Gangambike and Neelambike-
Ideal wives of Basavanna
Baladev was the Prime Ministwr in the court of Bijjala, the king of Kalachur dynasty in Mangalawad. Gangambike was the only daughter of Baladev. Gangambike had lost her mother in her early childhood and Baladev had brought up his daughter with great affection. Boldness was her natural born quality. Gangambike studied Kannada, Sanskrit, music, sword-fighting, and archery in her childhood. She was assisting her father in his every duty. Above all, she was very beautiful. When she reached marriageable age, Baladev started to search a matching groom for her.
Baladev had heard the praise of Basavanna from the people returning from the fair at Sangama. Basavanna was no stranger to Baladev. Madalabe, mother of Basavanna was his own sister. He felt, Basavanna would be suitable match for his daughter.
Neelambike, foster sister of king Bijjala, was an intimate friend of Gangambike. Both ate together, played together, lived together whole day. They had even decided to stay together entire life. How is it possible! It was possible only if they married a single man. Polygamy was a common practice in those days. Gangambike boldly expressed her desire to her father. Baladev who never wanted to hurt the feelings of his daughter readily agreed to his daughter.
There, in Kudala Sangama, Basavanna had spent a long period of 10 years in the splendid company of his Guruji, Eeshanya Guru. Guraji had moulded his personality imbibing all his plans of social reform in him. Basavanna had completed his education in Guru Kula. He had dedicated himself to the social cause and had resolved to stay bachelor to achieve his aim.
Baladev visited Kudala Sangama and met Guruji. Guruji welcomed the minister to the monastery. Baladev placed before Guruji the proposal to give both Gangambike and Neelambike to Basavanna in marriage. Guruji knew the decision of Basavanna to remain bachelor throughout life. He was submerged in a deep thinking and was silent for few minutes.Guruji mentally calculated, it would be easy for Basavanna to achieve his goal with political support. Basavanna was called-in and advised to change his decision. Guruji suggested him to marry both Gangambike and Neelambike. Basavanna simply bowed his head to the wish of Guruji.
Basavanna was then 18 years youth of attractive personality. Thin mustaches on his face added fascination to him. Baladev felt proud to get the son-in-law like Basavanna. Hearing the news, both the girls jumped with joy, embraced each other and felt as if heaven was just one foot below their head. Marriage was solemnized magnificently in Mangalawad. Basavanna shifted from Kudala Sangama to Mangalawad and settled in Baladev’s house. He had plenteous happy life in the minister’s house. But he did not relish that type of life. He believed in Kayaka. He liked to lead life on what he earned by his own labour. Within a few days, he secured a humble job of ‘karanik’ (clerk) in the court of king Bijjal and settled independently with his family. Gangambike being the only daughter of the minister was brought up with all comforts. When Basavanna set up his independent family, she did not murmur but adjusted to the wish of her husband to a moderate standard of life.
Gangambike was in concurrence with Basavanna in all his progressive ideas to change the society. Basavanna by the virtue of his caustic-wit rose from the position of a humble clerk to the position of prime-minister in the court of king Bijjal. His revolutionary program of social reform was spreading far and wide. Lakhs of people were visiting his house daily. His house was turned into Mahamane (big house) where Anna Dasoha (serving free food) was arranged. Gangambike dedicated herself to manage anna dasoha with the association of Neelambike and Nagalambike.
Basavanna had established ‘Anubhava Mantapa’ (spiritual academy) for exchange of views on religious issues. All Sharanas and Sharanis participated in the proceedings in Anubhava Mantapa. It was Gangambike who used to conduct the programs of proceedings under the presidentship of Allama Prabhu. She had that intelligence to grasp the desire of her husband and implement them. Basavanna had heart-felt love for her, relied on her capacity and arranged for her ‘Linga Deeksha. Her personality had bloomed and she was the lamp of knowledge of Kalyan.
Gangambike was the disciple of
Rudramuni Swamiji. Her Guruseve (service to the mentor), Pati-bhaki (devotion
to Husband) and Linganishte (allegiance to Linga) were superb and she had
acquired self–confidence. Principle of equality and broadmindedness of
Basavanna had prompted her to evolve her personality. She considered Neelambike
as her own sister and not as co-wife of Basavanna. Neelambike bore a son,
Gangambike had no such opulence. But she was never jealous about it. She was
neither proud of her happiness in life
nor murmur about any shortcoming and she had always balanced mind. Ghana
Basavanna was involved in a conflict with the king Bijjal over the marriage of a cobbler boy with bhrahmin girl conducted by him. The king ordered for his deportation from Kalyan. Basavanna coolly left Kalyan straight from the court of Bijjal without informing any of associates including his wives. On reaching Kudala Sangama, he felt sorry and asked Hadapad Appanna to bring his both the wives, Gangambike and Neelambike from Kalyan.
By the time Appanna reached Kalyan, the situation there was volatile. All Sharanas and Sharanis were planning to escape from Kalyan to save their life. Appanna conveyed the message of Basavanna to Gabgambike. She was dilemma, what to do. As per the wish of her husband and as a faithful wife, it was her duty to proceed to Kudala Sangama to join her husband. The soldiers of Bijjal’s army were killing the followers of Basavanna at sight and also they were searching the store of Vachana literature to destroy it. Gangambike felt, it was also her duty to assist Channabasavanna to protect the Sharana community and Vachana literature. She was caught in the quandary.
She approached her Guru,
Rudramuni Swamiji, expressed her problem and sought advice. Swamiji explained, “A
small army has been built for our defense. Under the leadership of Madival
Machidev and Channbasavanna, shortly we are leaving Kalyan. Earlier we leave,
it is safer for us. You are a bold lady, you are trained in warfare during your
childhood, and our journey would be safer if you are with us. We have lost the
guidance of Basavanna; at least your guidance is very much essential.” Ghana
The words of Guru sounded loud in her mind. Her conscience was awakened. She decided to sacrifice for the protection of what her husband had labored. She conveyed her decision to Basavanna through Appanna
A large group of Sharanas’ community left Kalyan in search of safer place to live in. The group consisted of males and females, infants, children, young and seniors. In those days train and bus services were not available for journey. The group had to walk on foot to cover long distance spending the nights in temporary camps. . Nagalambike was to arrange catering to them. The group had to face several hurdles including attack by thieves, dacoits and soldiers. Channabasavanna was supervising the safety of the team. Gangambike volunteered to help Nagalambike and Chennabasavanna in their task. She was nursing the wounded in the fight. During her childhood she was trained in the warfare; she herself engaged in the fighting during the attacks as a soldier.
The group was proceeding to Ulavi via Mundgod. Near Katarvalli on the bank of Malaprabha river, they had to face a sever attack. Gangambike was fighting with the attackers; she breathed her last in the fight. Even today, there is her grave-vault in the middle of
near Mugutkhanhubblli. The river
Malaprabha from there flows further to meet river Malaprabha River Krishna
at Kudala Sangama where Basavanna had breathed his last in meditation. After death,
the soul of Gangambike merged with the soul of Basavanna at the confluence of
Malaprabha and Krishna.
Born as lonely daughter of a minister, Gangambike was brought up in a luxurious life in her childhood. But after marriage with Basavanna, who was then working as a clerk, she willingly adjusted to simple life. Even after Basavanna was elevated to the rank of a minister, her life-style did not change. As a chaste wife, she remained humble and dedicated to the service in Mahamane and Anubhava Mantapa. Realizing what Gangambike was, Basavanna arranged for her Linga-Deeksha. She had utter faith in her Guru,
Lingi Rudramuni Swamiji. Her Pathi-Bhakti,
Guru-Bhakti and Linga-Nishte were undisputable. She sacrificed herself for the
cause of her husband Basavanna. After death, her soul merged with the soul of
her husband at the confluence of Malaprabha and Ghana Krishna
rivers. She was an invisible executive power of Basavanna.
Gangambike was a composer of Vachanas. Ankitanam (Nickname) of her Vachanas is ‘
Kudala Sangama Deva’.
Bijjal, son of Permadi of Kalachur dynasty was ruling at Mangalawadi as subordinate king of Chalukya dynasty who were ruling at Kalyan. Siddaras was Dandanayak (chief-of-army) of Bijjal. Permadi and Siddaras were intimate friends. While on death-bed, Permadi entrusted the safety of Bijjal who was still quite young, to Shiddaras. Wife of Permadi, mother of Bijjal, went ‘Sati’ (self immolation with funeral fire of husband’s body). While doing so, she requested Padmagandhi, wife of Siddaras, to take care of her younger son, Karnadev. Padmagandhi fostered Karnadev along with her own daughter Neelalochane, breast-feeding both. Neelalochane grew with Bijjal and Karnadev as brothers and sister of the same parents.
After the death of Siddaras-Padmagandhi couple, Bijjal brought Neelalochane to his palace. When Bijjal shifted to Kalyan, he brought her to Kalyan. She was brought up in the palace as foster sister of Bijjal.
Siddaras and Padmagandhi were the parents of Neelalochane and she was foster sister of king Bijjal. Writer Harihara opined, birth-name of Neelalochane might be Mayadevi and her name might have changed to Neelambike at the time of her marriage. It is also opined that Siddaras was the brother of Madalambe, mother of Basavanna, Siddaras and Baladev were brothers, Neelalochane was the daughter of Siddaras, and Gangambike was the daughter of Baladev, both were maternal uncle of Basavanna.
Neelambike was married to Basavanna. There are two opinions of historians about her marriage. After marriage Basavanna with Gangambike, daughter of Baladev, he was working as karanik in the court of Bijjal and settled independently with his wife. A copper plate was traced in the court of Bijjal and no scholar in his court could read the script in the plate which Basavanna alone could read. As per the information confidentially revealed by him, Bijjal got huge wealth buried under the throne. Bijjal was surprised at the intelligence and appreciated the honesty of him. He offered his foster sister Neelambike to Basavanna in marriage. The marriage was solemnized with great display. This is one opinion of the historians.
Gangambike and Neelambike were intimate friends and desired to remain together throughout life. Gangambike expressed her desire to her father openly. Baladev placed the proposal to give both the girls to Basavanna in marriage before Eeshanya Guruji and obtained his concurrence. Basavanna married Gagambike and Neelambike together at a time. This is another opinion.
But there is no difference of opinion that Gangambike and Neelambike both were the wives of Basavanna.
Neelambike had lost her parents in her childhood. She studied literature and music. She was quite humble in nature. After marriage, she was much attached to Basavanna, His noble mind, sense of equality; his quality of attraction of people towards him had very much impressed Neelambike. She dedicated every thing of her to husband. She labored day and night to implement his principles. She undertook the responsibility of Mahamane. More than a lakh guests were visiting Mahamane everyday. Neelambike was feeding everyone with due care. Seeing her struggle, many Sharanis volunteered to help her. Though several people were being fed, there was no noisy scene. Food was ready at any time. With her ability, she became the base of Basavanna’s Bhakti marg (doctrine). She was ideal wife with her Pathi-bhakti and piety. She was known as ‘Nijabhakte Neelambike’.
Even with the hectic activity in Dasoha kayaka, she could spare some time to go into ‘Gnana Prakash’ pandal in the cellar of Mahamane to get immersed in Shivayoga (meditation of Shiva). Even today, that cellar reflects her image of Shovayoga. Her patience, peaceful face, kind heart, charitable approach, devotional appearance appeased all and saluted her.
She had only one son, Balasangayya, who passed away in his child age. She treated the loss of her son as the diktat of Shiva and never appeared sorrowful before the visitors and kept herself engaged in her kayaka. All Sharanis including Akkamahadevi, Guddapur Danamma etc enjoyed her motherly treatment. Akkamahadevi proudly exclaimed, “I am the pet daughter of mother Neelavva.”
Neelambike was taught music in her childhood and she was a good singer. She used to sing Basava Vachamas melodiously and Sharanas hearing her singing got absorbed in Bhakti (devotion). Neelambike was composing vachanas. She expressed her experience of life in the form of her vachamas. Ankitnam (Nickname) of her vachamas is ‘Basavapriya Kudala Sangama Deva’. She did not consider Basavanna only as her husband, but she believed him as her Guru. He was her God.
Basavanna on hearing the order of his deportation from Bijjal, he emotionally left Kalyan straight from the court of Bijjal without informing any of his associates including his wives. Neelambike felt very unhappy. She expressed her anguish by singing her Vachana with her Linga in the palm of her left hand;
‘Nodu, nodu, nodu Lingayya, Basavayyanar atava!’
(You See, you See, my Lingayya, the act my Basavayya!’)
She got engaged in the duty of Mahamane treating the guests and tried to forget her mental agony. She went into contemplation visualizing Basavanna through her Lingayya in her palm..
On hearing the news that Basavanna merged with God (aikyanada), she cried out,
Ettaladagide ayya, Sangana Basavanna!
(Where are you hiding, my Sangana Basavayya!)
Sharanis rushed to comfort her. She uttered,
…. what else is left for me, after my God is no more?’
Her sorrow subsided after Channabasavanna comforted her. Thereafter, she left for heavenly abode (passed away) to merge with the soul of her beloved husband,
There is another opinion of historians about the death of Neelambike. When she received message through Appanna, her womanhood overtook her ‘adyatma’ (philosophy), abruptly she keft for Kudala Sangama to console Basavanna. But, on reaching Kudala Sangama, what she found was lifeless body of Basavanna sitting in meditation position without food and water for several days. She pronounced,
‘Enaginnenu ennayya illadabalika’
(‘What else is left for me without my Basavayya’?)
‘…………………….Basavanolage aanu adagide’
(‘……………………. I merge with Basava.’)
She breathed her last. Neelambike had the power of Ichchamarana (power to die at will) among Sharanis of twelfth century. Her memory has remained sealed on the minds of people as ‘Nijabhakte Neelambike’
For Basavanna, Gangambike and Neelambike were not traditional wives. Gangambike was well organizing the programs of Anubhava Mantapa and managing the functioning of dasoha in Mahamane. Neelambike was the Annapoorne in serving food to the guests with motherly approach. In fact, Mahamane was the field of executive skill of the wives of Basavanna.
There is a maxim, ‘Behind a successful man, there is always a power of honest ladies.’ It is quite evident from the life of Basavanna.