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It is very unfortunate thing that a few organisations are demanding seperate identification in census and are creating confusion by mixing up the word Virasaiva with Lingayat, It is very wrong and misleading to mix up both of them. For the following reasons

  • Virasaivism is one of the seven sects of Saivism. Saivism is one among two streams of Hinduism. Saivism based on Agamas and Vedism based on Vedas are part and parcel of traditional Hinduism. So Veerasaivism cannot be a non-Hindu faith. where as Lingayatism which is not based on either Agamas or Vedas is clearly a non-Hindu Religion.
A branch cannot be a whole tree ; an independent tree cannot be a small branch of other tree. Likewise Veerasaivism, a sect of Saivism cannot be an independent religon from Hinduism and Lingayatism an independent religion cannot be a sect (or caste) of Hinduism.
  • Veerasaivism preaches staunch devotion towards deity Lord Shiva. Lingayatism preaches neither to worship Shiva nor Vishnu but insists on to worship God, the Absolute Reality, Lingadeva in the form of globular shaped emblem-Istalinga.
  • When Lord Basavanna started a new religion-Lingayatism, many people from different castes, different religious sects joined this new faith. In Karnataka though a few Saiva cults like Pashupata Saiva, Kalamukha Saiva existed at the time of Lord Basavanna, Veerasaiva Cult (sect) had no existence at all. It existed at that time in some parts of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Those people came and accepted Basavanna's religion. It is those people who identified themselves among Lingayats as Veerasaiva Lingayats. But today in Lingayat community exist converts from all castes and all occupations. There are Brahmin Lingayats (Aradhyas) Vaisya Lingayats (Nagartas) Reddy Lingayats, Washermen-Lingayats, Cobbler Lingayats, Tanner Lingayats, Weaver Lingayats etc. etc. All these are identified as only Lingayats and not differentiated on the basis of their previous castes they belonged to prior to conversion. Even mutual dining and marriages do happen among all these groups. So to identify one group among Lingayats as Veerasaiva Lingayats will cause disintegration of Lingayats.
  • Even to this day pre-Basavanna period Veerasaivas are existing as seperate groups in some parts of Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Kerala states. They follow four fold caste system. Shudra Veerasaivas are non-vegetarians. There are a few Veerasaiva maths whose beliefs, practices, rites-rituals and customs are entirely different from those of Lingayats.
The emblem Lingayats wear is completely different from that worn by Veerasaivas. There is once again difference in wearing the symbol among Veerasaivas themselves. Brahmin Veerasaivas wear Rasalinga (Emblem made of mercury), Kshatriya Veerasaivas wear arrow-like emblem made of iron, Vaisya Veerasaivas wear golden emblem and Shudra Veerasaivas stone-emblem, untouchable is not allowed either to wear or worship. Contrary to this there is no any kind of differentiation amongst Lingayats in wearing the religious symbol. All are given initiation and chance to wear and worhip religous emblem-Ista Linga.
  • Pre-Basava Virasaivism gave consecration only to people of four varnas and refused to give initiation to untouchables, where as Basavanna's Lingayatism embraced all human beings alike without any kind of discrimination.

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