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Siddharāma Turns His Coat: The Changing Religious Affiliation of a Śaiva Yogin in Premodern Deccan


· Shubha Shanthamurthy Soas (London, United Kingdom)


07/28 | 17:30-17:50 UTC+2/CEST


Siddharāma, founder of the Mallikārjuna temple in Sonnalige, Karnataka, is a much contested figure in the Śaiva community of premodern Deccan between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. He is attested in more than twenty inscriptions, is mentioned in several hagiographical texts in Telugu and Kannada, and is the protagonist of a medium length Kannada kāvya. In his earliest configuration, Siddharāma appears as a Śaiva yogin initiated into the Lākula order in Śrīśailam by Śiva himself, and is marked with Lākula sectarian insignia such as the vajrakuṇḍala, nāgājina cloak and the lākula staff. After founding the Mallikārjuna temple he undertakes extensive public works, builds up Sonnalige into a major pilgrimage centre, and becomes a well known historical figure. In a subsequent recasting by later sectarian groups he is ridiculed as having a forehead- eye and performing dark magic. He is defeated by the saint Allama, ritually initiated into the Vīraśaiva sect by the saint Cennabasava and given new sectarian insignia such as the iṣṭaliṅga. Having become a Vīraśaiva, he is later acknowledged as a guru of the tradition. The co-option of this well-known historical figure of great spiritual authority by different sectarian groups at different points in time, which is effected by bestowing, denigrating and rebestowing various sectarian insignia upon him, is a fascinating perspective on the changing dynamics within the Śaiva community in premodern Deccan. We can trace the rise and fall of different sectarian groups among the Śaivas of Deccan by the insignia that Siddharāma bears in different texts of this period.