Amid intense speculation about a possible leadership change in Karnataka and a day after Veerashaiva Mahasabha heads expressed support for Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa,

Lingayat/Veerashaiva seers came out in the open to back the Chief Minister and warned that they would hold a meeting to decide their future course of action if he is removed from the top post.

Who are Lingayats?

The Lingayat/Veerashaiva community, a politically dominant group in Karnataka, are devotees of Shiva. The Lingayats follow 12th-century saint-philosopher Basavanna who had rejected ritualistic worship and pre-eminence of the Vedas. The Veerashaivas sect of the community also worships Shiva idols and practises other Hindu customs. The Lingayats consider the Veershaivas to be part of Hinduism as they follow Hindu customs while the Veerashaivas think the community was an ancient religion established by Shiva and Basavanna was one of its saints.

The community has a strong presence in the state especially in the north. Lingayats constitute 17% of the total population in Karnataka. They are dominant in close to 100 of the 224 assembly seats, mostly in North Karnataka. There have been nine chief ministers from the community.


The Father of Lingayatism – Basavanna

Basavanna was a 12th century philosopher, social reformer and preacher whose teachings are cherished not only by Karnataka but the whole country.

In 1155 A.D, Basava had a vision that it was incorrect to sacrifice humans or animals to a formless God. He popularized the concept and base of Ishta-Linga to overcome the discriminations of caste and creed. Later Ishta-Linga was declared as a symbol of the religion Lingayatism, which is followed all across the state today.

Present Scenario:

The Central Government has rejected the Karnataka government’s proposal seeking legal recognition for Lingayats as a distinct religion.

In March 2018, the Karnataka government accepted suggestions of Nagamohan committee and granted minority status to Lingayats. The proposal was then sent to the Centre for the final approval which was then rejected.