Lakulisha-Pashupata (Philosophy and Practice)

by Geetika Kaw Kher | 2012 | 86,751 words

This study discusses the dynamics between the philosophy and practice in the Lakulisha-Pashupata order. According to the cave temples of Elephanta and Jogesvari (Jogeshwari), Lakulisa was the 28th incarnation of Shiva, and Pashupata Shaivism his doctrine, of which the Pasupatasutra represents the prominent text detailing various ritual practices (v...

Kalamukhas and Virasaivas: The present day tradition

A considerable amount of circumstantial evidence points to the existence of a close historical link between the Kalamukhas and the later Virasaivas. The early history of the Vira Saivas is buried in a maze of legends. The founder of this sect is usually believed to be Basavesvara, who was a minister in the court of Kalacuri king Bijjala (1145-67). Evidences suggest that it was a sort of a subsect of earlier Kalamukhas with some additional and reformative features[1] .

The chief ViraSaiva source for their own early history are two Kannada works, the Basava Purana (1370CE) and Canna Basava Purana (1585), both eulogizing the founder. A different and not so favorable account can be seen in “Bijjalarayacarita”, a Jain work. After furnishing some basic information about the parentage of Basava, Basava Purana states that he became the chief minister of Bijjala and soon along with his nephew Canna Basava began propounding the Virasaiva doctrine and won a number of converts. Moreover it is stated that on being opposed by the king, Basava gathered together a large army (reminiscent of large Kalamukha armies) of his followers and defeated the king and later also ordered the murder of the king. What is of major interest to us here is that after murdering the king Basava went to the shrine of Sangamesvara and was “absorbed in the godhead”, very much like Lakulisa who got merged with the linga of Brahmesvara.

A more authentic and relevant information can be gleaned through an inscription of about 1200CE found at Somnath temple at Ablur in Dharwar district. It mentions a Saivite priest named “Ekadanta Ramayya” who is described as a Vira Saiva saint in the Canna Basava Purana[2] . He is supposed to have vanquished Jain scholars in Shastrarth and later destroyed their shrine and built a large temple of Vira Somanatha in its place.

The record also mentions him to have delivered a sermon in the Brahmesvara temple at Ablur, which was earlier headed by a Kalamukha priests and later became famous as temple of Basavesvara and thus a major Virasaiva shrine.

A significant number of former Kalamukha temples are presently controlled by Virasaivas. Belgave, the former seat of the Sakti Parisad is now center of Virasaiva activity and has become a major Virasaiva pilgrimage site. Two of the most famous Virasaiva Maths are at Sri-Parvata and Kedarnath both known to have been early Kapalika strongholds.

Dasgupta[3] observes that the philosophical content of Basava’s vacanas is negligible and is quite similar to Pasupata doctrine.The idea that the distribution of the fruits of Karman is managed and controlled by God,rather than being automatic and autonomous is according to Dasgupta a doctrine which Revanarya (Virasaiva scholar) borrowed from the Pasupatas.

The followers of Virasaiva cult are found till today mostly from southern parts of the country. They are seen carrying a linga on their person and their ascetics are broadly called as Jangam Jogis. Their return back to the roots and essential theocratic form of the order is reminiscent of what Lakulisa has proposed in Pasupata-sutra.

Footnotes and references:


Lorenzen David p.198


Fleet J. F, “Inscription at Albur”above cited


Dasgupta S.N,History of Indian Philosophy,

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