4th November, 2021 Prelims




  • Lingayatism is a Shaivite Hindu religious tradition in India.
  • The terms Lingayatism and Veerashaivism have been used synonymously, but they are not the same.
  • In 12th century the groups splitted up and adherents of this faith are known as Lingayats.


Origin and Background

  • The tradition of Lingayatism is known to have been founded by social reformer and philosopher Basavanna in 12th century Karnataka.
  • Basavanna’s religious movement was during the reign of King Bijala II.
  • This period in Karnataka was characterized by the dominance of Brahmanical Hindu values, a social system based on caste restrictions and a feudal economy.
  • The Lingayats emerged as a reactionary force against Hinduism in the twelfth century.
  • While it rejected most of the broad Hindu traditions, it also assimilated aspects of it.


Lingayatism and Bhakti Movement: The link

  • The emergence of the Lingayat sect can be located within the larger trend of Bhakti movements that had swept across South India from the 8th century AD onwards.
  • The Bhakti tradition was a social reform movement that developed around Hindu Gods and Goddesses but split away from the Hindu fold by offering a path to spirituality regardless of their caste and creed.
  • In a way, they were movements that took birth within Hinduism but strove to rectify the unjust practices within the tradition.

The Bhakti movement refers to the trend that was brought forward by a number of Hindu saints in medieval Hinduism that sought to bring religious reforms by adopting the method of devotion to achieve salvation. It originated in eighth-century south India (now Tamil Nadu and Kerala states), and spread northwards. The Bhakti movement regionally developed around different gods and goddesses, and some sub-sects were Vaishnavism (Vishnu), Shaivism (Shiva), Shaktism (Shakti goddesses), and Smartism. The Bhakti movement began with the aim of reforming Hinduism against evil practices, the caste system and the dominance of Brahmanas.


  • Lingayats are followers of Basavanna and the sharana writers, whose philosophy is expressed in thousands of vachanas.
  • In several vachanas, the sharanas have rejected the Vedas, shastras, smritis and the Upanishads.
  • They rebuffed faith in karma based on caste, denied the concept of paap and punya which was based on karma.
  • They spurned the notion of heaven and hell as based on paap and punya.
  • They scorned temple and idol worship.
  • The rejected the phallic linga symbol of Shiva and opted for ishta linga, which represents inner conscience.
  • Worship is centred on Shiva as the universal god in the iconographic form of Ishtalinga.
  • Lingayatism emphasises qualified monism, with philosophical foundations similar to those of the 11th–12th-century South Indian philosopher Ramanuja.
  • They declared that work was worship and tried to break the barriers of caste by inter-caste dining.
  • They fought against discrimination on the basis of gender and birth. They abhorred superstitions.
  • They ignored Sanskrit – which was understood by very few – and addressed the people in Kannada.

Qualified Monism

It admits plurality. Vishishtadvaita is one of the most popular schools of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy. Vedanta literally means the end of the Vedas. Vishisht Advaita  is a non-dualistic school of Vedanta philosophy. It is non-dualism of the qualified whole, in which Brahman alone exists, but is characterized by multiplicity. It can be described as qualified monism or qualified non-dualism or attributive monism. It is a school of Vedanta philosophy which believes in all diversity subsuming to an underlying unity. Ramanuja, the 11–12th century philosopher was the main proponent of Vishishtadvaita philosophy.

Basavanna and his Contribution

  • Mahatma Basveshwar was an Indian 12th-century statesman, philosopher, poet, social reformer and Lingayat saint in the Shiva-focussed Bhakti movement during the reign of the Kalyani Chalukya/Kalachuri dynasty.
  • He spread social awareness through his poetry, popularly known as Vachanaas.
  • He rejected gender or social discrimination, superstitions and rituals.
  • But introduced Ishtalinga necklace, with an image of the Shiva Liṅga, to every person regardless of his or her birth, to be a constant reminder of one's bhakti (devotion) to Shiva.
  • As the chief minister of his kingdom, he introduced new public institutions such as the Anubhava Mantapa (or, the "hall of spiritual experience"), which welcomed men and women from all socio-economic backgrounds to discuss spiritual and mundane questions of life, in open.
  • Basavanna’s vision of a societal order was one based on human freedom, equality, rationality, and brotherhood.
  • His prime target was the caste hierarchy which he rejected with full force.
  • In one of his vachanas, Basavanna asserts that

“the birthless has no caste distinctions, no ritual pollution.”

  • He rejected the Hindu Brahmanical ritualism and its adherence to sacred texts like the Vedas.
  • The Basavarajadevara Ragale by the Kannada poet Harihara (c.1180) is the earliest available account on the life of Basavanna.
  • A full account of Basava's life and ideas are narrated in a 13th-century sacred Telugu text, the Basava Purana by Palkuriki Somanatha.


Present Status of Lingaytism

  • The community which currently forms 17 per cent of Karnataka’s population and 10 percent of Maharashtra’s.
  • In the 21st century, some Lingayats have sought legal recognition as a religion distinct from Hinduism and Veerashaivas.



  • From broader Veerashaivas, Lingayats splitted in 12th
  • Founder – Panchacharyas; almost about 5500 -6000 years ago.
  • The Panchacharyas are the five Gurus who apparently incarnated directly from Sivalinga and established the Virasaiva religion and Philosophy. Hence they are called as
  • Veerashaivas are the followers of the five peethas (religious centres), called pancha peethas. They are- Kashi mutt, Rameswaram mutt, Ujjaini mutt, Rambhapura mutt and Srishaila mutt.
  • These peethas are set up on similar lines to the four peethas set up by Adi Shankara.
  • The Veerashaiva faith is identical to the Brahmanical belief that they are born from the ears of Brahma.
  • This definitely did not form the foundation of Basavanna’s thought. Basavanna had rejected all such Brahmanical notions.
  • Veerashaivas rejected Basavanna as the founder of the `Veerashaiva dharma’ and claimed that the founders of their dharma predated him.
  • They consider Siddhantha Shikhamani as their holy book.
  • They are spread across Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. 

Lingayatism vs Veerashaiva

  • The essential difference between the Lingayata dharma and the Veerashaiva is that the latter accepts the Vedic texts and practices like caste and gender discrimination, while Basavanna not only protested these, he offered an alternative dharma.




The founder



Religious script

Vedas, Agama, Siddhanta Shikhamani

Vachana literature

Caste and gender equality

No equality. It puts Aradhyas at the top of the ladder, while there is no gender equality

Complete equality of men and women in religious, political and social practices


The statue of Shiva, and Shiva as envisaged in the Vedas with snake around the neck etc

Shiva (ishta linga) as a formless, timeless entity that resides in each and every life form

Temples and priests

Has a system of temples and priests

Bans temple worship. Worships only ishta linga

Demand for a Separate Religion

Arguments for

  • Scholarly Researches:

Scholars like M. M. Kalburgi  and SM Jaamdar did extensive research into the vachanas or religious-poetic verses written by Basavanna 800 years ago. These scholars have produced evidence to show that the Lingayats were a religious entity separate from the Hindus.


  • Form of Worship:

The Lingayats are strict monotheists. They enjoin the worship of only one God, namelycalled Linga (Shiva).

However, it should be noted that the words ‘Linga’ here does not mean the Linga which is established in temples, but the universal consciousness qualified by the universal energy (Shakti).


  • Supreme Court Observations:

In Ratilal Panachand Gandhi vs The State Of Bombay - SC held that Religion is that which binds a man with his Creator. Therefore, whatever binds a man to his own conscience and whatever moral and ethical principles regulate the lives of men that alone can constitute religion as understood in the Constitution.


  • Constitutional Provision:

Article 25 protects religious freedom as far as individuals are concerned. The right is not only given to the citizens of India but to all persons, and the right is to profess, practice and propagate religion.


  • Official Surveys:

In official surveys up to 1930, Lingayats were identified as “Lingayats”, with Veerashaivas being part of Lingayats.


  • Philosophy:

Lingayat community members argue that it is different from that of Hinduism as it is Gender-neutral, caste-neutral treatment of equality. While Hinduism converted workmanship into castes, Basava reversed the castes into workmanship again.


  • Loss of Identity:

With Lingayats getting increasingly subsumed within the Veerashaiva and Hindu nomenclature, teachings of Basavanna are losing their distinct place in society. There is concern that for Lingayatism to survive, it must be identified as a separate religion.


  • Legal Contradiction:

In the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Lingayats, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs are included among Hindus. But Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains were identified by state and central governments as minority religions in 1993, 1963 and 2014 respectively. Only Lingayats remain unrecognised under a separate religious status.


Arguments against

  • Fragmentation of Society:

Lingayats as a religious minority would split society further and introduce more cleavages in the socio-economic fabric.


  • Sectarianism:

Tahir Mahmood former chair of National Commission for Minorities held that “Pluralism within the broad Hindu Religion is different from sectarian diversity in dogmatic religions like Islam or Christianity.”


  • Just a Sub-division:

Prof. Chidananda Murthy, point that ideas of nothingness in the Lingayat tradition derive from the Upanishads and how the ideas of the body draw from the Yoga Sutras.


  • Contradictory:

Some of the aspects of Hinduism are assimilated in Lingayatism and they ascribe to it. The community’s demand was also weakened by its subsumption within the Veerashaiva nomenclature. This happened after large number of Hindu Veerashaivas embraced Lingayatism while continuing to follow Hindu practices.

Minority Status

  • In 2018 seven-member panel headed by retired judge Justice Nagamohan Das recommended to grant religious minority status to “Lingayats and Veerashaiva-Lingayats.


Benefits of Minority Status

  • Reservation: Lingayats will get additional benefits in education and employment on par with minorities.
  • Benefits under Article 25: These include freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.
  • Benefits under Article 28: It includes freedom in terms of attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions.
  • Section 29, 30: Section 29, which includes protection of interests of minorities, and section 30, which includes the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, will also be applicable.



  • Karnataka Government accepted the recommendations of Justice Nagamohan Das Panel.
  • But, the benefits of reservation under the new status will be available only after the Centre accepts the recommendations and also notifies it.

Final Words

  • The Government should evaluate the demands of the communities rationally without politicizing the issue to gain poll prospects.