Controversy erupts over Basavanna's representation in school textbooks in Karnataka

The book came in for criticism from Dr Mahanta Linga Shivacharya Swami of Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Shivacharya Sansthan, on six issues.
Social reformer Basavanna
Social reformer BasavannaPhoto | Facebook

BENGALURU: The Class 9 Social Studies textbook on social reformer Basavanna has turned into a battleground, with Veerashaiva groups criticising the contents and Lingayat groups countering them, saying the contents are correct.

The book came in for criticism from Dr Mahanta Linga Shivacharya Swami of Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Shivacharya Sansthan, on six issues. The first issue raised by Veerashaivas is that 30 Shivasharanas have used the term Veerashaiva 221 times in 142 vachanas. By contrast, only eight Shivasharanas have used the word Lingayat in 10 vachanas a mere 12 times. He said Basavanna had not used the term Lingayat even once in his vachanas.

Lingayat scholar and Vachana Sahitya researcher Veeranna Rajaur, and members of the Jagathika Lingayat Mahasabha countered this observation, saying the lesson was introduced after Basavanna was named the ‘Cultural Icon of Karnataka’, and that he is a ‘vishwa manava’ and not limited to any particular sect or religion. Activist Kumaranna Patil, member of the Jagathika Lingayat Mahasabha, agreed.

On the second point, Shivacharya Swami alleged that according to writer MM Kalaburgi, the vachanas that contain the word Veerashaiva are not acceptable. Kalburgi’s statement that vachanas that contain Veerashaiva and those that refer to Vedas and Upanishads are Prakshapta, is false. To this, Rajaur said, “It has been established that they are unacceptable.’’

The third issue Shivacharya Swami pointed out is that Basavanna said he is a ‘Nija Veerashaiva’ while Rajaur said these are settled issues and there is no need to raise them now.

Shivacharya Swami alleged the textbook is wrong when it says that Basavanna did not have a guru, as the fourth issue. Rajaur countered it, saying Basavanna has said, “I have received the ishtalinga from a guru’’ and referred to Vachana 1364, 1366, 70 and 971 to support his claim.

Rajaur and Patil said, “It is good the words Lingayat and Veershaiva are not used. To understand better, they have used the terms Sharana, Aiyya and Linga, so can we say we follow the Linga Dharma or Sharana Dharma or Aiyya Dharma? Obviously we cannot. Basavanna has used the term Lingavantha or Linga Bhakta, but we need to understand the spirit behind the Vachanas.’’

While Shivacharya Swami siad ishtalinga was a practice that predates Basavanna, Rajaur, Patil and others said there is no need for a debate as it was started by Basavanna. There is no need to belittle Basavanna’s contribution by relying on erroneous facts, they said.

On Shivacharya Swami saying the linga dates back to the Mohenjodaro-Harappa times, Rajaur, Patil and others countered it, saying it is the ‘Stavara Linga’ and not the ‘Ista Linga’.

Meanwhile, in a setback to Shivacharya Swami, Gadugina Thontadarya Swamiji and other Lingayat pontiffs have said the contents of the textbook are right and they welcomed it.

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