On August 3, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was initiated into the Lingayat sect by the seer of Muruga Mutt, Shivamurthy Muruga Sharana, located in central Karnataka. In a tweet, Gandhi said, “It is an absolute honor to visit Sri Jagadguru Murugharajendra Vidyapeetha and receive ‘Ishtalinga Deekshe’ from Dr Sri Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru.
It is an absolute honor to visit Sri Jagadguru Murugharajendra Vidyapeetha and receive ‘Ishtalinga Deekshe’ from Dr Sri Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru.
The teachings of Guru Basavanna are eternal and I am honored to learn more about it through the Sharanaru of Mathematics. pic.twitter.com/5Dgj53roSp
—Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 3, 2022
His initiation took place before various party leaders. After a conversation with Lingayat seers of various pooches, Muruga Mutt’s seer, Shivamurthy Muruga Sharana initiated Gandhi into the Lingayat sect.
There are three aspects here that are interesting to observe. First of all, Rahul Gandhi spent most of the last 5-6 years pretending he was a Janeudhari Brahmin. Second, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and his predecessor BS Yeddyurappa are from the sect, therefore Rahul Gandhi sees this as a purely political decision. Third, the fact that it was Congress that played the dangerous Lingayat policy in Karnataka.
As Gandhi was initiated into the Lingayat sect, it is essential to remember that in 2017 Congress leader Randeep Surjewala informed the people of the nation that Rahul Gandhi was a “Hindu Janeu Dhari”. He had made the statement after images of Gandhi’s name in the “non-Hindu” register of the Somnath temple surfaced, which sparked controversy. In retaliation, Surjewala said: “Not only is Rahul Gandhi Ji a Hindu, but he is also a Hindu ‘Janeu Dhari’. The BJP should therefore not lower the political discourse to this level.
Not only is Rahul Gandhi ji a Hindu, but he is a “janeu dhari” Hindu. So BJP should not lower political discourse to this level: RS Surjewala, Congress pic.twitter.com/YY5MKQEKt5
— ANI (@ANI) November 29, 2017
Why should Rahul Gandhi let go of Janeu?
After being initiated into the Lingayat sect, Rahul Gandhi cannot wear Janeu as members of the Lingayat community do not wear it. Therefore, it is safe to assume that Rahul chose to be a Hindu Janeu Dhari as he thought he could potentially get votes from the Hindu community by claiming to be from their community, however, with the politics of Karnataka warming up, he has no qualms about giving up his identity, so to speak, to be initiated into the Lingayat sect.
With the current and former chief minister of the state being from the Lingayat community, Rahul Gandhi and the Congress realized that the community wields considerable influence over the politics of Karnataka. Because of this, he seems to have abandoned his Janeu and was inducted into the Lingayat sect.
Congress’ obsession with Lingayat
The Lingayat community, also known as the Veerashaiva community, is a politically dominant group in Karnataka. Rahul Gandhi’s obsession, or better said, Congress’s obsession with this community could be entirely political. It should be noted that prior to the 2018 Assembly elections in Karnataka, the then Congress government granted separate religion status to the Lingayats which was overturned by the Karnataka High Court.
The Lingayats make up 17% of the population of Karnataka. They dominate nearly 100 seats in the Assembly. Most of the community members live in North Karnataka. So far, the community has given nine chief ministers in Karnataka.
Who are the Lingayat?
Members of the Lingayat community are devotees of Bhagwan Shiva. It is a subsection of Sanatan Dharma which was started in the 12th century by the saint and philosopher Basavanna, also known as Saint Basveshvara. He was born into a Brahmin family in 1131 AD. According to the stories, when Basavanna was eight years old, he had already formed dismay in his heart against “social evils” like the caste system, “Brahmin supremacy” and more.
After his Upnayan ceremony, where he wore Janeu for the first time, Basavanna decided to let go of the sacred thread and left home. Over time, he rejected ritual worship and the pre-eminence of the Vedas. His followers do not engage in idol worship and only pray to the Crystal Lingam which they tie around their necks.
Basavanna gave the philosophy that the Isht or Bhagwan that one should pray for lives inside his body. He opposed idol worship and called the human body a “temple”. The Lingayat community finds its space in the Vamana Purana, and because of this, a section within the community believed that Lingayat is an ancient sect and that Basavanna was one of the saints of the sect.
As members of the Lingayat community do not follow the regular practices of Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma, they do not wear Janeu. Therefore, after becoming a member of the sect, Rahul Gandhi is definitely no longer a “Hindu Janeu Dhari”.