The Social Aspect of Veerashaivism

Veerashaivism as a social force owes its birth to Basava. It gathered momentum from Shivanubhava Mantapa, the religious house of experience which was a spiritual and social institution. Basava founded this institution around 1160 A.D., mainly to make man realize his place in the scheme of universe; to breathe new spirit into the then decaying religion; to give woman an equality of status and independent outlook; to abolish caste distinctions; to encourage occupations and manual labour; and to countenance simplicity of living and singleness of purpose. This institution, therefore bears an eloquent testimony to the genius of Basava, whose field of action was as varied as it was vast. It reveals not only his practical wisdom but also the happy blending in him of head, heart and hand.

The members of the Veerashaiva or Lingayata community are adherents to Ahimsa. Hence they are strict vegetarians. They vehemently condemn cruelty to animals and animal-sacrifice. According to Basava ‘Daya’ or kindness is the true hallmark of religion. The position held by a woman in the Lingayata community is undoubtedly unique. They have as many rights and claims in religious, social and educational spheres as the males themselves. They are entitled to Diksha and Samskara. They are also eligible to read the Scriptures. Female education was given special significance and attention so that the community could boast of many heroines, poetesses and female prophets such as Mahadevi, Muktayi, Nagambika, Nilambika, Gangambika, etc. Great and invaluable was the service rendered by these women saints to the spread of Lingayata religion. The dignity of manual labour was upheld; the importance of monotheism (the worship of one God in the form of Ishtalinga) was incalculable. The caste system of the Smrties was denied. Equality among the members was established. Native language (Kannada) was encouraged and used in all walks of life. As a result, the Vachana literature, a unique form of its kind, came into existence. Many a saint has sung vachanas, which are noted for their exceptional charm, simplicity, elegance of diction and depth of thought. All these reforms in the Lingayata community were mainly due to the efforts of Basava.




This article ‘The Social Aspect of Veerashaivism’ is taken from H.H.Mahatapasvi Shri Kumarswamiji’s book, ‘Prophets of Veerashaivism’.