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The teachings of Basaveshwara

Updated on March 4, 2016



Basava Jayanthi




Basava belonged to the lower classes of society

Swamy Basaveshwara dismissed blind faith and blind observances. He did not believe in the notion of pollution, because he said that nothing pollutes this universe nor human beings. Even the dead body does not pollute anything, because one who is proceeding to the abode of Shiva cannot cause pollution. Hence, he declared that there are no untouchables, either in society or in the family. He also did not believe in auspicious and auspicious moments, because all days and nights, and all minutes of the day are created by the same power. This is why he ridiculed blind faiths and practices, laziness and dependency, differentiation between the high born and low born, discrimination between men and women.

More than a thousand Vachanas (the type of poems) of Basaveshwara have come down to us. These have indeed enriched the Kannada language and literature. Basava introduced a system of sharing thoughts on an equal footing with all his associates and followers. They all met regularly to share their thoughts in the Anubhava Mantapa or the Hall of Exchange of (Spiritual) Experiences. Akka Mahadevi (female) Allamprabhu were among the noted Vachana writers and religious leaders of this age. It is significant to note that many followers of Basava belonged to the lower classes of society.

Sri Basaveshwara was born at Bagewadi in Bijapur district in about 1131 AD. Basaveshwara became the court – treasure (bhandari) of the Kalachuri king, Bijjala, at Kalyani. Basavanna began to preach his religious and social philosophy. He rejected social inequality of all kinds, based on the accident of birth and sex. He even arranged the marriage of a Brahmana girl with a boy belonging to the family of untouchables. Enraged by this, a section of the orthodox society brought charges against him of upsetting the social system and urged the king to remove him from his office. The Kalachuri king Bijjala was so enraged as to issue a decree to put to death all those who has conducted the inter caste marriage. This led to an uprising in the kingdom in which Bijjala is stated to have been murdered. Basavanna was deeply affected by these events. He decided to leave Kalyani and settle in Kudalasangama. There he spent his last years and died in 1167 – 68. Basava teachings are couched in the form of Vachanas composed by him. All these are in the Kannada language. They are in verse form, but could read like prose passages. Simple words of the common people take precedence over heavy textual phrases. But the Vachana thoughts are not as simple as the words used in them. The literary form of the vachana – poetry was as revolutionary as its social and religious philosophy.

The Veerashaiva or Lingayat religious sect is also known as Shakti Vishishtadvaita. It believes that there is nothing beyond Shiva. Shiva does not reside in the temple, but He resides in one's own self. He who resides in the body – temples is identified with the Self – chosen Linga or Ishtalinga.

Work is worship is one of them main principles upheld by Basava. He emphasized that there is no better way of worshipping God than by performing one's own duties.He summarized this in two words – 1) Kayakave Kailasa (body is the temple of Shiva). Or 2) Work is worship. He also emphasized that one should share with one's fellow beings whatever one earns from such Kayaka or work. This process of sharing was called dasoha.

The fort at Basavakalyan, Karnataka



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    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 

      3 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      Good article which said:

      "The Veerashaiva or Lingayat religious sect is also known as Shakti Vishishtadvaita. It believes that there is nothing beyond Shiva."

      What does that mean, "there is nothing beyond Shiva?"


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