Editor – G R Jagadeesh
The great saints and poets of the world can teach us how to acquire the spiritual strength we need to pull ourselves out of the rut of daily humdrum circumstances. Basaveshwara popularly known as Basavanna, of Karnataka, was a saint, a poet, administrator and an ardent social reformer, and is among the great spiritual teachers of India.
In the context of the social changes and religious awakening in modern India, the message of Basaveshwara acquires a special significance. Today Indian society, with its ideas of democracy and nationalism and its emphasis on the spread of education and on a scientific outlook, is reshaping itself. It is influenced by the main current of world thought. Our thought patterns are changing so radically that it seems impossible for some of our old values, institutions and customs, like castes and creeds and rituals, and for our blind beliefs to survive. Basavanna lived eight hundred years ago, but he strikes us as thoroughly modern and practical, and so his teaching has relevance today. The picture of Indian society would have been quite different is only that teaching had been followed. He may rightly be called the prophet of a new era in Karnataka and even in India.
A sharp distinction was made between the higher classes and the Sudras and even these groups were divided into innumerable sub-castes and sub-sects. Religion became the monopoly of the privileged few. Vedic knowledge was denied to women and the sudras. All the dharmashastras were written or interpreted in support of this view and thus social injustice received the stamp of religious sanction. Added to this was the ignominy of untouchability. The plight of the untouchables was miserable. They were treated worse than animals. Hindu society, in spite of all its high cultural traditions and spiritual splendours, had failed miserably to meet the needs and aspirations of the common people. It was at this hour of need that Basavanna appeared on the scene.
Basavanna was born in a high-placed Bramhin family in Ingaleshwar-Bagewadi of Vijayapura District, Karnataka around 1131 A.D. As soon as he was born a great Shaiva saint called Jatavedamuni, came from Kudala sangama to bless the child with a symbolic Linga and to initiate him to new path.
Even as a child Basava displayed signs of greatness and individuality. He was a precocious child with an independent spirit. He found that in the name of religion, superstitions and dogmas held men and their minds in a firm grip. Even the temples had became the centres of exploitation. Young Basava pondered over these things.
At the age of eight he went to Kudala Sangama to study in the guidance of Jatavedamuni who was running a gurukula there. Kudala sangama a place situated at the confluence of the rivers Krishna and Malaprabha was one of the great centres of learning in those days. Ishanya guru the sthanapati of the chancellor of that centre of learning, was the guru, who had given the infant Basavanna a Linga on his birth day. Nagamma, his elder sister who was attached to him very much, also accompanied him to Sangama. She had been married to Shivaswamy was from Kudala Sangama and this was itself a very happy coincidence. Sangama was an ideal place where Basavanna could pursue his studies and realize his cherished objective.
The wearing of the Linga, in those days was not a sign of caste, but only a means of worship. Anybody, without any distinction of caste, creed, or sex, could wear it.
Thus even at that early age he found that the significant symbol of Shiva could become a powerful means to propagate social and religious equality, and so he was attracted towards Veerashaivism, which regarded Lingadharana or wearing of Linga on the body as initiation or Deeksha. His stay at Sangama gave his thoughts a new vitality and brought him a new vision
Ishanya guru found in Basava the promise of an extraordinary career. Under his able guidance Basavanna spent some years in rigorous study and spiritual meditation. This period of his life was extremely significant for it was here that his future plans were shaped and paths were determined.
He studied extensively, the Vedas, Upanishads, Agamas, Puranas and the Kavyas as well as expositions of various religious faiths and philosophies. He studied them critically and his revolutionary mind sought to translate the ideas and ideals which appealed to him into deeds. The poet in him grew as he sought to give expression to his devotional fervour in the form of Vachanas in Kannada language.
He spent about twelve to thirteen years at Sangama. Basava dedicated to the lofty ideal of spiritual pursuit, was not quite prepared to accept the married life. But Ishanya guru convinced him that he should participate in worldly life with his new message to mankind. He succeeded Baladeva his father in law as Bhandari, in charge of finance in the kingdom of Bijjala of Chalukya dynasty in Karnataka. He was found to be most appropriate choice to that post. After some time Bijjala persuaded Basavanna to accept the minister ship of the empire. He was not interested in the political upheaval; nor did he wish to acquire power. But he agreed only because it would provide him with ample opportunity to pursue his mission effectively. His achievements in the short span of about thirteen years of his stay at Kalyana the capital of the empire are striking.
He plunged into religious and social activities. He worked with burning zeal to realize what he had visualised at KukalaSangama. The gates of Dharma were thrown open to all without any barriers of caste, creed of sex. He established a socio-religious academy called Anubha Mantapa which attracted hundreds of saints and spiritual aspirants from all over the country. In particular from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Saurashtra and Kashmir. And thousands of true worshipers of god.
Dharma became a living force in the vital cause of mass awakening. At no other time in history of religion had Dharma acquired such splendour and such miraculous power. It is said that Basavanna performed many miracles; but the greatest miracle is this that he raised the common man and the outcast to the divine heights of spiritual realisation.
His revolutionary message and mission created a sensation among the orthodox. They organised themselves to oppose him. They framed many allegations, concocted tales about Basavanna and tried to lower him in Bijjalala’s eyes. But his magnetic personality could overcome even Himalayan obstacles, and his mission continued with even greater zeal. It reached its culmination in the marriage between the daughter of Madhuvarasa a Brahmin and the son of Haralayya an untouchable. It was according to the orthodox, Varna sankara which was against Dharma. So, fretting and fuming, they raised a hue and cry. They complained against Basavanna and his followers to the king who was expected to be the custodian of Varnashrama Dharma.
According to Basavanna the marriage was quite in order. His argument was that once Madhuvarasa came to the Sharana fold, he was not a Brahmin; nor was Haralayya an untouchable. When they became Bhaktas wearing Ling they transcended Varnas. Both are became Lingayats.
Basavanna’s opponents grew stronger. Bijjala had to yield to the pressure of the vested interests. The innocent Haralayya and Madhuvarasa were mercilessly persecuted. They were chained to the legs of an elephant which dragged them to their death. This atrocity shocked the Sharanas. By this time Basavanna had gone to Kudala Sangama to be away from the pandemonium and to spend some quiet days. But things developed too quickly for him to do anything and he became a helpless victim of the conspiracy of circumstances.
As Basavanna was not merely a social reformer but a prophet and a great mystic, he could perceive the divine dispensation that was working through these happenings. He thought his mission was over and he could return to Lord Sangameshwara from whom he had received the mandate to be the instrument of the Divine Will. He attained Linaganga Samarasya i.e., consubstantial union with Lord Sangamanatha.
This brief history of Basavanna’s life is only a formal account. The true biography of prophets and saints is the history of the evolution of their world within, their spiritual life, their vision, realization and mission.
Courtesy: Basaveshwara – H. Thipperudraswamy
Read More : दुनिया के महान संत बसवेश्वर का जीवन दर्शन