Haridasis

Doctrines The Haridasis, also known as Haridasas or Vaisnavadasas, are vernacular hymnists to Vishnu. Hari is one of the names of Vishnu. Their inspiration has come directly or indirectly from the teachings of Madhva. Madhva (1197-1276) was a South Indian brahman who was a wandering Vaishnava preacher and founder of the Dvaita or dualistic school of Vedanta. He combined Vedantic thought with devotion to Vishnu.
The founder of the Haridasis was Svami Hari Das, whose teachings and beliefs appear to be close to those of Caitanya (see Gaudiya Vaishnavas). Svami Hari Das left two poems in Hindi, the Sadharan Siddhant and the Raske Pada.
The Haridasis continue the saint-singer tradition and their devotion is primarily centred on Krishna. An important form of Krishna is that of Vithoba or Vitthal, the regional god of the Vitthalas (see separate entry) which is based in Pandharpur. In temple worship of Vishnu-Vithoba at Pandhapur one of the ministrants is a Haridasi who sings Marathi Abhangs (hymns) and parts of Eknath's translations from the Bhagavata Purana. Haridasis are bhagavatas or Vishnu bhaktas whose doctrine is essentially a personal, active devotional relationship between the human and the Absolute but without fixed specific beliefs and rituals.

History Bhagavatas have existed in Maharashtra from before the beginning of the common era. In the thirteenth century CE, however, an especially vigorous and complex vernacular bhakta or devotional tradition started to emerge due to the coming together of various traditions within and outside the Maratha country. These influences included the Madhvas, the Naths, the Sants, and the Vitthalas.
One of the most striking movements in the history of India is the rapidity and completeness with which the Bhagavata reformation of the medieval period was accomplished. From the ninth century all thinking India was under the influence of Shankara, who mentioned bhakti, devotion, only once and that with contempt. Bhagavatism practically disappeared except in South India where it weakly lived on. In the twelfth century this revived and continued to do so in the following centuries under Ramanuja, Madhva, Visnusvami, and Nimbarka. From Ramanuja's time the preaching was to the poor in their own language. Vaishnavism started to change from being a religion of the wealthy.
The Bhagavata reformation was a religious revolution whose effects have persisted to the present. Religion became more a matter of emotion than of knowledge and there was a great gulf between the old and the new. India became a land of mysticism and rapture that was akin to the poets and mystics of medieval Europe. North India especially was filled with wandering bhaktas vowed to poverty and purity, and visions, trances, and miracles were common events. Among these wandering devotees was Svami Hari Das, the sweet singer. It is said that Akbar disguised himself as a menial servant and travelled far to hear him sing praises to Vishnu.

Symbols The Haridasis have a fine temple in Vrndavana. The main form of Vishnu worshipped is Krishna (see Vaishnava).

Adherents Small numbers concentrated in North India, especially Maharashtra state and in Vrndavana. Haridasis are hired as singers in temples such as that at Pandharpur.

Headquarters/
Main Centre
 Vrndavana (Brindavan), the home of Krishna, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, North India.