Mate Mahadevi, the first female Jagadguru—the spiritual head of the Lingayat community—and head of Basava Dharma Peeta in Kudala Sangama in Bagalkot district of Karnataka, passed away at a Bengaluru hospital on Thursday around 4.45 pm. She was 73.
According to sources, she was admitted to Manipal hospital on March 8, with a kidney ailment.
The last rites will be performed at Kudala Sangama.
A firebrand pontiff, Mate was spearheading a movement demanding a separate religion status for the Lingayats. She believed that Lingayats were not Hindus, as they had a separate guru [Basavanna] and followed his vachanas, not the Vedic scriptures.
"Our's is a secular cult that is based on social equality," the pontiff had asserted during a massive rally held at Bidar on July 19, 2017 that saw Lingayats from Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra come together to renew their demand for a separate religion status.
Mate was initiated into the Jangama tradition (of wandering mendicants) by Lingananda Swami in 1966. She became the Jagadguru in 1970. She wrote Vachanas, published at least twenty books, and set up Jaganmata Akka Mahadevi Ashrama in Dharwad—an educational and religious institution focused on upliftment of women and girls.
Her book, Basava Tatva Darshana, on the life and teachings of the 12th century social reformer Basavanna, has been critically acclaimed as one that provides insight into the Lingayat philosophy.
In 1988, she initiated 'Sharana Mela'—a religious confluence of the followers of Guru Basavanna and Lingayatism. Four years later, she established Basava Dharma Peeta—a religious seat in Kudala Sangama.
In 2012, she built a 108-feet tall statue of Guru Basavanna in a bid to revive the glory of the world's first democratic parliament, Anubhava Mantapa—a convergence of social reformers, poets, scholars and ascetic during the 12th century.
She formed the All India Lingayat Mahasabha, a parallel body to the Veerashaiva Mahasabha, which drew criticism from within the community.