On August 3, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was initiated into the Lingayat sect by the seer of Muruga Mutt, Shivamurthy Muruga Sharana, located in central Karnataka. In a tweet, Gandhi said, “It is an absolute honour to visit Sri Jagadguru Murugharajendra Vidyapeetha and receive the ‘Ishtalinga Deekshe’ from Dr Sri Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru.”
It is an absolute honour to visit Sri Jagadguru Murugharajendra Vidyapeetha and receive the ‘Ishtalinga Deekshe’ from Dr. Sri Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 3, 2022
The teachings of Guru Basavanna are eternal and I am humbled to learn more about it from the Sharanaru of the Math. pic.twitter.com/5Dgj53roSp
His initiation took place in front of various party leaders. After a conversation with Lingayat seers of various mutts, the seer of Muruga Mutt, Shivamurthy Muruga Sharana initiated Gandhi into Lingayat sect.
There are three aspects here that are interesting to observe. Firstly, Rahul Gandhi spend the better part of the last 5-6 years claiming that he is a Janeudhari Brahmin. Second, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and his predecessor BS Yeddyurappa hail from the sect, therefore, Rahul Gandhi is seeing this as a purely political move. Thirdly, the fact that it was the Congress that played the dangerous Lingayat politics in Karnataka.
As Gandhi has been initiated into the Lingayat sect, it is essential to remind that back in 2017, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala had informed the people of the nation that Rahul Gandhi was a ‘Janeu Dhari Hindu’. He had made the statement after images of Gandhi’s name in Somnath Temple’s ‘Non-Hindu’ register had surfaced, leading to controversy. In retaliation, Surjewala had said, “Not only is Rahul Gandhi Ji a Hindu, but he is also a ‘Janeu Dhari’ Hindu. So BJP should not bring down the political discourse to this level.”
Not only is Rahul Gandhi ji a Hindu, he is a ‘janeu dhari’ Hindu. So BJP should not bring down the political discourse to this level: RS Surjewala,Congress pic.twitter.com/YY5MKQEKt5— ANI (@ANI) November 29, 2017
Why Rahul Gandhi has to let go of Janeu?
After being initiated into the Lingayat sect, Rahul Gandhi cannot wear Janeu as the members of the Lingayat community do not wear it. Therefore, it is safe to assume that Rahul chose to be a Janeu Dhari Hindu when he thought he could potentially get votes from the Hindu community by pretending to be from their community, however, with Karnataka politics heating up, he has no qualms in giving up his identity, so to speak, to be initiated into the Lingayat sect.
With the current and past chief minister of the state being from the Lingayat community, Rahul Gandhi and the Congress have realised that the community holds substantial sway in Karnataka politics. Owing to that, he seems to have given up his Janeu and got inducted into the Lingayat sect.
Congress’s obsession with Lingayat
The Lingayat community, also known as the Veerashaiva community, is a politically dominating group in Karnataka. Rahul Gandhi’s, or better to say, Congress’s obsession with this community might be entirely political. It has to be noted that before the 2018 Assembly elections in Karnataka, the then-Congress government had given the status of a separate religion to Lingayats, which was overturned by Karnataka High Court.
Lingayats comprise 17 per cent of the population in Karnataka. They have domination in close to 100 Assembly seats. Most of the community members live in North Karnataka. So far, the community has given nine Chief Ministers to Karnataka.
Who are the Lingayats?
The members of the Lingayat community are Bhagwan Shiva devotees. It is a sub-section of Sanatan Dharma that was started back in the 12th century by saint and philosopher Basavanna, who is also known as Saint Basveshvara. He was born in a Brahmin family in 1131 AD. As the stories go, when Basavanna was eight years old, he had already formed dismay in his heart against the ‘social evils’ like the caste system, ‘Brahmin supremacy’ and more.
Following his Upnayan ceremony, where he wore Janeu for the first time, Basavanna decided to let go of the holy thread and left home. Over time, he rejected ritualistic worship and the pre-eminence of Vedas. His followers do not indulge in idol worshipping and pray only to the Crystal Lingam that they tie around their necks.
Basavanna gave the philosophy that the Isht or Bhagwan that one has to pray for lives inside his/her body. He opposed idol worship and called the human body a ‘temple’. Lingayat community finds its space in the Vamana Purana, and because of that, a section within the community believed that Lingayat is an ancient sect and Basavanna was one of the saints of the sect.
As the members of the Lingayat community do not follow the regular practices of Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma, they do not wear Janeu. Hence, after becoming part of the sect, Rahul Gandhi is now certainly not a ‘Janeu Dhari Hindu’.