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Liṅgāyat


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A South Indian Śaiva bhakti tradition, founded by Basava, with possible Kālāmukha antecedents. It ignores distinctions of caste (although it is treated as one itself), class, and, to a considerable degree, gender, and so rejects the authority of the Veda and its brahmin guardians. Worship consists of daily devotion to a small Śiva liṅga, worn by men, after initiation, in a silver box strung over the left shoulder. The aim of the devotee is to realize his or her essential identity with Śiva, with whom they hope to be unified at death. A priestly subcaste, known as jaṅgamas, are responsible for performing the Liṅgāyatas' life-cycle rituals (saṃskāras) (including burial, rather than cremation), and act as gurus to the community. The most important texts of the tradition are the songs (vacanas) of Basava and other poets, notably, Allama-Prabhu, Dēvara Dāsimayya, and the female saint, Mahādēviyakka. The Liṅgāyat community, currently about eight million strong, is Kannada-speaking, and strictly vegetarian. It remains an influential religious force in Karnataka.

Subjects: Hinduism.


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