What did Savarkar, the Hindutva ideologue have to say about Lingayats?

The Karnataka government announced that they would recommend to the central government to declare separate religion status to the Lingayat community. Lingayats are followers of the 12th-century reformer Basavanna. There had been a debate whether the name of this new ‘religion’ would be Lingayat or Lingayat/Veerashaiva because of factions within followers of Basavanna. The government has got around this problem by saying that the name of separate religion would be Lingayat and followers of Basava philosophy among Veerashaivas can also be included under it.

The decision has already led to clashes between the sub-sects of Basavanna’s followers, i.e. Veerashaivas and Lingayats in Kalaburgi. The Veerashaivas had sought the nomenclature of the separate religion as Lingayat/Veerashaiva. The government has antagonised this group with its decision. The BJP has rightly opposed this move of the state government.

BJP politicians are admirers of V.D. Savarkar, the freedom fighter who coined the term ‘Hindutva’. He developed the ideology to unify all scattered sects and groups of Hinduism. What did he have to say on several sects in Hinduism?

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What is ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Hindu’ according to Savarkar?

Before understanding Savarkar’s ideas about several sects, we need to understand his ideas of Hinduism. Savarkar in his book ‘Essentials of Hindutva [pdfdefines Hindutva and Hindu as below (emphasis added) :

A Hindu, therefore, to sum up the conclusions arrived at, is he who looks upon the land that extends from Sindu to Sindu-from the Indus to the Seas,-as the land of his forefathers —his Fatherland (Pitribhu), who inherits the blood of that race whose first discernible source could be traced to the Vedic Saptasindhus and which on its onward march, assimilating much that was incorporated and ennobling much that was assimilated, has come to be known as the Hindu people, who has inherited and claims as his own the  culture of that race as expressed chiefly in their common classical language Sanskrit and represented by a common history, a common literature, art and architecture, law and jurisprudence, rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacraments, fairs and festivals; and who above all, addresses this land, this Sindhusthan as his Holyland (Punyabhu), as the land of his prophets and seers, of his godmen and gurus, the land of piety and pilgrimage.

These are the essentials of Hindutva—a common nation (Rashtra) a common race (Jati) and a common civilization (Sanskriti). All these essentials could best be summed up by stating in brief that he is a Hindu to whom Sindhusthan is not only a Pitribhu but also a Punyabhu. For the first two essentials of Hindutva—nation and Jati—are clearly denoted and connoted by the word Pitrubhu while the third essential of Sanskriti is. pre-eminently implied by the word Punyabhu, as it is precisely Sanskriti including sanskaras i. e. rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacraments, that makes a land a Holyland. To make the definition more handy, we may be allowed to compress it in a couplet

A Sindu Sindhu paryanta, Yasya Bharatbhumika
Pitribhuh Punyabhushchaiva sa vai Hinduriti smritah

(Everyone who regards and claims this Bharatbhumi from the Indus to the Seas as his Fatherland and Holyland is a Hindu)

The ideology of Savarkar is not exclusive as claimed by secular propagandists. Anyone who accepts these principles no matter which religion to which he/she belongs to can become a Hindu. He sought to bring several sects and peoples under the Hindu umbrella without changing the diversity within different groups in India.

Did Savarkar consider Lingayats as a part of Hinduism?

Savarkar recognised the diversity within several sects of Hinduism. He knew that Sikhs, Jains, Lingayats and Samajis followed different customs. Yet he said that all of them were offshoots of the same race and family of Hindus. The ambiguity or confusion, Savarkar said had emerged because of the wrong usage of the word ‘Hindu.’ Savarkar saw a situation wherein sects of Hinduism would want to claim a separate religion status. He wrote (emphasis added) :

The majority of the Hindus subscribes to that system of religion which could fitly be described by the attribute that constitutes its special feature, as told by Shruti. Smriti and Puranas or Sanatan Dharma. They would not object if it even be called Vaidik Dharma. But besides these, there are other Hindus who reject either partly or wholly, the authority—some of the Puranas, some of the Smritis and some of the Shrutis themselves. But if you identify the religion of the Hindus with the religion of the majority only and call it orthodox Hinduism, then the different heterodox communities being Hindus themselves rightly resent this usurpation of Hindutva by the majority as well as their unjustifiable exclusion. The religion of the minorities also requires a name. But if you call the so-called orthodox religion alone as Hinduism then naturally it follows that the religion of the so-called heterodox is not Hinduism. The next most fatal step being that, therefore, those sections are not Hindus at all!! 

But this inference seems as staggering even to those who had unwillingly given wholehearted support to the premises which have made it logically inevitable that while hating to own it they hardly know to avoid arriving at it. And thus we find that while millions of our Sikhs, Jains, Lingayats, several Samajis and others would deeply resent to be told that they—whose fathers’ fathers up to the tenth generation had the blood of Hindus in their veins—had suddenly ceased to be Hindu!—yet a section amongst them takes it most emphatically for granted that they had been faced with a choice that either they should consent to be a party to those customs and beliefs which they had in their puritanic or progressive zeal rejected as superstitions, or they should cease to belong to that race to which their forefathers belonged. 

Savarkar sought to emphasise that members of all these sects could change their allegiances and still remain Hindu. He did not distinguish between a Hindu who sought to become a Lingayat or an erstwhile Hindu who had started to subscribe to Lingayat sect. He wrote (emphasis added) :

Not only is this true so far as those Hindus only who believe in the caste system based on the Vedic tenets, are concerned, but even in the case of Avaidik sects of the Hindu people. As it was true in the Buddhistic period that a Buddhist father, a Vaidik mother, a Jain son, could be found in a single joint family, so even to-day Jains and Vaishnavas intermarry in Gujarat, Sikhs and Sanatanis in Punjab and Sind. Moreover, today’s Manbhav or Lingayat or Sikh or Satnami is yesterday’s Hindu and to-day’s Hindu may be tomorrow’s Lingayat or Bramho or Sikh.

The reason for claiming a separate religion status of Lingayats is because the followers claim that they don’t follow Vedas but they subscribe to Basava Vachanas. Savarkar said that this Basava Purana belongs to all Hindus alike and not the Lingayats alone. In fact, he revered the text of Lingayats (emphasis added) :

The Vedas do not constitute an authority for all Jains. But the Vedas as the most ancient work and the history of their race belong to Jains as much as to any of us. Adipuran was not written by a Sanatani, yet the Adipuran is the common inheritance of the Sanatanis and the Jains. The Basavapurana is the Bible of the Lingayats; but it belongs to Lingayat and non-Lingayat Hindus alike, as one of the foremost and historical Kanarese work extant.

If every caste and sect of Hinduism start demanding a separate religion and minority status, then there will be hundreds of religions in India. Thus it quite clear for BJP that any attempts to remove sects or subgroups from Hinduism is against its fundamental ideology. Therefore, Hindus and supporters of BJP must oppose any attempts to eliminate Hindu unity in this country.

The ideology of divide and rule belongs to the British and Congress. The Congress wants to ensure that Hindus keep fighting among themselves and divide the votes of BJP.  If India and Hinduism have to live, the Congress must die.

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