June 23, 2006

PM's address on the occasion of release of Commemorative Coin in honour of Mahatma Basaveshwara

"I feel privileged to associate myself with the issuing of a coin in honour of the great mystic and social reformer, Mahatma Basaveshwara. In our history of social reform, Mahatma Basaveshwara stands out as an extraordinary personality. He wielded temporal power and, at the same time, had a spiritual bent of mind. He fought against ritualism and social rigidities and for a more humane social order. He was a crusader against untouchability and worked to establish a classless and casteless society. It is a token of our admiration and deep regard for him that we are all gathered here today.

Mahatma Basaveshwara was a great son of India, and a great spiritual leader of Karnataka. He admitted people of all castes to his fold and stressed the importance of the equality of man. His religious academy, Anubhava Mandap, was a concrete example of social democracy. Its scope went beyond religious discourse. It was dedicated to the awakening of the consciousness of people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mahatma Basaveshwara was a spiritual leader and a practical visionary, who believed work is worship. In one of his hymns, he stresses the significance of labour for attaining perfection in the sphere of spirituality. Rejecting the status ascribed by birth, he believed in the individual worth of every human being and in the dignity of labour.

Much before Mahatma Gandhi made us acknowledge the dignity of manual labour, Basaveshwara underlined its importance and gave respectability to it. He proclaimed that all members of the state are labourers, some may be intellectual labourers and others may be manual labourers. He established numerous committees on different vocations and gave due representation to people pursuing those vocations. It was a novel way of espousing the cause of people engaged in manual labour. His encouragement of manual labour in the 12th Century contributed to the enrichment of crafts and the well being of artisans.

As a Chief Minister, he worked hard to raise levels of morality in public life. He wanted administrators to show exemplary conduct while discharging their duties. I believe the message of Basaveshwara resonates to this day and has relevance for us today. There has been a decline of values in our public life. I feel that the standards of behaviour of people in public life can certainly be better. This gathering moral and social crisis can be effectively addressed if all of us follow Basaveswara's example of rectitude and probity in public life.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

One of the striking aspects of Mahatma's life was his respect for the common man. In the medieval period he showed the kind of esteem for the common man that contemporary societies associate only with modern and liberal democracies. In this sense he was far ahead of his time. To drive home the importance and value of the work ordinary people do he used to say, "Cow does not give milk to him who sits on its back, but it gives milk to him who sits at its feet". Democracy and development can have meaning to the common man, especially the poor, only if they empower.

An important cause that Basaveshwara espoused was the status of women. Long before modern societies espoused the cause of gender equality, Mahatma did so. The administrators of our time and all those engaged in public life must bear in mind the teachings of the Mahatma to treat everybody equally irrespective of faith and sex.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This commemorative coin is but a small token of our love, admiration and regard for the life and message of Mahatma Basaveshwara. I hope this public celebration of his life and deeds will inspire newer generations. Every citizen in our great democracy has the right to live a life of dignity and self-respect. I compliment all those associated with the release of this coin in memory of such a great saint and leader. I have heard the request of the Chief Minister to institute an award for communal harmony in the name of the Basaveshwara. I will certainly recommend it to my colleague, the Hon'ble Home Minister."