Day 3 of our Kashi Yatra was spent in Kudalasangama. It is here that the samadhi of the great founder of the Lingayat tradition, Basavanna, is located.
Also, it is here that the strongest message of spiritual egalitarianism is delivered.
On Day Three of Kashipath 2019, we began our journey from the Jain Yatri Nivas at Kudalasangama.
The Yatri Nivas itself sports huge depictions of two great Saivaite saints of Lingayat tradition — Basavanna and Akkamadevi.
Inside the counter, the pictures of Basava and Mahaveera could be seen side by side. It has been said in historical narratives that the Saivaites and the Jains were strong opponents.
They indeed were with respect to their spiritual systems.
However, for the larger Indian mind, all get integrated and harmonised.
While even today, staunch adherents of every sect may fight for the presence of real truth in their own systems, for a common Hindu, all these diverse paths lead to the same Truth.
Problems do arise when monopolistic expansionist religions wage war against indigenous Dharma, and, if we hold the same vision that is mostly true with Indic traditions.
These thoughts apart, and a good breakfast at the Jain Nivas, we started the day and went to the temple.
And look who greeted us at the doors — the two Dwarapalakas or the guardians of the divine gate.
At the Chola temples particularly — the Dwarapalakas are known for their gigantic size. Here, the Dwarapalakas exude nobility, seriousness and charm.
Look closer and you find, apart from the Damaru, Sarpa and Trishul — the obvious Siva symbols — the two ears having two different earrings is something very specific to the androgynous nature of Siva.
If you look still closer, you will also find tiger skin. In fact, Dwarapalakas reflect the qualities of Siva himself. They indeed are the servants of Siva, but the qualities of the master shine through them and at that level in a nuanced way, they are one and non-dual with the One with whom none can be equal.
Understanding this can make us avoid a lot of pitfalls, particularly when cultists claim themselves as Siva.
We then enter the Sangamanatha Siva temple.
The Siva Linga with a face adorning it is divine. There are two Nandis or the divine bulls of Siva. The archaka points out that Basavanna is considered as the incarnation of Nandi-deva. Nandi is not only the mount of Siva but also an ardent devotee and great scholar of Saivaite Darshana.
Basava too means Nandi. Through his Vachannas, which are simple, sharp and pregnant with deep meaning, the verses conveyed to all the people at all strata of society the importance of inner spiritual seeking and Sadhana over the outer forms of rituals.
You do need the temples and Pujas, but they are only a means and map for an inner journey. So one should not get stuck with the maps and stay stagnant without travelling the path.
From morning, Amar had been murmuring a particularly famous Vachana and when pressed, translated it for me.
The wealthy make grand temples
Ayya Siva, what can I construct?
For me poor,
the legs themselves are pillars,
body itself the temple,
the golden kalasa shall be the head
Hear me Oh the Deity of Koodalasangama,
the built stationary temple (sthavara) would end
but the moving one jangama does not.
For a Tamil Saivaite, this at once strikes a deep chord. Thirumoolar uses almost the same terminology in a different context. He speaks of serving the ‘temple that moves’ by which he means the living beings and that serving them naturally goes to the Lord in the ‘temple where the image is worshipped’.
He also uses the very concept of the body and organs themselves as the temple.
To those maturing in wisdom,
Inner mind-space the temple sacred,
The body of flesh the temple complex;
For the abundantly giving Lord,
The Gopuram gate shall be the mouth;
When you realize completely
The Jivan is Sivalinga;
The senses that deceive then transform into lights of illumination
Then, of course, the history of Poosalar, one of the Nayanmars or devout devotees of Siva, who having no wealth, did build a temple step by step in his own heart, comes to the mind. Even as the king of the province was building a grand temple, Siva appears in his dream and asked him to postpone the day of consecration because that was the day Poosalar had marked for the consecration of his inner temple.
So, when hearing Basavanna, what makes one feel so moved beyond the language barrier, is the same theme being played through various hearts of such great seers.
Naturally, Basavanna proclaimed spiritual egalitarianism which obliterated the social stagnation of the time.
This spiritual equality has always been a part and parcel of Sanatana Dharma. Upanishads have been declaring this Oneness. Throughout the ages in India, every mystic in every part has declared that and have stopped the tide of social stagnation.
While in the West, social emancipation itself was based on colonising, exporting social stagnation of their society to other ethnicities, and either enslaving them or annihilating them, in India, social emancipation has been a sustained process.
No other culture has such a long history of social emancipation through spiritual strength alone.
Basavanna’s vision soon became a grand social mission. Today, it has flowered into so many social service organisations, monasteries and educational institutions. Unfortunately, even scholars like A K Ramanujan had called the movement a kind of protestant equivalent in Indian milieu.
Nothing could be further from the truth as explained earlier.
Basavanna represents a mighty, perennially fruit-bearing branch of that tree called Sanatana Dharma.
The samadhi of Basavanna was closed for repair works, and that was a small disappointment.
We then reached the Sangama point where the rivers Krishna and Malapravaha merge. Amar insists on taking a complete dip and plunges into the water.
There is a Siva Linga by the side of the river. It is not everyday that one gets a chance to pour Krishna’s sacred water on a Siva Linga with one’s own hands and I do exactly that.
There is a modest flow of pilgrims. Very old and very young come and take the water of the Krishna and place it on their head.
Acharya Vinoba Bhave was travelling once in a train and as the river crossed Godavari, some people threw some coins into the river. A modern youth sitting opposite to Vinoba was aghast and exclaimed that this was sheer waste of money and bad economics, after all this was just H2O.
Acharya Vinoba told him that for Indians, water was more than just H2O; his economics was still young and immature, and could not factor in the feeling of sacredness that the people have for their water.
Standing here at Sangama, where the Samadhi of Basavanna towers over this side of the river, and seeing an old couple struggling, yet determined to light a lamp and place it in the river, what Acharya Vinoba said struck me with the full strength of its truth.
If we want to save our rivers, we have to tap into this sense of sacredness that we have for them.
We returned to the Nivas, bought at the book store an English translation of the Vachanas. Karan Kamble turns the pages of the book and gives it back to me with a mischievous smile and points to a name: ‘Editor: Kannada original Dr M M Kalburgi’.
Fortunately, the translation editor is different. Yet Kalburgi, in his characteristic way, had devalued the rest of Indian philosophy in his write up: ‘Indian philosophy basically concerned itself with the individual at the cost of the society. Only Sharans contemplated both the aspects.’
What a shallow poisonous injection! Right from the Vedas, social values of egalitarianism, and voices of protest against social exclusion have been part of Hindu spirituality.
Basavanna represents a great height in the continuity of that civilisation. But then, this is how the divisive movements start — breaking the branches ultimately leads to the death of the branch and weakening of the tree. We need to be more aware and conscious.
We then move on. Now, it is a long journey that awaits us. The next stop is Ellora.
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