Vīraśaivism is usually presented as a unified, sectarian, reformation movement founded in the twelfth century by Basava. But within Virasaivism there are actually two, separate denominations—viraktas and gurusthalins. For the former, the beliefs and practices reflected in the Basava legend serve as norms for their sectarian-type religious organization. In contrast, gurusthalins derive norms for their basically ecclesiastical organization from the timeless myths of five great gurus. Hence the two accounts of origins serve as legitimizing and normative etiologies for competitive denominations divided by fundamentally different visions of how Virasaivism should be organized and what ideals it should propagate.

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