• Basava, also called Basaveshwara and Basavanna, was an Indian philosopher, poet, Lingayat social reformer in the Shiva-focused bhakti movement, and a Hindu Shaivite social reformer during the reign of the Kalyani Chalukya/Kalachuri dynasty.
    • The term Lingayat denotes a person who wears a personal linga, an iconic form of God Shiva, on the body which is received during the initiation ceremony.
  • He was born in Karnataka in 1131 CE. He is also known as Bhakti Bhandari (literally, the treasurer of devotion), or Basaveswara (Lord Basava).
  • Basava was active during the rule of both dynasties but reached the peak of his influence during the rule of King Bijjala II in Karnataka.
  • Basava literary works include the Vachana Sahitya in Kannada Language. Basavanna used his poetry, known as Vachanaas, to raise societal consciousness. Gender or social discrimination, superstitions and rituals were all rejected by the Basavanna.

Social Reforms by Basavanna

  • Basava spread social awareness through his poetry, popularly known as Vachanaas.
  • He believed in a society free of the caste system, with equal opportunity for all and preached about manual hard work.
  • He rejected gender or social discrimination, superstitions and rituals but introduced Ishtalinga necklace, with an image of the lingam, to every person regardless of their birth, to be a constant reminder of one’s bhakti (devotion) to Shiva.
  • A strong promoter of ahimsa, he also condemned human and animal sacrifices.
  • As the chief minister of his kingdom, he introduced new public institutions such as the Anubhava Mantapa (or, the “hall of spiritual experience”), which welcomed men and women from all socio-economic backgrounds to discuss spiritual and mundane questions of life, in open.
  • He presided over the Sharana movement, which drew individuals from all classes and, like most strands of the Bhakti movement, generated a corpus of literature, the vachanas, that revealed the spiritual realm of the Veerashaiva saints.
    • Basavanna’s Sharana movement’s equality was too radical for its time.
    • Basaveshwara is the first Kannadiga to have a commemorative coin made in his honour in celebration of his social reforms.

Literary works:

  • Basavanna is credited with several major Lingayat works, including Vachana, such as the Shat-Sthala-Vachana, Kala-jnana-Vachana, Mantra-Gopya, Ghatna Chakra-Vachana, and Raja-yoga-Vachana.
    • Basava Purana: The Basava Purana is a 13th-century Telugu epic poem. It was written by Palkuriki Somanatha. It is a sacred text of Lingayat. The epic poem narrates the life story of philosopher and social reformer Basava, the founder of Lingayat.
  • His poems explained principles of devotion to God in story form using examples from daily life.
    • Through his poetry, Basavanna promoted loving devotion to God without rituals. He emphasized following virtues like honesty instead of just prayers. Basavanna’s poems made philosophical concepts graspable to common folks. His creative works expanded the Kannada vocabulary. Many people found spiritual freedom and courage through his inspiring writings.


  • Basava grew up in a Shaivite family. As a leader, he developed and inspired a new devotional movement named Virashaivas, or “ardent, heroic worshippers of Shiva”.
    • This movement shared its roots in the ongoing Tamil Bhakti movement, particularly the Shaiva Nayanars traditions, over the 7th- to 11th-century.
  • However, Basava championed devotional worship that rejected temple worship and rituals led by Brahmins and replaced it with personalized direct worship of Shiva through practices such as individually worn icons and symbols like a small linga.
    • This approach brought Shiva’s presence to everyone and at all times, without gender, class or caste discrimination.
  • Basava’s poem, speak of strong sense of gender equality and community bond, willing to wage war for the right cause, yet being a fellow “devotees’ bride” at the time of their need.
  • Basava emphasized constant personal spiritual development as the path to profound enlightenment.
    • He championed the use of vernacular language, Kannada, in all spiritual discussions so that translation and interpretation by the elite is unnecessary, and everyone can understand the spiritual ideas.
  • Basavanna’s philosophy revolves around treating one’s own body and soul as a temple; instead of making a temple, he suggests being the temple.
    • His trinity consisted of guru (teacher), linga (personal symbol of Shiva) and jangama (constantly moving and learning).
  • Basava established, in 12th-century, Anubhava Mantapa, a hall for gathering and discussion of spiritual ideas by any member of the society from both genders, where ardent devotees of Shiva shared their achievements and spiritual poems in the local language.
  • He questioned rituals, dualism, and externalization of god, and stated that the true God is “one with himself, self-born”.
  • While Basava rejected rituals, he encouraged icons and symbols such as the wearing of Istalinga (necklace with personal linga, symbol of Shiva), of Rudraksha seeds or beads on parts of one body, and apply Vibhuti (sacred ash on forehead) as a constant reminder of one’s devotion and principles of faith.
    • Another aid to faith, he encouraged was the six-syllable mantra, Shivaya Namah, or the shadhakshara mantra which is Om Namah Shivaya.


  • His spiritual discipline was based on the principles of Arivu (true knowledge), Achara (right conduct), and Anubhava (divine experience) and it brought a social, religious and economic revolution in the 12th century.
    • This path advocates a holistic approach to Lingangayoga (union with the divine).
    • This comprehensive discipline encompasses bhakti (devotion), jnana (knowledge), and kriya (action) in a well-balanced manner.
  • Other Socio-Economic Principles: Basaveshwara gave two more very important socio-economic principles.
    • Kayaka (Divine work):
      • According to this, every individual in society should take up the job of his choice and perform it with all sincerity.
    • Dasoha (Equal distribution):
      • There must be an equal income for equal work.
      • The worker (Kayakajeevi) may lead his day-to-day life by his hard-earned income. But he should not preserve the money or property for tomorrow. He must utilize the surplus money for society and the poor.
Anubhava Mantapa
  • Basaveshwara established the Anubhava Mantapa, which was a common forum for all to discuss the prevailing problems of socio, economic and political strata including religious and spiritual principles along with personal problems.
  • Thus, it was the first and foremost Parliament of India, where Sharanas (citizens of welfare society) sat together and discussed the socialistic principles of a Democratic set up.
  • Recently, the Chief Minister of Karnataka has laid the foundation stone for the ‘New Anubhava Mantapa’ in Basavakalyan.

Panchachara and Ashtavarana:

  • The means of attainment as described and accepted by the Veera Shaivas depend on the panchachara (five codes of conduct) and ashtavarana (eight shields) to protect the body as the abode of the Lord.
  • Panchachara or the five codes are:
    1. Lingachara (everyday worship of the Sivalinga)
    2. Sadachara (paying attention to vocation and duty)
    3. Sivachara (equality among members and acknowledging Siva as the one God)
    4. Bhrityachara (humility towards all creatures) and
    5. Ganachara (defense of the community and its tenets)
  • Ashtavarna or the eight shields are:
    1. Guru
    2. Linga
    3. Jangama (wandering monk)
    4. Paduka (water from bathing the Linga or guru’s feet)
    5. Prasada (sacred offering)
    6. Vibhuti (holy ash)
    7. Rudraksha (holy beads) and
    8. Mantra (Namah Sivaya)
  • ‘Linga Diksha’ is the formal initiation into the Veera Shaiva religion. It is a rite performed for both the genders. Here, the sacred thread ceremony is replaced, enjoining the Lingayat (devotee) to worship the personal Sivalinga on a daily basis. Lingayats place great emphasis on this life, on equality of all members (regardless of sex, education, caste, etc.) and social service. Free will is stressed upon in the faith, affirming a purposeful world. It avows pure monotheism.
  • In a Lingayat family, when a child is born, he/she introduced to the faith on the very same day. A visit is made to a Jangama (monk). The Jangama bestows the child with a small Sivalinga encased in a pendant tied to a thread. This encased Sivalinga is the personal/ chosen Linga which must be worn around one’s neck throughout one’s life.

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