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Basava statue.jpg
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 (also known as Bhakti Bhandari Basavanna or Basaveshwara; 1134–1196) was an Indian philosopher, statesman, Kannada poet and a social reformer in what is now Karnataka, India. He 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. Basava 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. He created a model Parliament called the Anubhava Mantapa, which not only gave equal representation to men and women but also had representatives from different socio-economic backgrounds.

Unlike Gautama Buddha, Basava did not preach 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.

Basava is called "Vishwaguru" by his followers, who believe him to have been the first to know the practicality of transcending to Godliness and demonstrating the technique of becoming God through around 800 Sharanas. He 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). He 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 said that he was only playing the elder brother's role and that is how the name Basava 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. 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. An inscription related to Basava and his family details. Names references Basavaraj and Sangana Basava.

Basava was born possibly in 1134 CE and is is said to have grown up in an orthodox Hindu religious household that rejected many practices in Vedic society based on some of the religious scriptures called Agamas, Shastras, and Puranas in Sanskrit language. According to etymology, the roots of the name Basava can be traced in the Sanskrit word Vrishabha, i.e. Nandi, the mount of Lord Shiva.

Basava spent 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. Basava 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 began his career as an accountant at Mangalaveda in the court of the Kalachuri king Bijjala II, a feudal vassal of the Kalyani Chalukya. When Bijjala acquired the power at Basavakalyana, by overpowering Tailapa IV (the grandson of Vikramaditya VI, the Chalukya king), Basava also went to Kalyana. Basava rose to the position of Prime Minister in the court of Bijjala II, 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.

The Basava Purana, a 13th-century Telugu biographical epic poem, written by Palkuriki Somanatha, and its detailed Kannada version, written by Bhima Kavi in 1369, are sacred texts in Lingayatism.[5][6]

Religious developments[edit]

Basava used Ishtalinga (the image/linga of God in one's body) to eradicate untouchability, establish equality among all human beings and as a means to attain spiritual enlightenment.


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] He said 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 Basava'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]


Main article: Vachana sahitya



  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. ^ T.V. Sivanandan (11 February 2011). "Basaveshwara's statue may come up in London". The Hindu. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 

Further reading[edit]