Basaveshwara, the exemplary social reformer

basaveshwaraAs of now, there is a lot of mayhem in my home state, Karnataka, where people are getting divided on the basis of caste, religion, and all kinds of labels.

India as a land has always been spiritual, a land of seekers who have always recognised that all answers shall come from a divine power above. Even social reform has always been guided spiritually, be it in the case of Buddha, Mahavira or Karnataka’s Basaveswara in earlier times and Mahatma Gandhi in recent times.


Basaveshwara was born in Bagevadi ( of undivided Bijapur district in Karnataka) during 1131 AD. He   belonged to Brahmin community. As a religious tradition, he was initiated with the holy thread ‘janivara’ in Upanayana, (thread ceremony) at the early age of eight years. Basavanna revolted against this tradition, cut threw his janivara,  left  home and went to Kudalasangama from where he was educated in all respects.

In the later stage, he went to Kalyana, where the Kalchuri king Bijjala (1157-1167, AD) was ruling. Because of his highly intellectual personality, he was appointed  as a karanika (Accountant) in the initial stage, in the court of king Bijjala and later he became the Prime minister of Bijjala  after proving his administrative ability.

At this stage, Basaveshwara looked around the socio-economic status of the then society, where most of the static, superstitious and anti-social elements were ruling. There was much gap between haves and have- nots and rich people were harassing the poor.  Untouchability was rampant and sex discrimination made the lives of women very pathetic. Basavanna revolted against all these evils and he himself started practicing the socialistic norms to bring about drastic change in the society. Hence, he became the guiding path to others in bringing the change. He scripted his practical experiences in a novel form of literature called –Vachana (poetry).  This innovative literary form is the main contribution of “Sharanas”  through which they expressed their revolutionary and reformist ideology in a very simple Kannada language.

First of all Basavanna  tried to change the concept of Temple which was the main centre of various types of harassments.   Priests   and rich people were exploiting the common folk in the name of God and temple. Thus he tried to convince the society about the real god and temple, which are within and with us only. In one of his vachana he says-

Rich build temples for shiva

What can I a poor man do?

My legs are the  pillars

My body is temple

My head makes the golden cupola

Oh, Lord  kudala sangama

The standing will perish

The moving will stay on.

By saying so, Basaveshwara gave two important and innovative concepts called “Sthavara ’’and  “Jangama’’, the meaning of which is “Static’’ and ‘’Dynamic’’- respectively. Both of these concepts are the main foundation stones of the revolutionary ideology of Basavanna.  By ridiculing the physical structure of temple and God; which are perishable, Basavanna  gave a new dimension to the human body and soul (inner spirit), by which the  self respect of all human beings was boosted.

Perhaps the most revealing test of the sincerity of any drive for reform lies in how welcoming it is of the voices of women. When Basava sparked the 12th century movement that we now recognize as Lingayatism, many were those of dazzling intellect who joined him. Tired of social shackles and determined to chart an alternative course, they found in Basava’s anti-caste, egalitarian crusade a resonance that has survived the ages, down, indeed, to our times. Indeed, of the 210 saints associated with Basava, as many as 35 were female, 14 of them unmarried. These were women of uncommon brilliance who, in addition to their battles against caste and inequality, also challenged patriarchy’s grip over their bodies and thought.

Being a born progressive activist, Basaveshwara revolted against all the social evils of the traditionalistic society and brought a drastic change in various facets.  We often talk about the human rights in this twenty-first century, but these human rights were being enjoyed by sharanas (Citizens of welfare society) during 12th century itself, because of the socialistic and democratic  approach of Basavanna .

While making our choices in all areas,  let us try to see what the leaders/ parties stand for to make the right choices to take our nation move forward progressively.

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