- Some politicians and seers of the Lingayat community demanding inclusion of a large Lingayat sub-sect in an OBC quota category that provides 15% reservation in government jobs and education in the state.
- The Lingayats are a dominant community who make up nearly 17% of Karnataka’s six crore population.
- The Lingayats, classified as a Hindu sub-caste called Veerashaiva Lingayats, are essentially followers of the 12th-century philosopher Saint Basavanna, who started a movement to help sections of society break away from the chains of caste.
- The Veerashaiva Lingayats are an amalgamation of the followers of Basavanna’s teachings and Veerashaivas who follow more traditional Hindu practices. The Lingayat community has many sub-sects identified on the basis of the vocations they followed.
- Veerashaiva Lingayats have been provided 5% reservation under a special category called 3B. A sub-sect called the Panchamasali Lingayats — basically agriculturists who account for nearly 70% of Lingayats — have now risen in protest seeking reservations under the category 2A, which currently provides 15% reservations to backward castes. This demand has been supported by various politicians and seers of community.
Difference between Veershaivas and Lingayats:
- For the Veerashaivas, the Linga represents Lord Shiva, bu for the Lingayats, it represents the whole universe. Also, Lingayats do not follow Hindu religious practices such as yagnas. They pray to the god of their choice in a personal manner. But, over the centuries, differences between Lingayats and Veerashaiavas blurred. Today the term Lingayat is used to refer to both the communities.
- Veerashaivism is continued to this day and is preserved and transmitted by five peethas (Rambhapuri, Ujjaini, Kedar, Shreeshail, Kashi), who play an essential role in the Veerashaiva tradition.
- Basavanna’s teachings were incorporated to base sects that led to the formation of new sects like Banajiga Lingayat, Panchamasali Lingayat, Ganiga Lingayat, Gowda Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat.
- In the Census of 1871, Lingayats were classified as a separate religious group. But in 1881, on the instructions of the Diwan of Mysore, Lingayats were recorded as Hindus.
Demand for Separate Religion:
- The teachings of Basavanna are slowly losing their distinct place in society.
- The increasing subsumption within the Veerashaiva and Hindu nomenclature, and decreasing importance for Basavanna’s preaching are concerns among the Lingayats.
- In the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Lingayats, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs are included among Hindus. But Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains were identified by state and central governments as minority religions in 1993, 1963 and 2014 respectively. Only Lingayats remain unrecognised under a separate religious status.
- Once recognised, Lingayats would be able to avail benefits under Articles 25, 28, 29 and 30 of the Constitution. The provisions under these deal with freedom of religion and rights of minorities.
- Political importance of Lingayats, where they are deciding force in 90-100 legislative assembly seats.
Bhakti Saint Basavanna:
- The twelfth century witnessed the emergence of a new movement in Karnataka, led by a Brahmana named Basavanna (1106-68) who was initially a Jaina and a minister in the court of a Chalukya king. His followers were known as Virashaivas (heroes of Shiva) or Lingayats (wearers of the linga).
- They worship Shiva in his manifestation as a linga, and men usually wear a small linga in a silver case on a loop strung over the left shoulder.
- Lingayats believe that on death the devotee will be united with Shiva and will not return to this world. Therefore they do not practise funerary rites such as cremation, prescribed in the Dharmashastras. Instead, they ceremonially bury their dead.
- The Lingayats challenged the idea of They also questioned the theory of rebirth. The Lingayats also encouraged certain practices disapproved in the Dharmashastras, such as post-puberty marriage and the remarriage of widows.