A THESIS ON THE VEERASAIVA RELIGION
[Read before the Calcutta Convention of Religion, 1909.]
All those who pay adoration to Siva as the Supreme Being are called Saivites and in their conception the word represents a Sentient Being which is all bliss and whose form is of pure love, transcending the nature of mind and matter. In this respect, Saivism differs widely from Vaishnavism, in that, the latter says that mind and matter, though real entities are one with Vishnu and that God Himself will assume human form now and then to extend His grace to His devotees. In this way, the worship of Rama and Krishna have become very prominent among Vaishnavites who insist that even God is born of earthly parents, His infinite nature is not thereby limited but is as pure and unstained as if he were not born. But with Saivites, though God is in his nature different from mind and matter, yet co-exists with them from all eternity in closest Adwaita relation and does not assume a human form merely for the sake of saving souls. He has pre-arranged everything with a settled plan and this would itself be quite sufficient to produce the desired result. This main principle distinguishes the one from the other and here the two lines of thought run in contrary directions. In other respects, the two bear so many things in common that one who has not carefully studied the two systems of thought will be inclined to think that they are, by no means, different except in mere naming God.
2. Saivism, on the whole, marks the depth of Philosophic knowledge, while Vaishnavism is characterized by profound imaginative flight of thoughts that best satisfy the cravings of a struggling soul. And the very symbolic representations of their respective gods will suffice to indicate the two different mental attitudes of the two Religions. Siva is worshipped in the form of a Guru or Saint, who having renounced all the evanescent pleasures of this world is absorbed in deep meditation of the eternal life principle that underlies all vanishing things. On the contrary Vishnu is set up with all the glorious adornments of a King that charms the imaginative mind of the worshipper with a dazzling effect.
3. Now coming to the subject, Veerasaiva which forms a specific class of the whole Religion, stands midway between Vaishnavism and other Sub-Divisions of Saiva Religion. Broadly speaking from a Philosophic point of view, Veerasaivism stands closely related to Vaishnavism, for it holds that mind and matter are not different, but are one with the innate force, i.e., Sakti of God Siva; and again like other Sects of Saiva Religion, it strongly contradicts Vaishnava Religious Theory that God would incarnate in human forms to save souls from misery and put down oppression. And thus it will be seen at the outset that Veerasaivism combines in itself the Philosophic element of Vaishnavism and the common religious principle of the Saiva Creeds.
4. The meaning of the very term Veerasaiva is full of significance. It means those staunch and exclusive worshipers of Siva whose creed does not permit the worship of any other deity. The Great Veda Vyasa gives a very simple definition of Veerasaiva as follows, in Sankara Samhita of the Skanda Purana:-
5. It may be mentioned that the Veerasaiva form an important Sub-Division among the Saivas. The chief Sub-Division among the Saivas are four in number according to Nijaguna Sivayogi, the Author of the well-known work in Kanarese "Viveka Chintamani", a work which is very popular and is translated into the Tamil and Telugu Languages. The four Sub-Divisions are:
(1) the Samanya Saivas
(2) the Misra Saivas
(3) the Suddha Saivas and
(4) the Veera Saivas.
and the chief characteristics and differences are described in detail in Chapter II of the said work.
6. The Veerasaivas are sometimes known as Sivacharyas as opposed to Sivaradhyas, but the term is corrupted into Sivachars. They are also known as Lingayets or Lingavantas which is a name given to them perhaps by the Mahomedan Conquerors of India, who appear to have invented the name from the Lingam invariably worn by the Veerasaivas on their persons.
7. The numerical strength of the Veerasaivas is nearly 2½ million and are found in large numbers in the Bombay and the Madras Presidencies, the Mysore Province, the Nizam's Dominions, Berar and Kholapur States. They are also found in small numbers in Malabar, Goa, Benares, Kedar in the Himalayas and Nepal. As a Race, many of their Sub-Divisions are unmistakably Aryan in descent; and there is no admixture of the Dravidian element amongst them, just as in any other Hindu Community at the present time.
8. The Veerasaivas have shown considerable activity in the field of Literatures from very ancient times. They have used Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu Languages as their medium to express their Poetical ideas. Much credit is due to them for having preserved the purity of the highly polished Kanarese Language from ancient times; and many eminent Veerasaiva Poets could be named in the Literature of all the four Languages named above.
9. Trade and Agriculture are their chief occupations of the present day. They have in the van of Hindu Society, and they are shown that they are not inferior to any other Class of Hindus in point of business capacity or commercial enterprise. They are very slow to realize the benefits of Western Education and Western modes of thought and hence their obscurity.
10. The Orthodox Theory about the origin of the Veerasaivas may be briefly stated as follows:-
"The Veerasaivas claim their descent from the Pramathas who belong to the Apprakrut Creation of Siva and contend that all the Non-Veerasaivas belong to the Prakrut Creation of Brahma. The Prakruts follow the Rules and Prescriptions of Brahma, whereas the Apprakruts follow those of Siva. Among the Prakruts who peopled the Earth, the ideas about God were still undeveloped and people worshipped Fire, Air, Earth and Water etc. As there was no hope of Salvation for the people without a Religion and a definite form of worship, Kasyapa, Attri, Bharadhwaja, Gautama and Vasishta obtained instructions from Siva and preached the Saiva Faith and established the Sthavaralinga form of worship i.e., worshipping the Linga as established in Temples etc. So the Prakruts began to build Temples and worshipped Sthavaralingas. But in this Religion, Karma was all important and Gnana or Wisdom was kept in the background; and Salvation was to be obtained only after three births. So Siva ordered a batch of Pramathas or devoted adherents, viz Renuka, Daruka and others who also belonged to the Apprakrut Creation to restore the Veerasaiva Faith. Accordingly, these Sages came to the Earth and established the Veerasaiva Religion on a strong basis. They also established important Religious Seats or Centers in five different parts of India and spread the Doctrines of Veerasaiva Religion. The Veerasaiva Religion progressed fairly well for a long time when it received a decisive check from the spreading influence of the Jain Religion. The power of the Jains increased and the Veerasaiva Faith began to decline again. During the period immediately preceding the age of the Great Reformer Basava, the Jains had become so powerful that the Veerasaivas had to find shelter in Hills, Forests and distant countries to avoid religious persecutions. Siva ordered a fresh batch of Pramathas, the most prominent among whom was Basava to proceed to the Earth and revive the Veerasaiva Faith. Basava strengthened and reformed the Veerasaiva Faith on a popular basis and the Religion acquired great popularity and rapidly spread from one end of the Country to the other."
11. I can quote numerous Authorities in support of the Orthodox Theory above described, but owing to want of time and space, I wish to make short references to some of them.
(a) The ninth Patala (Chapter) in Swayambhu Agama gives a complete description of the five renowned Acharyas in the Veerasaiva Religion and the Seats which they founded. The Panchacharyas are Ghanta Karna, Gaja Karna, Renuka, Daruka and Viswa Karna. These Sages are said to have acquired different names in different Yugas and their Seats are also named after their distinguished successors, who are Ekorama, Panditardhya, Revanaradhya, Marularadhya and Viswaradhya. The Seats which they founded are respectively.
(i) Kedar in the Himalayas.
(ii) Sri Saila in the Kurnool District of the Madras Presidency,
(iii) Balehonnur in the Kadur District of the Mysore Province
(iv) Ujjain in the Bellary District and
The other Authorities are –
(a) Suprabhedagama, (b) Siddhanta Sikhamani, (c) Sanskrit Basava Purna by Sankararya and (d) Kriyasara.
These five Acharyas are commonly known as the Founders of the Veerasaiva Religion. It may be stated that these are the five Great Canterbury's of the Veerasaivas of great antiquity situated in different parts of India and that all these Seats are occupied even now by the Veerasaiva Bishops, who exercise considerable Ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Veerasaivas.
(2) In the "Classical Essay on the Veerasaivas" written by the Great Telugu Scholar Mr. C. P. Brown, which is published in the XI Volume of the Madras Journal of Literature and Science, there is a description of these Acharyas and the Author also mentions the high reverence shown to the said Acharyas on all ceremonial occasions among the Veerasaivas.
(3) Professor H. H. Wilson mentions of the Veerasaiva Seats at Kedarnath, Benares and Sri Saila in his "Royal Asiatic Researches."
(4) Further, Mr. F. Kittel has actually studied Panchacharya Vamsavali in the Sanskrit Suprabhedagama and he has given us the benefit of his study in his "Introduction to Nagavarma's Prosody" in which he has shown that Revana Arya referred to by the Celebrated Poet Sadakshari in his "Rajasekhara Vilasa" was the first of the five Acharyas who are considered to be the Founders of the Veerasaiva Faith.
12. The Veerasaivas are the peaceful race of Hindu Puritans. They do not perform Yajnas in any form and do not believe in the efficacy of Shraddhas. They worship only one God Siva and in the opinion of Mr. Bhattacharya the Veerasaivas are the only Hindus who are to be called as pure Saivites.
(2) The Veerasaivas contend that Salvation could be obtained in a single birth instead of in three births according to the Saiva Faith and they have done away with the multiplicity of ceremonies, as their object is to obtain the maximum result or benefit by performing a minimum number of ceremonies. They claim these to be improvements on the Old Saiva Faith, and the following Agamic passage briefly points out some of the important differences between the Veerasaiva Faith and the Old Saiva faith:-
(3) The Veerasaivas bury their dead and this constitutes another difference between them and the Saivas, and it must be noted in this connection that such eminent Smrithi Writers as Manu, Bharadwaja and Satatapa prescribe that the Veerasaivas are to bury their dead and not to burn them.
(4) The most distinguishing feature among the Veerasaivas is the Linga which everyone wears on his person, he be man or woman, young or old, without any distinction. Every woman has got equal rights to obtain Salvation as every man in this Religion and every man, woman and child ought to wear the Linga from the moment of birth. Every person ought to worship the Linga as his or her God, and ought to sacrifice even the life in case of loss of the Linga under any circumstances.
(5) The Veerasaivas perform ten ceremonies known as the Dasa-Samskaras and of these, the most important is the Deeksha Ceremony at which the Doctrines of the Religion are formally initiated by a competent Guru or Teacher.
The Pupil gets "Linga-Sambandha" or relation with Linga by means of Deeksha which destroys the three impurities. Hence it is called Deeksha.
13. It is to be added that the Veerasaiva Religion is an all-embracing proselytizing Religion "and it consists of representatives from all classes of Hindu Society."
Our shastras prescribe different periods of probation for people of different castes and admission can be made after the probationary period, if the pupils seeking admission are found to possess real "Bhakti or Faith" in the Religion. The probationary period is
(a) three years for a Brahman,
(b) six years for a Kshatriya,
(c) nine years for a Vaisya, and
(d) twelve years for a Sudra.
The following passage is taken from "Veerasaivachara Kaustubha" which is a great authority on the subject:-
14. (a) The Religious History of India shows that many powerful Kings and Rulers of Native States have embraced the tenets of the Veerasaiva Faith.
(b) There are numerous instances of Brahmans embracing the Veerasaiva Faith; and
(1) according to Censis Reports hitherto published, large numbers of Brahmans have joined the Veerasaiva Religion in recent times in the Bombay Presidency;
(2) the History of Kanada Literature of the 12th Century A.D. affords two such notable instances;
(3) the Brahman Poet "Tribhuvana Thata" embraced the Veerasaiva Faith and became the disciple of the Veerasaiva Poet Padmarasu (1165 A.D.), after being defeated by the latter in a religious and literary controversy.
(4) Similarly, the Vaishnava Poet "Chakpani Ranganatha," embraced the Veerasaiva Faith after being defeated by the famous poet "Palkurike Somanatha" (1195 A.D.)."
(c) The Puranic instance of the conversion of a Brahman into the Veerasaiva Religion may also be interesting. Veda Vyasa tells us in the "Sankara Samhita of the Skanda Purana" that the Brahman Pingala, son of Sweta, was converted into the Veerasaiva Faith by Sage Sadananda.
15. The Virasaivas acknowledge the supremacy of the Vedas, Agamas and Saiva Puranas. They do not perform Yajnas or Animal Sacrifices, but they perform the following "Pancha Siva Yajnas" insteas:-
Besides, the performance of Yajnas relates to the attainment of desires such as, admission into svarga and so on. The Virasaivas discard all such desires and go one step higher, since their object is to attain oneness with the Deity. Hence they reject the Yajnas and perform such of the ceremonies only as relate to the attainment of Jnana or Knowledge.
16. The Virasaiva Religion is founded on the Jnana Kanda of the Vedas, and its founders have written learned Bhashyas on the Brahma Sutras. They contend that Lingadharana is authorized by the Vedas according to some celebrated passages in the rig Veda and the Yajur Veda which form the common field for literary activity and which have given rise to different Religions among the Hindus.
The Svayambhuva Agama, Suprabheda Agama, Vira Agama, the Virasaiva Bhashyas, Kriyasara, Siddhanta-Sikhamani, Lingadharana-Chandrika and others clearly prove the unmistakable origin of the Virasaiva Religion.
(2) The Lingadharana-Chandrika shows that Lingadharana is a Vedic injunction and the recent commentary on this learned work by Mahamahopadhyaya Saiva Kumara Pandit of Benares repays perusal, and forms a valuable and instructive addition to the "Virasaiva Literature."
(3) Further, the interpretations of the Virasaivas are fully supported by Veda-Vyasa in unambiguous language in the Linga Purana and the Skanda Purana. It may be mentioned here that of all the representations of the Deity which India has conceived, the Linga is the least materialistic, and is a form devoid of all attributes, and hence, nearly approaching perfection; and the very choice of this symbol by the Virasaivas to the exclusion of every other, to represent the Supreme Being, reflects no small credit on their Founders.
(4) The following passage from the Yajur Veda also treats of the same subject:-
(5) Again, the learned Author of "Kriyasara" which is a Karika of the "Nilakantha Bhashya" on the Brahma Sutras of Vyasa, points out in Chapter XXIX of Part II of his work, that Lingadharana is prescribed by the Vedas, and that Virasaivas wear the Linga in the same way as the Saivas wear Yajnopavitam and with a better effect, in as much as it is a symbol which shows our constant touch with God.
(6) The same subject is also discussed in detail in the Sanskrit work known as the "Siddhanta Sikhamani.'
(7) Another Sanskrit work known as "Virasaiva Dharma Siromani" points out that each of the "Ashta-Avaranas" or eight accompaniments viz., Guru, Linga, Jangama, Vibhuti, Rudraksha, Prasada, Padodaka, and Mantra, is prescribed by the Vedas. These eight qualities are the characteristic marks of every pious Virasaiva and form the practical basis of his daily religious observances. Any devotee wanting in any one or more of these marks, cannot come within the pale of the Virasaivas.
17. Love is the most essential principle in the Virasaiva Religion, which teaches that there is Divinity in every Virasaiva. According to its Doctrines, we are in essence one with God. God alone is true, and His power is infinite. This Religion teaches the Doctrine of Renunciation, and the very Institution of Virakta Jangamas, the spiritual leaders in our community is based on this sacred Doctrine. Sankaracharya declared that oneness with the Deity is the great object to be attained, and the Virasaiva Religion assures that this Union is attainable in this life. The knowledge of the three things, viz., Linga (God), Anga (Body), and Samarasya (Union), is a great assistance to the attainment of Salvation. The union of Linga and the Anga is oneness with the Deity. It is explained in Sukshma-Agama, Chapter VII.
18. The Philosophy of the Virasaivas is called the "Sakti-Visichta-Adavaita", because, according to them, God is associated with Sakti which is the infinite divine Light or Power.
The great exponent of the Philosophy of Saktivisishtadvaita is Nilakantha Sivacharya, one of the great commentators on the "Brahma-Sutras." Sankara makes many references to Nilakantha in his commentary and refutes his arguments. There is a wide-spread erroneous notion that Sankara was the Founder of "Adavaita," Ramanuja that of "Visishta-Advaita" and Madhvacharya of "Dvaita" and so on. On the other hand, these ideas were already prevalent and were undergoing a hard process of agitated discussion and disputation. But they acquired definite and settled characteristics of their own by the very clear and lucid interpretations of several Great Thinkers on whose name they have as a consequence been fathered, and to whom they owe their very existence in a sense. Sakti-Visishta-Advaita is essentially a branch of Advaita, or, more correctly, Advaita, qualified and conditioned. It differs from the idealistic philosophy of Sankara's Advaita in that it does not ignore the so-called illusory world of matter and the numberless beings that are found in it. The idealist says that all matter and mind are mere reflections of an underlying and intelligent Principle of Unity which alone is real. But for Brahman, there can come nothing into manifestation and therefore is it that the sacred Upanishats declare Ekam eva advitiyam brahma, that Brahman is THE ONE only without a second. The other finite beings and matter are mere nothings. But, it is very difficult to comprehend this ideal reality, ignoring entirely the fundamental knowledge we derive from sense-perceptions. Matter is a great receptacle and transmitter of Divine Force which the souls imbibe through this very matter. How then can we call our only medium of knowledge, an illusion, a Maya? Both mind and matter are inseparably bound up and the one is unintelligible without the aid of the other. Nobody has shown that the undeveloped soul can evolve apart from the body. The vital force underlying both matter and mind is not separable from substance. Science shows that wherever there is substance, there is force, and wherever there is force, there is substance, mentally or materially. If we want to understand the nature of force, we cannot do it without substance from which alone it emanates. Hence they are not separate entities, but are identical with each other. "Of course, it is true that when the soul has attained a certain stage in which the splendour of its intelligence will have grown up into perfection, it does stand independently of matter, requiring its assistance no longer. But this will not prove that matter is illusory." The essence of the paddy grain is certainly in the rice and not in the husk; and to all appearance the one is separable and distinct from the other. But yet in order to raise a crop we cannot sow bare rice, solely on the pretext that it is the very essence of paddy removed from the husk; nor again can the mere husk without rice, show any sign of sprouting. The two are so united together that each is essential to the other. Similarly Sakti, the innate force, is inseparably associated with God through Whom It manifests Itself.
All this philosophy is splendid but can only be considered as intellectual gymnastics for highly developed minds; but if it stops there, it is of no practical importance as Religion and does not bring any comfort or peace to an eager soul thirsting for highest bliss. The greatest merit of the Virasaiva Religion is that it has rendered this philosophy highly practical by what is called Shatsthalajnana, the practical side of our Religion. By this, our religious tenets become part and parcel of a Virasaiva's daily life and, without any effort or knowing, he lives his Religion in the same way we breathe without knowing that we do so, and that it is one of the most vital acts of life.
The terms Shatsthala and Lingangasamarasya are pregnant with philosophical meaning among the Virasaivas. According to them Linga is of six kinds and Anga is of six kinds, and the union of each Linga with each Anga marks a stage known as sthala. The term Shatsthala denotes six such stages of spiritual development and the term "Lingangasamarasya" denotes oneness with the Deity in those several stages.
The Six sthalas or stages are:-
Bhakta, Mahesa, Prasada, Pranalinga, Sarana and Aikya.
19. The Philosophy of the Virasaivas may be said to resemble Sankara's Philosophy in certain respects, and it is frequently quoted for purposes of comparison in the Religious works of the Brahmins of which the following is an instance:-
From "Jnana-Sarvasva-Sangraha, Chapter VI, leaf 57, by Narasimha, Smarta Brahmin."
20. The Sankarin uses "Tat" for which the Virasaivas use "Linga". The former uses "Tvam" for which the latter use "Anga." The union of the two is denoted by the Smartas by "Asi", whereas the Virasaivas denote the same union by the expression "Samyoga or Samarasya" so that the Tattvamasi of Sankara corresponds to the Lingangasamyoga of the Virasaivas.
21. Mr. C. P. Brown is of opinion that there is some similarity between the Virasaiva Philosophy and the system of Philosophy of some of the ancient writers of Greece and Rome. He compares the two systems as follows:-
"There is so remarkable an analogy between the Pythagorean Monad and the deity of Virasaivas that I cannot well avoid adducing the following brief deduction from the philosophic statements as represented in "Cudworth's Intellectual System." Second Edition, Chapter IV, pages 370 and 376. Pythagoras calls the four principles by numerical names, the Monad, Duad, Triad and Tetrad. A Virasaiva calls them by specific names. VIZ., the Lingam, Bhakta, Guru and Sivam i.e., the deity, the disciple, the teacher and the Supreme Spirit which pervades and unites all three."
"The subordinate beings (gods, heroes and demons) of Pythagoras answer to the Virasaiva Saints; all of whom are supposed to be embodied forms of the prime existence or lingam which answers to the Monad who is also "Zen." The Duad is the passive principle or disciple, he whose mind is the field for impression. The link between these two is the third principle, the Guru or Teacher. In his creative office, the deity is mingled with nature by Pythagoras and is all nature in the creed of Virasaivas."
"Love was the first orphic principle and so it is throughout the Virasaiva Creed. Yet it is a created Being; for it is a form or appearance of the deity. Thus the Lingam and the Sivam being the first and the fourth principles are one and the same. The Monas and the Tetractys are one."
22. Now I proceed to say a few words about the Great Reformer Basava, and no Thesis about the Virasaiva Religion can be said to be complete without a reference to this distinguished personage. It was hitherto supposed by some, that the Basava was the Founder of the Virasaiva Religion and that the Virasaivas have based their Religion on the Basava Purana. It needs no comment to state that both these theories are erroneous. Recent researches have proved beyond a shadow of doubt that Basava was not the Founder of the Religion, that it existed long before he was born and that Basava embraced the Virasaiva Faith just as so many others did, before and after him.
23. It now remains to deal with the antiquity of the Virasaiva Religion. Recent researches have shown that the Religion existed long before Basava and there can be no doubt that the incorrect opinions hitherto entertained were all based on insufficient materials.
(a) There is sufficient internal evidence in the Basava Purana itself to show that the Religion existed before Basava. For instance, Virasaivas and Jangamas are said to have been invited and respected at the marriage ceremony of Basava. Basava relates to Bijjala, the superhuman powers of Virasaivas who lived in previous ages. Further, numerous Virasaivas are said to have gone to Kalyan to pay respects to Basava from distant countries.
This shows that the Religion was not only existing before Basava, but had also spread over a large part of India. These visitors are described as wearing Linga in the palm of the hand, chest, head, neck and armpit (being the five authorised places), as having restrained the organs of sense, following the pure practices of the Virasaivas, kind to the Jangamas and well versed in the Vedas and Agamas.
(b) There is a good deal of external evidence to prove the antiquity of the Virasaiva Religion.
(1) In the first place, the principles of the Virasaiva Religion are described in the Vedas, Agamas and Puranas. The following story occurs in the Kamika-Agama:-
"During their travels, one Ajamila and his wife, were attacked by a band of robbers and at the suggestion of his wife, Ajamila tied up in a kerchief, all the precious jewels he had in the form of a Linga and put it round his neck so as to make it appear that he was a Virasaiva wearing Linga. This stratagem succeeded very well, for the Robber Chieftain Mitra Gupta ordered at once the release of the two people, as he always had great respect and regard for Virasaivas, whom, as a rule, he did not molest."
This certainly indicates the existence of the Religion before the composition of the Kamika-Agama, and also shows that the Virasaiva Viraktas had sometimes the rare privilege of commanding respect even from Robber Chiefs.
(2) In the next place, the discussion between Dharmaraja and Bhisma in the Anusasana Parva of the Mahabharata, shows that the Virasaiva Religion was existing at that time.
(3) Again, the writings of such reputed Scholars as Professor H. H. Wilson, Professor Monier Williams, Rev. F. Kittel, Rev. Barth, Mr. Edward Moore and Messer's. Deshpande and V. R. Katti, sufficiently show that the Virasaiva Religion is an ancient branch of the Hindu Religion, that it existed even before the rise of Buddhism and that it is a mistake to suppose that it was founded by Basava.
(4) Further, it is to be observed that the historical events related in the Basava Purana belongs to the 12th Century including the period of Basava's Ministry in the Kingdom of Bijjala. But the Inscriptions of Mysore and Captain Mackenzie's Memoirs of the Hassan District prove the existence of the Virasaiva Religion in the ninth century A. D. The Inscriptions of Sravana Belagola take us back to the middle of the ninth century while Dr. Fleet's Inscriptions of Aihola (Aryapura) clearly show that the Virasaiva Religion existed in the eighth century A. D. And recent researches in the Tamil Literature of South India have brought to light the interesting fact that the Great Tamil Saint Manikkavachakar (300 A. D.) and Tiruvalluva Nayanar (100 B. C.), author of the sacred Kural in Tamil, were Virasaivas in Religion.
(5) Lastly, the numerous unmistakable references to the Virasaiva Religion in the Sankara-Vijaya itself proves the existence of the Religion at the time of the great Sankaracharya. This fact is purely historical and is corroborated by the writings of both Professors H. H. Wilson and Monier Williams. In the Sankara-Vijaya, the Virasaivas are described as wearing the Linga on the head. The Virasaiva sect was one of the six Saiva sects in existence at the time of Sankaracharya who is said to have come into contact with them in the course of his religious controversies. It may be interesting to note the following fact in this connexion:
"The Parents of the great Sankara had no children for a long time just as in the case of Basava's parents. They were also Saivas and they prayed to Siva who blessed the pair and Sankara was born. But the fact that Sankara's mother particularly selected Siva in his Jangama form for worship shows that the Jangamas were certainly in existence to the knowledge of Sankara's parents and that the Jangamas were universally respected at that time also by all classes of Hindus. The following is the text and is taken from the Second Sarga of the Sankara-Vijiya:-
24. Basava Purana is only a record of Basava's life and it is clear from the observations already made in the above paragraphs that the Virasaiva Religion is not based on the Basava Purana. It is nowhere to be found in the Basava Puranas that Basava founded the religion and that the Religion of the Virasaivas is based on his biography. Basava belongs to the Divine batch of Pramathas, and he is said to have come to the Earth as the Saviour of Mankind. He is always the inseparable companion of Siva; and it may be noticed that in every one of the thousands of Siva temples throughout India, Basava is invariably placed prominently in front of Siva. In fact, no Siva temple is built without Basava, and there is no Hindu does not attach some sacredness to Siva's vehicle. A certain amount of sacredness has gathered round the very name "Basava" and even to this day, it is commonest name made use of by the Virasaivas in every part of the country. Siva is known to have placed Basava nearest to His heart.
While yet a boy, Basava showed much intelligence and soon acquired much knowledge in the Shastras. When he attained the age of eight years, his father wanted to invest him with the sacred thread. But the boy refused to be so invested on the ground that he was a Virasaiva and that he did not belong to the creation of Brahma i.e., Prakrita creation. Baladeva, the Prime Minister at the Court of Bijjala in Kalyana, was struck with the singular wisdom and piety of this boy who was his nephew (sister's son) and gave his daughter Gangambika in marriage. Basava's fame rapidly spread, and people admired his marvellous powers, and he eventually became the Prime Minister of Kalyan.
Basava was a Historical personage and one of the noblest characters in Indian History. His views were very liberal, and he was far in advance of the age in which he lived. He had the courage of his convictions and boldly gave expression to his religious opinions, in spite of the persecutions of Brahmana and Jains. He was a great Reformer, and Western Scholars class him with Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha. He imparted a popular complexion to the Virasaiva Religion.
The very essence of Basava's Reforms consists in the uplifting of the masses without any distinction of class or creed. While Sankara preached to the developed few and Ramanuja converted to his Faith the persons of even the lowest class and tried to transform them into Brahmans, Basava went a step higher and proclaimed to the world that "whatever profession a man may follow for his daily bread, it did not deter him from embracing a true Religion and trying to get Salvation."
What Rousseau was to France, Basava was to Southern India; and what is remarkable is that so early as in the twelfth century A. D., Basava proclaimed that famous doctrine of the equality of mankind, which seven centuries later upset the whole of Europe and convulsed half of the modern world. But this great man has yet but been imperfectly understood. His teachings have yet to be rescued from obscurity; the good services which he has rendered to India and her Religion, and the noble and heroic struggle which he undertook in the sacred cause of the depressed classes, and the remarkable success which he achieved in his own life-time, have yet all to be properly recorded, judged and appreciated by posterity.
25. Gentlemen, I take this opportunity of thanking the Committee on behalf of the Virasaivas, for having allowed them to represent their Religion at this unique Convention. This humble thesis does not pretend to be an exhaustive exposition of the Virasaiva Religion. The details have been omitted along with many other matters intimately connected with the said Religion. This is placed before you by way of an introduction, and it is only intended to bring the existence of the Religion to your notice, with a few observations on its Origin, Nature, Development and Philosophy. Here is a vast field for historical investigation, and my chief aim is to awaken some active interest in the matter and stimulate further enquiry into this very ancient branch of the Saiva Religion.
H. K. V.