Basavanna & Vir Shaivism Lingayat Movement

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B thought that he could live thereafter the live of an ascetic. In this temple town he saw the same corrupt society. He could not tolerate that. Now there was an instinct to fight ignorance and exploitation. While B was respected by all, there was an inner voice that urged him to go out into the larger world and work for humanity. He was aware of being dependent on the temple and realized that if he had a job, he could raise a band of dedicated followers.

The name that came to his mind was King Bijjala whose capital was Mangalavedhe. Unsure on whether he should leave the temple town, he hesitated, till Lord Sangameshwara appeared in his dream and assured him that he would always be there with him. Since B had a good knowledge of maths he could become an accountant.

Bijjala was a feudatory ruler under the Kalyana Chalukyas. The lives of B and Bijjala are intertwined and had a remarkable impact upon that of each other. Bijjala belonged to the family of the Kalachuris who originally belonged to Bundelkhand of Madhya Pradesh. They are ardent devotees of Lord Siva. Though a powerful dynasty they are were driven out and forced to settle down in different parts of India, one branch settled down at Mangalavedhe. Seeing a weak Taila II on the throne, Bijjala took many feudal leaders into confidence and dethroned Taila.

B was either related to Siddhadandanatha, the Chief of Treasury or by proving his mettle got a job as a ganaka or accountant in the state administration. With time B became Chief Treasury Officer. B was now a rich man and was in the prime of his life. While B had in his younger days dreamt of living the life of a sannyasi, now he married two ladies. With age came maturity. In one of his vachanas he argued in favor of married life and has remarked that the suppression of sexual instincts led to problems of various kinds.

His married life was happiest. Blessed with wealth he threw open the gates of his house to the poor and spent his last penny in the cause of his new religion. Called Virashaivism, the religion insisted that its followers should have single-minded devotion to one God, Siva. Vira means hero. This did not mean that they should show disrespect to other Gods. To them Siva is supreme. The term Lingayata is also used to describe the new religion. Lingayats are those who wear linga on their body. They are forbidden to go to the temple and worship the Shivalinga. To them worshipping God in a temple suggested that God was one who lived away from them. B had for the first time enlightened them on the true nature of worship. The Virashaivas are, therefore, enjoined to wear on their bodies, a small linga of the shape and size of a small round berry, flat at the bottom. It is called ishta linga (dear linga) as opposed to sthavara linga (fixed linga) of the temple. This linga is taken out twice a day, kept in the palm and worshipped. A Virashaiva is not expected to remove the linga at any time. This implies -–one, the individual soul is pashu (cattle) and that God is Pashupati, the master. The cattle should always be under the protection of the master. Two, the human soul is God himself and it is by the slow and steady practice that it can rise up and reach God and become God himself.

The Virashaiva religion expects its followers to respect the guru, linga and jangama. Guru is the person who initiates a person into Virashaivism and gives the linga. The initiate is asked to wear the linga always on his body. The word jangama literally means that which is moving or one who moves. The term is used to describe a holy person. A jangama is God in his visible form; he moves from place to place preaching. He is sometimes considered greater than God Himself, and hence should be treated with respect. Among bhakti, jnana and vairagya, the place of bhakti, as a way to realization of God is pre-eminent. The other two are subservient to bhakti.

Basava’s spirit of devotion and honesty made him famous far and wide. B could not see anybody flatter him, lest he became proud. With the multitude of guests B would spend the nights, singing and chanting the names of Shiva. B took many vows, of observing Shivaratri on all days of the year, he would view the devotees of God as God himself, that he would never criticize God’s devotees, he would act according to his words, he would give whatever sharanas asked for, and he would topple other religions and strive for the propagation of his faith. B severely condemned the evil aspects of other religions in his vachanas as was the practice that time.

Do and Don’ts - Once a person became a Virshaiva, he would be treated as equal. Virshaivism asked two things of an individual. One that he should sever connections with his former religion and get initiated into the new religion by wearing an ishta linga on the body; two is that he should have complete faith in Lord Shiva. The religious rites were simple: he should apply bhasma or holy ashes on the forehead, he should give up meat eating, wine-drinking and become a perfect vegetarian, he should always speak the truth, avoid stealing and killing, he should not be greedy nor must he be lazy, he should avoid going to a temple or a holy place, because the body itself is the temple and the place where Shiva’s men live is itself is a holy place, it is imperative for everyone to take up a job or profession, even if a person lacks the time or resources to perform worship, that should not worry him, for what is of real importance is the faith he has in God.

All this appealed to the poor and masses. Thousands came and embraced the new religion. Earlier B was an individual but here he had become a man of the masses. His spiritual sadhana went hand in hand with his social activities. During this period Bijjala who had usurped the Chalukyan throne in 1162 ad moved his capital to a bigger city Kalyana. B was now the Chief Treasurer of the empire, a bigger job than before. It gave an impetus to the social revolution that B had started in Mangaliveda.

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