(Last Updated on : 12/02/2009)
Basavanna was a great social reformer, a great saint and religious teacher of 12th century. He lived in a village known as Bagewadi in Bijapur district of Karnataka. His father was a Saiva Brahmin and the headman of the village. Basavanna grew up learning the Vedas and other sacred lore. He also loved listening to religious discourses since his childhood days. He used to listen the stories of devotees as a child and never liked the superstitions plaguing society, the prevalent caste system and rituals associated with religion. Basavanna is considered as one of the greatest writer of vachanas, which is a kind of poetic prose in Kannada. His compositions include 1400 vachanas, which were written in a very simple style. These had a great appeal to the masses as they were sung along with musical instruments.
The decisive moment of the life of Basavanna was during his visit to a tiny village in Bijapur district. This is the place where the river Malaprabha joins the river Krishna and home to the deity named 'Sangameshwara'. The mind of Basavanna achieved an ultimate peace when he visited this temple. He came out of the turmoil going on in his mind and decided to settle down at this spot. A temple-official named Ishanya Guru, who belonged to the Lakulisha-Pashupata Saiva sect, noted this deep love of Basava's for God. So, he asked him to stay in temple premises to undertake minor responsibilities connected with the temple. Since then Basavanna started to worship the deity of the temple. His style of worship was different from the usual prescribed format. Basavanna used to perform worship by dancing and singing with utter devotion. Thus, people of neighbouring villages started to visit the temple to watch him worshipping with heart core devotion. He also used to teach them devotional songs and also lectured to them about Lord Siva and his followers. He stayed there for 12 years, which was the most significant period of his life.
Thus Basavanna turned to a great religious leader very soon. It is believed that he started a new branch of Saivism known as Vira-Saivism, which was based on a new social outlook. Few of the Basavanna's followers consider him the founder of 'Vira-Saivism'. But, some others believe that 'Vira-Saivism' has much ancient origin and Basavanna only revived it. He believed in a single-minded devotion to one supreme deity i, e, Siva.
This faith is also known as 'Lingayata' or 'Lingavanta'. The followers of this 'Lingayata' wear a small 'Linjja' on their body.
According to Basavanna, worshipping a 'Linga' inside any shrine makes the devotee feel at a distance from the God. Hence he prescribed for wearing a small 'Linga' in a piece of cloth tied to the neck or put it in a small box and wear it hanging from the neck resting on the chest. It is worshipped twice a day taking out of the cloth or the box.
Basavanna believed in simple living and he disliked any kind of evil practices. He advocated for a clean life and asked his followers to take bath regularly and also asked to remain faithful to one's spouse. He desired his followers to adhere to truth and non-violence. King Bijjala, who was a great follower of Jainism, made Basavanna his Prime Minister. Basavanna got married with the sister of the king.
As per the Basavanna, the followers of 'Lingayata' need to wear the holy ashes on the forehead, take vegetarian food only, abstain from alcohol, avoid stealing and take up a profession and work hard for a living. They need not visit temples as he considered the body itself to be a temple and any place where Siva's men live is a holy place. His teachings were spread all over by his followers and thus number of them increased. Basavanna is still memorised as a great social and religious leader and also as a great literary figure.