Akka Mahadevi

Akka Mahadevi (ಅಕ್ಕ ಮಹಾದೇವಿ) Born in Udatadi (or Udugani) near the ancient city of Banavasi (in Shikaripura taluk Shimoga district) was a prominent figure and Kannada poet of the Veerashaiva Bhakti movement of the 12th century Karnataka. Her Vachanas, a form of didactic poetry are considered her greatest contribution to Kannada Bhakti literature. In all she wrote about 430 Vachanas which is relatively fewer than that compared to other saints of her time. Yet the term 'Akka' (elder Sister) which is an honorific given to her by great Veerashaiva saints like Basavanna, Cenna Basavanna, Kinnari Bommayya, Siddharama, Allamaprabhu and Dasimayya speaks volumes of her contribution to Kannada literature and the history of Karnataka. She is said to have accepted the god Shiva ('Chenna Mallikarjuna') as her mystical husband (similar to how centuries later Meera, a 16th century saint, considered herself married to Krishna).

Much about her early life is not known, nor did she live long. She is a prominent figure in the field of female emancipation and a person of mystical vision. A household name in Karnataka, she had said that she was a woman only in name and that her mind, body and soul belonged to Lord Shiva. During a time of strife and political uncertianity in the 12th. century, she launched a movement that made her an inspiration for woman empowerment and enlightenment. It is commonly known that she took part in many gatherings of learned at the "Anubhavamantapa" in Kudala sangama to debate about philosophy and attainment of spiritualism. In search for her eternal soul mate, she made the animals, flowers and birds her friends and companions, rejecting family life and worldly attachment.The time was marked as height of foolishness of varnashrama dharma which only supported the three upper castes of Hindu society in India and suppressed the shudras and women.Akka was a revelation here in that she not only rose for emancipation but alsohas sung vachanas which are so simple but of highest order.

It is said that Mahadevi was married by arrangement to Kausika, a local king. There were immediate tensions, however, as Kausika was a Jain, a group that tended to be wealthy and was, as a result, much resented by the rest of the population. Much of Akka's poetry explores the themes of rejecting mortal love in favor of the everlasting, "illicit" love of God, and this seems to be the path she chose as well.

She ran away from her life of luxury to live as a wandering poet-saint, traveling throughout the region and singing praises to her Lord Shiva.

She travelled widely in search of emancipation and finally became a "Sanyasini" (woman saint) before settling down in Basavakalyana, Bidar district. Her non-conformist ways caused a lot of consternation in a conservative society and even her eventual guru Allama Prabhu had to initially face difficulties in enlisting her in the gatherings at Anubhavamantapa.A true ascetic, Mahadevi is said to have refused to wear any clothing -- a common practice among male ascetics, but shocking for a woman.Legend has it that due to her true love and devotion with God her whole body was protected by hair.One of her famous vachana has a reason for this also which translates as

People, male and female, blush when a cloth covering their shame comes loose When the lord of lives lives drowned without a face in the world, how can you be modest?

When all the world is the eye of the lord, onlooking everywhere, what can you cover and conceal?

Her poetry exhibits her love for Chenna Mallikarjuna and harmony with nature and simple living.

She Sang:

For hunger, there is the village rice in the begging bowl, For thirst, there are tanks and streams and wells For sleep temple ruins do well For the company of the soul I have you, Chenna Mallikarjuna

Some scholars estimate she lived for only twenty five years. She is believed to have disappeared in the banana groves at Shreeshaila, in Andhra Pradesh while in ecstasy entering mahasamadhi (divine union) with a flash of light.

Famous vachanas by Akka

Thanu karagadavaralli pushpavanolleyayya neenu Mana karagadavaralli Gandhakshateyanollayya neenu Arivu kanthereyadavaralli Aarathiyanollayya neenu Parinamigalalladavaralli Naivedyavanollayya neenu Bhavashuddhavilladavaralli Dhupavanollayya neenu Hrudaya kamalavilladavaralli iralollayya neenu Ennalli enuntendu karasthaladali imbugonde, HeLa Channamallikarjuna............

External links

* [http://www.ourkarnataka.com/religion/akka_mathapati.htm Who is Akka]
* [http://www.vicharamantapa.net/vachana/akka/akka1.htm Akka's Vachanas in Kannada]
* [http://www.shivayoga.net/literature/sharanas/akkamahadevi.html Akka Mahadevi, the genuine mystic]
* [http://www.shivayoga.net/veerashaiva/literature/prophets/akka-mystic.html Life of Mystic Akka Mahadevi at Veerashaiva.info]


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