This section is from the book "Some Contributions Of South India To Indian Culture", by S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar. Also available from Amazon: Some Contributions of South India to Indian Culture.
The course of development of what might for convenience be called orthodox Saivism of the Tamil land was described in the last two chapters. Along with this there were other forms of Saiva worship prevalent in the Tamil country, and these come in for reference in the course of some of the works accepted by the orthodox Saivas. We have referred already to the five divisions of what is called outer Saivism, that is, Saivism outside the circle of orthodox acceptance. These are Pasupatam, Vamam, Bhairavam, Mahavratam and Kala-mukham. Several of these had at various times attained to considerable influence and patronage in Southern India, They do not differ much in the essentials of their teaching and differ mainly in the rigour with which they carry out single-minded devotion to the form or aspect of Siva to which they devote themselves. It is this characteristic that generally groups them together under the designation of Virasaivism. We already referred to the prevalence of both Pasupatam and Kalamukham under the Pallava King, Mahendravarman. It is these apparently that are referred to as prevalent in north-western India, the Frontier-Province, in the accounts of the early Chinese travellers. Notwithstanding the prevalence of Saivism of these rigorous types in the North-West, Bana, the biographer of Harsha, makes Bhairavacharya come from the South to the Court of Harsha's ancestor Pushpa-bhuti.1 Strangely enough a form of Bhairava is the presiding deity in a temple in the Tanjore District hallowed by the tradition connected with the Pallava general Siruttondar who with the assistance of his dutiful spouse cooked up their boy son to satisfy Siva appearing in the form of a Saiva Sannyasi of one of these sects: and this form of Siva is called Uttarapatha Nayaka clearly indicating his northern filiation. We have reference to a colony of Siva-worshippers from Bengal, who were imported and settled by the great Chola Rajendra I 2 in places like Kanchi and the Chola country hallowed by the Saiva holy places. This region has from the earliest times been associated, though not quite exclusively, with the worship of Siva. Thus, it is clear that even the more vigorous and aggressive forms of Saivism were prevalent in the Tamil country ever since the beginning of historical times, reinforced, time and again, by the infusion of Northern teaching and by influx of Northern votaries. It was left however to the Kakatiya country of Telingana and for the twelfth century to inaugurate a new movement of this form of aggressive Saivism which is generally known by the term Vira-Saivism in modern times. What exactly was the exciting cause of this movement, we are not able to see quite clearly, unless it be the settlement of the Saiva Brahmans from Bengal by the Great Rajendra already referred to, and a later influence from Bundalkhand in the reign of Kakatiya Rudra I.3 The movement seems to have received a special impetus from a certain zeal for social reform by the abolition of caste and by otherwise removing some of those social restrictions, against which there has generally been much feeling among social reformers down to this day. This movement falls into two sections of which one may be described as conservative and the other radical. The conservative movement seems to be a Brahman movement essentially, and is confined to a class who claimed to have been Brahmans before and after the separation of this Virasaiva sect. The common feature of these are a considerable subordination of Vedic rights and rituals, and a proportionate raising into importance of personal devotion or bhakti. While attaching all importance to bhakti and according acceptance even to the self-surrender which is a characteristic of Vira Saiva teaching, this particular section of them base their teachings in great part on Vedic philosophy and are believers in the principles, even of Vedic religions. These go by the name of Aradhyas and are found as a distinct class largely in the Telugu country and in some number in the Kanarese country as well. The more extreme form of these Vira Saivas, Lingayats as they are called, hold these beliefs in comparatively little esteem and follow the teachings of Basava, himself a Brahman and the founder of their sect.
1 Bana's Harsacharitam, p. 1ll, Nirnaya Sagar edition. 2 A. S. D, 1911-12, p. 176.
3 Ep. Rep. 1917. Secs. 30-37.
According to tradition embodied in the Basava Purana, Basava was a Brahman born in a village in the Bijapur district of the Southern Maharatta country, who attracted the attention of the chief minister of the Kalachurya usurper, Bijjala. Bijjala was a Jain and usurped the throne of the descendants of the great Chalukya Vikramaditya VI in the year A.D. 1156, and ruled for a period of about ten years, when he abdicated in favour of his sons, four of whom ruled in succession for a short period of less than ten years. Basava rapidly advanced in his official career and became one of the Ministers of state. He made use of the position for the advancement of his particular sect. His followers growing in numbers and influence consequently came into conflict with the Jains of the capital. Bijjala had to intercede and in spite of the miracles which Basava is said to have worked in favour of his new cult in the capital, Bijjala's influence could be got rid of only by assassination, according to the Purana. It states circumstantially that Basava found his position untenable in the capital and had to flee for safety. He instigated two of his faithful followers to assassinate Bijjala, himself proceeding to a place called Kudali Sangamesvara, where he was absorbed into Siva. The mantle of leadership fell upon Channa Basava, the son of his sister by favour of Siva. He had however to keep out of headquarters with his followers and pursue his religion beyond the reach of the royal arms. Such in tradition is the story of the two founders of this form of Vira Saivism according to their canonical literature.