The legislative process in Anubhava Mantapa: A unique alternative method of law making

Law Making under General Jurisprudence

There are many sources through which law comes into existence. Important sources of law under the study of jurisprudence are: custom, precedent and legislation.  Other sources include divine right, natural rights, human rights, civil rights and common law. Legislation is the most important law making body in the civilized societies of the modern times. Canon law and other forms of religious law form the basis for law derived from religious practices and doctrines or from sacred texts; this source of law is important where there is a state religion.

Legislation is that source of law which consists in the declaration of legal rules by a competent authority. It is such an enunciation or promulgation of principles as confers upon them the force of law. It is such a declaration of principles as constitutes a legal ground for their recognition as law for the future by the tribunals of the state.[1]

Although this is the strict and most usual application of the term legislation, there are two other occasional uses of it which are required to be distinguished. It is sometimes used in a wide sense to include all methods of law-making. To legislate is to make new law in any fashion. Any act done with the intent and the effect of adding to or altering the law is, in this wider sense, an act of legislative authority. “There can be no law,” says Austin, “without a legislative act.” Thus when judges establish a new principle by means of a judicial decision, they may be said to exercise legislative and not merely judicial power. Yet this is clearly not legislation in the strict sense already defined. So the act of the parties to a contract, in laying down rules of special law for themselves to the exclusion of the common law, may be regarded as an exercise of legislative power. But though they have made law, they have made it by way of mutual agreement for themselves, not by way of authoritative declaration for other persons. The writers who make use of the term in this wide sense divide legislation into two kinds, which they distinguish as direct and indirect. The former is legislation in the narrow sense - the making of law by means of the declaration of it. Indirect legislation, on the other hand, includes all other modes in which the law is made.[2]

Legislature is an institution which is the direct source of law. Legislature frames new laws, amends the old laws and cancels existing laws in all countries. In modern times this is the most important source of law making. The term legislature means any form of law making. Its scope has now been restricted to a particular form of law making. It not only creates new rules of law it also sweeps away existing inconvenient rules. A legislature is the embodiment of the doctrine of popular sovereignty, which recognizes that the people are the source of all political power. Citizens choose by popular vote the legislators to serve them. They are the representatives of their constituencies and safeguard the interests of the people of the constituency.

In modern times, law and democracy are the twin pillars of the liberal state; representative democracy constrained by legality is what liberal state means.[3] Law in democratic states is made by the legislature. But law so made is not final. It is subject to tests of judicial review, constitutionality and peoples’ acceptance. Even if the law is made by the legislature, if it is not good, people may revolt against it. Therefore, law making has always been a delicate and complicated activity. Earlier, law making has not been formal activity. It was informal and accessory to other activities of life. For the regulation of life, religion, ethics, traditions and customs used to play important role. Law was camouflaged under these normative systems. Anubhava Mantapa of the 12th century was one such institution which stands out as a unique institution of law making.

Anubhava Mantapa

Basaveshvara established Anubhava Mantapa, a seat for intellectual discourses and provided equal opportunity to learn to all persons. It was a laboratory of Basaveshvara own preaching’s. He was the protagonist of equality and therefore the Anubhava Mantapa was open to all without distinctions of old and young, rich and poor, men and women, high and low, king and servants.[4] The Anubhava Mantapa was democratic in outlook and was working on the principle that every individual is rational and has the capacity to think about the general problems of the society. It was also based on the principle that no man or a class or a group should be strong enough to wrong others, and each man can judge for himself as to what is best for him.


Anubhava Mantapa was stated to have been established in the year 1140 at Basavakalyana.[5] All people were allowed to have access to this institution without any distinction of caste, creed, sex or economic status. Altruism and good character alone were required of anyone who came to Anubhava Mantapa. Everybody was to take up some work or the other for livelihood. They were not to have any caste feelings or feelings of untouchability. These were some of the principles they were expected to follow. Anubhava Mantapa soon became popular. Many devotees from different parts of Karnataka and India came to Basavakalyana and joined the new order. There were as many as 770 members in this platform. Allamaprabhu[6] was the presiding deity of the Anubhava Mantapa. Channabasavanna[7] was the secretary of the Mantapa.[8] Shantarasa was entrusted with the responsibility of recording the mystic thoughts that were deliberated upon and approved in the meetings.[9] These devotees were provided with food and facilities for puja in Mahamane, the residence of Basaveshvara. The two wives of Basaveshvara, his sister Akkanagamma, his nephew Channabasavanna and some other devotees were in charge of various arrangements both in the Anubhava Mantapa and in the Mahamane. Discussions on religious and spiritual matters were held in Anubhava Mantapa. The number of participants increased every day.

Classification of Members

The presiding officer of the Anubhava Mantapa was Allamaprabhu, a senior most Shivasharana, who was endowed with the wisdom and virtues of a great spiritual and social thinker and a saint in his own right. It was studded with acclaimed Sharanas like Channabasavanna, Akka Mahadevi, Madiwala Machayya, Madara Channayya, Aaidakki Lakkavva, etc. It enabled people of different castes and creeds to develop a sense of brotherhood, each one addressing the other as brother or sister.

The saints involved in the activities of Anubhava Mantapa were divided into three categories: 1) Avatarika Guru, 2) Siddha Guru and 3) Sadhaka Guru. Basaveshvara, the founder of the new faith, was believed to be the Avatarika Guru. Prabhudeva, Channabasavanna, Siddharama and Akkamahadevi were placed under the category of Siddha Guru. Hundreds of other saints were Sadhaka Gurus.


People in the King's court who were jealous of Basaveshvara got an idea. They reported to the King that Basaveshvara was feeding a large number of his followers - the Shaiva devotees - out of the money taken from the King's treasury. Bijjala asked Basaveshvara about it. Basaveshvara's answer was clear: "The expenses of Mahamane are met by the earnings of several devotees. I am a devotee of Shiva and do not want other people's money. If you have suspicions, well, I shall tender my resignation this very moment. Before that let there be a detailed inquiry about these charges. The cash and all accounts of the treasury may be checked this moment." Upon this Bijjala himself checked the accounts and the cash. Everything was absolutely correct. Bijjala begged to be forgiven. He also requested Basaveshvara to continue as the chief officer. Thus the false charges made by the jealous courtiers only established Basaveshvara's perfect honesty and increased his fame. After the death of Baladeva, Bijjala made Basaveshvara his minister. Basaveshvara proved very efficient in this new office. He led his usual simple life. But his thoughts were always high and his heart was pure. His utterances were like a string of pearls. He was polite and civil, 'with folded hands and bowed head' while moving with the common people. In matters of justice he was always firm and never yielded to personal considerations. He was fearless even in the face of great difficulty and danger.[10]

Anubhava Mantapa: A Platform for Law Making

It is a well-known fact that for centuries before Basaveshvara’s movement and also even during his period, there had been unimaginable wastage of talent because of the caste system. Basaveshvara pleaded for suitable opportunities to be provided for all the citizens for the fullest development of their personality. Learning had been the monopoly of a few privileged people only and a large section of the society was deprived of such a facility and it led to exploitation of the under-privileged by a few privileged ones. Basaveshvara revolted against such a system and proclaimed that knowledge is not the monopoly of a few people.[11]

Unlike any other religion Lingayatism was consitutionalised itself in a unique manner by establishing an institution to build its edifice. In the historical development of religions, we usually see a prophet or a founder preaching a religion that is carried on through oral preaching which are later systematized and given proper shape. Lingayatism was put in a systematic order in the course of its evolution in an academy called Anubhava Mantapa.[12]

Almost all issues concerned with the governance of the society were discussed in this Assembly. The issues were of varied nature covering social, economic, cultural, spiritual, religious and literary aspects. The dialogue was of an astonishing quality. It was described as the first idea of a democratic parliament. The only difference between the members of the Anubhava Mantapa and the present parliament is that the members in Anubhava Mantapa were not elected by the people whereas the members of the parliament are elected by the people. The entry and membership of the Anubhava Mantapa was decided by the senior members such as Allama Prabhu and Basaveshvara.[13]

Members were having the freedom to think and express their ideas freely. They were allowed to put questions and get clarification on matters of doubt and complexity. Members were indulging in the discussion that would make us wonder if it is something like the Dialogues of Plato, the great Greek scholar. The dialogues in the Anubhava Mantapa were based upon the mundane and mystic experiences of the sharanas participating in it. The Mantapa was described as experimental station where sharanas were engaged in finding out solutions to various problems of life, mundane as well as spiritual. Fine blending of the mundane with spirituality was the unique and exquisite experiment of the Mantapa aimed at transforming the society into an ideal one. Sharanas of the Mantapa did not withdraw from society and its mundane problems, or from their worldly responsibilities, but tried to make their mortal life a means of salvation.[14]

One of the cardinal principles of Anubhava Mantapa was that every sharana, who is a member, should take up a kayaka. A person not interested in kayaka or negligent about his kayaka would run the risk of losing his membership of the Mantapa. The idea behind this principle is that everyone should earn his daily bread. No one should be parasite or an exploiter. This was considered as the crucial point for the sustenance of the Mantapa as well as the entire society. Anubhava Mantapa criticized sharply the meaningless differentiation of human beings as high or law based on their birth or occupation. Unique discourse on equality charged with the acceptance of the parenthood of God and the fraternity of humanity fascinated the tortured minds and consoled the gasping hearts of the oppressed and distressed masses.[15]

The fundamental principles that were evolved by Basaveshvara and other Shivasharanas that were participating in the deliberations of the Anubhava Mantapa can be summerised as follows:

a) All men are equal.

b) No man is high or low either by birth, sex or occupation.

c) There is no discrimination between man and man and between man and woman.

d) Woman has equal rights with man to follow the path of self-evolution.

e) Each one should follow a profession of his own choice.

f) Woman can also take up any Kayaka.

g) All Kayakas are honourable professions; no Kayaka is either low or high.

h) Varnas or castes and Ashramas (stages) are to be discarded.

i) Self development is to be achieved through kayaka.

j)  Renunciation and dwelling in forest are ruled out as cowardly tendencies to escape from life.

k) Inter-group marriages and free dining should be encouraged.

l) Untouchability has no place in the society.

m) Every man is free to think on all spiritual and social subjects.

n) Reason and experience are the only guiding lights for free thinking and spiritual advancement.

o) Language of the people should be the medium for important spiritual and secular education.

p) All men have equal rights to participate in spiritual discussions to acquire spiritual knowledge and to follow the same path of self-evolution.[16]

Thus, the Anubhava Mantapa was essentially based upon the principle of equality and played a significant role in the establishment of equalitarian and egalitarian society. It provided a platform for all the people who believed in the principle of equality among human beings to participate in the intellectual and social activities irrespective of their caste, creed, status, sex and other such differences. It was a well-developed socio-religious laboratory where the principle of equality has been very successfully experimented by Basaveshvara and his followers.

Unique Features of Anuhbhava Mantapa

Anubhava Mantapa was an institution of a distinct character and special features. It was a multi-task institution. So many activities of variety could be seen in the premises of Anubhava Mantapa. The platform was expressive of the plurality of Indian culture. It was built with the objective of transforming the state into an egalitarian state. It is extremely difficult to visualize an institution of that type even in modern times. It is necessary to understand these unique features of this great institution in the context of jurisprudential inquiries we are making. It was democratic institution not in the narrow sense of political democracy of modern societies. It was a democratic institution in its real sense of the term. Democracy is in its total sense: religious, political, social, spiritual, economic, cultural, literary, etc. Let us consider some of the important unique features of this great institution:

Open for All

This is an institution established to challenge the existing order of allowing only the privileged class to participate in intellectual discourses. There was a free entry for all the people. The only qualification required was that you should be a sharana or ready to become one. It was open to people belonging to all castes and creeds, women, people of all avocations, from different locations and even from far off places. Basava said:

If you say

welcome and how are you

will your wealth fly away?

If you say please sit down

will the ground sink?

If you make a prompt reply

will your head break?

We need not give anybody anything

if goodness is also not there

will not Koodalasangama hack your nose?[17]

According to this verse, one has to deal with others in a good way and make allowance with good behaviour, otherwise the God will punish you.

Thought Platform

It was a platform built by Basaveshvara for free flow of thoughts from all the members. There was no bar on any idea to be floated in the meeting. It was a power house of brilliant minds working on all aspects of existence and building new order. Very powerful and rational concepts were built in very simpler language frame only because of deep churning of the ideas floated. A vachana can be quoted from Basava:

This mind believe in you

It only you speak

According its fancy; but dare you

But cross it, it’s you foe!

I’ll caste it into fire-

This mind that does not rust

Kudala Sanga’s Sharanas![18]

The human mind is peculiarly inclined to indulge itself in self-boasting while at the same time relishing the act of jibing at others and enjoying most the talk of self-appeasement. Anything said or done will only infuriate, egotism lies at the center of all such human profanity. This debilitating tendency blunts that faculty that enables us to invite and entertain the company of sharanas and share their mystic experiences. Basava laments about the human mind like this a some other vachanas also.[19]

Experiential Platform

It was a platform to discuss thoughts developed on the basis of one’s experiences in his day-to-day mundane activities or exceptional experiences of unique type. For example:

Is the master of the house in

or is he not?

Grass grows on the threshold

the house is filled with dust.

Is the master of the house in

or is he not?

The body is filled with lies

the mind filled with desire.

The master of the house is not in


Spritual Platform

Anubhava Mantapa was a spiritual platform training the people in spiritual practices of meditation, yoga and other spiritual activities. A vachana of Basava can be quoted in this regard:

Look lord

the power of knowledge

leads to loss of ignorance.

The power of light

leads to the loss of darkness.

The power of truth

leads to the loss of untruth.

The power of ‘parusha’  gem

leads to the loss of base metal.

Look lord

the spiritual power

of Koodalasangama’s ‘sharanas’

leads the loss of worldliness.[21]

Religious Platform

It was a religious platform, where free and frank discussion was allowed about the Universal God in the form of Ishtalinga. Experiences about Isthalinga were shared by all Sharanas. Worshipping any other God is critically considered and rejected. Discussion was made on the scientific basis of Isthalinga and the advantages of worshipping it. It is unique religious philosophy developed by the sharanas under the leadership of Basaveshvara. It is Semitic religion to the extent of accepting a single God. But that single God is metalmorphasised into a personal God of every Lingayata in the form of Isthalinga. Worship is made for the Isthalinga which is an embodiment of the Universal God and also a God of liking and personal choice. This God is a mobile God. The God is accessible to all, irrespective or their caste, creed or any other background. God is compassionate, said Basava:


is there any religion

without compassion?

There must be

compassion for all creatures.

Compassion is the basis

of religion.

Anything otherwise

is unacceptable to


These democratic elements make this religion an entirely different monotheism. This uniqueness was plausibly achieved because of churning of divine ideas among the sharanas in Anubhava Mantapa. A vachana of Basava testifies this:

Those who have money build

temples to Shiva: What can I build?

A poor man, Lord, am I!

My body is the shrine,

Its pillars are my legs,

The golden pinacle, my head.

Hear me, Kudala Sangama Lord,

There is destruction for what stands,

But not for that which moves![23]

Literary Platform

It was a wonderful intellectual work station for all sharanas to articulate their thoughts and construct vachanas. Vachanas were drafted by sharanas after free flow of thoughts among them. It can be illustrated by quoting a vachana of Basava:

What profit is it

if a parrot can read

it cannot tell cat’s coming.

The eye that sees the world

cannot see its own squint.

They say they know

others’ qualities

they do not know

their own Koodalasangamadeva.[24]

Legal Platform

It was a platform for building norms of conduct for the people to do things that are right and avoid deeds that are wrong. Basava says thus in this vachana:

You shall not steal

you shall not kill

you shall not lie

you shall not get angry

you shall not loathe anyone

you shall not boast

you shall not disdain anyone.

This is inner purity

this is outer purity

this is the only way

to win our lord Koodalasangamadeva.[25]

Thus, the Anubhava Mantapa is an institution aimed at building society in which all can live together without discrimination, with love and affection, prosecuting avocations of their choice, reaching spiritual heights, well educated and worshipping one God who is an embodiment of compassion.

Anubhava Mantapa in the New Global Order

Let us ponder over the idea of relevance of Anubhava Mantapa in the global order in which we are living in 21st century. Law making institutions in many countries are democratized and there is a room for the public opinion in the law making process. The legislature in the political state is the law making body. The law made by the Legislature is subject to judicial review for its legitimacy. Legitimacy is normally normative in the law made by the Legislature to be within the constitutional framework. There have been situations of conflict between the two organizations in some contentious issues. There is a considerable chunk of law built through agreements, especially in the mercantile activities. Process of privatization and gradual withdrawal of the state from various fields is adding to the exponential growth of private law. Information and communication technology had provided the necessary speed for these activities. State is not in a position to respond to the demands of the private sector with the same speed. In many developing countries, progress is thwarted because of Lego-technical problems and corrupt practices. These issues need to be addressed by a vibrant platform at the global level.

Another big challenge in the new global order is that of terrorism in the name of religion. It can be addressed only by a compassionate approach towards the misguided. A new religious process on a universal nature with a democratic flavor than the sovereign God should be built as an alternative at the global level. The experiment of Anubhava Mantapa, a multi tasking platform of an amazing type, in 12th century is staring at us and restive to take on the problems in the new global order. A serious study should take place at the global level on this mystique institution. A world view about its relevance to solve some of the burning problems of the present in the future can be built up through a dialogue permeating the participation from all peoples of the world.

[1] John W. Salmond, Jurisprudence, (1913), p.127.

[2] Ibid., pp.127-128.

[3] Richard A. Posner, Law, Pragmatism and Democracy, (2003), p.viii.

[4] T. R. Rajashekharaiah, “Understanding Basava,” Basava Journal, Vol.I, 1976, pp. 21-22.

[5] Nagashetty K.Shetkar, Comparison of Lingayathism with Hinduism, (2011), p.88.

[6] For a comprehensive account of the contribution of Allamaprabhu to the revolutionary thoughts that were churned out in Anubhava Mantapa, see Dr. A. Chandrashekher Nangali, Allamaprabhu, (2011).

[7] On the contribution of Channabasaveshvara, see R.C. Hiremath, Sri Channabasaveshvara, (1978); on his vachanas see, Hiremath R. C. (ed.), Channabasavannanavara Vachanagalu, (2005); Mallepuram G. Venkatesh, Chennabasavanna, (2011).

[8] C. R. Yaravintelimath and M. M. Kalburgi, Heaven of Equality, (2003), p.9.

[9] Gurumanta Swamiji, Basaveshvara: His Life anf Principles, (2006), p. 11.

[10], accessed on July 2, 2015.

[11] Siddayya Puranik, Basaweshwar’s Life and Message, (Kannada), (1977), pp. 96-97.

[12] Nagashetty K.Shetkar, Op. Cit., p.88.

[13] Ibid., p.88-89.

[14] Ibid., pp.89-90.

[15] Ibid., p.91.

[16] V. K. Javali, “Kayaka and Dignity of Labour,” S. S. Wodeyer (Ed.), Op. Cit., pp. 141-142.

[17], accessed on July 2, 2015.

[18] Chandrashekharaiah, Light of Devotion, (2008), p.16.

[19] Ibid.,p.17.

[20], accessed on July 2, 2015.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.,

[23] Chandrashekharaiah, Op. Cit.,p.188.

[24], accessed on July 2, 2015.

[25] Ibid.


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