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Guru Basavanna
Born 1134 CE
Basavana Bagewadi in Bijapur district, Karnataka, India
Died 1196 CE
Kudalasangama, Karnataka, India
Guru Lingayat
Philosophy Lingayatism, Humanity, monotheism, Human equality
Literary works Vachanaas
Quotation Work is Worship

Basava (Kannada: ಬಸವ) (also known as Bhakti Bhandari Basavanna (Kannada: ಭಕ್ತಿ ಭಂಡಾರಿ ಬಸವಣ್ಣ ) or Basaveshwara (Kannada: ಬಸವೇಶ್ವರ), (1134–1196)) was an Indian philosopher, statesman, Kannada poet and a social reformer in what is now Karnataka, India. Basava fought against the practice of the caste system, which discriminated against people based on their birth, gender and other rituals in Hinduism.[1][2] 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[citation needed] and Madhwacharya, who were very well acquainted with Vedic knowledge, did not address[citation needed] 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.[3]

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.[4]

Early life[edit]

Arjunavad inscription of the Seuna king Kannara, dated 1260 A.D. This is one of the important inscription related to Basava and his family details. Names references Basavaraj and Sangana Basava.

It is believed that Lord Basava was born into a Shaiva Brahmin family belongs to Shukla Yajurveda, residing in a small town,[citation needed] Basavana Bagewadi in Bijapur district of 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 Arive 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.[5][6]

Religious Developments[edit]

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 miniaturised 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.


108 feet Basava statue at Basavakalyan

Basava said that the roots of social life are embedded not in the cream of the society but in the scum of the society.[7] 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.[citation needed] 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 labourers: some may be intellectual labourers and others may be manual labourers. 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.

Kudala sangama in Bagalkot district, where Guru Basavanna's samadhi is located.

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![8]

Basavanna's Vachanas[edit]

Main article: Vachana sahitya

Nom de plume[edit]

The Kudala Sangama Deva was his Nom de plume (mudra) in all his vachana poems in the Kannada language.

The scholar A.K.Ramanujam in his book "Speaking of Shiva" has translated Basavanna's mudra Kudala Sangama Deva as "Lord of the meeting rivers". But that is only a 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[edit]

Mahatma Gandhi spoke thus at the Belgaum session of the Indian National Congress in 1924:[9]

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, 21 January 2013 in the Westminister hall following a thanksgiving occasion organised by The Lambeth Basaveshwara Foundation.

The Times of India in its issue dated 17 May 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 characterised 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.[10][citation needed] 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, former President of India Abdul Kalam inaugurated Basaveshwar's statue on 28 April 2003 in the Parliament of India.
  • Basaveshwara is the first Kannadiga in whose honour a commemorative coin has been minted in recognition of his social reforms. The former 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.[11]
  • Basava Dharma Peetha Charitable Trust with the intention of reviving Sharana cultural heritage purchased a land of 3 acres on 21 December 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[edit]


  1. ^ Buddha and Basava: special lecture by Kumaraswamiji p.8
  2. ^ Ancient Indian History and Civilization by Sailendra Nath Sen p.388
  3. ^ "Vishwaguru Basavanna". Vishwaguru Basavanna. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "Who is Basavanna?". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Basava Purana
  6. ^ "hjhlhin Literature". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  7. ^ Global Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophy by N.K. Singh and A.P. Mishra p.116
  8. ^ Book "Essence of Shatsthala", Vachana No 53 (Page No.32), Pub: Karnataka University, Dharwad, 1978.
  9. ^ "". Basava International School. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  10. ^ M. R. Sakhare, History and Philosophy of the Lingayat Religion, Prasaranga, Karnataka University, Dharwad
  11. ^ T.V. Sivanandan (11 February 2011). "Basaveshwara's statue may come up in London". The Hindu. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 

External links[edit]