Basaveswara and Thoreau: A Comparative Study of Their Religious Thought


  • Basavaraj Naikar Professor Emeritus, Former Professor & Chairman, Department of English, Karnatak University, Dharwad 580003, India



That great men think alike is borne out by a comparative study of the religious thought and philosophy of Basaveswara, a twelfth century mystic and social reformer of Karnataka, India and Thoreau, a nineteenth century American Transcendentalist. Although there is a time gap of seven centuries and a spatial gap of about three thousand miles between them countries and background the ideas propounded by them are so similar that one feels that either of them must have copied from the other. But they did not know each other by any chance whatever. But they were placed in similar circumstances though not the same ones. Some of the similarities in their views may be studied at some length in the following paragraphs.

Inner Purity

The concept of inner purity is common to both Basaveswara and Thoreau. They insist upon the subjective improvement which automatically paves the way for objective or social betterment. Both of them attach an extraordinary importance to inner purity as they associate it with the principle of divinity in man. Inner purity should be simultaneous with the external purity. As Basaveswara says in one of his vacanas or mystic utterances:

You shall not steal,


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Basaveswara, Basavannanavara Vacanagalu, Ed. S.S.Basavanal. Dharwad: Lingayat Abhivriddhi Samsthe, 1962. (All the translations of vacanas are from this edition and by the present writer.)

Bhimakavi, Basava Purana, (Reprint) Ed. R.C.Hiremath. Dharwad: Murughamath, 2012.

Pokrovsky. Nikita, Henry Thoreau, Tr. from the Russian by Sergei Syrovatkin, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972.

Thoreau. Henry David, Walden, New Delhi: Eurasia Publishing House (P) Ltd, 1970.

Thoreau. Henry David, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, New Delhi: Eurasia Publishing House (P) Ltd, 1961.




How to Cite

Naikar, B. (2017). Basaveswara and Thoreau: A Comparative Study of Their Religious Thought. International Journal Online of Humanities, 3(4), 47–64.