Intro: The great Indian Philosopher and social reformer Basaveshwara’s teachings tended in many ways to raise the nation generally to a higher level of capacity both in thought and action.
On April 21, 2015 Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Members of Parliament to remember and celebrate the birthday of great Indian philosopher and social reformer Basava also called Basaveshwara— the creator of a model Parliament as early as 1150A.D.
Basava’s statue is going to be unveiled in the city of London, to honour him for establishing the concept of democracy as early as 12th century. This concept was created for sharing information believing where there is information, there is enlightenment: When there is debate, there are solutions. Based on this understanding at that age and time Basaveshwara created a model Parliament called the Anubhava Mantapa which not only gave equal representation to men and women but also had representatives from different socio–economic backgrounds.
A learned scholar, he helped spread social awareness through his poetry, popularly known as “Vachananas”. Classical Hindu theologists interpret
the ‘Vachaas’ as the essence of
Vedic knowledge while attempting to explain the social change Basava was ushering in.
He taught people how to live happily in a rational social order which later came to be known as the Sharana movement. He spread the concept of the path of becoming God through four levels of divinity that exists in one’s own body. He taught ‘Sharanas’- the technique of transcending the mind with one’s own prana through a process of Ishtalinga, Pranalinga and Bhavalinga Sadhana, and said that anybody in the world, irrespective of caste, creed etc, can transcend and become God by being in union with prana.
Other than being called a philosopher and reformer, Basaveshwara is called as “Vishwa Guru” by his followers. He is credited for creating a literary revolution through his literary creation called Vachna Sahitya in Kannada languages which is derived from Upanishadas and Vedanta. Many great intellectuals joined his movement, enriching it with the essence of divine experience in the form of Vachanas. It is said he spent twelve years studying Sangameshwara, the then Shaivite School of learning at Kudala Sangama. There, he conversed with scholars and developed his
spiritual and religious views. Basaveshwara used his Ishtalinga, the image of God in one’s body, to
eradicate untouchability and establish equality among all human beings as a means to attain spiritual
A genuine reformer appears once in a millennium. He reviews past history and helps set a new order. His task is not one of a revolution, but of renaissance. The movement of reformation inaugurated by him has its far reaching effect upon the social life of the nation. Hence, so long as we view Basava in the context of Virashaivism, we miss his personality and his profound teaching.
Born in Karnataka, Basava belonged to the whole of mankind. His heart relented for the poor and downtrodden everywhere. He taught us one of the main principles of democracy by saying that the roots of social life are embedded not in the cream of the society but in the scum of the society.
He said that the cow does not give milk to a person who sits on its back, but it gives milk to him who squats at its feet. With his wide sympathy, he admitted high and low alike into his fold. This remarkable admission carried its influence far and wide and stirred the stagnant waters of the land. The Anubhava Mantapa established by Basava then eventually laid down the foundation of social democracy-A democratic society in which all enjoy social rights and privileges without any barriers of class distinctions.
A revolutionary of his kind, he raised the cry of revolt against the static form of society. He proclaimed that all members of the state are labourers; some are intellectual labourers, while others can be called manual labourers. He placed practice before precept and lived a righteous life. This great scholar with his learning brought home to his countrymen the lesson of self-purification. He raised the moral level of the public life in the country and insisted that the same rules of conduct applied to the administrators as to the individual members of the society.
He taught the dignity of manual labour by insisting on work as worship as a result of which arts and crafts flourished and a new foundation was laid down in the history of the economics of the land.
Basaveshwara formed peoples’ committees representing various vocations such as agriculture, horticulture, tailoring, weaving, dying, carpentry etc. All vocations were regarded as of equal value and the members belonged to all sorts of vocations. Thus Jedara Dasimayya was a weaver, Shankar Dasimayya a tailor, Madival Machayya a washerman, Myadar Ketayya a basket-maker, Kinnari Bommayya a goldsmith, Vakkalmuddayya a farmer, Hadap Appanna a barber, Jedar Madanna a soldier, Ganada Kannappa an oilman, Dohar Kakkayya a tanner, Mydar Channayya a cobbler and Ambigara Chowdayya a ferryman. There were members of the fair sex such as Satyakka, Ramavve, Somavve with their respective vocations. The curious thing was that all these and many more have sung the vachanas (sayings) regarding their vocations in a very suggestive imagery.
Through his teachings and social efforts Basava boldly tried to work out a large and comprehensive programme of social reform with the elevation and independence of womanhood as its guiding point. Neither social conferences which are usually held
these days in several parts of India,
nor Indian social reformers, can improve upon that programme as to the essentials.
It is observed Basava’s Anubhava Mantapa became the basis of religion of love and faith. It gave rise to a system of ethics and education, and inspired ideals of social and religious freedom, such as no previous faith of India had done. In the medieval age which was characterised by intercommunal jealousy, it helped to shed a ray of light and faith on the homes and hearts of people. It rendered the Hindu religion all embracing in its sympathy, catholic in its outlook, and helped establish it as a perennial fountain of delight and inspiration. The movement gave a literature of considerable value in the vernacular language of the country: the literature which attained the dignity of a classical tongue in times to come. It eliminated the barriers of caste and removed untouchability. It raised the untouchable equal to that of the high born. It gave sanctity to the family relations and raised the status of womanhood. It undermined the importance of rites and rituals, of fasts and pilgrimages. It encouraged learning and contemplation of God by means of love and faith. It deplored the excesses of polytheism and developed the plan of monotheism. It tended in many ways to raise the nation generally to a higher level of capacity both in thought and action.
He was modest and used to say, “There is none smaller than me.” He never wanted to be praised. He would work with the people as one of them. He always addressed people courteously in affectionate terms, as “father”, “brother” and so on. He spread pragmatic philosophies throughout his life and he said that there is only one God. He felt that compassion is the main root of all religions and he taught his descendants to treat all the living beings with kindness.
V Shanmuganathan (The writer is Additional Office Secretary, BJP Parliamanetary Party Executive Committee)