Lingayat Practical Philosophy

This past weekend, Satya, myself, and his parents went to the temple together.  This gave me the opportunity to learn more about their beliefs and how they practice their religion. 


Here are some of their observations and mine:


“Any nice day is a good one to go to the temple,” This was said by my mother in law.  One of the hardest things for me to understand is that there is nothing like the Sabbath or Sunday to them.  People go to the temple whenever they feel the need or desire to do so. 


“Too much ritual, not enough devotions,”  This was said by my father in law.  The central god of the temple we attended was Venkateswara*.   There was a ceremony taking place there in addition to the usual ceremony with the aarti, the hat put on people’s heads for a few moments (Shiva temples don’t do this, but this was a Vishnu temple), the coconut drink, and the prasad.  This ceremony involved bathing the idol with milk, showing the god the offerings, etc.  The priests chanted in Sanskrit.  Satya was able to translate a little of this…prayers for peace, prayers for the cars of the believers, prayers for North America, etc.  After hearing the chant for peace, Satya and his dad were ready to leave, but then the ritual began again.  Also, at one point the priests came out and led a procession around Venkateswara.  The people carried their offerings (lots of milk, coconuts, and bananas) behind the priests.


Lingayats are a bit like Protestants or Quakers believing in simplicity. 


*A note about Lingayats and Venkateswara…according to Lingayat lore, Venkateswara stole money from one of the Lingayat gods.  To this day, Venkateswara is known as a rich god and at some temples there will be Lingayats chanting for the return of the money.  Despite these things, Satya’s mother was sitting right in the midst of the crowd during the ritual in intense contemplation.  Satya, his father, and I were sitting more off to the side.


“Do your best and whatever happens, happens for the best,”  and “Do your best, and leave the result to God,” common sayings by members of Satya’s family, including himself.  This covers things large and small.  For example, when Satya was in high school and was taking the tests that determined which school he was eligible to attend, his English score got messed up (he spoke English from the age of 2 and went to English medium schools, so I believe him that the score was a mix up.)  Anyway, that meant his cumulative score was one point shy of qualifying.  Was he bitter?  Nope.


“What do you do?” and its close relatives, “What can I do?”  and “What to do?”  This follows the above.  Some might call this resignation or a bit of cynicism, but usually signifies a recognition that not everything is in one’s control.  I hear a version of this everyday.


“Take the prasad, it is very important and carries blessings,” said by his parents.  Many believers will bring milk, cocunuts, or bananas to the temple.  These will be taken by the priests to be blessed.  Then, some will be returned to the giver.  Some will be offered to temple visitors.  Satya was hesitating about taking these, but his mother took a banana and split it into four parts for all of us.  I’ve heard that at some temples in India, free meals are given to visitors.


Learning about Lingayatism in particular and Hinduism in general is an ongoing process for me.  I learn tidbits here and there.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gori Girl
    Aug 18, 2009 @ 18:03:18

    Learning tidbits here and there is also how your husband – and most Indian children – probably learned about their faith as well. 🙂


  2. Gori Girl
    Aug 18, 2009 @ 19:21:53

    P.S. I have a giveaway going on my blog that you might be interested in.


  3. hash50
    Sep 09, 2009 @ 14:11:25

    Hi, I am not sure from your blog if your husband is a Lingayat. Lingayats do not believe in temples and idol worship. They are also monotheistic (only one god) unlike Hindus. They rebelled against Hinduism in the 12th century and reject pretty much all basic tenets of Hinduism (caste system, reincarnation, Karma, Hindu rituals such as bathing idols with milk etc), and believe all humans are equal irrespective of birth and gender. As such they are not really Hindus. Lingayatism is one of the few religions that accord hundred percent equality to women in all spheres, including priesthood. They have done so since the founding in the 12th century. They revolutionised Kannada literature in the12th century.


    • minnesotameetskarnataka
      Nov 25, 2009 @ 00:18:25

      It is tricky and does confuse me. It seems there is a wide continuum. Some people say Lingayats have been absorbed into the caste system. Others maintain it is a separate religion completely. Satya does believe very strongly in equality and in being a humble person. He does not pay attention to caste and neither did his family from the stories he tells, although most do end up marrying within the Lingayat community and withing a specific subdivision of it. He has told me a bit about the history. For his family’s actual practice, it is tricky. His mom will gift us idols, decorate and bath the idols, etc. His dad’s family came from a part of India where Hindus and Lingayats were persecuted so his dad’s family does not have as many traditions.
      Aside from the firm belief in equality, in most other respects he and his family seem like Hindus.
      I know there is a Veerasaiva organization here in the US and hopefully soon we will connect with one of its chapters. I look forward to learning more!


  4. Harsha
    Sep 09, 2009 @ 15:32:26

    Do you wear ‘chouka'(kannada word) onto your neck (like necklace)?
    Most of the lingayats wear this and its also symbol for lingayats
    Just curious to know..:)


    • minnesotameetskarnataka
      Nov 25, 2009 @ 00:00:29

      I don’t have one and probably will not. Satya has one, but it is in India at his parents’ house. Maybe on this trip we will retrieve it??


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