Basava, Basava poetry, Yoga / Hindu, Yoga / Hindu poetry, Shaivite (Shiva) poetry,  poetry,  poetry Basava
India (1134 - 1196) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

Poems by Basava
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Basava, sometimes referred to reverently as Basavanna or Basaveshwara, was a twelfth century devotee of Shiva and early organizer of the Virasaiva Lingayata sect in the Kannada-speaking regions of southern India.

The Virasaivas were a Shiva bhakti movement that rejected the elaborate ritualism and strict caste system of orthodox Hinduism which favored the wealthy, and instead emphasized direct mystical experience available to all through deep devotion to God. In this sense, the Virasaiva movement was a mystical protestant movement that also asserted social equality and justice for the poor. As Lingayatas they worship Shiva in the form of the linga, the stone symbol that represents God as creative generator of the universe or, more deeply, as a representation of the Formless taking form.

Basava was orphaned at a young age but adopted by a wealthy family with political connections. He received a good education but rejected a life of comfort and prestige to become a wandering ascetic dedicated to Shiva.

He received enlightenment at a sacred meeting of rivers. This is why all of Basava's poems include a reference to Shiva as "the lord of the meeting rivers." This also has a deeper, esoteric meaning relating to the subtle energies awakened in the yogi's awareness.

However, he soon was given a divine command to return to worldly life. Basavanna initially resisted, but eventually yielded and returned to his adopted family. Before long he attained high political office while, simultaneously, forming the new populist mystical movement of Virasaivas into a coherent, egalitarian community. This community fostered many other great poet-saints, including Akka Mahadevi and Allama Prabhu.

This utopian community began to be seen as a threat by the orthodox religious and political establishment, however, and they used the marriage between a low caste man and a brahmin woman within the community as an excuse to kill several of its members. Basava urged a nonviolent response, but the reflex to counterattack was too strong among some of the community's members. In the tense aftermath, the community disbanded, though it remains a source of inspiration for poets and mystics through today.

Poems by Basava

Recommended Books: Basava

Speaking of Siva The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice

Related Links

Vishwaguru Basava

A brief biography of Basava, along with other information on Lingayathism within the Hindu tradition.


Biography online.