What defines the birth, or origin, of a new religion? On Monday, March 19, 2018, the state government of Karnataka voted to recognize the Liṅgāyat community as an independent religious minority, distinct from the umbrella of Hinduism. In the eyes of separatist leaders, Liṅgāyatism is primarily a movement of “social reform,” a revolutionary project spearheaded by the twelfth-century poet-saint and royal minister Basava, denouncing caste, Brahminical ritualism, and the Sanskrit language. Turning to the archive to examine the polycentric influences on early Vīraśaivism, this paper frames the current controversy in light of its historical antecedents, presenting fresh evidence for the deep engagement of early Vīraśaiva textuality with earlier forms of transregional, Sanskritic Śaivism.
Elaine M. Fisher currently serves as Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University. Her research focuses on the intellectual and cultural history of Śaivism in early modern south India. Her first book, Hindu Pluralism: Religion and the Public Sphere in Early Modern South India, was published in 2017 by the University of California Press. She is currently working on a monograph on the history of Sanskritic Vīraśaivism across regions in South India.
Sponsored by: Department of Religious Studies, Center for South Asia