news Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 05:30
Anisha Sheth | The News Minute | March 11, 2015 | 7.44 pm IST Follow @anisha_w The Pejavar Mutt seer’s remarks that Lingayats are Hindus has once again become a cause of discussion in the state, prompting another influential seer to counter that there is no such category as “Hindus”. Seer of the Pejavar Mutt Vishveshwa Tirtha Swami said in Almatti that Veerashaivas or Lingayats are “not separate from Hindus”. The Pejavar seer has been associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for several decades and has garnered considerable influence in the cultural, religious and political of the people of the state.  Veerashaivas or Lingayats are the followers of 12th century social reformer and saint-poet Basaveshwara, whose “vachanas” or verses today form a literary genre by themselves. The essence of Basaveshwara’s philosophy was to counter a society founded on caste, and create a casteless one. Today, the Lingayats are the most politically powerful and numerically largest social group in the state, with the capacity to influence elections in a big way. Speaking at the Yalaguru Mutt on Tuesday, the Pejavar seer said: “Veerashaivas are worshippers of Shiva. They (Veerashaivas) should not be separated from us (Hindus). We are not agreeable to calling Veerashaivas as separate. The government’s move to initiate the caste census must be welcomed, as long as there is reservation, it is essential to collect information about the backwardness of all castes in order to obtain economic and social justice for all.” Various associations of Lingayats and heads of Veerashaiva Mutts have denounced the caste census that the Siddaramaiah government in the state has initiated. Cutting across party lines, many politicians including those from the ruling Congress who are part of the Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha have denounced the move, saying that it will “divide society” and even promote casteism.  Among Veerashaiva associations and religious leaders too, there are fissures, with some arguing that the community is not a part of Hinduism, while other groups splitting hairs on the subject.  Speaking to The News Minute, the principal secretary of the Mahasabha B S Vagesh Prasad said that Pejavar seer’s remarks were “welcome” and that Veerashaivism and Hinduism were “two faces of the same coin”.  However, refusing to give a clear answer when asked for his views on the pejavar seer’s statement, Prasad said: “All Indians belong to the Hindu nagarikate (civilization), it is a way of life. Within that Indian culture, we are also included.”  He said that the Pejavar seer follows the Vedas and Upanishads and so did the Veerashaivas. Similarly, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs also were part of the Hindu fold. The VHP and the RSS have always maintained that Buddhism and Jainism are a part of Hinduism and not distinct distinct religions by themselves. Read: The law must intervene when religion becomes dangerous: An interview with the Nidumamidi seer Prasad also said that the Siddhanta Shikhamani, the “Bible of the Veerashaivas” was the same as the vachanas of the 12th century sharanas (saint-poets). The group he represents is staunchly opposed to the caste census and has claimed that the census would divide society and further strengthen casteist structures.  The state president of the mahasabha, N Thippanna differed completely with Prasad’s view on whether Veerashaivas were Hindus. “They will say that Veerashaivas are part of Hinduism, because they want Hindutva and they want chaturvarna. Apart from the four castes, they also want untouchables, to do their chakri (traditional labour),” Thippanna said. “After we have rejected the Vedas and Puranas, their ammas and appas (literally mothers and fathers, but here a reference to gods and goddesses) what more is there to say? We have around 20-25 difference with Hindus,” he said, adding that among Hindus, no matter what caste a woman belonged to, she would always be a shudra. Read: Is Lingayat assertion of caste identity a bargaining chip for more representation in state cabinet? Another seer, who has created an alternative centre of influence in the state is the head of the Kolar-based Nidumamidi Mutt, which is a Lingayat seminary. Channamalla Veerabhadra Swami’s views are the opposite of the Pejavar seer’s and has strongly criticized the latter on a variety of issues.  The Nidumamidi seer has said that the Pejavar seer’s remarks were meant to “send a wrong message to society”. He said that there were many non-Vedic religions in India such as Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Veerashaivism was also once such religion.  “Veerashaivism is not a part of Hindu religion. How can a religion that rose up against the Vedic dharma be a part of the Vedic dharma? Hindusim itself does not exist. It is a modern name for the Vedic dharma” the seer said, adding that he was in favour of the caste census. Tweet Follow @thenewsminute

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