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Aradhya – Preacher – Founder Virashaiva Religion

Aradhya, an acharya, is a preacher or founder in the Virashaiva religious sect. According to the Virashaiva tradition, five prophets known as pancha-acharya founded the Virashaiva religion. They are – Revanaradhya (Renukacharya), Marularadhya (Marulasiddha), Ekoramaradhya, Panditaradhya and Visvaradhya. Tradition further holds that the five aradhyas were born out of the five Shivalingas

  1. Somesha Linga at Kollipak – Revanaradhya
  2. Siddesha Linga at Ujjain, Bellary district, Karnataka – Marularadhya
  3. Srisail Mallikarjuna, Karnool District, Andhra Pradesh – Ekoramaradhya
  4. Ramanatha Linga at Kedarnath, Uttar Pradesh – Panditaradhya
  5. Visveshvara Linga at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh – Vishvaradhya

The acharya is one who initiates his disciple into the realm of spirituality. Deeksha or initiation is considered an important ceremony in the Virashaiva sadhana for liberation. The three-fold Deeksha, viz., Veda, mantra and kriya is performed by the guru. In the Virashaiva tradition, diksha is compulsory for all the devotees. This process has been respected equally by Lingadharan or wearing the linga on the body. The preceptor is venerated at par with the linga, the Supreme Self, since he is required to realize the linga and is the cause of spiritual birth. In this context, the role of an acharya becomes important. The first five acharyas are considered as the pre-Basava teacher-saints as well as the founders of Virashaiva faith. However, there is no substantial evidence to authentically assert that they are the founders of Virashaivism.

From stray allusions, we understand that Sage Agastya had a dialogue with Revanasiddha on Virashaiva shastra at the beginning of Kali Yuga. It was this dialogue that they came down to the subsequent siddhas enabling them to expound the Virashaiva sect.

In the marriage and initiation ceremonies, five jars are kept, known as pancha kalasha representing the five aradhyas. The middle jar represents Visvesvararadhya and the isana mukha of Sadashiva. Revanaradhya and Tatpurusha-mukha are represented by the jar kept to the east of the middle. Marularadhya and Aghora-mukha represented by the jar kept to the south; Panditaradhya and Vamadeva-mukha are place to the west and Ekoramaradhya is represented by the pot kept to the north. In the subsequent ritual with mantras five men belonging to the tradition of each aradhya sit near the poet and proceed with the ritual known as the Kalashasthapana. Another belief is that these aradhyas sprung from the five mouths of Sadashiva.