Friday, July 1st, 2022 18:38:10

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words… The Anubhava Mantapa

By J. S. Khanderao
Updated: February 1, 2021 5:53 pm

The 12th century caste-ridden society was the emergence of Lord Basaveshwara transforming such a rigid society into a casteless and rationale society. Upholding the dignity of labour, Lord Basaveshwara reformed the caste, colour and creed-ridden society into welfare state. He embraced everyone regardless of their belonging and demonstrated to the world that human relationship based on equality and compassion is far more humane and celebratory than that of sectarian and partisanship of the varna system. Thus, the foundation for a caste-less and class-less society was laid on the principles of devotion (Bhakti) and (Kayaka) dignity of labour.

Rooted in the principles of Bhakti and kayaka, these principles of Basaveshwara also became the foundation-stone for the establishment of’Anubhava Mantapa’- way back in the 12th century, which in the modern-day world, came to be called as the religious parliament. This all-inclusiveness bereft of any kind discrimination became the cause of reformed practices based on equality and parity. This transition from a prejudiced society to a progressive society was also reflected in their discourses and discussions in the sessions of the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’ with Sri Allamprabhu presiding over it. The wisdom of experiences of the members of the Anubhava Mantapa,when chronicled gave rise to a different genre of literature called Vachanas – which stand as a testimony to a pragmatic and rationale way of life blend with spiritual pursuits. The disciples and the ardent followers of such a philosophy and its leaders (Guru) came to be called sharanas, which encompassed into its fold’s all followers. regardless of their caste or class.

The social practices viz. equality (Samanatey), selfless service (Dashoa) and peaceful coexistence and spiritual pursuits of Guru- linga-jangama (Learning and contemplation of God by means of love and faith), paved the way for a new social order. Alongside the spiritual pursuits, the spirit of service underlined by compassion and social responsibility towards all living beings find a prominent manifestation in these Vachanas. Such practical and spiritual essence of Vachanas penned by the Sharanas based on their mystic experiences became strikingly acceptable for their contemporancous and universal appeal. Consequently, Anubhava Mantapa became the fountainhead of empirical and experiential exertion and a centre of reformation through rationale thoughts and spiritual pursuits. During the 12th century, the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’ became so popular that the propagators of’Anubhava Mantapa’ set up temporary congregations on the same lines. It was again in the 16th century during which the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’ was brought back to prominence by the then Saint Tontada Siddaling.

The members (sharanas) of the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’, which included mystics, spiritual seckers and rationale thinkers like Basavanna (as Basaveshwara was adorably called) Prabhu Devaru, Channabasavanna, Siddarama, Akka Mahadevi, Madiwala Machidevaru, Urilinga Peddi soul-mates, Haralayya soul-mates, Satyakka, Maadaar Channayya, Aidakki Lakkamma, Marayya among others, held discussions and discourses for the welfare of the people, guided by the all-embracing approach and propelled by the philosophy of Samanate (equality rights regardless of caste; class or gender), Kayaka (work is worship), Dasoha (selffess service to humanity), which in the modern-day world are said to be the cardinal principles of democracy and thus, the sharanas are credited with the establishment of the World’s first Parliament. This period came to be called as the ‘golden period’ in the socio-cultural history of Karnataka. Below are a few contributions of Basaveshwara and the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’, founded by him.

  • World’s First Spiritual Parliament.
  • A fountainhead of democratic values.
  • Equal rights and privileges for all living beings.
  • Acentre for literary and spiritual pursuits.
  • Right to freedom of thought and expression.
  • Inculcation of equal respect, integrity and dignity of life.
  • Rational and practical, ethical and value-based society.

Anubhava Mantapa in the Sharana’s (Anubhavigalu) perspective

The very venue of the congregation of the sharanas (veterans), where they came together to share the wisdom of their experiences, transformed the venue into the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’. References with regard to the seat of the presiding sharana Allama Prabhu; Basaveshwara’s ‘Aramane’ and ‘Shoonyasimhasana’ are found in the vachanas of the 12th century

AD and in the scripture “Shoonyasampadane (1580y authored by saint Siddalinga of Gummalapura. The abode of Basaveshwara too is referred as “Mahamane’ by Maadaara Channayya in his vachana numbered 125. There are other sources like the vachanas of Prabhu Devaru, Harihara and his contemporary Palkurike Somanath, who wrote in Telugu ‘Basava Purana (1230 A.D.), have referred to Bashaveshwar’s house as ‘Mahamane’.

Gradually, ‘Anubhava Mantapa’ provided an open platform for the people, wherein spiritual, social, economic related issues everyday life of the people were discussed thoroughly and resolved. The churn of thought included issues related to caste, superstition, poverty and freedom of women. The judicious outcomes of the discussion were expressed in the form of vachanas. Since these vachanas were written in leaves and stored, it is also said to be the world’s first public library too.

Anubhava Mantapa Revival of Saint Basveshwar’s dream

While laying the foundation stone of new Parliament building, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remembered the 12th century  great  social reformer, poet and philosopher saint  Basveshwar, saying  this great saint founded the first parliament of the world in southern part of the country. This people’s parliament  was then  known as  Anubhava Mantapa.  Other than a parliament, it  was a great centre of learning. Owing to his social work and preachings, this great saint’s  following was not limited to Lingayat community in Karnataka but also in the adjoining areas and across castes and communities. During his life, he was respected so much that he enjoyed the image of a  demigod

Years back, the then Congress government in Karnataka announced  the  setting up of Anubhava Mantapa at Basawkalyan in Bidar  district. The announcement was made with much fun and fare but since then   nothing moved at the ground level  and announcement just remained on the paper. It was more of a political announcement than substance to woo the influential  Lingayat  community.

However, the BJP government  in the state, headed by  B.S. Yediurappa, was very keen to revive the glory of  this great saint. Taking a cue from Prime Minister Modi’s  speech, Yediurappa asked the officials concerned to draw a detailed plan  to revive the first parliamentary centre  in the world. Recently Chief Minister Yediurappa laid down the foundation stone  of Anubhava  Mantapa, which would be built up at the cost of Rs 500 crore. “It would be completed in next two years and would be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi”, Yediyurappa said.

The Mantapa complex would be spread over 7.5 acres. The imposing Mandap would be of six stories. The circular building  will adopt Kalayan Chalukya style of architecture. The grand structure  would be supported by 770 pillars, it will have an auditorium with a sitting capacity of 770 people. There would be dinning hall where atleast 15,00 could have meal at one time

The project also envisages a state-of-the-art robotic system, an open air theater, a modern water conservation system, a terrace  garden, a library, a research centre, a prayer hall and a Yoga centre. To start the work immediately, the government has already released Rs100 crore. It is noteworthy that Yediyurappa is an undisputed  leader of the Lingayat community and is very keen to have Anubhava Mantapa’s  work completed  at the earliest. As per the plan, he is keen to develop the place as a major  pilgrim centre.

Anubhava Mantapa: The Provenance of Parliament

The concept of Parliament is said to have germinated from the 12th century social reformer Basaveshwara’s’Anubhava Mantapa’. It was here that about 770 thinkers and leaders hailing from diverse social backgrounds, including women participated in the proceedings guided by the principles of democracy and thus, gave to the world the concept of parliamentary democracy. Subsequently, on one hand the notion of group leadership and the right to freedom of thought and expression to the underprivileged and the weaker sections of the society were introduced to the world along with the importance of dignity of labour. All these features of parliamentary democracy were in the vachanas of Basaveshwara, long before the concept of constitution came to light.

Basaveshwara became the first mass leader of the working class by organizing the sect of workers, who unlike in the past, came forward to labour with no consideration of caste, creed or race. The leaders and thinkers belonging to diverse backgrounds ranging from the meanest labour to the learmed veteran were the participants of the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’. It was a transcendental demonstration of democratic leadership by Basaveshwara at a time when hardly any visionary had envisioned the idea of mass leadership in this world. Hence, Basaveshwara, who can be hailed as the pioneer of the socio- religious partiament of the world, is the pride of Kalyana Karnataka.

Another testament to Basaveshwara’s philosophy is the 30-point Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on 10 December 1948, which is apparently found in the vachanas of Basaveshwara. For instance, the rights of the offspring born of a legal wedlock and the rights of the offspring bor of an illegal relationship are no different in the vachanas of Basaveshwara when compared to that of United Nations Human Rights Declaration on the same. So it is said that it was Basaveshwara, who brought about a paradigm shift in the maxim from ‘As is the King, so are the Subjects’ to ‘As are the Subjects, so is the King’. In other words, Basaveshwara replaced monarchy with democracy; he condemned the absolutism of the monarchy, which couldn’t be subject to people’s scrutiny and approval; and advocated liberalism of democracy, which provides for a fearless scrutiny and approval of power by the people.


Maxims found in vachanas  while in session at the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’

Work is Worship -Basaveshwara

A grain of happiness comes at a huge painful effort -Prabhudevaru

Attachment is imprisonment; Detachment is emancipation-Urilinga Peddi

There is no other sin than greed-Havinahala Kallayya

Rendering Literature on Canvas

It is a rare to find an artist transfigure the literary grandeur of the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’ into an imaginary yet a magnificent landscape. Attempts have been made earlier but did not meet with much recognizable success. Hundred years ago, the court painter of Surpur, Banayya II is said to have rendered it on a canvas but to no avail. Currently, Mr. J.S. Khanderao has transmuted the Anubhava Mantap’ with a deft use of colour and texture. It not only brings the colours on the canvas alive but also interprets the culture and the socio-religious perception of Kalyan Karnataka.

The artist takes inspiration from the advice of His Holiness Poojya Dr. Sharnbaswappa Appa, the Mahadasoha Petadhipathi, Sharmbasvehwar Samsthan and the President of Sharmbasveshwar Vidya Vardhak Sangha, Kalaburagi to take up this venture. While unveiling the statue of Mahatma Basaveshwara in the Parliament House, in the august presence of Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister; the Late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India witnessed the miniature painting of ‘Anubhava Mantapa’ and appreciated the artist. It was then, that Dr. J.S. Khanderao was infused with a renewed energy and vigor to transform it into a magnificent painting. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that references to Basaveshwara by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Sri Narendra Modi during his visit abroad, especially in Lambeth, UK has given an added recognition to this painting.

By J. S. Khanderao




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