Basaveshwara and Veera Shaivism - Issues In News

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On May 3, 2022, the nation celebrated the birth anniversary of Basavanna or Basaveshwara, the 12th-century socio-religious reformer of Karnataka who also was the founding saint of the Lingayat sect.

Aspirants would find this topic very helpful while preparing for the IAS Exam.

Introduction:

The 12th century philosopher and the statesman of Karnataka, Basaveshwara found the Veera Shaivism. Veera Shaivism was spread by his followers known as Sharanas. They are known as Veera (heroic) Shaivaites and also Lingayats meaning bearers of Siva Linga. A pendant which has encased Linga is constantly worn around the neck by the Shaivites. These people are also known by the names Shivasharanas and Lingavantas.

Similar to the revolt against the Catholic authority by the Protestants in the 16th century; the system of four ashramas, authority of the Vedas, caste hierarchy, ritualistic priesthood, the plurality of gods, sacrifice of animals, temple worship etc were rejected by the Lingayat movement.

Key Facts for UPSC Exam:

  • Basavanna was a 12th-century philosopher, statesman, Kannada poet and a social reformer during the reign of the Kalachuri-dynasty king Bijjala I in Karnataka, India.
  • He was born in Karnataka in 1131 CE.
  • He is also known as Bhakti Bhandari (literally, the treasurer of devotion), or Basaveswara (Lord Basava).
  • Basavanna used his poetry, known as Vachanaas, to raise societal consciousness. Gender or social discrimination, superstitions and rituals were all rejected by the Basavanna.
  • Basavanna is credited with several major Lingayat works, including Vachana, such as the Shat-Sthala-Vachana, Kala-jnana-Vachana, Mantra-Gopya, Ghatna Chakra-Vachana, and Raja-yoga-Vachana.
  • He established new public organisations such as the Anubhava Mantapa (or “hall of spiritual experience”), which encouraged men and women from all socioeconomic backgrounds to openly debate spiritual and ordinary life concerns.
  • Basava fought against the inhuman practice of the caste system, which discriminated against people based on their birth.
  • He presided over the Sharana movement, which drew individuals from all classes and, like most strands of the Bhakti movement, generated a corpus of literature, the vachanas, that revealed the spiritual realm of the Veerashaiva saints.
  • Basavanna’s Sharana movement’s equality was too radical for its time.
  • Basaveshwara is the first Kannadiga to have a commemorative coin made in his honour in celebration of his social reforms.
  • In November 2015, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a statue of Basaveshwara on the banks of the Thames in Lambeth, London.
  • He died in 1167 CE.

Basavanna:

According to the Veera Shaiva tradition, Basaveshwara popularly known as Basavanna is said to have developed a deep devotion towards Lord Shiva – Kudalasangama “Lord of the meeting rivers”. Basavanna, at the age of 28, came to realise that the brotherhood of man rests on the doctrine of a personalized, individual Godhood in the form of Ishtalinga (“personal Linga/ Chosen Linga”). Out of this spiritual realization rose the central Veera Shaiva belief that revers human body as a moving temple of God and this temple should be kept in an eternal state of sublimity and purity.

Basavanna travelled to Mangalavede seeking to serve in the royal court of King Bijjala after having completed his studies at Sangama. He rose to the rank of chief officer of the royal treasury in his troubled Shaivite country at odds with Jainism and Buddhism. Basavanna’s revolutionary message of the new, visionary religious society swiftly spread across the masses, due to his position.

Every evening, Basaveshwara gave discourses denouncing various social practices such as caste hierarchy, astrology, building of temples, magical practices etc. He urged the masses to develop rational thinking and worship Lord Siva within themselves. Here, he developed a large Shaivite religious movement. He lived and preached here for twenty long years. The “Hall of Siva experience” Sivanubhava Mandapa became a place of gathering for discourse. Basavanna died at the age of 62.

IAS aspirants should know more about the topics in the below-mentioned links:

Vachanas:

The Vachanas or prose lyrics of Basavanna and Allama Prabhu contain their doctrines. The Vachanas literally translate to “what is said”. These Vachanas reject the legends of Gods and Goddesses; scorn the Vedas, mock ritual practices.  The Vachanakaras or the authors of Vachanas saw religion in its formal way – as the establishment, static institution which promises human beings, security and predictability while, they knew that the religion should be spontaneous, dynamic, free of bargain extracted in exchange of salvation. These Vachanas written in Kannada language – central to the life of Lingayats, are filled with humour, ridicule, truth-seeking, bristling with monotheism, asking the devotees to enter into the realm of personal spirituality.

Note: To read more about Vachana Sahitya, visit the linked article.

Panchachara and Ashtavarana:

The means of attainment as described and accepted by the Veera Shaivas depend on the panchachara (five codes of conduct) and ashtavarana (eight shields) to protect the body as the abode of the Lord.

Panchachara or the five codes are:

  1. Lingachara (everyday worship of the Sivalinga)
  2. Sadachara (paying attention to vocation and duty)
  3. Sivachara (equality among members and acknowledging Siva as the one God)
  4. Bhrityachara (humility towards all creatures) and
  5. Ganachara (defense of the community and its tenets)

Ashtavarna or the eight shields are:

  1. Guru
  2. Linga
  3. Jangama (wandering monk)
  4. Paduka (water from bathing the Linga or guru’s feet)
  5. Prasada (sacred offering)
  6. Vibhuti (holy ash)
  7. Rudraksha (holy beads) and
  8. Mantra (Namah Sivaya)

‘Linga Diksha’ is the formal initiation into the Veera Shaiva religion. It is a rite performed for both the genders. Here, the sacred thread ceremony is replaced, enjoining the Lingayat (devotee) to worship the personal Sivalinga on a daily basis. Lingayats place great emphasis on this life, on equality of all members (regardless of sex, education, caste, etc.) and social service. Free will is stressed upon in the faith, affirming a purposeful world. It avows pure monotheism.

In a Lingayat family, when a child is born, he/she introduced to the faith on the very same day. A visit is made to a Jangama (monk). The Jangama bestows the child with a small Sivalinga encased in a pendant tied to a thread. This encased Sivalinga is the personal/ chosen Linga which must be worn around one’s neck throughout one’s life.

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