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Hinduism in Karnataka - A state keeping alive the country’s culture and traditions

Hinduism is the most widely practiced religious tradition in India, with approximately 84 percent of Karnataka's total population adhering to it. Karnataka has been governed by many royal empires and dynasties, most of which have made significant contributions to the spread of Hinduism, temple culture, and social progress. These advancements have reaffirmed the "Householder tradition," which is one of structured domesticity, despite the fact that the saints who spread Hinduism in the state and country were hermits. The Hindu Bhakti movement is dedicated to the devotion of Shiva and Vishnu; it had a massive effect on the socio-cultural philosophy of Karnataka beginning in the 12th century. Karnataka is regarded as the birthplace of a number of Hindu movements. 


The main religion in Karnataka is Hinduism. Historically, Jainism monopolized Hinduism. Lingayatism surfaced in northern Karnataka in the 12th century as a reaction to the solidity of the dominant social and caste system. Prominent figures in the movement, including Basava, Akka Mahadevi, and Allama Prabhu, founded the Anubhava Mantapa, where Lingayatism was taught. This was to be the foundation of the Lingayat devotion and its adherents, the Lingayats. When the Lingayat faction arrived in Karnataka, the then-thriving Jain community's practices of Jainism were rendered ineffective as a religious practice in the state. Lingayats continue to wield considerable power in Karnataka.


Vishnu and Shiva were the primary deities of both the Lingayat and Brahminical groups during the Bhakti movement. The religious movement in Hinduism, widely recognized as the Bhakti movement, is divine grace. Basava, also known as Basavanna, was an anti-caste activist who advocated for inclusivity among all classes. His Bhakti Movement ushered in a tremendous radical shift in the socio-cultural ideology of the state of Karnataka. The basic tenet of this doctrine, advanced by the Virashaiva school or Virashaivism beginning in the 12th century, was resistance to the caste system, disapproval of Brahmin hegemony, condemnation of ritual sacrifice, and increased emphasis on Bhakti and reverence of the one God, Shiva.

Lakula, Kalamukha and Kapalikas

Well before Lingayats began their bhakti movement, there was the Kalamukha faction, who worshiped Shiva. They began practicing the movement in the 11th century. They, like the Lingayats, were contradictory to puritanism. The Kalamukha were a subgroup of the Lakula Sect who wielded considerable power over the people. They raised money for their shrines and mathas (monastic centers). The Kalamukha austere sect was prevalent from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries but is now exterminated. They were modern to another faction recognised as the Kapalikas and painted their faces with a black streak. Apart from some writings attesting to their heavy impact in Karnataka, their religious belief systems are unclear. 


Haridasas, a religious cluster of saints who started the group under the same title and who were Vaishnavites of the Dwiata ethos, founded another bhakti movement in the 13th century. Naraharitirtha, a pious Madhva believer, founded this movement. Their devotion is directed toward different forms of Lord Vishnu or Hari. The transmission of the Bhakti cult was not only to revere Vishnu, but also to abolish animal sacrifice, superstitions, the caste system, and the worship of many types of the deity. They also forbade the use of astrology and other rituals. Their sermons were delivered in Kannada, a popular language, through religious poetry.


Q1. What is the role of Hinduism in Karnataka today? 

In modern times, Hinduism plays a major role in Karnataka politics and society, as well as in people ’s daily life. 

Q2. Which Hindu movements are the most popular in Karnataka?

Karnataka was the birthplace of the three dominant Vedanta Hindu movements: Advaita Vedanta, Vishishtadvaita, and Dvaita. The principal supporter of Tattvavada, or "philosophy of reality," was the Karnataka-born Dvaita Madhvacharya.

Q3. What is the sacred book of Hindus?

Bhagavad Gita is the sacred book of Hindus. It was originally written in Sanskrit. It is believed to have been composed in 5th - 2nd century BCE.  The story of the Bhagavad Gita is narrated through a dialogue between Arjuna, a warrior prince, and his charioteer, Lord Krishna. Whilst Arjuna doubts whether he should go into battle, Krishna explains that he must fulfil his dharma (duty) as a warrior. Krishna discusses the four classical schools of yoga; Jnana (path of knowledge), Bhakti (path of devotion), Karma (path of action) and Raja (path of meditation). It also talks about connecting with the Absolute, thereby attaining self-realization.