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Title: Basavanna  
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Subject: Kannada language, Shaivism, Hindu reform movements, Indian literature, Kannada poetry, Kannada literature, Akka Mahadevi, Bagalkot district, Basaveshwaranagar, History of Hinduism
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Guru Basavanna
Born 1134 CE
Basavana Bagewadi in Bijapur district, Karnataka, India
Died 1196 CE
Kudalasangama, Karnataka, India
Philosophy Lingayatism
Literary works Vachanaas
Quotation Work is Worship


Basava (Kannada: ಬಸವ) (also known as Bhakti Bhandari Basavanna (Kannada: ಭಕ್ತಿ ಭಂಡಾರಿ ಬಸವಣ್ಣ ) or Basaveshwara (Kannada: ಬಸವೇಶ್ವರ), (11341196)) was an Indian philosopher, statesman and a social reformer from what is now Karnataka, India. Basava fought against the practice of the caste system, which discriminated against people based on their birth, and other rituals in Hinduism. He spread social awareness through his poetry, popularly known as Vachanaas. Basavanna used Ishtalinga, an image of the Śiva Liṅga, to eradicate untouchability, to establish equality among all human beings and as a means to attain spiritual enlightenment. These were rational and progressive social thoughts in the twelfth century. Basaveshwara is undoubtedly one of the pioneer's of Indian Democracy. He created a model Parliament called the "Anubhava Mantapa," which not only gave equal proportion to men and women, but also had representatives from different socioeconomic backgrounds. The carvings of the model Parliament can be found across many temples in south India. He was a man ahead of his time, who believed that conflict should be resolved through debate and not violence. He advocated mercy towards both humans and animals.

Classical Hindu theologists interpret the Vachanaas as the essence of Vedic knowledge while attempting to explain the social revolution Basava was ushering in. But this theory fails to explain why other well-known religious leaders like Shankaracharya and Madhwacharya, who were very well acquainted with Vedic knowledge, did not address the issues, that Basava did in the later part of the 12th century. Basava, unlike Gautama Buddha, did not preach people the intricate aspects of spirituality; rather, he taught people how to live happily in a rational social order which later came to be known as the Sharana movement.

Basavanna (Basaveshwara) is called "Vishwaguru" because he is believed by his followers to have been the first ever to know the practicality of transcending to Godliness and demonstrating the technique of becoming God through around 800 Sharanas. Basavanna spread the concept of the path of becoming God through four levels of divinity that exists in one's own body- Unmanifest Chaitanya (Guru), Manifest Chaitanya-Shakti (Linga), Consciousness of the manifest chaitanya-shakti in Prana (Jangama), and the Individual consciousness (Jeevatma/Mind). Basavanna taught Sharanas, the technique of transcending the mind with one's own prana through a process of Ishtalinga, Pranalinga and Bhavalinga saadhana and that anybody in the world, irrespective of caste, creed, merit, nationality, etc., can transcend and become God by being in union with prana.

He himself declared that he is playing only the elder brother's role and that is how the name Basavanna came to be. He is popularly called Bhakti Bhandari (Champion of Devotion) or "Kranti Yogi". The key aspect of his preaching is a monotheistic concept of God.[1]

Basava originated a literary revolution through his literary creation called Vachana Sahitya in Kannada Language which are derived from the Upanishads and Vedanta. He was the Prime Minister of the Southern Kalachuri Empire in South India. Many great yogis and mystics of his time joined his movement, enriching it with the essence of divine experience in the form of Vachanas.[2]

Early life

It is believed that Lord Basava was born into a Shaiva Brahmin family, residing in a small town, Basavana Bagewadi in Bijapur district of northern Karnataka state, India in 1134 AD. Basava is said to have grown up in an orthodox Hindu religious household and rejected many practices in Vedic society based on some of the religious scriptures called Agamas, Shastras, and Puranas in Sanskrit language.

He left Bagewadi and spent the next twelve years studying Sangameshwara, the then-Shaivite school of learning at Kudala sangama. There, he conversed with scholars and developed his spiritual and religious views in association with his societal understanding. Játavéda Muni, also known as Eeshánya Guru, was his guru. Basavanna created Ishtalinga. He was driven by his realisation; in one of his Vachanas he says Arrive Guru, which means one's own awareness is his/her teacher. Many contemporary Vachanakaras (people who have scripted Vachanas) have described him as Swayankrita Sahaja, which means "self-made".

Basava Purana, a 13th-century Telugu biographical epic poem, written by Palkuriki Somanatha, and its detailed Kannada version, written by Bhima Kavi in 1369 CE, are sacred texts in Lingayatism.[3][4]

Religious Developments

Basavanna used Ishtalinga (image/linga of God in one's body) to eradicate untouchability, established equality among all human beings and a means to attain spiritual enlightenment. Ishtalinga is very much different from Sthavaralinga and Charalinga. Ishtalinga is the universal symbol of God. Sthavaralinga represents Shiva in Dhyana Mudra. Charalinga is a miniaturized form of Sthavaralinga.

Guru Basavanna started his career as an accountant at Mangalaveda in the court of Kalachuri king Bijjala, a feudal vassal of the Kalyani Chalukya. When Bijjala acquired the power at Basavakalyana, by overpowering Tailapa IV (the grandson of Vikramaditya VI, the great Chalukya king), Basavanna also went to Kalyana. With his honesty, hard work and visionary mission, Basava rose to the position of Prime Minister in the court of king Bijjala, who ruled from 1162—1167 at Kalyana (presently renamed Basavakalyana). There, he established the Anubhava Mantapa, a spiritual parliament, which attracted many saints from throughout India. He believed in the principle Káyakavé Kailása (Work puts you on the path to heaven, Work is Heaven). It was at this time that the Vachanas, simple and easy-to-understand poetic writings which contained essential teachings, were written.

Fight against caste system

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, Basava caused orthodox members of King Bijjala's court to go 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 be harshly punished. Before punishing the couple, Bijjala asked Basava to agree with the caste system but Basava strongly opposed it and said both Haralayya and Madhuvaras were Lingayats and the rules of the caste system were not applicable to them. Bijjala did not agree with Basavanna's ideas, and asked Basavanna to be silent and accept the punishment of the couple or leave Kalyana. The "Being punished" (Danda-gonda) Basavanna left Kalyana with a heavy heart and marched towards Kudala Sangama. He left Kalyana in 1196 A.D. of Rakshasa nama samvatsara, phalguna masada 12th day for Kudala Sangama and en route to Kudala sangama, he preached to the people about humanity, morality, honesty, simplicity, and the dignity of labour, equality among all human beings, human rights, etc. Being a perfect yogi, he released the bonds of the body and soul and took nirvana (Lingaikya) on 30-7-1196 A.D. (Hindu Calendar: NaLanama samvatsarada Shravan shuddha panchami), in response to the call from Kudala Sangama Devá, the Almighty.


Basava said that the roots of social life are embedded not in the cream of the society but in the scum of the society.[5] It is his witty saying that the cow does not give milk to him who sits on its back, but it gives milk to him who squats at its feet. 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 conduct in 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.

He proclaimed that all members of the state are laborers: some may be intellectual laborers and others may be manual laborers. He placed practice before precept and his own life was of rigid rectitude. Basava brought home to his countrymen the lesson of self-purification. He tried to raise the moral level of public life, and he insisted that the same rules of conduct applied to the administrators as to the individual members of society. He also taught the dignity of manual labour by insisting on work as worship. Every kind of manual labour, which was looked down upon by people of high caste, should be looked upon with love and reverence he argued. Thus arts and crafts flourished, and a new foundation was laid down in the history of the economics of the land.

The Sharanas had no caste divisions and accepted everyone as equal. Jedara Dasimayya was by profession a weaver, Shankar Dasimayya a tailor, Madivala Machideva a washerman, Myadar Ketayya a basket-maker, Kinnari Bommayya a goldsmith, Vakkalmuddayya a farmer, Hadapada Appanna a barber, Jedar Madanna a soldier, Ganada Kannappa an oilman, Dohar Kakkayya a tanner, Mydar Channayya a cobbler, and Ambigara Chowdayya a ferryman. There were women followers such as Satyakka, Ramavve, and Somavve with their respective vocations. The curious thing was that all these and many more have sung the Vachanas (sayings) regarding their vocations in a very suggestive imagery.

Out of the timeless Parashiva principle
Consciousness was born;
Embodiment of
That immaculate supramental consciousness
Is Basavanna; from him
Were Nāda, Bindu and Kalā
When these were made one, the incarnate light,
Integral, perfect, circular shaped,
Became the form of Linga,
Out of this Mahālinga arose
The fivefold Sādākhya. Therefore, I call
The timeless Sarana the Primal Linga,
Because Linga arose from Basavanna.
O Mahālinga Guru Sivasiddhēshvara Lord! [6]

Basavanna's Vachanas

Main article: Vachana sahitya

ಉಳ್ಳವರು ಶಿವಾಲಯ ಮಾಡುವರು ನಾನೇನು ಮಾಡಲಿ ಬಡವನಯ್ಯಾ
ಎನ್ನ ಕಾಲೇ ಕಂಬ, ದೇಹವೇ ದೇಗುಲ, ಶಿರವೇ ಹೊನ್ನ ಕಳಸವಯ್ಯಾ
ಕೂಡಲಸಂಗಮದೇವಾ ಕೇಳಯ್ಯಾ, ಸ್ಥಾವರಕ್ಕಳಿವುಂಟು ಜಂಗಮಕ್ಕಳಿವಿಲ್ಲ

uLLavaru shiválaya máduvaru nánénu mádali badavanayyá
enna kále kambha dehavé degula shiravé honna kaLashavayyá
Kúdala Sangama Devá keLayya sthavarakkaLivunTu jangamakaLivilla

The rich will make temples for Shiva. What shall I, a poor man, do?
My legs are pillars, The body the shrine, The head a cupola of gold.
Listen, O lord Kudal Sangama deva, Buildings, and even my physical body will wear away, But my soul will never. ?

Some of the thousands of Vachanas:

The power of knowledge destroys ignorance;
The power of light dissipates darkness;
The power of truth is foe of all untruth;
The sharana's experience of god is the sole cure of worldliness;
- Lord Kudala Sangamadeva
ಜ್ಞಾನದ ಬಲದಿಂದ ಅಜ್ಞಾನದ ಕೇಡು ನೋಡಯ್ಯ
ಜ್ಯೋತಿಯ ಬಲದಿಂದ ಅಂಧಕಾರದ ಕೇಡು ನೋಡಯ್ಯ
ಸತ್ಯದ ಬಲದಿಂದ ಅಸತ್ಯದ ಕೇಡು ನೋಡಯ್ಯ
ಕೂಡಲ ಸಂಗನ ಶರಣರ ಬಲದಿಂದ ಆತ್ಮನ ಅಹಂಕಾರದ ಕೇಡು ನೋಡಯ್ಯ
-ಕೂಡಲ ಸಂಗಮ ದೇವ......

Don't rob, Don't kill, Never ever lie
Don't get angry, Don't think negative about others
Don't self describe, Don't tease others
This is the way of self respect, this is the way to get respected by the world.
This is the way of impressing my lord Koodala sangam deva.
ಕಳಬೇಡ, ಕೊಲಬೇಡ, ಹುಸಿಯ ನುಡಿಯಲುಬೇಡ
ಮುನಿಯಬೇಡ, ಅನ್ಯರಿಗೆ ಅಸಹ್ಯ ಪಡಬೇಡ
ತನ್ನ ಬಣ್ಣಿಸಬೇಡ , ಇದಿರು ಹಳೆಯಲುಬೇಡ
ಇದೆ ಅಂತರಂಗ ಶುದ್ದಿ, ಇದೆ ಬಹಿರಂಗ ಶುದ್ದಿ
ಇದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಕೂಡಲ ಸಂಗಮ ದೆವನೊಲಿಸುವ ಪರಿ.
-ಕೂಡಲ ಸಂಗಮ ದೇವ......


The Kudala Sangama Deva is - his insignia of all his vachanas in Kannada.

Ramanujam in his book, speaking of Shiva, has translated Basavanna's insignia Kudala Sangama Deva into Lord of the meeting rivers. But that is only literal translation. It does not fit to the Definition of Kudala Sangama Deva given by Basavanna.

Basavanna Defines GOD as:

jagadagala mugilagal migeyagal,
nimmagala, pataLadindattatta nimma shricarana,
brahmanDadindattatta nimma shri mukuta,
agammya, agOcara, apramana lingave,
neevenna karasthalakke bandu
cuLukadirayya kudala sangamadeva.

In this Vachana, Guru Basava has made it clear that, Kudala Sangamadeva in not Lord of meeting rivers. He is infinite, eternal, and beyond the reach of the physical senses. Basavanna gives perfect shape in the form of Ishtalinga to the formless and absolute GOD. Thus Ishtalinga represents the eternal, omnipresence, and Absolute GOD.

Views on Basaveshwara today

Mahatma Gandhi spoke thus at the Belgaum session of the Indian National Congress in 1924:[7] Template:Cquote

The Honourable Speaker of the British Parliament said, "It's amazing and extraordinary that Basaveshwara professed, campaigned and advocated genuine democracy, human rights, gender equality way back in the 11th century even before anyone in United Kingdom had even thought about it".-Speaker of The British Parliament Rt Hon John Bercow on Basaveshwara, 21st of Jan 2013 in the Westminister hall following a thanksgiving occasion organised by The Lambeth Basaveshwara Foundation.

The Times of India in its issue dated May 17, 1918 paid a glowing tribute to Basava:


The movement initiated by Basava through Anubhava Mantapa became the basis of a sect of love and faith. It gave rise to a system of ethics and education at once simple and exalted. It sought to inspire ideals of social and religious freedom, such as no previous faith of India had done. In the medieval age, which was characterized by inter-communal jealousy, it helped to shed a ray of light and faith on the homes and hearts of people. But the spirit soon disappeared after the intermarriage that Basava facilitated came to an abrupt end when the couple were punished for the same by the King.

The movement gave a literature of considerable value in the vernacular language of the country, the literature which attained the dignity of a classical tongue. Its aim was the elimination of the barriers of caste and to remove untouchability, raising the untouchable to the equal of the high born. The sanctity of family relations and the improvement in the status of womanhood were striven for while at the same time the importance of rites and rituals, of fasts and pilgrimages was reduced. It encouraged learning and contemplation of God by means of love and faith. The excesses of polytheism were deplored and the idea of monotheism was encouraged.[8] The movement tended, in many ways, to raise the nation generally to a higher level of capacity both in thought and action.


  • In honour of Basava, President of India Abdul Kalam inaugurated Basaveshwar's statue on April 28, 2003 in the Parliament of India in New Delhi.
  • Basaveshwara is the first Kannadiga in whose honor a commemorative coin has been minted in recognition of his social reforms. The Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh was in Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka to release the coins.
  • The British Cabinet Minister for culture, media and sports has approved the planning pernission to erect the statue of Basaveshwara along the bank of the river Thames at Lambeth in London.[9]
  • Basava Dharma Peetha Charitable Trust with the intention of reviving Sharana cultural heritage purchased a land of 3 acres on 21-12-2001 by the side of main road nearby the entrance of Basava Kalyana town. Later on the Trust purchased 17.5 acres just adjacent to the previous land and has built a prayer hall and living rooms. Haralayya Tirtha - an attractive water reservoir is formed.
  • Sri Basaveswara cave and Akkamahadevi cave have been chiselled and carved beautifully in laterite rock-soil. Sharana village formed pictures the concept of 12th Century Sharanas engaged actively in their Kayakas(occupations).
  • The Trust runs an orphanage. There is a beautiful hillock named "Sharana Shaila", which is the highlight of the place amid a rolling landscape on which is erected Lord Basavanna’s statue of 108’ height. It is structured on a pedestal of 24 feet height, 60’ x 80’ size

Further reading

External links

  • Shivabhakti
  • Basavanna
  • Basava: The Great Socio-Religious Reformer
  • Artists
  • Path of Guru Basava



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