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.
Early epigraphical records however seem to lend support to another tradition which ascribes the origin of this form of Vira Saivism to a certain Brahman called Ekantada Ramayya, and this story is found recorded in an inscription in the temple of Somanatha at Ablur in the Dharwar district, pertaining to the time of Mahamandaleswara Kamadeva of the family of Kadambas of Hangal (A.D. about 1181-1203). According to this version of the story, Ramayya was the son of Purshottama Bhatta and his wife by favour of Siva, chiefly with a view to putting an end to the prevalence of Jainism. The child was called Rama and he grew up so intensely devoted to Siva that he came to be known as Ekantada Ramayya1 ("Single-minded" Ramayya).
When he had completed his period of preparation, he set himself up at Ablur as an ascetic ready to controvert any votary of a hostile religion. It would appear one day the Jains led by the village headman chanted the praise of Jina within the hearing of Ramayya in the temple
1 In the technical religious sense this term stands for " the right of private entree to the Divine presence " of Brahmesvara of the locality. Ramayya accepted their challenge to controvert them by cutting off his head and getting it restored to him. The Jains on their side agreed that if he should successfully perform this miracle, they would destroy their Jain temples and become Saivas. Ramayya sang the praise of Siva and cut off his head, which came back to him on the 7th day after the mutilation. As the Jains did not carry out their part of the promise, Ramayya was supposed to have carried out a wide and systematic persecution against the Jains, and built at Ablur the temple of Somanatha under the name of Vira Somanatha. The suffering Jains carried the news to Bijjala. Ramayya produced the written agreement of the Jains and offered to repeat the miracle, letting the Jains even burn the head detached from his body promising to recover it as before, if the Jains would stake their 700 temples as wager therefor. The Jains would not accept the challenge. Bijjala ordered the issue of a Jaya Patra, "a certificate of Victory," to Ramayya. Bijjala so far appreciated the single-minded devotion of Ramayya that he performed the acts of veneration due to ascetic votaries of all Indian religions, and granted to Ramayya's temple of Vira Somnnathaa village. The miracle performed by Ramayya was repeated to Chalukya Somesvara IV, the last of the dynasty, in a public assembly and he similarly showed his respect to Ramayya by the grant of another village to the same temple. A similar grant was made after a similar interview with Ramayya by Kamadeva,and it is this chieftain who is responsible for the inscription. The story of Ekantada Ramayya is found mentioned in the Channa Basava Burana with variation in details of minor consequence, but Ram-ayya's story as described in the inscription seems to favour the inference that he was the founder of the Lingayat Sect rather than the two Basavas, uncle and nephew. It is just possible that Ramayya preceded the two Basavas by a short period as Bijjala is referred to in the record not as a ruler, but as only a governor (Mahamandalesvara). There is a lithic representation in the temple of Brahmesvara at Ablur of Ramayya's performance. Although it would be unwarranted to infer therefrom that the actual performance was quite an historical event, Ramayya's name figures among the four sages of the Lingayats who are taken to be the predecessors of the two Basavas. It is a common feature of both the Lingayats and the Aradhyas on all solemn occasions to set up four vases of water in the name of the four Aradhyas (worshipful ones). These four are Revana, Marula, Eko-Rama, and Pandita Aradhya. The third of these apparently stands for Ekantada Ramayya. If such is the case, Ramayya has to be counted among the predecessors of Basava uniformly regarded as the founder of the religion of the Jangam or Lingayats. It is likely therefore that Ramayya was responsible for really originating this sect, the teachings of which had been organised and carried into actual practice by Basava.
The sacred literature of the Lingayats consists of the Basava Purana, the Prabhu Linga Lila and Panditaradhya-charita. These are briefly known to them as the Parana, the Lila and the Charita. There is a superficial resemblance in this triplicate classification to the Buddhist Tripitaka, but the resemblance is only superficial. These three are apparently formed on the earlier Saiva, creed which might for convenience be described in their later modification as Saiva Siddhan-tam. These Siddhantins have their literature which can also be classified into a purana part, a lila part and a charitra part. An instance in point is Manikkavasakar's life described in the Vaduvurar Puranam, which describes a certain number of lilas (playful acts) that Siva performed in favour of Manikkavasakar, the other parts of the work being of the character of a life-history of Manikkavasakar himself. The three works referred to therefore constitute the canonical literature of the rigorous Lingayats. The Aradhya still exhibits attachment to the Brahmanical lore of the Vedas and the literature springing therefrom. Of these, Prabhulinga Lila is a work found in Telugu, Kanarese and Tamil. The Tamil version which seems to be the latest of them all, is referable to about A. D. 1620, and is ascribed to the Saiva ascetic Siva-prakasa. This was apparently founded on the Kanarese version. Whether the original was written in Telugu remains an open question.
The Panditaradhya Charitra is the legendary and miraculous history of Panditaradhya one of the four sages already referred to. This work seems to have been first written in Telugu by an author who goes by the name Palkuriki Soma or Somanatha, an Aradhya Brahman who is said to be a contemporary of the Kakatiya Rudra. There are two kings of the name Rudra among the members of the Kakatiya dynasty. It is probable that Soma was a contemporary of the first Rudra, in which case he might have to be assigned to the commencement of the thirteenth century. If however it should turn out that the Rudra referred to is the second of the name, he would have to be assigned to the commencement of the fourteenth century. In either case, it falls within the age when this form of Saivism was in the ascendancy in the Telugu country, the Kakatiyas of Telingana being special patrons of the Saivas to begin with, the Hoyasalas and other dynasties of the Southern Maharatta country later extending their patronage to this particular form of the creed.
During the age of Vijayanagar the Lingayats certainly existed and flourished. We know of contemporaries of Vidyaranya belonging to this sect occupying high positions in the service of the state. Several sovereigns of the first dynasty of Vijayanagar seem to have patronised this particular creed. But it does not appear to have been exactly what might be called the state religion, as in fact it would be misleading to speak of state religions in regard to Hindu sovereigns. From what has been said, it would have become clear that Saivism like Vaishnavism began in the South during the historical period as not a systematised religion or creed, but merely as the convictions of individual men who could give expression to their own convictions in felicitous language full of overflowing emotion.
The early part of bhakti literature is in a sense emotional, resting upon faith and appealing to the hearts of those who came under its influence. Naturally therefore, that literature must be somewhat unsystematic and unconnected by any logical arrangement of sequence. That was the condition of both the religions in the centuries from A.D. 200 to about A.D. 1000 roughly.
With the Great Cholas, there comes a free infusion from the North of Brahmanism chiefly from Bengal. About the time of the Great Chola Rajendra I, the forest regions of Kosala became hallowed by Brahman colonies who fled for protection from the land of Aryavarta which received then the repeated onslaughts of the iconoclastic Mahmud of Gazni. Rajendra's invasion of this locality has to be ascribed to A.D. 1024-25, and that was the year of the last invasion of Mahmud.
The foundation of Golaki Matha in the Telugu country was due to the incoming of a colony of Saiva Brahmans from Dahala, the region of Bundelkhand.1 These influxes of Northern Brahmans gave a stimulus to the systematisation of the teachings of the votaries of Siva and that is the period to which we have to ascribe at any rate the so-called Sastraic literature of the Saivas. The first work belonging to this school is in Sanskrit Sutras and is based on one of the Agamas, the Raurava Agama, as was indicated already.
1 See note at foot of p. 247 above.