The terms Lingayatism and Veerashaivism have been used synonymously,[note 1] but Veerashaivism may refer to the broader Veerashaiva philosophy which predates Lingayatism, to the historical community now called Lingayats, and to a contemporary (sub)tradition within Lingayatism with Vedic influences.[web 2][note 2] Meanwhile, Lingayatism may refer to the whole Lingayat community, but also to a contemporary (sub)tradition dedicated to Basava's original thought, and to a movement within this community which strives toward recognition as an independent religion. While some Vedic oriented Veerashaivas consider the two contemporary (sub)traditions to be "one and the same community" belonging to Hinduism,[web 3] Lingayats striving toward recognition as an independent religion regard Lingayatism to be different from Veerashaivism and Hinduism.
Lingayatism was founded, or revived,[note 2] by the 12th-century philosopher and statesman Basava in Karnataka. Lingayat scholars thrived in northern Karnataka during the Vijayanagara Empire (14th-18th century). In the 21st century, some Lingayats have sought legal recognition as a religion distinct from Hinduism and Veerashaivas,[web 1][note 3] a request which gained support from the Karnataka government in 2018.[web 3][web 2]
Lingayatism is often considered a Hindu sect,[web 1][note 4] sharing beliefs with Indian religions,[note 5] but it rejects the authority of the Vedas, the caste system, and Hindu beliefs such as reincarnation and karma. Worship is centred on Shiva as the universal god in the iconographic form of Ishtalinga.[note 6] Lingayatism emphasises qualified monism, with philosophical foundations similar to those of the 11th-12th-century South Indian philosopher Ramanuja.[web 1]
Contemporary Lingayatism is influential in South India, especially in the state of Karnataka. Today, Lingayats, along with Shaiva Siddhanta followers, Naths, Pashupaths, Kapalikas and others constitute the Shaiva population.[web 4][note 7]
The adherents of Lingayatism are nowadays 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.
Historically, Lingayats were known as Virashaivas, or "ardent, heroic worshippers of Shiva." According to Blake Michael, the term Veerashaivism refers both to a "philosophical or theological system as well as to the historical, social and religious movement which originated from that system." Lingayatism refers to the modern adherents of this religion. The term Lingayats came to be commonly used during the British colonial period.
In 1926, the Bombay High Court ruled that "the Veerashaivas are not Shudras; they are Lingi Brahmins [Brahmins who wear the Linga] of the highest order." While the administrators of the 1931 Census "were instructed to list them as Lingi Brahmins," the term was not being used by Lingayats to describe themselves.
The terms Lingayatism and Veerashaivism have been used synonymously,[web 1][note 1] but Veerashaivism may refer to the broader Veerashaiva philosophy which predates Lingayatism; to the historical community now called Lingayats; and to a contemporary (sub)tradition within Lingayatism with Vedic influences, "who form a tenth of the total Lingayat population."[web 2] Meanwhile, Lingayatism may refer to the whole Lingayat community, but also to a contemporary (sub)tradition dedicated to Basava's original thought, and to a movement within this community which strives toward recognition as an independent religion. While some Vedic oriented Veerashaivas consider the two contemporary (sub)traditions to be "one and the same community" belonging to Hinduism,[web 3] Lingayats striving toward recognition as an independent religion regard them to be different strands of thought.
According to a tradition which developed after Basava's time,[note 2]Veerashaivism was transmitted by five Panchacharyas, namely Renukacharya, Darukacharya, Ekorama, Panditharadhya, and Vishweswara, and first taught by Renukacharya to sage Agasthya, a Vedic seer.[web 5] A central text in this tradition is Siddhanta Shikhamani, which was written in Sanskrit, and gives an elaboration of "the primitive traits of Veerashaivism [found] in the Vedas and the Upanishads" and "the concrete features given to it in the latter parts (Uttarabhaga) of the Saivagamas."[web 6] While Veerashaivas regard the Siddhanta Shikhamani to predate Basava, it may actually have been composed in the 13th or 14th century, post-dating Basava.[web 5]
According to Gauri Lankesh,[note 8] "Lingayats are followers of Basavanna," while Veerashaivism is a Vedic Shaiva tradition, which "accepts the Vedic texts and practices like caste and gender discrimination."[web 5] Basava's reform movement attracted Shaivite Brahmins from Andhra Pradesh; a century after Basava, "their descendants started mixing practices from their former religion with Lingayatism."[web 5] Basava's teachings also got mixed-up with Vedic teachings because much sharana literature was lost after the exile of sharana authors from the Bijjala kingdom.[web 5]
According to Gauri Lankesh,[note 8] Veerashaivism is preserved and transmitted by five peethas (Rambhapuri, Ujjaini, Kedar, Shreeshail, Kashi), which play an essential role in the Veerashaiva tradition.[web 5] In contrast, the virakta monastic organisation upheld "the ideals of Basava and his contemporaries."[note 9] According to Bairy, the virakta tradition criticised "[t]he Panchacharya tradition, the Mathas which belonged to it and the (upper) castes which owed their allegiance to them" for their support of Brahmins and their deviation from Basava's ideals.[note 10]
According to Sri Sharanbasava Devaru of Charanteshwar Mutt, interviewed in 2013, Lingayatism is a separate religion, distinct from the Hindu cultural identity, while Veerashaivism is a Shaivite sect "based on Vedic philosophy."[web 8] Sri Sharanbasava Devaru further states that Veerashaivism "started gaining importance only after 1904 with some mutts mixing Veerashaivism with Lingayatism."[web 8]
According to India Today, while "Veerashaivas' claim that the two communities are one and the same," orthodox Lingayats claim that they are different.[web 9] Lingayats claim that Veerashaivas do not truly follow Basava, accept Vedic literature, and "worship idols of Lord Shiva."[web 9] Veerashaivas further "owe allegiance to various religious centres (mutts), [while] the Lingayats mostly follow their own gurus."[web 9]
The Sharana-movement, which started in the 11th century, is regarded by some as the start of Veerashaivism. It started in a time when Kalamukha Shaivism, which was supported by the ruling classes, was dominant, and in control of the monasteries. The Sharana-movement was inspired by the Nayanars, and emphasised personal religious experience over text-based dogmatism.
The traditional legends and hagiographic texts state Basava to be the founder of the Lingayats and its secular practices.[web 1] He was a 12th-century Hindu philosopher, statesman, Kannada poet in the Shiva-focused Bhakti movement and a social reformer during the reign of the Kalachuri king Bijjala II (reigned 1157-1167) in Karnataka, India.[web 10][note 11]
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 personalised 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, and caste distinctions, 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.
After initially supporting Basava, king Bijjala II disagreed with Basava's rejection of caste distinctions. In 1167 the Veerashaivas were repressed, and most of them left Kaly?na, Bijjala's new capital, spreading Basava's teachings into a wider area in southern India.
After Basava's death, Shaivism consolidated its influence in southern India, meanwhile adjusting to Hindu orthodoxy. Basava's nephew Channabasava organised the community and systematised Virasaiva theology, moving the Virashaiva community toward the mainstream Hindu culture. Basava's role in the origins of Shaivism was downplayed, and a mythology developed in which the origins of Veerashaivism were attributed to the five Panchacharyas, descending to earth in the different world-ages to teach Shaivism. In this narrative, Basava was regarded as a reviver of this ancient teaching.[note 12]
Monasteries of the older Saiva schools, "such as the Kalamukha," were taken over by the Virasaivas. Two kinds of monastic orders developed. Due to their roots in the traditional schools, the gurusthalada monasteries were more conservative, while the viraktas "constituted the true Virasaiva monastic organisation, shaped by the ideals of Basava and his contemporaries."
In the 14th-15th century, a Lingayat revival took place in northern Karnataka in the 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 Sunyasampadane grew out of the scholarly discussions in an Anubhava Mantapa, 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.
In the 1871 and the 1881 census, Lingayats were registered as shudras,[note 13] resulting in claims from the Lingayats for a higher caste status, which were objected and ridiculed by the Brahmins. Lingayats persisted in their claims for decades, and their persistence was strengthened by Lingayat presence within the government, and a growing level of literacy and employment in journalism and the judiciary. In 1926, the Bombay High Court ruled that "the Veerashaivas are not Shudras."
According to Schouten, in the early 20th century Lingayats tried to raise their social status, by stressing the specific characteristics of their history and of their religious thought as being different different from the Hindu-culture. According to Gauri Lankesh[note 8] "early in the 20th century, the head of the Hangal Math established the Akhila Bharatha [All India] Veerashaiva Mahasabha and declared that it was the representative body of all Lingayats and Veerashaivas." In 1904 "a resolution was passed saying Lingayats and Veerashaivas were Hindus." But in 1940, "the mahasabha passed a resolution saying Lingayats were not Hindus."[web 5] In the 1910s, the narrative of Basava and Allama as the "founding pillars" of the Lingayats gained new importance for the identity of parts of the Lingayat-community, with other parts responded with rejection of this "resurrection."
According to Ramanujan, "A modern attempt was made to show Lingayats as having a religion separate from Hindu when Lingayats received discrete entry in the Indian constitution of 1950."[web 12][web 1] In the 2000s, the call for a separate religious identity gained new momentum.[note 3]
In 2000, the Akhila Bharatha [All India] Veerashaiva Mahasabha started a campaign for recognition of "Veerashaivas or Lingayats" as a non-Hindu religion, and a separate listing in the Census. Recognition as a religious minority would make Lingayats "eligible for rights to open and manage educational institutions given by the Constitution to religious and linguistic minorities."[web 12][note 14] In 2013, the Akhila Bharatha [All India] Veerashaiva Mahasabha president was still lobbying for recognition of Lingayatism as a separate religion, arguing that Lingayatism rejects the social discrimination propagated by Hinduism.[web 13]
In 2017, the demands for a separate religious identity gained further momentum on the eve of the 2018 elections in Karnataka.[web 14] While the Congress party supports the calls for Lingayatism as a separate religion,[web 15] the BJP regards Lingayats as Veerashaivas and Hindus.[note 15] In August 2017, a rally march supporting Lingayatism as "not Hinduism" attracted almost 200,000 people,[web 14] while the issue further divides the Lingayat and Veerashaiva communities,[web 9] and various opinions exist within the Lingayat and Veerashaiva communities. According to India Today, "Veerashaivas claim that the two communities are one and the same," while orthodox Lingayats claim that they are different.[web 9] Veerashaivas further "owe allegiance to various religious centres (mutts), [while] the Lingayats mostly follow their own gurus."[web 9] Nevertheless, some mutts support the campaign for the status of a separate religion, while "others content to be counted as a caste within Hinduism."[web 14]
In March 2018, the Nagamohan Das committee advised "to form a separate religion status for the Lingayats community." In response, the Karnataka government approved this separate religious status, a decision which was decried by Veerashaivas.[web 3][web 2] It recommended the Indian government to grant the religious minority status to the sect.[web 19][web 2]
Lingayatism is often considered a Hindu sect,[web 1][note 4] because it shares beliefs with Indian religions,[note 5] and "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." Yet, Lingayatism also "makes several departures from mainstream Hinduism," and rejects the authority of the Vedas, the caste system and the Hindu concepts of reincarnation and karma. Its worship is centred on Hindu god Shiva as the universal god in the iconographic form of Ishtalinga.[note 6] They believe that they will be reunited with Shiva after their death by wearing the lingam.
Lingayatism worship is centred on the Hindu god Shiva as the universal god in the iconographic form of Ishtalinga.[note 6] The Lingayats always wear the Ishtalinga held with a necklace.[web 1] 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.[web 1]
Lingayatism teaches a path to an individual's spiritual progress, and describes it as a six-stage Satsthalasiddhanta. This concept progressively evolves:
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.
While they accept the concept of reincarnation, they believe that Lingayats are in their last lifetime, and believe that will be reunited with Shiva after their death by wearing the lingam. Lingayats are not cremated, but "are buried in a sitting, meditative position, holding their personal linga in the right hand."
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.
Sripati, a Veerashaiva scholar, explained Lingayatism philosophy in Srikara Bhashya, in Vedanta terms, stating Lingayatism to be a form of qualified non-dualism, 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 emphasises 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.
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, labour". 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, skilful 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.
Lingadharane is the ceremony of initiation among Lingayats. Though lingadharane can be performed at any age, it is usually performed when a fetus 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.
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. Saints and Sharanas like Allamaprabhu, Akka Mahadevi, Siddarama and Basava were at the forefront of this development during the 12th century.
The Basava Purana, a Telugu biographical epic poem which narrates the life story of Basava, was written by Palkuriki Somanatha in 13th-century, and an updated 14th century Kannada version was written by Bhima Kavi in 1369. Both are sacred texts in Lingayatism.
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".
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.
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.[note 16]
Significant populations are also found in parts of 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.[web 14]
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