Liṅgāyatism | Lingayatism


1. Liṅgāyatism

Liṅgāyatism is a Śaivite Hindu religious tradition in India. Initially known as Vīraśaivas, since the 18th century adherents of this faith are known as Liṅgāyats.

The terms Liṅgāyatism and Vīraśaivism have been used synonymously, but Vīraśaivism may refer to the broader Vīraśaiva philosophy which predates Liṅgāyatism, to the historical community now called Liṅgāyats, and to a contemporary (sub) tradition within Liṅgāyatism with Vedic influences.

Liṅgāyatism was founded, or revived by other opinion, by the 12th-century philosopher and statesman Bāsava in Karnataka.

Liṅgāyatism may refer to the whole Liṅgāyat community, but also to a contemporary (sub) tradition dedicated to Bāsava’s original thought, and to a movement within this community which strives toward recognition as an independent religion.

Liṅgāyat scholars thrived in northern Karnataka during the Vijayanagara Empire (14-18th century).

In the 21st century, some Liṅgāyats have sought legal recognition as a religion distinct from Hinduism and Vīraśaivas, a request which has gained political support from the Congress-led Karnataka government, but is opposed by others.

Liṅgāyatism is generally considered a Hindu tradition as their beliefs include many Hindu elements. Worship is centred on Śiva as the universal God in the iconographic form of Īṣṭa Liṅga.

Liṅgāyatism emphasises qualified monism, with philosophical foundations similar to those of the 11-12th-century South Indian philosopher Rāmānuja.

Liṅgāyatism rejects any form of social discrimination, including the caste system.

Contemporary Liṅgāyatism is influential in South India, especially in the state of Karnataka.

Liṅgāyats celebrate anniversaries (Jayantī) of major religious leaders of their tradition, as well as Hindu festivals such as the Śivarātri and Ganesh Caturthī. Liṅgāyatism has its own pilgrimage places, temples, shrines and religious poetry based on Śiva.

Today, Liṅgāyats, along with Śaiva Siddhāṅta followers, Nāths, Paśupatas, Kāpālikas and others constitute the Śaiva population.

2. Etymology

Liṅgāyatism is derived from the Sanskrit root Liṅga (Śiva's mark) and suffix ayta. The adherents of Liṅgāyatism are known as Liṅgāyats.

The term Liṅgāyat is based on the practice of both genders of Liṅgāyats wearing an Īṣṭa Liṅga contained inside a silver box with a necklace all the time. The Īṣṭa Liṅga is an oval-shaped emblem symbolising Paraśiva, the absolute reality and icon of their spirituality.

Historically, Liṅgāyats were known as Vīraśaivas, or "ardent, heroic worshippers of Śiva."

It is believed, the term Vīraśaivism refers both to a "philosophical or theological system as well as to the historical, social and religious movement which originated from that system."

Liṅgāyatism refers to the modern adherents of this religion. The term Liṅgāyats came to be commonly used during the British colonial period.

In the 1871 and the 1881 colonial-era census of British India, Liṅgāyats were listed as Śūdras. In 1926, the Bombay High Court ruled that "the Vīraśaivas are not Śūdras".

The terms Liṅgāyatism and Vīraśaivism have been used synonymously.

Vīraśaivism refers to the broader Vīraśaiva philosophy and theology as well as the movement, while Liṅgāyata refers to the modern community, sect or caste that adheres to this philosophy.

In the contemporary era, some state that Vīraśaiva is a (sub) tradition within Liṅgāyatism with Vedic influences, and these sources have been seeking a political recognition of Liṅgāyatism to be separate from Vīraśaivism, and Liṅgāyatism to be a separate religion.

In contrast, Vīraśaivas consider the 2 contemporary (sub) traditions to be "one and the same community" belonging to Hinduism.

3. Origins of Liṅgāyatism

The origins of Liṅgāyatism are traced to the 11th- and 12th-century CE in a region that includes northern Karnataka and nearby districts of South India. This region was a stronghold of Jainism and Śaivism.

According to some scholars, the Liṅgāyatism theology emerged as a definitive egalitarian movement in this theological milieu, grew rapidly beyond north Karnataka.

The Liṅgāyats were "extremely anti-Jain". The Vīraśaiva philosophy enabled Liṅgāyats to "win over the Jains to Śiva worship". The Liṅgāyats were also anti-Brahmin as evidenced by the polemics against the Brahmins in early Vīraśaiva literature.

According to a tradition, which developed after Bāsava's time, Vīraśaivism was transmitted by 5 Pañcācāryas, namely:

1. Reṇukācārya,
2. Dārukācārya,
3. Ekorāmārādhya,
4. Paṇḍitārādhya,
5. Viśveśvara,

And it was first taught by Reṇukācārya to sage Agastya, a Vedic seer.

A central text in this tradition is Siddhāṅta-Śikhāmaṇi, which was written in Sanskrit, and gives an elaboration of "the original traits of Vīraśaivism found in the Vedas and the Upanishads" and "the concrete features given to it in the latter parts (Uttarā Bhaga) of the Śaivāgamas."

While Vīraśaivas regard the Siddhāṅta Śikhāmaṇi to predate Bāsava, it may actually have been composed in the 13th or 14th century, post-dating Bāsava.

According to some scholars, "Liṅgāyats are followers of Bāsavaṇṇa," while Vīraśaivism is a Vedic Śaiva tradition, which "accepts the Vedic texts and practices like caste and gender discrimination."

Bāsava's reform movement attracted Śaivite Brahmins from Andhra Pradesh; a century after Bāsava, "their descendants started mixing practices from their former religion with Liṅgāyatism."

Bāsava's teachings also got mixed-up with Vedic teachings because much Śaraṇa literature was lost after the exile of Śaraṇa authors from the Bijjala Kingdom.

Vīraśaivism is preserved and transmitted by 5 Pīṭhas:

1. Rambhapuri,
2. Ujjain,
3. Kedarnāth,
4. Śrīśailam,
5. Kāśī,

which play an essential role in the Vīraśaiva tradition.

In contrast, the Virakta monastic organisation upheld "the ideals of Bāsava and his contemporaries."

The Virakta tradition criticised "the Pañcācārya tradition, the Mathas which belonged to it and the (upper) castes which owed their allegiance to them" for their support of Brahmins and their deviation from Bāsava's ideals.

Most Liṅgāyats consider themselves a separate religion, distinct from the Hindu cultural identity, while Vīraśaivism is a Śaivite sect "based on Vedic philosophy."

While "Vīraśaivas claim that the 2 communities are one and the same," orthodox Liṅgāyats claim that they are different:

Liṅgāyats claim that Vīraśaivas do not truly follow Bāsava, accept Vedic literature, and "worship idols of Lord Śiva." Vīraśaivas further "owe allegiance to various religious centres (mutts), while the Liṅgāyats mostly follow their own gurus."


4. Bāsava (12th century)

The Śaraṇa-movement, which started in the 11th century, is regarded by some as the start of Vīraśaivism. It started in a time when Kālāmukha Śaivism, which was supported by the ruling classes, was dominant, and in control of the monasteries. The Śaraṇa-movement was inspired by the Nāyanārs, and emphasised personal religious experience over text-based dogmatism.

The traditional legends and hagiographic texts state Bāsava to be the founder of the Liṅgāyats and its secular practices:

He was a 12th-century Hindu philosopher, statesman, Kannada poet in the Śiva-focused Bhakti movement and a social reformer during the reign of the Kalachuri king Bijjala II (reigned 1157–1167) in Karnataka, India.

Bāsava grew up in a Brahmin family with a tradition of Śaivism. As a leader, he developed and inspired a new devotional movement named Vīraśaivas, or "ardent, heroic worshippers of Śiva".

This movement shared its roots in the on-going Tamil Bhakti movement, particularly the Śaiva Nāyanārs traditions, over the 7-11th-century.

However, Bāsava championed devotional worship that rejected temple worship with rituals led by Brahmins, and emphasized personalised direct worship of Śiva through practices such as individually worn icons and symbols like a small Liṅga.

Bāsavaṇṇa spread social awareness through his poetry, popularly known as Vācanās.

Bāsavaṇṇa rejected gender or social discrimination, and caste distinctions, as well as some extant practices such as the wearing of sacred thread,

and replaced this with the ritual of wearing Īṣṭa Liṅga necklace, with an image of the Śiva Liṅga, by every person regardless of his or her birth, to be a constant reminder of one's bhakti (loving devotion) to god Śiva.

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.

After initially supporting Bāsava, king Bijjala II disagreed with Bāsava's rejection of caste distinctions.

In 1167 the Vīraśaivas were repressed, and most of them left Kalyāṇī, Bijjala's new capital, spreading Bāsava's teachings into a wider area in southern India.

The king was assassinated by the Vīraśaivas in 1168.

5. Consolidation (12–14th century)

After Bāsava's death, Śaivism consolidated its influence in Southern India, meanwhile adjusting to Hindu orthodoxy.

Bāsava's nephew Channabāsavaṇṇa organised the community and systematised Vīraśaiva theology, moving the Vīraśaiva community toward the mainstream Hindu culture.

Bāsava's role in the origins of Śaivism was downplayed, and a mythology developed in which the origins of Vīraśaivism were attributed to the 5 Pañcācāryas, descending to earth in the different world-ages to teach Śaivism. In this narrative, Bāsava was regarded as a reviver of this ancient teaching.

Monasteries of the older Śaiva schools, "such as the Kālāmukha," were taken over by the Vīraśaivas. 2 kinds of monastic orders developed:

Due to their roots in the traditional schools, the Gurusthalada monasteries were more conservative, while the Viraktas "constituted the true Vīraśaiva monastic organisation, shaped by the ideals of Bāsava and his contemporaries."

6. Vijayanagara Empire (15–17th century)

In the 14-15th century, a Liṅgāyat revival took place in northern Karnataka in the Vijayanagara Empire. The Liṅgāyats likely were a part of the reason why Vijayanagara succeeded in territorial expansion and in withstanding the Deccan Sultanate wars.

The Liṅgāyat text Śūnyasampādane grew out of the scholarly discussions in an Anubhava Mantapa, and were "compiled at the Vijayanagara court during the reign of Praudha Deva Raya".

Similarly, the scripture of Liṅgāyatism Bāsava Purāṇa was completed in 1369 during the reign of Vijayanagara ruler Bukka Raya I (reigned 1356–1377 CE).

7. Ikkeri Nāyakas, Keladi dynasty (16-18th century)

The Vīraśaivas were an important part of the Vijayanagara Empire army. They fought the Bijapur Sultans, and the Vīraśaiva leader Sadāśiva Nāyaka played a key role in leading the capture of Sultanate fortress such as at Gulbarga.

This success led to Nāyaka being appointed as the governor of the coastal Karnataka Kanara region. This emerged as a Liṅgāyat dynasty, called the Nāyakas of Keladi.

Another group of Vīraśaivas merchants turned warriors of the Vijayanagara Empire were successful in defeating the Deccan Sultanates in the Lepakshi region (Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border region).

After the collapse of the Vijayanagara Empire, the Liṅgāyat Keladi/Ikkeri dynasty ruled the coastal Karnataka till the invasion and their defeat by Hyder Alī seeking a Mysore-based Sultanate.

The Vīraśaiva dynasty Nāyaka rulers built major 16-18th-century shrines and seminaries of Liṅgāyatism, repaired and built new Hindu and Jain temples,

sponsored major Hindu monasteries such as the Advaita Sringeri Matha and the Vaiṣṇava Udupi Mathas, as well as forts and temples such as at Chitradurga.

They also started new towns and merchant centres in coastal and interior Karnataka.

8. Caste-status debates (19–20th century)

In early decades of the 19th-century, the Liṅgāyats were described by British officials as a conglomeration of Hindu castes with enormous diversity and eclectic, egalitarian social system that accepted converts from all social strata and religions.

However, the British officials also noted the endogamous tradition and hereditary occupations of many Liṅgāyats, which made their classification difficult.

In the 1871 and the 1881 colonial era census of British India, Liṅgāyats were listed as Śūdras.

However, Liṅgāyats traditionally believed themselves to be equal in status to Brahmins, and some orthodox Liṅgāyats were so anti-Brahmin that they would not eat food cooked or handled by Brahmins.

After being placed in the Śūdra category in the 1881 census, Liṅgāyats demanded a higher caste status. This was objected and ridiculed by a Brahmin named Ranganna who said that Liṅgāyats were not Śaiva Brahmins given their eclectic occupations that included washermen, traders, farmers and others, as well as their exogamous relationships with the royal family.

Liṅgāyats persisted in their claims for decades, and their persistence was strengthened by Liṅgāyat presence within the government, and a growing level of literacy and employment in journalism and the judiciary.

In 1926, the Bombay High Court ruled that "the Vīraśaivas are not Śūdras."

In the early 20th century Liṅgāyats tried to raise their social status, by stressing the specific characteristics of their history and of their religious thought as being distinctive from the Brahmin-dominated Hindu-culture.

In the 1910s, the narrative of Bāsava and Allama as the "founding pillars" of the Liṅgāyats gained new importance for the identity of parts of the Liṅgāyat-community, while other parts responded with rejection of this "resurrection."

9. Separate religious identity (21st century)

A modern attempt was made to show Liṅgāyats as having a religion separate from Hindu when Liṅgāyats received discrete entry in the Indian constitution of 1950:

"Individuals and community leaders have made intermittent claims for the legal recognition of either being distinct from Hinduism or a caste within Hinduism.

In 2000, the Akhilā Bhārata All India Vīraśaiva Mahasabha started a campaign for recognition of "Vīraśaivas or Liṅgāyats" as a non-Hindu religion, and a separate listing in the Census.

Recognition as a religious minority would make Liṅgāyats "eligible for rights to open and manage educational institutions given by the Constitution to religious and linguistic minorities."

In 2013, the Akhilā Bhārata All India Vīraśaiva Mahasabha president was still lobbying for recognition of Liṅgāyatism as a separate religion, arguing that Liṅgāyatism rejects the social discrimination propagated by Hinduism.

In 2017, the demands for a separate religious identity gained further momentum on the eve of the 2018 elections in Karnataka: While the Congress party supports the calls for Liṅgāyatism as a separate religion, the BJP regards Liṅgāyats as Vīraśaivas and Hindus.

In August 2017, a rally march supporting Liṅgāyatism as "not Hinduism" attracted almost 200 000 people, while the issue further divides the Liṅgāyat and Vīraśaiva communities, and various opinions exist within the Liṅgāyat and Vīraśaiva communities.

Vīraśaivas claim that the 2 communities are one and the same, while orthodox Liṅgāyats claim that they are different. Vīraśaivas further "owe allegiance to various religious centres (mutts), while the Liṅgāyats mostly follow their own gurus."

Nevertheless, some mutts support the campaign for the status of a separate religion, while "others content to be counted as a caste within Hinduism."

In March 2018, the Karnataka government approved the status of a separate religion for Liṅgāyat community, a decision which was decried by Vīraśaivas. It recommended the Indian government to grant the religious minority status to the sect. Central Indian government rejected this request.

10. Characteristics

Liṅgāyatism is often considered a Hindu sect, because it shares beliefs with Indian religions, and

"their Liṅgāyat beliefs are syncretistic and include an assemblage of many Hindu elements, including the name of their god, Śiva, who is one of the chief figures of the Hindu pantheon."

Its worship is centred on Hindu god Śiva as the universal God in the iconographic form of Īṣṭa Liṅga. They believe that they will be reunited with Śiva after their death by wearing the Liṅgam.

11. Īṣṭa Liṅga

Liṅgāyatism worship is centred on the Hindu God Śiva as the universal God in the iconographic form of Īṣṭa Liṅga. The Liṅgāyats always wear the Īṣṭa Liṅga held with a necklace.

The Īṣṭa Liṅga is made up of small blue-black stone coated with fine durable thick black paste of cow dung ashes mixed with some suitable oil to withstand wear and tear.

The Īṣṭa Liṅga is a symbolism for Lord Śiva. It is viewed as a "living, moving" divinity with the Liṅgāyat devotee.

Every day the devotee removes this personal Liṅga from its box, places it in left palm, offers puja and then meditates about becoming one with the Liṅga, in his or her journey towards the Ātma-Liṅga.


12. Ṣaṭsthala

Liṅgāyatism teaches a path to an individual's spiritual progress, and describes it as a 6-stage Ṣaṭsthala Siddhāṅta. This concept progressively evolves:

1. The phase of a Devotee,
2. The phase of the Master,
3. The phase of the Receiver of Grace,
4. Liṅga in life breath (God dwells in his/her Soul),
5. The phase of surrender (awareness of no distinction in God and Soul, self),
6. the stage of complete union of Soul and god (Liberation, Mukti).

Thus bhakti progresses from external icon-aided loving devotional worship of Śiva to deeper fusion of awareness with abstract Śiva, ultimately to advaita (oneness) of one's Soul and God for Mokṣa.

13. Mukti

While they accept the concept of transmigration of Soul (metempsychosis, reincarnation), they believe that Liṅgāyats are in their last lifetime, and believe that will be reunited with Śiva after their death by wearing the Liṅgam.

Liṅgāyats are not cremated, but "are buried in a sitting, meditative position, holding their personal Liṅga in the right hand."

Liṅgāyat texts such as Vīra-Maheśvara-cara-saṁgraha, Anadi-Vīraśaiva-sāra-saṁgraha, Śivatattva rātnakāra (by Bāsava), and Liṅgāyat Parameśvara Āgama confirm that Rebirth is a fundamental premise of Liṅgāyatism.

However, Liṅgāyats believe that if they live an ethical life then this will be their last life, and they will merge into Śiva.

Rebirth and ways to end rebirth was extensively discussed by Bāsava, Allama Prabhu, Siddharāmeśvara and other religious saints of Liṅgāyatism.

14. Qualified non-dualism

Śūnya, in a series of Kannada language texts, is equated with the Vīraśaiva concept of the Supreme.

In particular, the Śūnyasampādane texts present the ideas of Allama Prabhu in a form of dialogue, where Śūnya is that void and distinctions which a spiritual journey seeks to fill and eliminate. It is then described as state of union of one's Soul with the infinite Śiva, the state of blissful Mokṣa.

This Liṅgāyat concept is similar to Śūnya Brahma concept found in certain texts of Vaishnavism, particularly in Odisha, such as the poetic Pañca-Śākhās:

It explains the Vedāntic idea of Nirguṇa Brahman that is the eternal unchanging metaphysical reality as "personified void". Alternate names for this Hindu concept include Śūnya Puruṣa and Jagannātha in certain texts.

However, both in Liṅgāyatism and various flavours of Vaishnavism the idea of Śūnya is closer to the Hindu concept of metaphysical Brahman, rather than to the Śūnyatā concept of Buddhism.

Śrīpati, a Vīraśaiva scholar, explained Liṅgāyatism philosophy in Śrīkāra Bhāṣya, in Vedanta terms, stating Liṅgāyatism to be a form of qualified non-dualism,

wherein the individual Ātman (Soul) is the body of God, and that there is no difference between Śiva and Ātman (self, Soul), Śiva is one's Ātman, one's Ātman is Śiva.

Śrīpati's analysis places Liṅgāyatism in a form closer to the 11th century Viśiṣṭādvaita philosopher Rāmānuja, than to Advaita philosopher Ādi Śaṅkara.

Ethical conduct

15. Pañca-Ācāras

Kūḍalasaṅgama in Bagalkot district, a temple and pilgrimage site linked to Guru Bāsavaṇṇa

The Pañcācāras describe the 5 codes of conduct to be followed by the Liṅgāyats.
The Pañcācāras include:

I Lingācāra – Daily worship of the individual Īṣṭa Liṅga icon, one to three times day.

II Sadācāra – Attention to vocation and duty, and adherence to the 7 rules of conduct issued by Bāsavaṇṇa:

1. Do not steal
2. Do not kill or hurt
3. Do not utter lies)
4. Do not praise yourself i.e. practice humility
5. Do not criticize others
6. shun anger
7. Do not be intolerant towards others

III Śivācāra – acknowledging Śiva as the supreme divine being and upholding the equality and well-being of all human beings.

IV Bhrityācāra – Compassion towards all creatures.

V Ganācāra – Defence of the community and its tenets.

16. Aṣṭa Āvaraṇa

Aṣṭāvaraṇa is the 8-fold armour that shields the devotee from extraneous distraction and worldly attachments. The Aṣṭāvaraṇas include:

1. Guru – obedience towards Guru, the Mentor;
2. Liṅga – wearing the Īṣṭa Liṅga on your body at all times;
3. Jangama – reverence for Śiva ascetics as incarnations of divinity;
4. Pādodaka – sipping the water used for bathing the Liṅga;
5. Prasāda – sacred offerings;
6. Vibhūti – smearing holy ash on oneself daily;
7. Rudrakṣa – wearing a string of Rudrakṣa;
8. Mantra – reciting the mantra of "Namaḥ Śivāya" (salutation to Śiva)

17. Kāyakavē Kailāsa doctrine and karma

Kāyakavē Kailāsa is a slogan in Vīraśaivism. It means "work is heaven" or "to work Kāyakavē is to be in the Lord's Kingdom Kailāsa".

Some scholars translate Kāyaka as "worship, ritual", while others translate it as "work, labour". The slogan is attributed to Bāsava, and generally interpreted to signify a work ethic for all social classes.

Liṅgāyat poet-saints accepted the concept of karma and repeatedly mention it in their Śiva poetry.

For example, Mahādeviyakka mentions karma and resulting chain of rebirths that are cut short by bhakti to Śiva.

Liṅgāyatism has the concepts of karma and dharma, but the Liṅgāyatism doctrine of karma is not one of fate and destiny. Liṅgāyats believe in Kāyaka (work) and the transformative potential of "one's work in the here and now".

Siddharāma and Allama debated the doctrine of karma as the law of work and merit, but Allama persuaded Siddharāma that such merit is a low-level mechanism, and real mystical achievement transcends "the sphere of works and rewards" and is void of self-interest.

These ideas are similar to those found in Bhagavad Gītā which teaches "work must be done without any attachment to the results".

18. Dāsoha doctrine

Dāsoha is the purpose and result of Kāyakavē Kailāsa in Liṅgāyatism:

Dāsoha means "service", and more specifically "service to other Liṅgāyats".

Regardless of one's vocation, Liṅgāyatism suggests giving and donating a part of one's time, effort and income to one's community and to religious mendicants.

According to Vīraśaivism, skilful work and service to one's community, without discrimination, is a means to experiencing the divine, a sentiment that continues to be revered in present-day Vīraśaivas.

This social ethic is also found among other Hindu communities of South India, and includes community provisioning of grains and sharing other essentials particularly with poorer members of society and those affected by natural or other disasters.

19. Liṅgadharane

Liṅgadharane is the ceremony of initiation among Liṅgāyats.

Though Liṅgadharane can be performed at any age, it is usually performed when a foetus in the womb is 7–8 months old:

The family Guru performs pūjā and provides the Īṣṭa Liṅga to the mother, who then ties it to her own Īṣṭa Liṅga until birth. At birth the mother secures the new Īṣṭa Liṅga to her child.

Upon attaining the age of 8–11 years, the child receives Dīkṣā from the family Guru to know the proper procedure to perform pūjā of Īṣṭa Liṅga.

From birth to death, the child wears the Liṅga at all times and it is worshipped as a personal Īṣṭa Liṅga.

The Liṅga is wrapped in a cloth housed in a small silver and wooden box. It is to be worn on the chest, over the seat of the indwelling deity within the heart. Some people wear it on the chest or around the body using a thread.

20. Vegetarianism

Liṅgāyats are strict vegetarians. Devout Liṅgāyats do not consume beef, or meat of any kind including fish. The drinking of alcohol is prohibited.

21. Militancy

The early Liṅgāyat literature, including the Bāsava Purāṇa, highly praises militant action against anyone who persecutes a fellow Liṅgāyat or their ability to practice their Śiva-bhakti traditions.

One of earliest assassinations in retaliation for persecution happened in the 12th-century when king Bijjala was murdered:

However, the early texts of Liṅgāyats give different accounts on who ordered the assassination leading to doubts about the trustworthiness of these historic texts.

22. Temples

Vīraśaivas believe that the human body is a temple. In addition, they have continued to build the community halls and Śaiva temple traditions of South India.

Their temples include Śiva Liṅga in the sanctum, a sitting Nandi facing the Liṅga, with mandapa and other features.

However, the prayers and offerings are not led by Brahmin priests but by Liṅgāyat priests. The temple format is simpler than those of Jains and Hindus found in north Karnataka.

In some parts of Karnataka, these temples are Samādhis of Liṅgāyat Saints, in others such as the Vīrabhadrā temple of Belgavi – one of the important pilgrimage sites for Liṅgāyats, and other historic temples, the Śiva temple is operated and maintained by Liṅgāyat priests.

Many rural Liṅgāyat communities include the images of Śiva, Pārvatī and Gaṇeśa in their wedding invitations, while Gaṇeśa festivities are observed by both rural and urban Liṅgāyats in many parts of Karnataka. Colonial-era reports by British officials confirm that Liṅgāyats observed Gaṇeśa Caturthī in the 19th-century.

23. Liṅgāyat literature

Several works are attributed to the founder of Liṅgāyatism movement, Bāsava, and these texts are revered in the Liṅgāyat community.

In particular, these include various Vācanā (literally, "what is said") such as:

1. Ṣaṭsthala-Vācanā,
2. Kala-jñāna-Vācanā,
3. Mantra-gopya,
4. Ghatachakra-Vācanā,
5. Raja-yoga-Vācanā

Saints and Śaraṇas like Allama-Prabhu, Akka Mahādevī, Siddharāma and Bāsava were at the forefront of this development during the 12th century.

Other important Liṅgāyat literature includes:

a) Śūnyasampādane
b) Mantra Gopya
c) Karana Hasuge

The Bāsava Purāṇa, a Telugu biographical epic poem which narrates the life story of Bāsava, was written by Pālkuriki Somanātha in 13th-century, and an updated 14th-century Kannada version was written by Bhīma Kavi in 1369. Both are sacred texts in Liṅgāyatism.

24. Vedas and Śāstras

Vīraśaiva thinkers rejected the custodial hold of Brahmins over the Vedas and the Śāstras, but they did not outright reject the Vedic knowledge.

The 13th-century Telugu Vīraśaiva poet Pālkuriki Somanātha, author of Bāsava Purāṇa - a scripture of Vīraśaivas, for example, asserted, "Vīraśaivism fully conformed to the Vedas and the Śāstras."

Somanātha repeatedly stated that "he was a scholar of the 4 Vedas".

Liṅgāyatism considers the Vedas as a means, but not the sanctimonious end. It rejected various forms of ritualism and the uncritical adherence to any text including the Vedas.

25. Anubhava Mantapa

The Anubhava Mantapa literally means the "hall of spiritual experience":

It has been a Liṅgāyat institution since the time of Bāsava, serving as an academy of mystics, saints and poet-philosophers for discussion of spiritual and mundane questions of life, in open.

It was the fountainhead of all religious and philosophical thought pertaining to the Liṅgāyata:

It was presided over by the mystic Allama Prabhu, and numerous Śaraṇas from all over Karnataka and other parts of India were participants.

This institution also helped propagate Liṅgāyatism religious and philosophical thought. Akka Mahādevī, Channabāsavaṇṇa and Bāsavaṇṇa himself were participants in the Anubhava Mantapa.

26. Demographics

Liṅgāyats today are found predominantly in the state of Karnataka, especially in North and Central Karnataka with a sizeable population native to South Karnataka. Liṅgāyats have been estimated to be about 20% of Karnataka's population and about 10% of Maharashtra's population.

Significant populations are also found in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana bordering Karnataka, as well as Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat.

The Liṅgāyat diaspora can be found in countries around the world, particularly the United States, Britain and Australia.

27. Funeral rites

Liṅgāyats always bury the dead body:

The dying person is placed on white cloth and a few drops of holy water (Tīrtha) are poured into the mouth of dying person and the body is smeared with holy ashes (Vibhūti).

A priest (Jaṅgama) is called to perform the rites.

The dead body is washed and laid cross-legged against wall for some time and then it is taken to graveyard in a sitting position in a procession with well dressed, decorated flowers on an ornamental bier with Vācanā bhajan.

The dead body is buried in a sitting position in a grave with its face towards East or North.

The mourners bathe and go home and they wash the feet of Jaṅgama, sprinkle the water around. On 11th day, a feast will be arranged to friends and relatives and this event is called as Śivagaṇa Ārādhanā.