Background & History of Veerashaiva-Lingayats
- Lord Veerabhadra, son of Lord Shiva is believed to be the founder and propagator of the Veerashaiva philosophy. The complete philosophy of Veerashaivism is explained in the text Siddhanta Shikhamani. Scholars of Veerashaivism trace their roots to Hindu traditions and practices.
- It is believed that the Jagadguru Panchacharyas of the Veerashaiva cult (The Five Sages) emerged from the Lingas at the commencement of each Yuga and established the Veerashaiva Dharma. The Five sages set up Five Peethas of this philosophy at Rambhapuri (Karnataka), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh), Kedar (Uttarakhand), Shrishailam (Andhra Pradesh) and Kashi (Uttara Pradesh). These five mutts have been carrying on great work in the field of spiritual, social and religious upliftment of people. Many of these mutts are managing renowned temples which have Hindus of all faiths and traditions as devotees.
Historical Facts & References about Veerashaiva-Lingayats
There is a reference to the philosophy of Lingadharanam (wearing of Linga around the neck) made in the Anushasana Parva of Mahabharata during a conversation between Yudhishtira & Bheeshma. It clearly shows that such a practice existed even before the birth of Guru Basaveshwara.
- The Director General of Archaeological Survey of India (1902-1928), Sir John Hubert Marshall oversaw the excavations of Harappa & Mohenjodaro cities of Indus Valley Civilization. In his work published in the year 1931, he made observations that the statues resembling Ishtalinga & Taavaralinga dating back to 3rdCentury were found during the excavation exercise.
- There is a reference in the “Guruvamshakavya” published by the Sringeri Sharada Peetham that the sacred Chandramouleshwara Linga (Shiva Linga) that is one of the presiding diety of the Sringeri Mutt was given by Jagadguru Renukacharya of the Rambhapuri Peetham to Adi Shankaracharya in 8thCentury BC. This is clear evidence of the fact that there existed no distinction between Veerashaiva-Lingayats and other Hindu practices.
- In the year 1941, the High Court of Allahabad made an observation regarding the existence of the Veerashaiva Pancha Peethas prior to 574 AD (6th Century) while adjudicating the dispute between Kashi Peetha and its creditors. The High Court also had made an observation regarding the contribution made by the Kashi Peetha for the development of Banaras Hindu University.
- All the above historical references, evidences the existence of Veerashaiva Philosophy which includes worshipping of Shiva Linga and Lingadharanam (wearing of Linga around the neck) prior to 3rd It also points towards the indistinguishable commonality between the Veerashaiva-Lingayat cult and Hindu traditions.
Basavanna and the Veerashaiva-Lingayat Philosophy
- Basavanna is one of the most respected spiritual & social reformer of Karnataka, who rejected gender and social discrimination and played a pivotal role in spreading social awareness through his Vachanas. He is known for his progressive views and is considered to be reformer in the larger Hindu faith.
- Basavanna was born in the 12thCentury in a Brahmin family and he later embraced the already existing Veerashaiva tradition. A detailed study of the “Kalachuri” inscriptions reveals that Basavanna was not the founder of any religion but a reviver and reformer of an already existing spiritual tradition.
- Basavanna promoted the concept of wearing “Ishtalinga” around the neck (Lingadharanam), the practice that the Veerashaiva cult which was already in existence. Never in his vachanas or other writings has he used the word ‘Lingayat’ nor has he written anything that indicates that he started a religion distinct from the Veerashaiva tradition.
- In the year 2016,the State Government of Karnataka published the 3rdedition of “Vachana Mahasamputa” under the principal editorship of scholar MM Kalaburgi. It is recorded in there that Basavanna in his Vachana No. 1092 states that he had become a true Veerashaiva from a mere Shaiva.
- The Encyclopaedia Brittanica considers Basavanna as a Hindu religious reformer and as a subject of Basava Purana (a sacred text of Hindu Lingayat Sect)
- Basavanna always believed that Veerashaiva is indicative of a philosophy and that the word Lingayat is indicative of a religious practice within the philosophy. Attributing a distinct religious tone to his teachings when they originally do not have any such connotations is impermissible.
- The Akhila Bharatiya Veerashaiva Mahasabha was founded in the year 1904 and in its first resolution passed at Dharwad, it stated that Basavanna was not a founder of any distinct religion but was only a reviver of the already existing Veerashaiva philosophy.
Genesis of the demand for a separate Lingayat Religion Status in 2013 & its rejection by UPA Government.
- The Akhila Bharatiya Veerashaiva Mahasabha under the Presidenship of Shamanur Shivashankarappa(Congress Leader from Karnataka) made representations to the then AICC President Sonia Gandhi and Petroleum Minister Sri Veerappa Moily in the year 2013 to recognize Veerashaiva-Lingayat as a separate independent religion. Smt. Sonia Gandhi had forwarded the request to the Minister of Home Affairs Sri. Sushilkumar Shinde to adjudicate the request. However the UPA led Union Government had rejected the representation of the Mahasabha stating that “The Veerashaiva-Lingayat are a sect of Hindus and not an independent religion”.
Divisive politics of Congress in Karnataka
- Being fully aware of the fact that the previous representations were rejected by the Central Government led by Congress and knowing fully well that the efforts to recommend a separate Lingayat religion shall not pass legal muster, Karnataka’s Chief Minister Sri Siddaramaiah devised a ploy to divide the monolithic Veerashaiva-Lingayat community with an ulterior motive of gaining unjustly during elections. In pursuance of his plan, he engineered a minuscule faction of Lingayats to make representation requesting to declare Lingayat as an independent religion and also to accord Minority status.
- These requests were forwarded to the Minority Department of Govt. of Karnataka which in turn forwarded the same to the Karnataka State Minority Commission.
- On 22ndDecember 2017, the Karnataka State Minority Commission constituted a 7 member Expert Committee headed by Retd. Justice Nagmohan Das to study the representations and submit a report. The members of the committee included Political scientist Muzaffar Assadi, former Chairman of the Karnataka Backward Classes Commission CS Dwarakanath, Head of the Kannada Chair at JNU Purushothama Bilimale, Chairman of the Kannada Development Authority SG Siddaramaiah and senior journalist Sarjoo Katkar. Most importantly, none of these committee members belong to the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community.
- It is also pertinent to note that all the six members of the said committee were hand-picked to suit the ideological convictions of the Chief Minister. It was clear from day one that the committee and its consultations with stakeholders was a mere procedural formality and that its mandate was prefixed by the Chief Minister.
- On 6thJanuary 2018, the committee met for the first time and addressed a press conference and stated that the committee would need a minimum of 6 months to study the representations and submit a report. There was also a demand to add a women member to the expert committee which was not even taken into consideration.
- However, due to the extreme pressure from Chief Minister Siddaramaiah himself, the committee declared to take up the public representations on 2nd & 3rdof February 2018. The committee further decided to scrutinize the public representations on 26th, 27th and 28th of February 2018.
- Thereafter, without further consultations or deliberations, the committee submitted a report recommending a separate minority status for Lingayats on the ground that they do not form a part of Hindu religion and that they must be accorded the status of an independent minority religion. This recommendation was hurriedly accepted by the cabinet on 19th March 2018 and the Cabinet has taken a decision to –
- To accord Lingayat/VeerashaivaLingayat/ believers in Basava Philosophy as religious minority under the Karnataka State MinoritiesCommission Act.
- Apart from this, the State Cabinet has also decided to recommend to the Central Government for declaring Lingayat/VeerashaivaLingayat/ believers in Basava Philosophy as religious minority.
- The decision of the cabinet shows that the intention of the Congress government is to balkanize not only the Hindu community but also to divide the monolithic Veerashaiva-Lingayat community into two. It is clear that this is done with the sole intention of breaking the powerful Veerashaiva-Lingayat vote bloc which has traditionally favored the BJP and nothing else.
- The cabinet note also clearly mentions that the granting of independent – minority status to the Lingayat community will not provide them with constitutional benefits at the cost of upsetting the already existing minorities. The State Government has stated that the Lingayats will be eligible for reservation only under 3B category which they have already been enjoying. Thus, it is clear that in the existing reservation scheme in Karnataka, the Lingayats will not get any additional benefits that the minority status would otherwise have accrued. It goes to show that this whole exercise is mere eyewash.
- The matter relating to recognition of a religion has always been outside the purview of the State. Religion and religious matters have to be decided by the leaders of the said community itself and not by the State. However, with an ulterior motive to gain unjustly during the upcoming elections, Chief Minister Siddaramiah has tried to divide the monolithic Veerashaiva- Lingayat community and also has made efforts to divide the Hindu society.
- It is quite ironical that the Basava philosophy and its believers are not confined to a religion or a caste, but it is a universal philosophy applying to everyone through all walks of life. It may be pertinent to note that many persons in different social groups including SC / STs are followers of Basavatatva. But the present Congress Government, by giving it a religious colour, has sought to destroy the very basic universalism of Basava philosophy and also deprive the SC / ST their constitutional rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution.
- Veerashaivas and Lingayats have been one entity ever since its existence. This was further reiterated by the 111 year old Pontiff Dr Shivakumar Swamiji of Siddaganga Mutt that Veerashaiva and Lingayats are one and the same and that there was no difference.
Legal Validity of this exercise.
As per the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992, it is for the Central Government to recognize a pre-existing religion as a minority religion. The State Government cannot recommend the Centre to treat the Lingayat sect as a minority religion when the same is not even recognized as a distinct religion in Karnataka.
- The Supreme Court in Bal Patil V/s Union of Indiahad observed in its Judgement dated 8.08.2005 that the primary objective of the Commissions set up for Minorities is to is to create social conditions where there remains no necessity to shield or protect rights of minority or majority. It also observed that “The Commission instead of encouraging claims from different communities for being added to a list of notified minorities under the Act, should suggest ways and means to help create social conditions where the list of notified minorities is gradually reduced and done away with altogether”
- The extract of the Supreme Court observation is extracted hereunder –
“The constitutional ideal, which can be gathered from the group of articles in the Constitution under Chapters of Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties, is to create social conditions where there remains no necessity to shield or protect rights of minority or majority.
The above mentioned constitutional goal has to be kept in view by the Minorities Commissions set up at the Central or State levels. Commissions set up for minorities have to direct their activities to maintain integrity and unity of India by gradually eliminating the minority and majority classes. If, only on the basis of a different religious thought or less numerical strength or lack of health, wealth, education, power or social rights, a claim of a section of Indian society to the status of ‘minority’ is considered and conceded, there would be no end to such claims in a society as multi-religious and multi- linguistic as India is. A claim by one group of citizens would lead to a similar claim by another group of citizens and conflict and strife would ensue. As such, the Hindu society being based on caste, is itself divided into various minority groups. Each caste claims to be separate from the other. In a caste-ridden Indian society, no section or distinct group of people can claim to be in majority. All are minorities amongst Hindus. Many of them claim such status because of their small number and expect protection from the State on the ground that they are backward. If each minority group feels afraid of the other group, an atmosphere of mutual fear and distrust would be created posing serious threat to the integrity of our Nation. That would sow seeds of multi-nationalism in India. It is, therefore, necessary that Minority Commission should act in a manner so as to prevent generating feelings of multinationalism in various sections of people of Bharat.
The Commission instead of encouraging claims from different communities for being added to a list of notified minorities under the Act, should suggest ways and means to help create social conditions where the list of notified minorities is gradually reduced and done away with altogether.”
Therefore it is very evident that the Congress has continued the dangerous British policy of divide and rule. Planting and instigating artificial divisions amongst the various sections of society has been practiced by the Congress since long. The recent Patel reservation movement in Gujarat and the blind support that the Congress offered and now the conspiracy of dividing the Veerashaiva and Lingayats from Hindu religion and from each other in Karnataka is a classic example of its insidious agenda of sowing seeds of divisiveness in society for petty political gain.
- It may be concluded that the entire exercise of engineering representations from a sponsored set of people; setting up a hand-picked expert committee without a single representation from Veerashaiva-Lingayat community; the hurried manner in which the so-called expert committee submitted a report recommending independent Lingayat religion with minority status; and the Cabinet almost on cue, accepting the recommendations of the committee knowing fully well that this demand was earlier rejected by their own party led government in 2013 is a mere political gimmick with far reaching disastrous consequences for the society.
- It is clear that this exercise is done with an ulterior motive of gaining unjustly during the upcoming assembly elections by dividing the broader Hindu community by creating unrest & uncertainties in the minds of public.
- The BJP in Karnataka has taken a stand that both Veerashaiva and Lingayats are one & the same and that there is no difference at all in any respects between the two. The party has also taken a stand that it shall support any decision of the Veerashaiva Mahasabha and the 111 year old Siddaganga Seer on this issue.