimsa or non-violence of Bhagavatism exercised a great influence on the evolution of Hinduism. The intercourse between Bhagavatism and Jainism influenced both the creeds. It is suggested by scholars that Jainism which shared the doctrine of non-violence with Bhagavatism regarded Vasudeva and Baladeva as great avataras. It is probable that the legend of Mahavira’s birth was derived from that of Krishna’s birth.
Bhagavatism had some influence on Buddhism also. The Buddhists shared the doctrine of Ahimsha with the Bhagavata worshippers. The worship of Buddha’s foot-prints was borrowed from the Bhagavatic concept of Vishnupada. The influence of Bhagavata Gita can be traced on some Buddhists scriptures. The Bhagavatic concept of avataras of Vishnu is probably borrowed from the Buddhist concept of former Buddha’s.
Some scholars suggest that the Bhakti cult and the Krishna worship came to India due to the influence of Christianity. There are resemblances between the story of child Krishna and that of child Jesus. But there are definite evidences to prove that the Bhakti cult and Krishna worship have pre-Christian origin in India. Christianity had nothing to do with the growth and development of Bhagavatism.