Hotels in India » The Lifestyle of India » Lingayats – Followers of Siva

Lingayats – Followers of Siva

If sparks fly I shall think my thirst and anger quelled. If the skies tear down I shall think them pouring down for my bath If a hillside slide on me I shall think it flower for my hair Lord, white as jasmine, If my head falls from my shoulder I shall think it your offering.

Yatra jivaha, tatra Sivaha (Where there is life there is Siva)

In the state of Karnataka there is a small community numbering about seven million people who are known as Lingayats. They are also called followers of Virasaivism. Virasaivism is a form of Siva worship. Virasaivites describe their religion as “revived, regenerated and revolutionary Saivism.” The term Virasaiva means “militant, heroic follower of Siva.” They also call themselves Lingayats because they wear the Linga, the emblem and symbol of Lord Siva, on their person. They protested against the caste system and aimed at the creation of an egalitarian and casteless society.

Even though the community is small in number, in religious, philosophical and cultural significance, they are quite a force to reckon with. It was somewhere in 1160 AD that Lingayatism originated as a result of the activities of scholar saint Basavanna. Basavanna worshipped Siva in the form of the Lord of the Meeting Rivers, Kadalasangamadeva. The story goes that Bsaavanna went to the place where rivers Krishna and Malaprabha meet. At that place stands the temple of Siva Sangemswara. (Sangameswara also means the Lord of the Meeting Rivers). Here Lord Siva Himself is believed to have appeared before the devotee and blessed him.

A mythological story is more interesting. Shiva, it is said woke one fine morning to get the news that few people on earth worshipping him. So immediately he dispatched his mount, Nandi, the bull. Nandi was born as Basavannna.

There were many saints after him and he as well as the others wrote as whole corpus of literature in Kannada known as vacanas. Over 450 vacana writers are known to date, the most popular and influential remaining Basavanna, with others like Dasimaya, Allama and Mahadeviyakka coming a close second. The most intense and significant poetry was a span of two centuries between the tenth and twelfth.

The Lingayats are entrenched in the Pashupata tenets which believes Siva is everything, the beginning and the end. The sect strongly believes in gurus or teachers and the original teachers trace their descent from Panchamukha Siva.