Sri Mahatma Basaveshwar (1131-1196)


Shree Basava (also known as Basaveshwara or Basavanna) is known as the founder of the lingayat religious sect in India. He brought on a social transformation, often referred as "revolution" in that he changed the lower caste people into a higher thinking of God or Shiva. He is said to have been a mystic by temperament, an idealist by choice, a statesman by profession, a man of letters by taste, a humanist by sympathy and a social reformer by conviction.

Basava was also a part of "Bhakti Pantha of 12th century and one of the main figures with his contemporary lingayata or blessed people sect of Hinduism. He and his followers with Allama defined a new way of looking at God and life with numerous Vachanas (sacred hymns).

Born into a brahmin family residing in the small town of Bagewadi in the area that is present day northern Karnataka in 1131. Basava grew up in a strict, religious household where he was made to wear a sacred thread known as the Janivara. In childhood, he was also able to perform many complex religious rites. After the death of his parents soon after, he rejected Upanayana ceremony and ritualism, claiming those who performed the rituals had no "true insight." By sixteen years old, Basava had rid himself of the Janivara and subsequently, all brahmin traditions.

He left Bagewadi and spent the next 12 years studying Sangameshwara the presiding deity of Sangama, at the then Shaivite stronghold of Kudala Sangama. There, he conversed with more conservative brahmin scholars and developed his spiritual and religious views in association with his societal understanding. His views included believing there is only one true, perfect God and additionally, the priests of Shiva, known as Jangamas, deserve utmost respect. He believed people who were in search of a false god needed to be shown the right way. He preached equality among humankind and condemned all barriers of caste, creed and sex, fighting against the caste system. He is also known as Krantikari (revolutionary) Basavanna for his revolution in the social system of the 12th century.

After marrying the daughter of his maternal uncle and also acquiring a second wife, Basava became a minister in the court of King Bijjala who ruled 1157-1167 at Mangalaveda. There, he established the Anubhaua Mantapa. a spiritual parliament to openly discuss Veerashaivism, which attracted many saints from throughout India. He believed in the principle 'Work is Worship'. It was at this time that the Vachanas, simple and easy-to-understand poetic writings which contained essential teachings, were written.

Basava created much controversy by actively ignoring the societal rules associated with the caste system, which he wished to abolish. By allowing untouchables to have lunch at his residence and praising the historic marriage of a Brahmin woman and an Untouchable man. Orthodox members of King Bijjala’s court went to the King with such stories, some true and some false. Bijjala, afraid of a possible uprising in orthodox society, ordered the newly married couple to harsh punishment. Basava was deeply disturbed by this turn of events and blamed himself for the couple's demise. He left Kalyana in 1195 A.D. for Kudala Sangama and passed away in the year 1196.

Basava said that the roots of social life are embedded not in the cream of the society but in the scum of the society. With his wide sympathy, he admitted high and low alike into his fold. The Anubhava Mantapa established by Basava laid down the foundation of social democracy. Basava believed that man becomes great, not by his birth but by his worth to the society. This means faith in the dignity of man and the belief that a common man is as good a part of society as a man of status.

This list was prepared by Dr. Jinadatha

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