This article is translated by me, Rashmi Malapur, and the author had written it in Marathi, the author is anonymous.
महिला सबलीकरणाचे जागतिक प्रथम प्रणेते — विश्वगुरु समतानायक जगतज्योती महात्मा बसवण्णा
The first leader to introduce women empowerment – World leader, proponent of equality, Mahatma Basveshwar.
In the Medieval Age woman was burdened and restricted by religious shackles. She was subdued and had an inferior position in the society with respect to social, economic, educational and religious rights. She was considered an object of desire, thus was bereft of all rights and wasn’t valued for her contribution towards the society.
These were the days when women lurked under darkness of orthodox ideologies. They were chained in Santana ideologies and lived a horrible life. Amidst this hopelessness and darkness Mahatma Basvanna freed her from the repressive shackles of Santana Dharma.
Mahatma Basvanna for the first time in India, took up the cause of educating women and transitioned Indian into modernity. It’s quite surprising and revolutionary that in an age when even men weren’t educated, he became the torch bearer of women’s education. It was a rebellious act to think about women’s education in an India that thrived under the force of Sanatan Dharma.
Mahatma Basvanna brought women under one platform and he made them realize their collective force; a historic step taken by Mahatma Basvanna in 12th century.
He spread the belief that our universe is created beautifully by the Almighty and women have equal rights to enjoy it’s beauty. All Sharanas (followers of Lingayat Religion) brought it into action and encouraged women to live a respectful life.
Shivyogi Siddharameshwar says in his vachana, “A woman is not just a woman or she ain’t a demon, a woman is an embodiment or incarnation of Kapilsiddha Mallikarjun”.
In this manner women were given the status of God Almighty and this proved to be like a Sanjeevani (gift of life) for women due to Mahatma Basveshwar and Sharans.
Mahatma Baveshwar started a movement by which he propagated independence through employment for women:
Kayaka (work or employment) was believed to be something for men and Mahatma Basvanna challenged this belief; he started a revolution to give economic freedom to women.
Infact, when women were made a part of Anubhav Mantapa, the first rule was, they had to engage themselves in a profession, get employed and become economically independent. Women were an integral part of Anubhav Mantapa and they were involved in either kind of Kayaka.
Kashmir Maharani ‘Molgi Mahadevi’ sold ‘Moli’ ( a type of root).
Ayyakki Lakkamma collected rice that was dropped on the ground.
Remavva wove threads. She sold beauty products too.
Somamma used सोमम्मा या धान्ये कांडण्याचे कायक करत (couldn’t translate this).
Kalavva did carpentry work
Lingamma made paan vida (preparation from betel leaves)
Madhuvayya prepared footwear
Satyakka cleaned the premises
Akkamma did farming
So many Sharanis’ confidence was boosted, they became committed, independent, self-respecting and created place for themselves in the society.
Yugpurush Basveshwar established woman’s right to express:
Under the towering leadership of Mahatma Basveshwara women didn’t only get the right to education but, were given the freedom to express their ideas for the first time in India. Women spent time taking care of household chores and bringing up children, so her role was restricted. But, he believed that women shouldn’t be restricted to this role, they should involve themselves in other activities. This was one of the revolutionary thoughts that he brought under practise in the regressive Sanatana Age.
Anubhav Mantapa was based on democratic values where men and women were given equal rights. Women were given intellectual and emotional freedom.
Now, women were not only spiritually and religiously inclined, they took part in intellectual endeavours too. Basvanna took the first step to modernise society in the true sense.
Mahatma Basvanna granted this freedom of expression to women who were called Sharanis.
Some of them were Akka Nagaai, Akka Mahadevi, Mata Neelambika, Sharani Akkamma, Aidakki Lakkamma, Kalavve, Sharani Masnamma, Sharani Remmavva, Sharani Rechavve, Sharani Kamma, Sharani Lakshamma, Sharani Ketaldevi, Sharani Govgavve, Sharani Veeramma, Sharani Duggul, Sharani Guddavva, Sharani Kalavva, Sharani Bontadevi, Sharani Muktayakka, Sharani Molgi Mahadevi, Sharani Satyakka, Sharani Rayamma, Sharani Rekamma, Sharani Kalavva, Sharani Sule Sankavve, Sharani Lingamma, Sharani Gangamma.
Many Sharanis were a part of Anubhava Mantapa and flourished under the guidance and encouragement of Vishwaguru Basvanna.
Mata Nagai was the first receiver of diksha from Mahatma Basvanna.
She is the founder of Basava Nirmiti. Mahatma Basvanna initiated intellectual freedom from his home. Mata Nagai guided the Sharana and Sharanis at Anubhava Mantapa. She herself laid the foundation of Basavanna’s ideas and thoughts. She penned many Vachanas (poetic expression) and during Kalyan Kranti she didn’t care for her life while defending Vachana Sahitya.
For centuries, women who were imprisoned by religious laws were freed by Mahatma Basvanna.
She describes this in her words as below:
“Basvanna destroyed the religious restrictions I was bound by,
He eliminated the harassment I faced since ages,
He destroyed the physical restrictions,
Now, all the emotional impediments have been destroyed.
Basvanna has freed me from discrimination.”
In these effective words, she describes the revolutionary work of Basvanna.
Dyanan Gangotri Akka Mahadevi
For Ages woman is described or connoted as Maya, Rakshasi or demon, Shudra, Impure, and Sinner. During these times, Mahatma Basvanna laid the foundation of woman empowerment by calling ‘woman is Mahadevi or a Goddess’. This triggered a social revolution to emancipate women; he called upon women to break all social shackles and fight for her rights to equality. Thus, Anubhava Mantapa became a symbol of gender equality and amongst many of such enlightened Sharani was ‘Akka Mahadevi’.
Akka Mahadevi has expressed her religious, spiritual, political, social, economic and scientific thoughts in vachanas. She was inspired by Mahatma Basvanna and she describes her experience in her words as below:
“When you speak about courage
Iam already armoured.
Flaunting a symbol of courage on my forehead,
I have embarked upon this brave battle,
I care not if my clothes or my body gets tattered,
I swear upon Chennamallikarjuna”.
In these powerful words she instills confidence and courage among women. Mahatma Basveshwar empowered her with courage, ability to bravely fight against injustice and discrimination.
Widow rehabilitation by Mahatma Basveshwar:
During those days, child marriage was common thus, many women became widows and they had to jump in burning fire after their husband’s death (custom called ‘Sati’). They couldn’t be a part of any auspicious occasion or religious ceremony, were considered ill-fated and one’s who brought bad omen.
Mahatma Basvanna emancipated these women and brought social revolution to rehabilitate widows. With the aim to emancipate widows he wished to bring a social revolution. Especially Lingayat women who had to go bald (keshavapan) and to go Sati; all practised under the Santana ideologies. Lingayat women had to be freed from these regressive ideologies.
By encouraging inter-caste marriage Mahatma Basvanna took another step towards equality.
The herculean task of rehabilitating prostitutes:
“I may be a daasi’s (servant’s) daughter or a prostitute’s daughter,
After Linga diksha I emancipated,
I will only bow down to you,
Anyone who despises you will be damned to hell
These words reflect Mahatma Basvanna’s desire to do good for all living souls. He realized the sorrows of women from all strata of society and he also realized that women became prostitutes due to lack of family support, challenging social and economic circumstances. His work wasn’t restricted only to giving a new life to them but, he brought them into the mainstream society and through Kayaka brought them respect. He encouraged them to be a part of Anubhava Mantapa and share their feelings and experience.
Many of them created revolution through their writings in the form of vachanas.
One of them was Sharani Sankavva.
In this manner women were given their rights, they were psychologically supported. Basvanna heard their desperate cry, instilled self-confidence in them, he is the one who emancipated women. This way he is honoured as the first leader to work tirelessly towards the cause of women empowerment and gender equality.
World leader, propagator of equality and founder of Lingayat religion, Mahatma Basvanna