One of the most fascinating episodes in the religious history of Southern India is the rise of the Virasaiva movement. These heroic followers of Siva-also called Lingayatas-are characterized by a unique combination of intense devotion and social reformation. The movement arose in the twelfth century under the charismatic leadership of Basava. Men and women from every background, high caste as well as untouchable, joined the experimental community of the Virasaivas. They have their own sacred literature in the form of short poems in the vernacular language of the region: Kannada.