Veerashaivism is one of the most ancient religious sects which is quintessentially part of Hinduism. While the sect is traditionally called ‘Veerashaiva’, in spoken language, it is called ‘Lingayata’. It is indeed tragic that a few people with vested interests are trying to break Hinduism by dividing the community into Veerashaivas and Lingayata. In fact, the origin of Veerashaiva is prior to the period of ‘Basaveshwara’.
Basavanna himself has said that he would accept such a religion where both men and women were treated equally and accepted the idea of ‘Veerashaiva’. He himself did not set up any religion per se. Leading researchers have concluded that Veerashaiva and Lingayata are the same. Unfortunately, those who are demanding separate religion status are not aware of these facts. The demand for a separate religion does not stand as valid as Lingayata comprises uses of Vibhooti (Bhasma), Rudrakshi and Khavi, cloth which are symbols of Hinduism. When you have been using the same symbols of Hinduism, how could one ask for another religion with more or less the same symbols? This was the same reason why the Centre rejected separate religion status to Veerashaiva in 2001.
Today, there have been efforts to create differences between the Virakta Mutt and the Panchapeeta Mutts. But not many are aware that both owe their allegiance to the same tradition which is nothing but Veerashaiva. Lingayata does not have its own set of tradition and instead inherits whatever has been practised in Veerashaiva. That being the case, how could one demand a separate religion. If anyone is more interested in a separate religion, then they can do so by calling themselves as ‘Basava Dharma’, which is also an off-shoot of Lingayata as Basavanna subscribed to Veerashaiva.
(Dr Yeteeshwara Shivacharya Swami represents Kuppur Gaddige Mutt, Tumakuru district)