During the same period, in north India deities such as
Vishnu and Shiva were worshipped in temples, often built
with the support of rulers. However, historians have not
found evidence of anything resembling the compositions
of the Alvars and Nayanars till the fourteenth century.
How do we account for this difference?
Some historians point out that in north India this
was the period when several Rajput states emerged. In
most of these states Brahmanas occupied positions of
importance, performing a range of secular and ritual
functions. There seems to have been little or no attempt
to challenge their position directly.
At the same time other
religious leaders, who did not
function within the orthodox
Brahmanical framework, were
gaining ground. These included
the Naths, Jogis and Siddhas.
Many of them came from
artisanal groups, including
weavers, who were becoming
increasingly important with the
development of organised craft
production. Demand for such
production grew with the
emergence of new urban centres,
and long-distance trade with
Central Asia and West Asia.
Many of these new religious
leaders questioned the
authority of the Vedas, and
expressed themselves in languages spoken by ordinary
people, which developed over centuries into the ones
used today. However, in spite of their popularity these
religious leaders were not in a position to win the
support of the ruling elites.
A new element in this situation was the coming of
the Turks which culminated in the establishment of the
Delhi Sultanate (thirteenth century). This undermined
the power of many of the Rajput states and the
Brahmanas who were associated with these kingdoms.
This was accompanied by marked changes in the realm
of culture and religion. The coming of the sufis
(Section 6) was a significant part of these developments.