Lingayatism (Veerashaivism): Lingayat sect in South India

Basaveshwara Founder of Lingayat sect

Basaveshwara Founder of Lingayat sect

The lingayat sect is one of the most ancient and celebrated cults of South India based on the faith and worship of Shiva in the form of Lingam. The lingayat sect is also well known as “VeeraShaivism” with its distinct Shaivite tradition. The founder of the lingayat sect was “Basavanna” – a social reformer and a great philosopher during the 12th century.

The lingayat sect distinguishes itself from the mainstream Shaivite tradition in Hinduism propounding monotheism (belief in One God) and worshipping Lord Shiva in the form of a “Lingam”. The followers of this sect were also called “Veera Shaivas” or Lingayats or Lingawants, who were quite hostile towards orthodox Brahmins and rejected the authority of Vedas.

The believers of the lingayat sect were in a physical outward sense were different from ordinary Shaivites by their practices of carrying on their bodies a miniature lingam usually encased in a silver box that was suspended from their necks or hanging on their arms or around their waists. The lingayats were brave, fierce and strict shivaites and called themselves “the champions of Shaiva faith”.  The lingayat community consisted or comprised of a large number of castes and tribes that also included Brahmins and other underprivileged sections of the then Hindu society.

The main occupation of the lingayat sect was trade and commerce and the contemporary lingayatism is a rich blend of progressive reform based theology propounded by its founder “Basavanna”. The lingayat sect was in the 12th century one of the most powerful, influential branches of Shaivism in South India that spread from the present state of Karnataka to Maharashtra and then to other parts of India.

Lingayatism is a Shaivite tradition in India. The people who are following the tradition of Lingayatism are known as Lingayats and also called as Veerashaivas. Lingayats are the strict followers of Lord Basavanna, who was the founder of the Lingayat Sect. Most of the followers would wear rudraksha around their neck and some strict followers would keep a small idol of Shivalinga with them.

Lingayatism was founded by the 12th-century Saint Lord Basavanna in Karnataka.Basavanna is considered as an incarnation of Lord Nandi Bhagavan, and he incarnated in this earth in order to spread the importance of Shaivite philosophies and to spread the greatness of Lord Shiva among the masses. Lingayat scholars were lived in Karnataka and spread the teachings of Lord Basava.

Worship is focussed on Lord Shiva and the Lingayats are considered as the slaves of Lord Shiva. They wholeheartedly surrendered themselves into the feet of Lord Shiva, and their each and every body cell would chant the glory of Lord Shiva.

Lingayats celebrate Hindu festivals such as the Shivaratri and Ganesh Chaturthi, and they used to observe fasting during Shivaratri festival day. Some Lingayats would visit the famous Shiva temples like Kedarnath, Pasupathinath and Amarnath. They also used to study the holy texts like Shiva Puran, life history of Nayanars and Shaivite Saints.

The Sharana-movement, which was started in the 11th century, is a Shiva Bhakti Movement, and the followers of the movement would visit various places and spread the Shiva Bhakti among the people.

The names of the famous Shaivite Saints are as follows:

1. Basavanna
2. AllamaPrabhu
3. AkkaMahadevi
4. Channabasavanna
5. MadivalaMachideva
6. Siddharama
7. Danamma Devi
8. Sarvajna
9. Vemana

Let us worship Lord Shiva and be blessed.

“OM NAMAH SHIVAYA”
WRITTEN BY
R.HARISHANKAR

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