Basavanna was a 12th-century philosopher, poet, statesman, Lingayat saint in the Shiva-focussed Bhakti movement, and social reformer during the reign of the Kalyani Chalukya/Kalachuri dynasty. Basava to be the founder of the Lingayats. A full account of Basava's life and ideas are narrated in a 13th-century sacred Telugu text, the Basava Purana by Palkuriki Somanatha.
Basavanna was born in the year 1106 into a Shaivite Kamme Brahmin family in the small town of Ingaleshwar (Bagewadi ) in the Bijapur district of northern Karnataka. He grew up in a strict, religious household, where he was made to wear a sacred thread known as the Janivara, which he did not accept. He rejected both the traditional Sanskrit scriptures and the prevailing Hindu rituals. At an early age he left Bagewadi and spent the next 12 years studying Sangameshwara, at the then-Shaivite stronghold of Kudala Sangama. There, he conversed with scholars and developed his spiritual and religious views in association with his societal understanding.
His Guru was Jataveda Muni, also known as Eeshanya Guru. His believed in one true and perfect God and campaigned aggressively against untouchability, superstition, temple rituals and the dominance of priestly class. He believed that people should be be shown the right way to reach God and preached equality of all people and castes. For his revolutionary work and exceptional ideas, he earned a great recognition in the 12th century Hindu society. With his honesty, hardwork and visionary mission, Basava rose to the position of Prime Minister in the court of king Bijjala, who ruled from 1162—1167 at Kalyana. There, he established the Anubhava Mantapa, a spiritual parliament to openly discuss Lingayatism, which attracted many saints from throughout India. He believed in the principle Kayakave Kailasa (Work puts you on the path to heaven, Work is Heaven). It was at this time that the Vachanas, simple and easy-to-understand poetic writings, such as the following, which contained essential teachings, were written.
- The power of knowledge destroys ignorance;
- The power of light dissipates darkness;
- The power of truth is foe of all untruth;
- The sharana's experience of god is the sole cure of worldliness;
- Dont rob,dont kill, never ever lie
- dont get angry,dont think negative about others
- Dont self describe, dont tease others
- this is the way of self respect, this is the way to get respected by the world.
- Basavanna spread social awareness through his poetry, popularly known as Vachanaas.
- Basavanna rejected gender or social discrimination, superstitions and rituals but introduced Ishtalinga necklace, with an image of the Shiva Liṅga, to every person regardless of his or her birth, to be a constant reminder of one's bhakti (devotion) to Shiva.
- He introduced new public institutions such as the Anubhava Mantapa (or, the "hall of spiritual experience"),which welcomed men and women from all socio-economic backgrounds to discuss spiritual and mundane questions of life, in open.
- Our greed, lust, leads to immorality, and we have to give all these things up with the help of the lord
- Showing the goodness of action through words, showing the goodness of words through action, hiding the goodness of both action and words in you,
- Guru Basava advised always be with the good company. Bad company leads to bad thoughs and bad actions.
- Basava fought against social evils of his time such as caste system and the ritual practices of Hinduism.
- Basava was a great humanitarian, who advocated a new way of life
- Basava is said to have been a mystic by temperament, an idealist by choice, a statesman by profession, a man of letters by taste, a humanist by sympathy, and a social reformer by conviction
Basava said that the roots of social life are embedded not in the cream of the society but in the scum of the society. It is his witty way of saying that the cow does not give milk to him who sits on its back, but it gives milk to him who squats at its feet. With his wide sympathy, he admitted high and low alike into his fold. The Anubhava Mantapa, or the religious parliament, established by Basava laid down the foundation of social democracy. Basava believed that man becomes great not by his birth, but by his worth to the society. He believed in the dignity of man and the belief that a common man was as good as a man of status. He proclaimed that all members of the state were laborers, euating the intellectual laborers socially with the manual laborers. He set an example by practicing the ideals he preached and followed a rigid discipline. He emphasized the importance of self-purification. and tried to raise the moral standards of people in society. He also taught the dignity of manual labor. declaring work as worship. He insisted that every type of manual labor, including those menial tasks which were held in contempt by people, should be looked upon with love and reverence.
Through his revolutionary ideas and actions against social evils Basava stirred a lot of controversy. By allowing untouchables to have lunch with him and praising a marriage between a Brahmin woman and an untouchable man, he invoked the ire of the orthodox members of society, who appealed to King Bijjala with complaints, allegations and accusations. The king did not want to offend the orthodox members of the society and invoke their displeasure. So he ordered the newly married couple to be harshly punished. Before punishing them, he asked Basava to agree with caste system. But Basava did not relent. He believed that the married couple were Lingayats and the rules of caste system are not applicable to them. The king was not pleased with his argument and proceeded with punishing the couple. After that unpleasant event, Basavanna left Kalyana in 1196 with heavy heart and marched towards Kudala Sangama. On the way he preached the people about humanity, morality, honesty, equality, individuality, simplicity, and the dignity of labor. In the same year on 30th July he left the body and became liberated.