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Concept Of Shiva in Lingayatism or Veerashaivism

Concept of Shiva in Lingayatism or Veerashaivism is an excerpt from an article titled ‘Lingayat Philosophy and Vedanta’ by Prof. N G Mahadevappa published in the Prabuddha Bharata Magazine January 2010 issue.

Just because the Virashaivas call their God Shiva, it does not follow that the Shiva conceived by them is the same as that conceived by the Saiva Siddhantins. The Saiva Siddhantin concept of Shiva conforms to the Agamas. The Shiva of the Agamas and the Puranas is masculine, living in Kailas with his wife Parvati, sons Ganapati and Kumara, and a host of liberated persons and attendants like Bhringi and Nandi. He wears a garland of human skulls, has a snake round his neck, and the moon on his head. According to the Puranas, Shiva is one of the Trinity — the other two being Brahma and Bhagavan Vishnu — and his duty is to destroy the universe, while the duties of creation and maintenance of the world are assigned, respectively, to the other two deities. He grants wishes to his devotees rather indulgently, without worrying about possible evil consequences.

The Virashaivas regard Kailas as a mere desert mountain. Shiva’s residence there makes him a purely transcendent being, which is not acceptable to them. For the Virashaivas, Shiva is both transcendent and immanent. Moreover, they divest Para-shiva of all anthropomorphic qualities.

For them, he is not masculine, nor does he have a family. Choudayya the ferryman, for example, says that ‘no garland of skulls is worn (by Shiva), nor does he hold trident or tabor’.

The Lingayats advocate belief in and worship of only one God, Shiva, and do not accept the supremacy of Brahma or Vishnu. He is the Supreme Lord of the universe. They worship him in the form of ishtalinga, placing it on their left palm, and also abstain from visiting temples for that purpose.

Many a time the Vachanakaras describe Shiva as nirguna, featureless, nirakara, formless, and niralamba, unsupported. These epithets apply to Para-shiva of the pre-creation state. But they do not entitle us to identify him with the featureless and formless Brahman of Advaita, because even in that stage he is associated with shakti, which is unmanifest then and which becomes the universe later. He really creates the universe, maintains and destroys it cyclically, and therefore, these functions and qualities of Shiva, according to Virashaivism, are not maya, as they are in Advaita.

The Virashaivas also call Shiva by various names: Linga, Paravastu, Parabrahman, Chit, Chaitanya, Satchidananda, Bayalu or Shunya or Akasha (Space), Chid-bayalu or Chidakasha (Consciousness-space), Jyotirlinga (Effulgent Linga), and so on. Each Vachanakara uses, as his signature, the name of his family or village deity at the end of every one of his Vachanas. But ‘Linga’ is the ‘official’ term used by all Vachanakaras.

The Vachanakaras, like the Vedantins, advocate the doctrine that Linga is sat, chit, ananda, nitya, and paripoorna.

Source – excerpts from article titled ‘Lingayat Philosophy and Vedanta’ by Prof. N G Mahadevappa in the 2010 issue of Prabuddha Bharata Magazine.