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LINGAYAT (from linga, the emblem of S...

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Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 729 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LINGAYAT (from linga, the emblem of Siva), the name of a peculiar sect of Siva worshippers in southern India, who call themselves Vira-Saivas (see HINDUISM). They carry on the person a stone linga (phallus) in a silver casket. The founder of 2 As the name of the fish, " ling " is found in other Teut. language; cf. Dutch and Ger. Leng, Norw. langa, &c. It is generally connected in origin with " long," from the length of its body. As the name of the common heather, Callum vulgaris (see HEATH) the word is Scandinavian; cf. Dutch and Dan. lyng, Swed. ljung. the sect is said to have been Basava, a Brahman prime minister of a Jain king in the 12th century. The Lingayats are specially numerous in the Kanarese country, and to them the Kanarese language owes its cultivation as literature. Their priests are called Jangamas. In 1901 the total number of Lingayats in all India was returned as more than 22 millions, mostly in Mysore and the adjoining districts of Bombay, Madras and Hyderabad.
End of Article: LINGAYAT (from linga, the emblem of Siva)
JOHN LINGARD (1771-1851)

Additional information and Comments

The history of the Lingayat faith goes back to Basavanna (1134 - 1196 CE). It is said that Basavanna, though born a Brahmin, rebelled against the rigid practices of the caste system then prevalent, and eventually began expounding his own philosophy with a casteless society at its core. Soon, his philosophy began attracting large numbers of people into the fold. Saints like Allama Prabhu, Akka Mahadevi, Channabasavanna also played pivotal roles in founding and spearheading the sect. Basavanna lived and taught in the northern part of what is now Karnataka State. This movement found its roots during the brief rule of the southern Kalachuri dynasty in those parts of the state. Traditionally, Basavanna is believed to be an incarnation of Nandi, Shiva's greatest devotee. Another school of thought maintains that Basavanna only brought about a renaissance in an already existing sect. They attribute the founding of the sect to the mythological Panchacharyas (Five Teachers). The Panchacharyas consisted of Sri Revanaradhya or Revanasiddha, Marularadhya or Marulasidhdha, Ekoramaradhaya or Ekorama, Panditaradhya and Vishwaradhya. This theory however, is not historically attested and Basavanna is widely held as having founded this sect. Sources of Lingayat history The aikya linga of Basava at Kudalasangama To reconstruct the historical context, origin and development of the Lingayat faith, one will need to draw upon several sources. The various sources that are involved here include folk literature, inscriptions, historical facts, post-Basava developments, the Vachanas, reminiscences, Ragale literature, the lingayat and Jaina puranas and the doctrinal and philosophical works like the Shoonya Sampadane. Following a holistic and comparative study of all these sources, it is possible to reconstruct the origin and development of the Lingayat faith across time and space. Of all the sources, particularly important is the epigraphical evidence. The Arjunavada inscription in particular establishes the historicity of Basava beyond dispute. The Vachana literature, especially the vachanas composed by Basava himself are of vital importance in this studya. Harihara's Ragale is yet another invaluable source.
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