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A generic popular term for a ‘saint’, holy man/woman, or bhakta. More specifically, a North Indian poet-saint, generally identified as being nirguṇa Vaiṣṇava in orientation, although the movement's origins are eclectic and include forms of Islamic mysticism. In that their ultimate aim is to attain the unspecified Absolute or Name (Nāma), sants—often including women and members of lower castes—have been described as non-sectarian, although various specific traditions, such as Sikhism, crystallized around the poetry they produced. Notable North Indian sants include Dādū, Kabīr, Nānak, Mīrā(bāī), and Raidās(a).

The term is also applied to Kannadiga and Maharashtrian poet-devotees; in the latter case, it is used specifically of members of the Vārkarī sampradāya or Panth, founded by Jñāneśvar(a). Classified as Vaiṣṇavas, pursuing saguṇa forms of temple devotion, they incorporated strains of Śaiva devotionalism into an inclusive and hybrid theology. Other notable Vārkarī Panth sants include Nāmdev, Ekanātha, and Tukārāma.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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