Lingayatism is a distinct Shaivite religious tradition in India. Its worship is centered on Hindu god Shiva as the universal god in the iconographic form of Ishtalinga. The adherents of this faith are known as Lingayats. Lingayatism was founded by the 12th-century philosopher and statesman Basava and spread by his followers, called Sharanas. Lingayatism emphasizes qualified monism and bhakti (loving devotion) to Shiva, with philosophical foundations similar to those of the 11th-12th-century South Indian philosopher Ramanuja.
The terms Lingayatism and Veerashaivism have been used synonymously, and Lingayats also referred to as Veerashaivas. Lingayatism is considered a Hindu sect, but some Lingayats have sought legal recognition as a religion distinct from Hinduism. Lingayatism shares beliefs with Indian religions, such as about reincarnation, samsara and karma.
Contemporary Lingayatism is influential in South India, especially in the state of Karnataka. Today, Lingayats, along with Shaiva Siddhanta followers, Tirunelveli Saiva Pillai, Nadar, Naths, Pashupaths of Nepal, Kapalikas and others constitute the Shaiva population.
Lingayatism is also referred to as Veerashaivism (Veerasaivism, Virashaivism). The adherents of this faith are known as Lingayats. Both the terms Lingayatism and Lingayats are derived from Kannada word lingavanta for the "one who wears a iali?ga (Kannada: )". The Lingayat iali?ga is an oval-shaped emblem symbolising Parashiva, the absolute reality, and is worn on the body by a cord hung around the neck.
Basava is credited with founding Lingayatism and its secular practices. He was a 12th-century Hindu philosopher, statesman, Kannada poet in the Shiva-focussed Bhakti movement and a social reformer during the reign of the Kalachuri-dynasty king Bijjala I in Karnataka, India.
Basava grew up in a Brahmin family with a tradition of Shaivism. As a leader, he developed and inspired a new devotional movement named Virashaivas, or "ardent, heroic worshippers of Shiva". This movement shared its roots in the ongoing Tamil Bhakti movement, particularly the Shaiva Nayanars traditions, over the 7th- to 11th-century. However, Basava championed devotional worship that rejected temple worship and rituals led by Brahmins, and replaced it with personalized direct worship of Shiva through practices such as individually worn icons and symbols like a small linga.
Basavanna spread social awareness through his poetry, popularly known as Vachanaas. Basavanna rejected gender or social discrimination, as well as some extant practices such as the wearing of sacred thread, and replaced this with the ritual of wearing Ishtalinga necklace, with an image of the Shiva Li?ga, by every person regardless of his or her birth, to be a constant reminder of one's bhakti (loving devotion) to god Shiva. As the chief minister of his kingdom, he introduced new public institutions such as the Anubhava Mantapa (or, the "hall of spiritual experience"), which welcomed men and women from all socio-economic backgrounds to discuss spiritual and mundane questions of life, in open.
The traditional legends and hagiographic texts state Basava to be the founder of the Lingayats. However, modern scholarship relying on historical evidence such as the Kalachuri inscriptions state that Basava was the poet philosopher who revived, refined and energized an already existing tradition.
Lingayat scholars thrived in northern Karnataka during the centuries of rule by Vijayanagara Empire. The Lingayats likely were a part of the reason why Vijayanagara succeeded in territorial expansion and in withstanding the Deccan Sultanate wars. The Lingayat text Sunya sampadane grew out of the scholarly discussions in an Anubhava Mantap, and according to Bill Aitken, these were "compiled at the Vijayanagara court during the reign of Praudha Deva Raya". Similarly, the scripture of Lingayatism Basava Purana was completed in 1369 during the reign of Vijayanagara ruler Bukka Raya I.
After Haider Ali led a coup, after being appointed the military chief of Hindu Wadiyar dynasty of Mysore, the Lingayats of Karnataka came under Islamic rule in late 18th century. During this period, the followers of Lingayatism were persecuted. Tipu Sultan, for example, found the practices of Lingayats offensive and ordered the mutilation of Lingayat women not meeting his dress code.
Sripati, a Virasaiva scholar, explained Lingayatism philosophy in Srikara Bhasya, in Vedanta terms, stating Lingayatism to be a form of qualified nondualism, wherein the individual Atman (soul) is the body of God, and that there is no difference between Shiva and Atman (self, soul), Shiva is one's Atman, one's Atman is Shiva. Sripati's analysis places Lingayatism in a form closer to the 11th century Vishishtadvaita philosopher Ramanuja, than to Advaita philosopher Adi Shankara.
Other scholars state that Lingayatism is more complex than the description of the Virasaiva scholar Sripati. It united diverse spiritual trends during Basava's era. Jan Peter Schouten states that it tends towards monotheism with Shiva as the godhead, but with a strong awareness of the monistic unity of the Ultimate Reality. Schouten calls this as a synthesis of Ramanuja's Vishishtadvaita and Shankara's Advaita traditions, naming it Shakti-Vishishtadvaita, that is monism fused with Shakti beliefs. But Basava's approach is different than Adi Shankara, states Schouten, in that Basava emphasizes the path of devotion, compared to Shankara's emphasis on the path of knowledge - a system of monistic Advaita philosophy widely discussed in Karnataka in the time of Basava.
Lingayat (Veerashaiva) thinkers rejected the custodial hold of Brahmins over the Vedas and the shastras, but they did not outright reject the Vedic knowledge. The 13th-century Telugu Virashaiva poet Palkuriki Somanatha, author of Basava Purana - a scripture of Veerashaivas, for example asserted, "Virashaivism fully conformed to the Vedas and the shastras." Somanatha repeatedly stated that "he was a scholar of the four Vedas".
Lingayatism teaches a path to an individual's spiritual progress is viewed, and describes it as a six-stage Satsthalasiddhanta. This concept progressively evolves the individual starting with the phase of a devotee, to the phase of the master, then the phase of the receiver of grace, thereafter Linga in life breath (god dwells in his or her soul), the phase of surrender (awareness of no distinction in god and soul, self), to the last stage of complete union of soul and god (liberation, mukti). Thus bhakti progresses from external icon-aided loving devotional worship of Shiva to deeper fusion of awareness with abstract Shiva, ultimately to advaita (oneness) of one's soul and god for moksha.
Shunya in a series of Kannada language texts is equated with the Virashaiva concept of the Supreme. In particular, the Shunya Sampadane texts present the ideas of Allama Prabhu in a form of dialogue, where shunya is that void and distinctions which a spiritual journey seeks to fill and eliminate. It is the described as state of union of one's soul with the infinite Shiva, the state of blissful moksha.
This Lingayat concept is similar to shunya Brahma concept found in certain texts of Vaishnavism, particularly in Odiya, such as the poetic Panchasakhas. It explains the Nirguna Brahman idea of Vedanta, that is the eternal unchanging metaphysical reality as "personified void". Alternate names for this concept of Hinduism, include shunya purusha and Jagannatha in certain texts. However, both in Lingayatism and various flavors of Vaishnavism such as Mahima Dharma, the idea of Shunya is closer to the Hindu concept of metaphysical Brahman, rather than to the nyat? concept of Buddhism. However, there is some overlap, such as in the works of Bhima Bhoi.
The Anubhava Mantapa literally means the "hall of spiritual experience". It has been a Lingayat institution since the time of Basava, serving as an academy of mystics, saints and poet-philosophers for discussion of spiritual and mundane questions of life, in open. It was the fountainhead of all religious and philosophical thought pertaining to the Lingayata. It was presided over by the mystic Allamaprabhu, and numerous sharanas from all over Karnataka and other parts of India were participants. This institution also helped propagate Lingayatism religious and philosophical thought. Akka Mahadevi, Channabasavanna and Basavanna himself were participants in the Anubhava Mantapa.
The Lingayats always wear the Ishtalinga held with a necklace. The Istalinga is made up of light gray slate stone coated with fine durable thick black paste of cow dung ashes mixed with some suitable oil to withstand wear and tear. Sometime it is made up of ashes mixed with clarified butter. The coating is called Kanti (covering). The Ishtalinga is a symbolism for Lord Shiva.
Lingadharane is the ceremony of initiation among Lingayats. Though lingadharane can be performed at any age, it is usually performed when a foetus in the womb is 7-8 months old. The family Guru performs pooja and provides the ishtalinga to the mother, who then ties it to her own ishtalinga until birth. At birth the mother secures the new ishtalinga to her child. Upon attaining the age of 8-11 years, the child receives Diksha from the family Guru to know the proper procedure to perform pooja of ishtalinga. From birth to death, the child wears the Linga at all times and it is worshipped as a personal ishtalinga. The Linga is wrapped in a cloth housed in a small silver and wooden box. It is to be worn on the chest, over the seat of the indwelling deity within the heart. Some people wear it on the chest or around the body using a thread.
Kayakave kailasa is a slogan in Virasaivism. It means "work is heaven" or "to work [Kayakave] is to be in the Lord's Kingdom [Kailasa]". Some scholars translate Kayaka as "worship, ritual", while others translate it as "work, labor". The slogan is attributed to Basava, and generally interpreted to signify a work ethic for all social classes.
Dasoha is the purpose and result of K?yakav? Kail?sa in Lingayatism.Dasoha means "service", and more specifically "service to other Lingayats" including the Jangama. Regardless of one's vocation, Lingayatism suggests giving and donating a part of one's time, effort and income to one's community and to religious mendicants.
According to Virasaivism, skillful work and service to one's community, without discrimination, is a means to experiencing the divine, a sentiment that continues to be revered in present-day Virasaivas. According to Jan Peter Schouten, this doctrine is philosophically rooted in the more ancient So'ham Sanskrit oneness mantra related to Shiva, and which means "I am He". This social ethic is also found among other Hindu communities of South India, and includes community provisioning of grains and sharing other essentials particularly with poorer members of society and those affected by natural or other disasters.
Several works are attributed to the founder of Lingayatism movement, Basava, and these texts are revered in the Lingayat community. In particular, these include various Vachana (literally, "what is said") such as the Shat-sthala-vachana, Kala-jnana-vachana, Mantra-gopya, Ghatachakra-vachana and Raja-yoga-vachana.
The Basava Purana, a Telugu biographical epic poem, written by Palkuriki Somanatha in 13th-century, and an updated 14th century Kannada version, written by Bhima Kavi in 1369, are sacred texts in Lingayatism.
Lingayats today are found predominantly in the state of Karnataka, especially in North and Central Karnataka with a sizeable population native to South Karnataka. Lingayats have been estimated to be about 20% of Karnataka's population.
Significant populations are also found in parts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana bordering Karnataka, as well as Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat. The Lingayat diaspora can be found in countries around the world, particularly the United States, Britain and Australia.
According to a 2000 article in The Hindu, there has been a simmering controversy and a diversity of views within the Lingayatism community, for a while, whether it is same as Veerashaivism, and about their relationship to Hinduism. In the decadal census, many Lingayats identify themselves as Hindus. Some have sought a religious minority status through which minority rights would apply to Lingayats. The benefit of such a recognition would make Lingayats eligible for special rights granted by the Indian Constitution to religious and linguistic minorities only.
According to a 2013 article by Times of India, some members of Lingayat community demand recognition of Lingayat as a separate religion. According to Sri Sharanbasava Devaru and some Lingayat monastic organization leaders, Lingayatism is neither a part of Hinduism nor a synonym for the Veerashaivaism. Other Lingayat-Veerashaiva monastic organizations, as well as historians from the Lingayat community such as Chidananda Murthy and G.S. Shivarudrappa disagree with this viewpoint, stating that the Lingayats and Veerashaiva are one community and a part of Hinduism.
According to an article in The Economist, others who have argued that Lingayatism should be considered a separate religion include the "atheist and a staunch left-winger" Gauri Lankesh, and a "fellow Lingayat and Congress Party politician" M. B. Patil. In July 2017, Congress - the political party in power in Karnataka - formed a team to "evolve public opinion in favour of declaring Veerashaiva Lingayat community as a separate religion", according to The New Indian Express. In August 2017, a rally march supporting Lingayatism as "not Hinduism" attracted almost 200,000 people, but other Lingayat monasteries consider Lingayatism to be a part of Hinduism. The Congress Party leader and Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah states that Lingayatism is "not Veerashaivism" and "not Hinduism". According to India Today, the ruling Congress party has publicly endorsed that Lingayatism is a separate religious group, not Hinduism. In contrast, the BJP Party leader, former Karnataka chief minister and a Lingayat follower Yeddyurappa disagrees, stating that "Lingayats are Veershaivas, we are Hindus" and considers this as creating religious differences, dividing people and politicizing of religion.
Most scholars, states Ramanujan, consider Lingayatism to be a sub-tradition within Hinduism. According to William McCormack, this is because "their [Lingayats] beliefs are syncretistic and include an assemblage of many Hindu elements, including the name of their god, Shiva, who is one of the chief figures of the Hindu pantheon."