The Lingayats want to declare themselves as a minority separate from the Hindus. This action, instead of joining hands with other communities who are fighting the institutional discrimination against Hindus, is a blow to the parent religion.
Almost for a week now, my friends in the media have been asking me for my views on the Veerashaiva-Lingayat debate. But I was silent as I did not want to interfere in the internal debate of a community.
But it is no longer a debate of any one community; that it has spread elsewhere has become very clear. Great scholars like Chidananda Murthy have described the ancientness of the Veerashaivas as well as the Shaivas and have explained how both are parts of the roots of the Hindu religion. We find details enough to write volumes about this. But the issue is not about historical truths. Neither is it about political gimmicks. The wise words of the seer of the Pejavar mutt invited reactions on the lines of ‘why does this seer of another community want to be bothered about our community matters?’ I know that this write-up of mine will beget similar reactions. But I feel this is the time and the occasion for me to honestly express my understanding.
At the onset of the freedom struggle itself, the shrewd British sowed the seeds of a divisive policy. They called the Muslim leaders and said, “You ruled this nation before we arrived. But if we were to leave now, thousands of Hindus will trample you. So, should we, your saviours, leave? Or stay?”
It is here that began the saga of Hindu-Muslim fights, the partition of Bengal and the rise of the Jinnah institutions. Those who belonged to castes that had traditionally been in the professions of education and learning – the Brahmins, the Kayasthas and the like – naturally took to learning English for occupational purposes. Their political awareness too was enhanced. And they grew into the first generation that led the freedom struggle.
Apart from the likes of a Subhas Chandra Bose, Babu Rajendra Prasad, Jaya Prakash Narayan and stalwarts like Swami Vivekananda, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, profound scholar Surendra Dasgupta, noted Hindi poet Jaishankar Prasad, those with the last name Sinha and Srivastava were all Kayasthas, not Brahmins.
The company administration and later the British government took government jobs as a parameter and went on to bring about a divide among Hindus by using the census to classify all other castes or communities, irrespective of how well they were doing economically, in business, as land owners, or as skilled artisans, as backward classes. (Refer R C Mazumdar’s History of the Freedom Movement in India, three volumes, published by FIRMA KLM Pvt Ltd, Kolkata, 1997) Along with this, they got philosophies like those of the Aryan-Dravidian divide, the Aryan invasion, north-south divide written and turned into textbook material and implanted into the minds of the school- and college-going students.
Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, having studied in Britain and assimilated these British techniques into himself, used these three techniques designed by the British to strengthen his party, the Congress. He secured the cumulative votes of the Muslims who stayed or were made to stay back after the Partition, by assuring, scaring them saying, “I am the only one who can save you from the majority of this country, the Hindus. Only my Congress.”
He gave birth to a new idea of minorities and effectively divided the populace. Dividing the economic classes among Hindus on the basis of caste and then anointing strongmen from each of the castes as Congressmen in areas where the majority belonged to the same caste, he created a rift among the Hindus. The opposition parties too, which had remained weak for decades, had no option but to give in to this technique. Minority appeasement, vote bank politics, creating rifts between castes, expansion of poverty lines and temptations of reservation were the standard techniques of the Congress party.
The first task of our honourable Chief Minister Siddaramaiah after coming to power was granting some special boons to the Muslims, followed by some boons to a few Hindu backward castes, Dalits, programmes like annabhagya (rice grant) and the like.
One year ago, I had provided an explanation and spoken about how government schemes and grants are not only aiding the growth of casteism but also making people lazy. What people need is a way to earn their own living. I had mentioned how even after two years of this government there was not a single new industry that had been brought to the state.
A few months later, Deshpande was made the Minister for Industries, who called for an investor’s summit.
Recently, a minister said that in comparison to other states our state had got the maximum capital investment. But there was no mention of what businesses have been started with that capital. What businesses want is land, communication technology, water, electricity and the like. But would investors want to pour in capital in Karnataka, even after observing that granting land is subject to issues like bribes, and that water is scarce and that we are buying power from other states to even light up our homes? There is no answer to this question. The Chief Minister very well knows that the people of this state are fed up with the corruption, the torture faced by honest and diligent officers and the Kerala model of political murders.
In these circumstances, apparently a rumour has spread among even the illiterate masses that the politically active Veerashaiva community is standing in support of Yeddyurappa, and that as a combatting tool, Siddaramaiah has planned and breathed life into the Veerashaiva Lingayat community’s movement which claims that they aren’t Hindus at all. No matter how hard he tries to refute such claims, the people refuse to believe. But if this is indeed true, then Siddaramaiah cannot be its lone architect.
Some people believe that it has been designed at the high command level under Madam’s supervision. But one cannot completely write off this line of thought too. The two other faiths, both Semitic ones, have never hidden their goal of converting the whole world into their religion. Islam has not fully given up its old violent ways, the best testimony to which is Islamic terrorism, which has now turned into a headache for the entire world. Christianity too used force previously, but now it is adapting more shrewd and subtler means. It has abundant money, which is why it has spread to both the Americas, Europe, almost all of Africa, Australia, some parts of India and a few other countries.
In Africa and America, there was no matured faith to counter it. In India, 2,000 years ago itself Hinduism had spiritually advanced and reached a maturity that would outdo these Semitic religions.
“Hindu” means Vedic, Buddhist, Jain and their branches. Though they are oppositional in a few key aspects, with the exchange of thoughts through arguments and debates, they developed a common culture. There are many branches like Shaiva, Veerashaiva, Vaishnava and so on. Increasing the differences among these streams and aiding the belief that they are not a part of the mainstream was a ploy of the Christian church. The British government joined hands with the Christian church. Its foresight was that more the differences, stronger the empire.
That there is a lot in common between this strategy of the church and the Congress’s habitual political strategy is evident in the Congress’s act of trying to separate the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community from the mainstream in order to secure its position in the state.
Pramanik-apramanik (sincere-insincere), para-apara (for-against), prasiddha-aprasiddha (known-unknown), jnani-ajnani (wise-ignorant), yogya-ayogya (deserving-undeserving), bheda-abheda (division-non-divisive) – in all these words, the negative prefix ‘a’ gives an antagonistic and conflicting meaning of said words in not just Kannada but all other Indian languages.
When this is so, does Siddaramaiah not understand that when he says that the word “ahinda” cumulatively implies minorities, backward communities and Dalits, it also implies that it is not just ‘not Hindu’ but also anti-Hindu? Or, rather, the writers and journalists who follow him too do not realise it, is it? Or is it that the Chief Minister is being unabashed about being anti-Hindu? These kinds of questions I have heard people discussing about.
It is a known fact that the Veerashaivas and the Veerashaiva mutts run educational institutions, especially technical education institutions, on a large scale. Equally known is the fact that all the restrictions and norms that do not exist for any of the minority-run institutions are being forced upon institutions run by Hindus in a variety of ways.
The government which, through the endowment department, happily gobbles up the income of the Hindu temples has nothing to say when it comes to the revenue-expenditure of any other religious institutions. Even when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government was in power, this rule was not amended. That those running the Veerashaiva institutions believe that a minority tag would help them free themselves of this discrimination is also being spoken about.
They should realise that choosing the path of becoming a minority community, instead of joining hands with other heads of similar institutions who are being subjected to similar injustice, and pressuring the government to rectify the situation is a major blow to the parent religion.
Two of Basavanna’s revolutionary ideas which are considered important even today are dignity of labour and intercaste marriages. During those days, when professions turned into caste occupations and among them arose differences of hierarchy that brought harm to the dignity of the castes, these social reform measures turned into a very effective revolution. These differences persist even to this day.
In the present times, when professions are dependent on modern technical education, the process is on to provide the same to the children of those belonging to castes whose occupations were considered lowly. Efforts should be made to intensify this process as a tribute to Basavanna instead of trying to leave the very parent religion that Basavanna strived to reform.
In the times when professions and social thought had lost character, the intercaste marriages that Basavanna encouraged received violent reactions. This kind of a reaction persists to this day in rural areas. But in today’s society, the thought processes and the economic setup are progressive to a certain extent. While earlier, without even the thought of individual financial independence, marriages were in the grip of parents and grandparents, and the couple used to be quite young. This is not the case today as couples are old enough to take their own decisions, and are educated as well as earning their own living. It is not uncommon today to see colleagues marrying each other, going beyond restrictions of caste. This tendency is also being seen in some pockets of the rural society.
By intensifying this development towards the end of casteism, the Veerashaiva mutts and the Veerashaiva community should offer their obeisance or devotion to Basavanna. Not just the Veerashaivas but seers of all the mutts should come together and announce that a marriage between any two Hindu individuals is accepted and grant it sanctity. If not, these mutts will lose their entity in the coming years or generations. The Hindu society will eventually lose its varna system. And with that it will free itself from not just the accusations made by the harsh critics but also from the exploitation in the name of vote bank politics.
Every political party, especially the Congress and the Left parties, lures by laying out the trap of reservation. The Veerashaiva leaders should realise this instead of trying to lay their hands on reservation on the grounds of being a minority. When an enterprise or business is of a small scale, and when there is no competition, then it may be possible to hire people from one’s own caste. But once an enterprise grows and becomes increasingly technology-based, if one doesn’t give importance to capabilities, then it won’t survive. There is no preference given to Muslims in Azim Premji’s Wipro.
And this is not because of Premji’s religious tolerance or secular views, but because he realised the truth that if one has to survive and continue to grow on an international scale, then there can be no compromise in qualification or capability and commitment. This truth is the one that had Tata appoint a non-Parsi, N Chandra, in place of a Parsi, Cyrus Mistry, as the head of the Tata Group. This is true for the Birlas too, as much as it is for the mammoth international companies who appoint Indians as CEOs. The political parties which encourage casteism only to gain power and the leaders who ignore industriousness, i.e., Basavanna’s emphasis on work, and give in to the lure of minority or reservation are yet to realise this.
Hindus follow the chaturvarna system. The Lingayats reject it. And on this ground, some of them are saying we are not Hindus.
It is understandable that the obstinate leftists hold on to the old meaning of the chaturvarna system and do not understand ‘gunakarma vibhagashaha’ irrespective of how much the scholars try to explain it. But it is surprising that the educated Lingayats alias Veerashaivas are also chanting the same mantra.
Don’t profession-based divisions still prevail among the Veerashaivas? Do marriages happen among those sects? Do the Veerashaiva elders who have been initiated eat in the houses of others? In the stagnant society of earlier days, a society completely free of caste had not been possible. But it is becoming possible in today’s progressive society characterised by agricultural revolution, entrepreneurship and international influence.
I have seen four sons of the same family involve themselves in completely different streams of work, where one is a soldier, the second a teacher, the third an attendant at a Bata store – holding footwear in his hands and helping customers find the right fit, and the fourth an attendant in a company. Such examples can be found in families from all castes. But ignoring this reality and citing something from ancient texts like Manu or some small portion of some shloka from the Bhagwad Gita and debating suits only the rigid, ignorant ones. It doesn’t suit those who call themselves followers of a creative revolutionary like Basavanna. There is a difference between opposition to Vedas and opposition to the four varnas.
The momentum in chaturvarna is coming to an end. Prominent Veerashaiva institutions are running Sanskrit schools and Veda paathashalas. They are grooming priests who can conduct the rituals involved in christening and house warming ceremonies, weddings and the like. There is not much difference in the basics of the chants and the rituals of Brahmin and Veerashaiva priests. If ‘narayana’ or ‘harivayu’ feature in the mantras of the Brahmins, then Veerashaivas’ mantras have ‘shiva’ in them. Smartha Brahmins unfailingly chant “Shivaya Vishnu rupaaya/ shivarupaaya vishnave/shivasya hrudaya vishnaha/ vishnostu hrudayam shivaha’ during sandhyavandhana”. The Adichunchanagiri mutt teaches Sanskrit , runs Veda paathashaalas, where they teach Vedas, Upanishads, the Gita and other spiritual subjects and provides training for priesthood.
After the Indian Constitution came into existence, unacceptable rules of the Manu dharmashastra pertaining to exploitation, temple entry, appointment of non-Brahmin temple priests and so on were rejected in the Constitution itself and declared a punishable offence. Discussing and debating the same again would be plain obstinacy.
Among the ones who drafted our Constitution were many who belonged to the upper castes. We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that they themselves rejected the chaturvarna (four varna) system and made it a punishable offence by law to discriminate on the basis of the varna system.
In totality, it should be the aim or goal of all Hindus, not just Veerashaiva-Lingayats, to continue keeping Basavanna’s core tenets alive and active in today’s world.
A modified version of this article was first published by Vijaya Karnataka
Image credits: Sscheral/Wikimedia Commons