As the demand for the separate Lingayat religion status took off, the revered Pancha Peeta mutts stood against the separatist stand. Surprisingly, months after Chief Minister Siddaramaiah pushed for the separate Lingayat religion status, two most powerful pontiffs among the Pancha Peeta - the Siddaganga seer from Tumakuru and Suttur seer from Mysuru - have silently backed the campaign, Times of India reports.
Although the two powerful pontiffs have not announced their support yet, Basava Raya Mruthyunjaya Swami, the pontiff of Panchamashali Jagadguru Peeta, announced at Kudala Sangama that the two seers were in support of the separate religion.
â€śWe met the Siddaganga muttâ€™s pontiff Shivakumara Swamiji and also a junior seer, and briefed them along with material evidence on the need for separate religious status. Shivakumara Swamiji said he would support any movement for the welfare of society, the junior seer categorically said the Siddaganga mutt owed its existence to the Basava Dharma propounded by 12th century social reformer Basavanna,â€ť Mruthyunjaya Swami told the media.
He also said that the Suttur seer too backed the separate religion status but held off making his stand public as he did not want to get into controversies.
The Lingayat community has been demanding a separate religion status, by claiming that they are not Hindus but followers of Basavanna.
Both the pontiffs of Siddaganga and Suttur mutts have remained silent on the issue, and had even refused to participate in the rallies and meetings which discussed the Lingayat versus Veerashaiva debate.
However, the BJP which has strongly maintained that Lingayats are Hindus, claim that the word Lingayat refers to an identity outside Hinduism, and also Veerashaiva refers to an identity within the Hindu fold.
According to the TOI report, the numerically dominant Lingayat-Veerashaivas have over 3,500 mutts spread over Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana.
The demand for the Lingayat tag drew huge support from Northern Karnataka and this faction was led by the Basava Dharma Peetha seer Mate Mahadevi. The Pancha Peethas had initially opposed this stand and had said that Veerashaiva and Lingayats were one and the same, fearing their loss of dominance over the community.
The BJP, which has aligned itself with the Pancha Peetha has accused Siddaramaiah of trying to divide the community for political gains. The two major mutts that refused to be dragged into the controversy so far were Siddaganga and Suttur. With Mruthyunjaya Swamiâ€™s speech, the only two pontiffs who had maintained neutral ground have also picked sides.
Former IAS officer and Lingayat Mahasabha coordinator S M Jamdarsai told the media that several major changes had taken place within the community in the past two months.
â€śThe last two months of debate have ushered in changes that have not happened in the past 500 years. They (pancha peetha) never shared the dais with other Lingayats, they always used to sit on elevated platforms. But now they have begun to sit with other seers at the same level. Earlier, they never looked at Basavannaâ€™s photograph, but now they plan to celebrate Baasva Jayanthi,â€ť he added.