What is Lingayatism/Lingayat?
Lingayatism or Lingayat is a religion like Buddism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism etc by virtue of having its own metaphysical theories, which differ from Advaita, Dvaita, and ,Visistadvaita of Vedanta. The Philosophy of this religion is known as Saktivisistadvaita, where god is Conceived to be qualified by sakti or cosmic energy. Yoga or the path of meditation is known as Lingangyoga/Sivayoga, which differs from all other Indian yogas. but at the same time is a harmonious confluence of all other yogas, including Kundalini yoga. Scriptural texts of Lingayatism are the Vachana [ವಚನ] 's and the literature based on Vachana [ವಚನ] 's. Both in ritualistic pattern and socio-cultural practices, Lingayatism differs from traditional Hinduism and all other Indian religions. Lingayath society does not consist of one cast, but is a congregation of several castes, with its followers practicing multifarious occupations.
'Lingayat Dharma' is the name of the religion, the Lingayat is the name for the follower of this religion. Some other words used synonymously are 'Lingavanta Dharma', ' Basava Dharma' and Vachana [ವಚನ] Dharma. 'Lingavata' means a person who wears Istalinga - i.e. a miniature globular emblem of worship, either in a silver box or in a piece of cloth, around his/her neck. 'Lingayat' carries a deeper meaning than the preceding one. It signifies the fact that the follower is not only wearing Istalinga , but that he has obtained it through an initiation or Diksha ceremony. ' Basava Dharma' means the faith founded by Lord Basava , a great prophet of the twelfth century. ' Vachana [ವಚನ] Dharma' conveys the meaning of, the faith preached in Vachana [ವಚನ] literature, which forms the original and authentic scriptural source for this religion.
Lingayats do not eat meat, or smoke or drink alcohol,(* Madras Census Report, 1901.) Lingayats all, male as well as female members, daub their foreheads with vibhuti or sacred ashes every morning.
Lingadari:- A general term, meaning one who wears a lingam, for Lingayat.
The word Lingayat is the anglicised form of Lingavant, which is the vernacular term commonly used for any member of the community. The Lingayats have been aptly described as a peaceable. Their religion is a simple one. They acknowledge only one God, Siva, and reject the other two persons of the Hindu Triad. They reverence the Vedas, but disregard the later commentaries on which the Brahmans rely. They declare that there is no need for sacrifices, penances, pil-grimages or fasts. The cardinal principle of the faith is an unquestioning belief in the efficacy of the lingam, the image which has always been regarded as symbolical of the God. This image, which is called the Jangama lingam or moveable lingam, to distinguish it from the sthavara or fixed lingam of Hindu temples, is always carried on some part of the body, usually the neck or the left arm, and is placed in the left hand of the deceased when the body is committed to the grave. Men and women, old and young, rich and poor, all alike wear this symbol of their faith, and its loss is regarded as spiritual death, though in practice the loser can, after a few ceremonies, be invested with a new one. They are strict disciplinarians in the matter of food and drink, and no true Lingayat is permitted to touch meat in any form, or to partake of any kind of liquor. This Puritan simplicity raises them in the social scale, and has resulted in producing a steady law-abiding race, who are conservative of the customs of their forefathers, and have hitherto opposed a fairly unbroken front to the advancing tide of foreign ideas.
"They bury and do not burn their dead, and do not recognise the five kinds of pollution resulting from a birth, death, spittle, etc., and they do not therefore bathe in order to remove such pollution. Widow remarriage is allowed even where the widow has children, but these are handed over to the relatives of her first husband. To widow remarriages no women who are not widows are admitted, and, similarly, when a maiden is married, all" widows are excluded. Unlike most Hindus, Linga Balijas shave off the whole of the hair of their heads, without leaving the usual lock at the back. They deny metempsychosis, and believe that after death the soul is united with the divine spirit. They are particular in some of their customs, disallowing liquor and flesh-eating, and invariably eating privately, where none can see them."
 From the book "Vachana", pub: Basava Samiti Bangalore 2012.