The Sanskrit word Bhakti has its root ‘bhaj’. It means to divide, to share, to belong to. Bhakti also means to devotional attachment, faith or love.
Shree Ram in Ramcharitramanas has also explained about Navdha Bhakti (nine forms of Bhakti). Shree Krishna in Bhagwat Geeta has expanded four means of salvation viz. Bhakti Yoga (path of devotion), Karma Yoga (Path of selfless actions), Jnana Yoga (Path of knowledge) and Raj Yoga (Path of contemplation & meditation). In chapter 9 & 12 of Bhagwat Geeta, Shree Krishna has explained the characteristics of a Bhakta and Bhakti yoga being means of salvation i.e. spiritual attainment. The relevant verses of Bhagwat Geeta & Ramcharitramanas & purpose of Idol worshipping are given hereunder.
Narad Bhakti Sutra has advised to "patiently endure" until the perfection stage manifest. Bhakt should develop qualities such as Ahimsa (Non-violence), Honesty, Cleanliness, Compassion and Faith. A list of devotional attachment is given including the following: attachment to the Lord's qualities
1. attachment to His beauty,
2. attachment to worshiping Him,
3. attachment to remembering Him,
4. attachment to serving Him,
5. attachment to dealing with Him as a friend,
6. attachment to surrendering one's self completely to Him,
7. attachment to being absorbed in thoughts of Him,
Narad Sutra says "Anyone who trusts these instructions spoken by Narada and is convinced by them will be blessed with devotion and attain the most dear Lord."
Inspired by various commentators on the Vedanta (Ramanujacharya, Nimbarkacharya, Madhavacharya and Vallabhacharya), the Bhakti movement swept India from Tamil Nadu (Alvars) to all parts of India in 6th century to 18th century. It developed around the gods Vishnu &avatars (Vaishnavism), Shiva (Shaivism) and Devi (Shaktism). They sang devotional songs in different “Bhavas” (attitudes) as under:
1. santa, placid love for God;
2. dasya, the attitude of a servant – Hanumanji towards Shree Rama
3. sakhya, the attitude of a friend – Arjun & Shepherd boys towards Shree Krishna
4. vatsalya, the attitude of a mother towards her child – Yashoda towards Shree Krishna
5. madhura, the attitude of a woman towards her lover – Radha towards Shree Krishna
Swami Vivekananda has described Bhakti Yoga as
"the path of systematized devotion for the attainment of union with the Absolute".
According to Ramana Maharishi, Bhakti is surrender to the divine with one's heart. It can be practiced as an adjunct to self-inquiry, and in one of four ways:
Shree Ram in Ramcharitramanas