03 August, 2021

Here, The Charge Is Neutral

The story of the sacred thread takes a twist in Karnataka, as Lingayat men and women sport it with a small Shivalinga

A Lingayat man wearing the Ishtalinga
Photograph by Getty Images
Here, The Charge Is Neutral

Unlike in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where the sacred thread and its association with the Brahmin community made it a target of the backward caste movement represented by the Dravida Kazhagam, in Karnataka the significance of the sacred thread is far more diffused.

The non-Brahmin communities, including Kshatriyas and Vaishyas in Karnataka, have had their own system of the sac­red thread that more or less is Brahminical. Community INS­iders say the sacred thread, or the janwaara in Kannada, is a must if one has to marry. Typically, a traditional ceremony is conduc­ted before the marriage rituals, at which point the groom wears the thread. Strictly speaking, the man is manda­ted to have it permanently across his chest for the rest of his life.

The Lingayat community, which has created a flutter by demanding a separate religion status, too has a similar system. But this involves a tiny Shivalinga inside a protective cover that is worn on the person. That is called the Ishtali­nga. The thread in itself is not considered sacred, but the...

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