The movement for independent minority religion status for the Lingayats has gathered momentum once again in Karnataka.
On Wednesday, over one 50,000 Lingayats from Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra had gathered at Bidar’s Nehru Maidan for a massive rally, demanding they be granted a separate 'religious minority' status.
The rally was organised by the Lingayat Dharma Samanvaya Samithi, an organisation comprising various Lingayat religious heads and elected representatives.
The leaders of several Lingayat mutts, who had gathered at the rally, said that a memorandum, in this regard, has been submitted to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
“We have urged the CM to take up the matter with the Central government and push for our cause of being declared an independent religion,” Basava Dharma Peeta head, Mate Mahadevi said.
New Delhi Basava Mantap Sri Channabasavanand Swamiji said that CM Siddaramaiah has promised to take up the issue with the Centre.
The demand for delinking Lingayats from Hinduism and giving them a seperate identity has been made many times in the past. During 2011 census, Lingayat leaders had even asked members of the community to choose the column called 'others' under religion.
Karnataka has around 60 lakh lingayats, and by 2009 all the sub- sects including Veerashaiva Banajiga, Veerashaiva Aradhya, Veerashaiva Reddy, Veerashaiva Sadara and Veerashaiva Panchamasali were brought under Backward Caste status.
Though the demand has been prevalent for decades, political leaders from the community have at most times maintained a stoic silence.
The Bidar rally was also attended by Korneshwar MahaSwami of Usturi Mutt, Beldal Sharana, Basava Prabhu Swamiji, Bhatambara Sri and also political leaders including Congress MLAs Rajshekar Patil, Rahim Khan, Prabhu Chavan, Ashok Kheny, Mallikarjun Khuba and Congress MLC Vijay Singh.
Participants of the rally expressed their anger over being considered a sub-sect of Hinduism. They also contended that Lingayats are not Veerashaivas.
“The Hindu religion has two sub sects – the Vaishnavas and the Shaivas. Veerashaivas are a sub sect of Shaivas. There is a huge misconception that the Veerashaivas and Lingayats are the same but we are not. Lingayats are not Hindus or sub sects of the Hindus. We are an independent religion,” said Mate Mahadevi.
Asserting that Lingayats followed Basavanna’s Vachanas rather that the Vedic scriptures that Hindus adhere to, the leaders of the Lingayat mutts called on its community members to demand for an independent religious status.
“Lingayats have rejected the Vedic authority. The Buddhists, for instance, have rejected the Vedas. They follow the Tripitakas. Lingayats too have rejected the Vedic authority. We adhere to Basavanna’s Vachanas and we too must be considered non-Hindus. We must be declared a separate religion,” said Guru Bhalki Hiremath Samsthan Swamiji, Basavalinga Pattadevuru.
“The religion of the Vedas is clearly polytheistic. The Vedic people believed that there are 33 crore gods and goddesses, of whom only 33 are important. Lingayats are strict monotheists. We worship only the Linga. The Linga is a formless god and we are in no way Hindus,” Basavalinga Pattadevuru added.
“Logically, Lingayatism is a non-Vedic, independent religion. But as time passed it was influenced by Vedic culture and its followers started taking pride in being part of that culture. Lingayat should remain an independent religion as the philosophy itself preaches non-Vedic practices. Jainism and Sikhism too have Vedic influence but still enjoy the status of independent religions,” rationalist MM Kalburgi had told TOI in 2013.