What applies to the whole, applies also to the parts. As Virasaiva Religion is a section of the main Saiva Religion, it is right that something should be said of Virasaiva Religion whenever anything is spoken of Saiva Religion. The present conference which is called Saiva Siddhanta Conference is not a conference which relates to any one section of Saiva Religion, but embodies within its fold, all the branches of Saiva Religion. In fact, the word Saiva Siddhanta is itself a comprehensive term, for Saiva Siddhanta means the celebrated twenty-eight Sivagamas, and all that is related in the said Agamas. According to Virasaiva Siddhanta Sikhamani, the Agamas which were related by Siva, are classified into four divisions, viz:- Vama, Dakshina, Misra and Siddhanta. Of these Vama relates to Saktas, Dakshina relates to Bahiravas, Misra relates to Saptamatrakas and Siddhanta which is in consonance with the Upanishats relates to Saivas. Virasaivaism belongs to the class last mentioned, For, one of the Agamas states thus:-
कामिका द्यावातुलां ताश्शिवेनोक्ताश्शिवागमाः । सिद्धांत इतिविजेयाः वीरशैवस्यनिषयात् ॥
The meaning is:- "All the Agamas beginning from Kamika and ending with Vatula which have been related by Siva should be understood as Siddhantas relating to Virasaivas". From this, it can be seen that Virasaivism has as good a right as any Saivaism in the world to represent itself in future in all the Saiva Siddhanta onferences. It is with this idea that I have written this small essay on Virasaivaism.
One mistaken notion about the antiquity of Virasaivaism is that some people argue that, because the prefix Vira is applied to Saivism in the word Virasaivaism, this Virasaivaism should be a later religion developed from the original Saivaism. This idea is false, because, as regards prefix , it is not only Virasaivaism that has got any prefix to its name, but all the well-known four branches of Saivaism have got prefixes in their names which help to explain the peculiarity of the respective religions. When the word Saivaism merely is expressed, it does not apply to any one branch of Saivaism, but it means all the branches of Saivaism, so that when the word Saivaism is expressed it does not mean that it does not include Virasaivism. The four branches of Saivaism according to Vatulagama (which Siva relates to Shanmukha) are Samanyasaiva, Misrasaiva, Suddhasaiva and Virasaiva. A brief account of the characteristics of these four branches are as follows. Samanyasaiva means an ordinary worshipper of Sivalinga in Sthavara form. Misrasaiva means a worshipper of Sivalinga in Pita in conjunction with Vishnu, Uma, Ganapati, Surya and others. Suddhasaiva means a worhipper of Sivalinga in Pita, but who does not show devotion to any other deity except Siva. Virasaivaism means a worshipper of Sivalinga in the palm of the hand who wear Linga on the body enclosing it in a case made of wood or metal. From these facts, it is a serious mistake to call Virasaivaism a later Saivaism or a reformed Saivaism as some try to put it without knowing the meaning of the word Vira which is given in Agamas. The word Vira does not mean reformed but it means exercising in the science of uniting the life principle with the supreme spirit which is termed Siva by which he attains Salvation. The definition of the word Virasaiva is given in Vatulagama as follows:-
त्रिषप्दे नौच्यतेविश्वा शिवशीवैक्याबोधिनि । तस्मांरमंते एशैवा वीरशैवास्तुते मताः ॥
As regards the antiquity of Virasaivaism, apart from the above considerations, I say I adhere to truth in saying that it is as old as the other three branches viz:- Samanyasaiva, Misrasaiva, and Suddhasaiva. All the sacred books of the Hindus, leaving out of consideration the Agamas which are the special properties of the Agamic Saivas, make mention of Lingadharana invariably which, if believed, should make clear the fact that Virasaivaism is a very ancient religion in the world. A series of extracts from the four Vedas, the hundred Upanishads, the nineteen Smritis, the eighteen Puranas and the two Epics would be useful if quoted here. But as I am writing now only a small essay on Virasaovaosm, I find it difficult to quote much from the ancient books. I, therefore, merely mention the names of the sacred books which make mention of Lingadharana for the information and reference of the readers of this essay. The books which relate Lingadharana are the following:- Rigveda, Krishnayejurveda, Hamsopanishat, Viralaingyopanishat, Lingapurana, Brahmandapurana, Padmapurana, Skandapurana, Manusmriti, Gautamasmriti, Satatapasmriti, Bodayanasmriti, and Mahabharata (Anusasamkaparva, in the dialogue between Dharmaraja and Bhishma).
It is unfortunate that in spite of the voluminous authorities that support the antiquity and superiority of Virasaiva Religion it has become so insignificant that nobody knows about the existence of Virasaiva Religion. It is the ennobled Saiva Siddhanta Conference that has done and is doing something to bring to light the existence and superiority of the several branches of Saiva Religion among which is included Virasaiva Religion. The Saiva Siddhantis of the Tamil Country are Suddhasaivas according to the Agamic description referred to above and the Linga-wearing Saiva Siddhantis of the Karnataka country are Virasaivas according to the same description. The Saiva Siddhantis of the Tamil country and the Virasaivas of Karnataka are more closely related to each other historically and in strictness of sole devotion to Siva than with the other two branches of Saivas who are Samanya Saivas and Misra Saivas. For the latter Saivas are not strict in their devotion to one deity (Siva); they also pay their obeisance to Vishnu and others along with Siva. In this way, Virasaivas and Suddhasaivas form one section of strict Saivas who worship only Siva and not other deities; and Samanyasaivas and Misrasaivas form another section of loose Saivas who worship Siva and other deities. The sixty-three Puratanas and the Nutana Puratanas beginning with Basava and others of Kalyana, belong to Suddhasaiva and Virasaiva branches of Saivaism. It is a well-known fact, that the Nutana Puratanas beginning with Basava and others are all Virasaivas. But as regards the sixty-three Puratanas, some of them are Suddhasaivas and some Virasaivas. For in a classic work in Kannada called Chennabasava Purana two chapters are devoted for the narration of stories of Saiva Saints. In one chapter Saiva Saints are related. In the succeeding chapter Virasaiva Saints are related. Of the sixty-three Puratanas, some are mentioned in the chapter relating to Virasaiva Saints and the rest are mentioned in the chapter relating to Saiva Saints. According to chapter relating to Virasaiva Saints, the Virasaiva Puratanas are the following:-
(1) Ahappageyaru (in Tamil - Iyarppagai Nayanar). (2) Chirutoneyandaru (in Tamil - Sirutonda Nayanar). (3) Kaligananataru (in Tamil - Gananata Nayanar). (4) Murkhanainaru (in Tamil - Murkha Nayanar). (5) Perumaleyaru (in Tamil - Idangudi Nayanar). (6) Marabhaktharu (in Tamil - Ilaiyangudimara Nayanar). (7) Chendakesigalu (in Tamil - Chandesvara Nayanar). (8) Siriyala Sitti or Chirutonda Bhaktaru (in Tamil - Sirutonda Nayanar).
and other Virasaiva Saints who are not of the sixty-three Puratanas. This shows that some of the sixtu-three Puratanas are Virasaivas. The Virasaivas pay as much devotion to the sixty-three Puratanas as the Suddhasaivas of the Tamil country do. Practically every now and then, the Virasaivas perform the Puja of sixty-three Puratanas on a grand scale which causes immense expense of money. The Virasaivas perform also the Puja of what are called seven hundred and seventy Amaraganas who are Nutana Puratanas referred to above among whom are included Basava and others. One performance of this grand Puja was recently made in Mautur in Dharwar District. In this connection, I remember to mention one other fact which is somewhat important and useful. It is said by those who know Tamil that Manikka Vasagar, a saint and an author of great abilities in Tamil literature is a Virasaiva. On making researches in the chapters relating to Saiva and Virasaiva Saints in Chennabasava Purana mentioned above, a name occurs in chapter relating to Virasaiva Saints which is Manikaiyya which seems to have an exact likening to the Tamil Manikka Vasagar which places beyond doubt the fact that Manikaiyya and Maikka Vasagar are one the same person which corroborates the fact that Manikka Vasagar of the Tamil country is a Virasaiva. From the foregoing facts, it will be seen that Suddhasaivas and Virasaivas, as stated above, are more closely connected to each other than the other two branches of Saivas, as both of their Saints are included in the common list of sixty-three Puratanas whom both of them worship in common even today. To show more definitely that in point of staunch devotion to Siva, to scrupulous exclusion of Vishnu and other deities, the Suddhasaivas and the Virasaivas are alike in all ages, the example of Appaiyadikshita who fought hard for the superiority of Siva (on the side od Suddhasaivas) and the innumerable examples of Renukam Basava and others (on the side of Virasaivas) are quite sufficient. What remains to be said now is that such being the relations between the Suddhasaivas and the Virasaivas it is advantageous that they work together for the resuscitation of Saiva Religion in every branch of its progress.
There is much to be said about Virasaiva religion which is unknown to the accidental scholars, on account of the works which throw light upon the said religion not having been brought to light by means of translation into English language by the English educated Virasaivas who are so lethargic that they do not care to take pains to translate them into the said language though they know that English is, in the present day, the proper medium through which everything is made known to the wide world. In every age there have been an incarnation of one of the Pramatagamas whenever there have been signs of declining of Virasaivaism in the world for the purpose of reviving the declining religion, as in the case of Renuka, Basava and a host of other apostles who, one by one, have striven hard for the uplifting of falling Virasaivaism. At present also, we will have to expect an incarnation of one of the same ganas for the purpose of uplifting the falling Virasaivas in the person of some noble and generous Virasaiva who would devote his mind, body, money and everything for the cause of Virasaivaism. Such a person, the Virasaivas were fortunate to have had about a decade ago who, in his own way, did what good he could to the Virasaiva Religion, but who died before he named his long desired object. I close this essay by repeating that famous stanza in Sankara Samhita of Skanda-purana relating to incarnation of Pramataganas, which is -
यदायदाहिधर्मस्य हानिर्भवतिभूतले । तदातदावतारोयं गणेशानांमहीतले ॥