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Jagadguru Basaveshwara

  • Category
    History & Culture
  • Published
    24th May, 2021

Prime Minister has bowed to Jagadguru Basaveshwara on Basava Jayanthi which was observed this month.

Context

Prime Minister has bowed to Jagadguru Basaveshwara on Basava Jayanthi which was observed this month.

Background

  • Basaveshwarawas the 12th century philosopher and the statesman of Karnatakaduring the reign of the Kalyani Chalukya/Kalachuri dynasty, who had found the Veera Shaivism.
  • This new offshoot from hindusism called Veera Shaivism was spread by his followers known as Sharanas.
  • They are known as Veera (meansheroic) Shaivaitesor Lingayats means one who bear Shiv Linga.
  • A pendant is constantly worn around the neck by the Shaiviteswhich has encased Linga.
  • These Veera Shaivites are also known by the names Shivasharanas and Lingavantas.
  • Lingayats consider themselves not a part of Hinduism.

Analysis

Lord Basaveshwara

  • Basaveshwara or Basavanna was an Indian poet, philosopher, statesman and Lingayat saint in the Shiva-centric Bhakti movement and a social reformer in the region of Karnataka during the period of 12th century AD.
  • He lived during the reign of both the Kalyani Chalukya and Kalachuri dynasty.
  • Though he was active during the reign of both the dynasties but he reached his peak of influence during the rule of King Bijjala II in Karnataka who belongs to Kalchuri Dynasty.

Founder of Lingayat cult

  • The hagiographic texts state Basava to be the founder of the Lingayats, which is also confirmed from traditional legends.
  • However, modern scholarshs who rely on historical evidence like the Kalachuri inscriptions state that Basava was the philosopher-poet who actually revived, refined and energized an already existing tradition.

Basava’s Philosophy

  • The theology of Basava’s Lingayatism was a form of “qualified-nondualism”, wherein the individual soul (Atman) is the body of God, and that there is no difference between Lord Shiva and Atman (self-soul).
  • Basava’s views finds places in Vedanta school, in a form closer to the 11th century Vishisht-advaitavad philosopher Ramanuja who was contemporary to Chola Dynasty

Famous works

  • Basavanna used Vachanaas, a form of poetry, to spread social awareness
  • Basavanna rejected discrimination based on gender or social distinctions, superstitions and rituals but introduced Ishtalinga necklace, with an image of the Shiva Linga to every person of his sect regardless of his or her birth.
  • Basava introduced new public institutions such as the AnubhavaMantapa (or, the “hall of spiritual experience”) which welcomed men and women from all socio-economic backgrounds, it is also called first religious parliament of the world.

Who are Veerashaivas?

  • Veerashaivas are worshippers of Lord Shiva.
  • They precede Basavanna, the founder of Lingayatism. Veerashaivas do not worship any God other than Shiva and can be found spread across India.
  • Pashupatha Shaiva, Soma Shaiva, Dakshina Shaiva, Kala Mukha Shaiva, Lakula Shaiva, Yavala Shaiva, Samanya Shaiva, Mishra Shaiva, Shuddha Shaiva, Adi Shaiva, Anu Shaiva, Avantara Shaiva are some of the sects within Shaivism.
  • Veerashaiva is one such sect and people from the community are found largely in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Those who consume non-vegetarian food call themselves Kshatriya Shaiva while those who are vegetarians call themselves Brahmana Shaiva.
  • All sects of the Veerashaiva follow the 'Pancha Peeta', five mutts. Kashi mutt, Rameshwaram Mutt, Ujjaini Mutt, Rambhapura Mutt and Srishaila Mutt are the core holy places for the community.

Who are Lingayats?

  • Lingayats are followers of Basavanna and his teachings. Veerashaivas in Karnataka, influenced by the preachings of Basavanna adapted the same into their lives and faith.
  • Basavanna's teachings were incorporated to base sects that led to the formation of new sects like Banajiga Lingayat, Panchamasali Lingayat, Ganiga Lingayat, Gowda Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat.
  • The Lingayats are strict monotheists. They enjoin the worship of only one God, namely, Linga (Shiva).
  • The word ‘Linga’ does not mean Linga established in temples, but universal consciousness qualified by the universal energy (Shakti).
  • Lingayats had been classified as a Hindu subcaste called “VeerashaivaLingayats” and they are considered to be Shaivites.

Lingayats as social reformer

  • In several vachanas, the sharanas have rejected the Vedas, shastras, smritis and the Upanishads. They also rejected the system of caste based on the varnashrama, rebuffed faith in karmabased on caste, denied the concept of paap and punya which was based on karma, spurned the notion of heaven and hell as based on paap and punya.
  • They scorned temple and idol worship. The rejected the phallic linga symbol of Shiva and opted for ishtalinga, which represents inner conscience. They declared that work was worship and tried to break the barriers of caste by inter-caste dining. They fought against discrimination on the basis of gender and birth. They abhorred superstitions.
  • They ignored Sanskrit – which was understood by very few – and addressed the people in Kannada. Essentially, Basavanna and all sharanas rejected everything about the Hindu religion and rebelled against it.

Conclusion

This is the reason why, for over eight decades, Lingayats have been asking to be considered as a religion separate from Hinduism. While the Indian constitution was being drafted, Lingayat members of the constituent assembly such as S. Nijalingappa (representing Mumbai), H. Siddaveerappa (Mysore) B.N. Manavalli (Ramdurg) and RatnappaKumbar (leader of the Lingayats in Maharashtra) had argued that Lingayats should be listed as a separate religion. Lingayat groups and organisations have been insisting that the census commissioner of India should list Lingayats as a separate religion. Their argument is that if Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism – which were also born against the tenets of Hinduism – can be considered as separate religions, then why not Lingayats.

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