Essays About Shaivism

History, Philosophy, Beliefs and Practices of Shaivism,

A Brief Biography of Basavanna or Basava


Basavanna was the great Vira Saiva socio-religious teacher. He was also known by the names Basavaraja, Basavesvara. He was a deep thinker. He brought about vital changes in social adjustment and thought.

He was the Saivite reformer of the Karnataka state. He gave the present form to the cult known as Sivachara.

He flourished in the twelfth century. He was born in a Brahmin family. He left the practices of his own community as they were too ritualistic and formal. He joined the Vira Saiva cult which was very prevalent at that time.

He was the Chief Minister in the court of king Bijjala in Kalyan. He was a very popular minister. He was very kind, noble, modest, very lovable and courageous. He had intense reliance on God. People deified him and worshipped him. He would freely mix with common people. He redressed their grievances. He was in close intimacy with them. He worked very hard for the dissemination of his faith. He created many enemies on account of this active propaganda. There was civil disturbance in the country. Bijjala met his end in this disturbance, Basavanna’s life too ended in this period of agitation, although it is difficult to find out how he exactly met his end.

He was a reformer. He became the leader of the Vira Saiva movement. He established a cult that is accepted today by many people. It developed a school of poor priests. It abolished the old priestly class. It adopted the vernacular as the medium for inculcating the supreme truth into the people. It gave to women an important place in religious and social life. It prescribed one ideal of realisation for every individual, high or low.

Basavanna made great sacrifice for Truth. People accepted him as a teacher. His sayings have come straight from his heart. They go straight to the heart. They are simple, direct, powerful. His rules of conduct are lofty and admirable. He was a sincere seeker after Truth and could make great sacrifices for attaining the Truth. He was all love and kindness. Love for all life or universal love was the central teaching of Basavanna.


Source: Reproduced, with the general permission, from Lord Siva and His Worship, WWW edition 2000, By Sri Swami Sivananda © The Divine Life Trust Society