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Basava (30-Apr-1134 AD to 30-Jul-1196 AD)

Basava

Basava (also known as Basavanna or Basaveshwara, (1134 - 1196)) was a philosopher and a social reformer. He fought against practice of caste system and rituals in Hinduism. He is also called as Vishwa Guru and Bhakti-Bhandari. His teachings and preachings go beyond all boundaries and are universal and eternal. He was a great humanitarian. Basava advocated a new way of life wherein the divine experience was the center of life giving equal opportunity to all aspirants regardless of the gender, caste, and social status. The cornerstone behind his movement was the firm belief in a universal concept of God. Basava has a proponent of monotheistic concept of formless God.

A true visionary with ideas ahead of his time, he envisioned a society that flourished enriching one and all. In addition to being a great mystic, Basava was the Prime Minister of the Southern Kalachuri Empire in South India and originated a literary revolution by introducing Vachana Sahitya. Basava is said to have been a mystic by temperament, an idealist by choice, a statesman by profession, a man of letters by taste, a humanist by sympathy, and a social reformer by conviction. Many great yogis and mystics of the time joined his movement enriching it with the essence of divine experience in the form of Vachanas (Lit. sayings - sacred hymns in Kannada) that define a new way of looking at God and life.

Basava's path later gave birth to a new religion (or "Sampradaya") called Lingavanta Dharma or Lingayata. Other synonyms for lingayata are: Basava Dharma, Sharana Dharma, Vachana Dharma.

Basavanna was born in the year 30-04-1134 (Hindu Calendar Ananada nama samvatsara vashakah masada akshaya triteeya Rohini Nakshatra)into a Shaivite Kamme Brahmin family residing in the small town of Ingaleshwar, Bagewadi in the Bijapur district of northern Karnataka, Basava grew up in a strict, religious household where he was made to wear a sacred thread known as the Janivara. He did not accept the Janivara. He rejected the religion based on agamas, shastras, and puranas which were written in Sanskrit and were not reachable to common people. He did not accept the ritual rites. Shrinivas Murthy, in his book 'Vachana Dharma Sara' writes:

Vachana Sahitya is not borrowed from other languages, they are the Original and Unique to Kannada language. What ever is there in Vedas and Upanishads is available in Vachanas, but what ever is there in Vachanas is not there in Vedas and Upanishads. Basavanna with his original and creative thinking added much value to Kannada language through Vachana Sahitya.

He left Bagewadi and spent the next 12 years studying Sangameshwara, at the then-Shaivite stronghold of Kudala Sangama. There, he conversed with scholars and developed his spiritual and religious views in association with his societal understanding. His Guru was Jataveda Muni, also known as Eeshanya Guru. His views included believing there is only one true, perfect God; additionally, he created people who perform social services like removal of untouchability, superstitiousness, confusions, temple culture, and priesthoodness. He believed people who were in search of a false god needed to be shown the right way. He preached equality among humankind and condemned all barriers of caste, creed and sex, fighting against the caste system. He is also known as Krantikari (revolutionary) Basavanna for his revolution in the social system of the 12th century.

Basavanna started his career as an accountant at Mangalaveda in the court of Kalachuri king Bijjala, a feudatory of the Kalyani Chalukya. When Bijjala acquired the power at Basavakalyana, by overpowering Tailapa IV(the garandson of Vikramaditya VI, the great Chalukya king), Basavanna also went to Kalyana. With his honesty, hardwork and visionary mission, Basava rose to the position of Prime Minister in the court of king Bijjala, who ruled from 1160 - 1196 at Kalyana (presently renamed as Basavakalyana). There, he established the Anubhava Mantapa, a spiritual parliament to openly discuss Lingayatism, which attracted many saints from throughout India. He believed in the principle Kayakave Kailasa (Work puts you on the path to heaven, Work is Heaven); one step ahead of Ravindranath Tagore's 'work is worship'. It was at this time that the Vachanas, simple and easy-to-understand poetic writings which contained essential teachings, were written. Below is one of the thousands of Vachanas that were written:

The power of knowledge destroys ignorance;
The power of light dissipates darkness;
The power of truth is foe of all untruth;
The sharana's experience of god is the sole cure of worldliness;
Dont rob,Dont kill, Never ever lie
dont get angry, Dont think negative about others
Dont self describe, Dont tease others
this is the way of self respect, this is the way to get respected by the world.
This is the way of impressing my lord Koodala sangam deva.


Basava created much controversy by actively ignoring the societal rules associated with the caste system, which he wished to abolish. By allowing untouchables to have lunch at his residence and praising the historic marriage of a Brahmin woman and an untouchable man, Basava caused orthodox members of King Bijjala's court to go to the King with such stories, some true and some false. Bijjala, afraid of a possible uprising in orthodox society, ordered the newly married couple to be harshly punished. Before punishing the couple Bijjala asked Basava to agree with caste system; but Basava strongly opposed caste system and said, both Haralayya and Madhuvaras were Lingayats and the rules of caste system are not applicable to them. Bijjala did not agree with Basavanna's ideas; and asked Basavanna to be silent and accept the punishment to couple or leave Kalyana. The "Being punished" (Danda-gonda) Basavanna left Kalyana with heavy heart and marched towards Kudala Sangama. He left Kalyana in 1196 A.D. of Rakshasa nama samvatsara, phalguna masada 12th day for Kudala Sangama and en route to Kudala sangama, he preached the people about the humanity, morality, honesty, simplicity, and the dignity of labour, equality among all human beings, human rights etc. Being a perfect yogi he released the bonds of the body and soul and took nirvana (Lingaikya) on 30-7-1196 A.D. (Hindu Calendar: NaLanama samvatsarada Shravan shuddha panchami), in response to the call from Kudala Sangama Deva, or Lingadeva the Almighty.

Basava said that the roots of social life are embedded not in the cream of the society but in the scum of the society. 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. Basava believed that man becomes great not by his birth but by his worth to the 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 the public life in the country, and he insisted that the same rules of conduct applied to the administrators as to the individual members of the 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.

Basava formed people's committees representing various vocations such as agriculture, horticulture, tailoring, weaving, dyeing, and carpentry. All vocations were regarded as of equal value and the members belonged to all sorts of vocations. Thus Jedara Dasimayya was a weaver, Shankar Dasimayya a tailor, Madival Machayya a washerman, Myadar Ketayya a basket-maker, Kinnari Bommayya a goldsmith, Vakkalmuddayya a farmer, Hadap 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.

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 Vacana, 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.


References:
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Last updated on Oct-2014

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