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Ashtavarana – Eight Purification Rites In Virashaivism

Ashtavarana is the collective term given to the eight religious observances for the purification of the spiritual life of an individual in Virashaivism. The observances are known as eightfold shield that protects a spiritual seeker.

Ashtavarana Are:
  1. Guru
  2. Linga
  3. Jangama
  4. Padodaka
  5. Prasada
  6. Vibhuti
  7. Rudraksha
  8. Mantra
Guru, the preceptor is alone capable of initiating a spiritual seeker into Virashaivism by installing linga, the symbol of Parashiva, on his body. This act of initiation is called deeksha and with this the devotee gains competence to worship, his ishtalinga as guided by his preceptor. This linga, which is the symbol of Shiva, will remain as his spiritual companion and he should develop faith in the supremacy of Parashiva in all walks of life with the presence of linga with him.

A Virashaiva is not supposed to worship any image in the temple nor should he depend on a priest as a middleman in matters of religious devotion.

Jangama is a spiritual guide of the devotee and attends to his religious needs besides the guru. He goes to the disciple at times of need.

Virashaiva guru, who initiates the disciple and installs the linga on the body of the devotee, will also offer a sacred mantra which he whispers into the ears of the disciple. “om namah shivaya”, is the mantra which is offered to the disciple and by repeating it, the devotee can invoke Parashiva.

Virashaivism believes that the water used for washing the feet of guru, the linga and the jangama are sacred, and they purify the body and mind of the devotees. That sacred water is called padodaka.

Fruits, flowers and food offered to the Guru are held sacred and what remains after the offering is called prasada. A true devotee will partake of his food only after offering the prasada.

Vibhuti is sacred ash which the Virashaiva smear on their forehead and various parts of their body. Vibhuti symbolizes the burning of lust and greed in the process of self purification.

Rudraksh beads are considered sacred since they represent the third eye of Parasiva. A Virashaiva will wear the bead and worship it.

Of these eight fold protecting shields of Ashtavarana, guru, linga and jangama are of primary and the rest namely, padodaka, prasada, vibhuti, rudraksha and mantra are of secondary importance.

Source - Encyclopedia of Hinduism - Volume 1 - page 492 - 493
A Handbook of Virashaivism 1942 S.C. Nandimath - Dharwar : The Literary Committee L.E. Association.
Revolution of Mystics: On Social Aspects of Virasaivism, 1995, J P Schourten, Motilal Banarsidass.