Much more this remark is applicable to Karnataka, from which the different currents of philosophy have flowed and flooded the rest of India and the whole world.
The great Sri Sankar of monistic fame had his principal Math of Sringeri in Karnataka and began his life’s mission there. Sri Madhvacarya, the campion of Dualisn and Devotion, was entirely the product of this holy soil. Sri Basaveswar was another saint belonging to this eminent group. He is called “Bhakti-Bhandhari”- the treasure devotion – in Kannada.It was he who infused fresh life into veera-shaivism and made it a living faith. His inspiring personality attracted thousands of disciples who spread his new Gospel throughout the length and breadth of Karnataka.
In their attempt to interpret the new message of their master to the masses, the eminent disciples of Basava, successfully utilized His Vachanas- a new form of literature in Kannada. These Vachanas are pithy (brief) sayings, brilliant in their directness and simplicity occasionally rising to the sublime grandeur even of the Upanisadic literature.They have brought light and hope to the Kannada masses and made their lives worth – living in all possible ways. Akka Mahadevi is one of the inspired disciples of Basava’s band.
2. BRIEF LIFE SKETCH OF AKKA MAHADEVI Akka Mahadevi 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 (another source says 350) which is relatively fewer than that compared to other saints of her time.The term ‘Akka’ (elder Sister) which is an honorific (title) given to her by great Veerashaiva saints like Basavanna, Chenna Basavanna, Kinnari Bommayya, Siddharama, and Allamaprabhu. Akka Mahadevi was born in a town called ‘Udutadi’ in the centre of Karnataka in a Veera-saiva family. Her parents were the staunch followers of Trividhi philosophy of Guru, Linga and Jangama.
She had an inborn devotion for God Siva. At age 10, she was initiated as a devotee of Shiva. She worshiped Shiva, whom she called Chenna Mallikarjuna, (Lord White as jasmine).Right from her childhood unlike other young girls she chose the Beautiful Lord, Pure white as the Jasmine, Chennamallikarjuna, as her playmate.
Akka-Mahadevi was very beautiful. Her marvelous charm attracted the then ruling king- Kaushika who happened to be a Jain. Mahadevi agreed to marry Kaushika on three conditions. They are 1. She should be allowed according to her conveniences to practice the devotion of Lord Shiva, whom she calls Cenna Mallikarjuna. 2. She should be given freedom to listen and to meditate the life stories and teachings of ‘Siva Sharanas’ – saints of Lord shiva – and the practices of Saivism.
. She should be allowed to practice the devotion of Trividhi philosophy –Guru, Linga, and Jangama. However, the male ego in Kaushika made him blind and he forced himself on her. Mahadevi outrightly renounced the marriage, with that she also renounced her parents, luxury, home and everything, considering them as impediments. She went bare to Kalyana where Allama was heading the Anubhavamantapa. Thus Mahadevi by renouncing the marriage with Kaushiaka emerged as the first protagonist of woman liberation. She discarded clothes and other worldly things as the last estiges of a sansarin and accepted the life of sanyasin. She left for Kalayana (a town in Bidar district of present Karnataka) which was known as God’s own city.
Basaveshwara who is popularly known as Basavanna (elderly brother) has already launched a great social movement of casteless and classless society. Taking entry into his ‘Anubhavamantapa’ (the spiritual assembly) was not an easy task. Only those who are spiritually enlightened are allowed to come in, that too, after passing the kind of test held by the president of Anubhava Mantapa.Her renouncement of clothes and disregard for the body, or the acceptance of the life of nunnery was not an ordinary step in 12th century. Woman was not yet considered as equivalent to man. Her individual identity was under crisis. Even the great thinker and philosopher like Allamaprabhu questioned her unusual way of life.
The picture of the discussion about this between Allama and Akka in the gate of Anubhava Mantapa? given by Chamarasa is not only an interesting literary piece but it is a candid and bold step in the history of whole womanhood.The discussion is as follows: Prabhu: Why have you come here in the prime of your youth? Our saints resent the sight of a young woman. If you can disclose the identity of your husband, you can join the fellowship of our saints, or else you can depart.
A woman’s company is like poison. Tell us, who is your husband? Mahadevi: I was engrossed in penance for many years so that Siva might become my wedded lord! My own people wedded me to Siva by smearing my body with ashes and tying the marital bracelet to my wrist…. All the world knows that the innumerable saints have been my parents.
Therefore, O Prabhu, God is my lord; for me, there are no other husbands in this world. When Prabhu scolds her first for her nakedness Akka Mahadevi responds in this way: I have killed the cupid in myself and conquered this world. So I have no body. When I have no body, no sex where does exist the question of clothes? It is not the condition of the body that counts but, instead, a pure heart which wins the favor of God. I have covered my body with my hair so that the sight of my body may not be a cause of temptation for others.Prabhu questions whether Akka Mahadevi can be “one with God” when she still has human form and, worse, when it is a female body.
She describes the superficiality of appearance, and of the leaders’ reluctance to accept her. Would the sandalwood cease its fragrance when it’s cut into pieces? Would a piece of gold, even when cut and heated, lose its luster? Would the sugar cane lose its sweetness when it is squeezed within a press and then heated? Prabhu pays her his ultimate compliment: “Your body is female in appearance, but you mind is merged with God. In fact it was here onwards that she became Akka, an elderly sister. By her profound scholarship and burning fire of devotion she soon carved for herself an exalted position in the Anubhava Mantap, the unique Assembly of Saints there.
Channa-Basava, the right hand man of Basava says, “Real greatness is only to be seen in Mahadeviakka, who has lost all sense of duality and has merged herself in the infinite. ” 3. HER INTENSE LONGING FOR THE LORD Even in her childhood, she used to worship Siva with great concentration.She took her early education under Shivagamacharya and started writing vachanas at the earliest age. Even at her early age of adolescences, Mahadevi’s devotion for Chenna Mallkarjuna was so deep and passionate that she did not play with the worldly toys like other children. On the other hand as she wrote in one of her Vachanas: “I wash away like the black soil in rain I slip and shifts like the sand, Anguished in dream I start awake, And burn like the fire in the forge, Comrades have I none in my woe O Cenna Mallikarjuna, do Thou grant me of Thy mercy A body that is not grappled by the groping hand,And the ecstasy that comes of union without uniting.
” Akka’s whole life was a journey in search of her eternal lover, Cenna Mallikarjuna, whom she saw in her dream and followed in reality. During this course of divine frenzy the valleys and mountains were her friends, trees and animals were her companions, sun and the moon were the guiding spirits, whom she earnestly asked for the help in searching her beloved. Mahadevi, endowed with innate love and devotion for Lord Siva, had developed for the beginning a great aversion for worldly life. In one of her Vachanas she says, “O Lord!Without realizing Thee, I am dying in the meshes of my own self-willed desires, like a silk-worm perishing in the cocoon of silk spun out by it from its own body. Purge my mind, O God! of all evil desires and show me Thy Abode.
” “This evil Samsara has been troubling me day and night. What shall I do my Lord? What shall I do to get rid of this constant harassment? I cannot bear this mental torment any longer. I throw myself entirely at Thy Mercy. Slay me or save me! Let Thy will be done. ” Mahadevi had become thoroughly disgusted with the worldly life, and was constantly thinking of God and God alone.She asks, “Does a peacock ever play on the barren plain? and not on the mountains? Can a swan ever think of loving a dirty streamlet by abandoning a crystal lake? Will a cuckoo ever pour forth its flood of divine rapture anywhere except in a full-blossomed mango tree? Can a bee ever visit a flower without any fragrance? Can my mind be ever attracted by anything else but Thee, my Lord? ” Mahadevi thus pines to have a glimpse at the lotus feet of the Lord.
“Just as a caged parrot constantly remembers its brethren outside, so do I ever think of Thee. Call me ‘dear child’ and show me ‘Thy Beauty’”. I am pining for Thee, day and night, My Lord! The dart of Thy Love has been driven deep into my bosom and consequently I have forgotten hunger, thirst and sleep. ” Maddened by such an intense Love for the Lord, she began to request everyone she met to show her the pathway to her Lord in this manner: “Bees, Cuckoos, Parrots, Moonlight! I have one request for you.
Have you seen my Lord? If so will you kindly show Him to me? ” 4. HER CHALLENGE TO THE LORD: This extreme intensity of devotion had made her bold enough to throw such a challenge to the Lord: “Don’t harass me, my Lord, because I am helpless.But mind, I am not a woman to be easily terrified by any amount of pain Thou would inflict. I would live on dry leaves and sleep in the bed of arrows. Pure am I, my Lord! as I have consecrated my body and mind to Thee. ” Moreover, she asks: “Will the sandal give up its fragrance even though it is cut to pieces and rubbed down? Will gold ever be darkened even when it is burnt in the fire? Will the sugarcane abandon its sweetness although it is cut to pieces, made to pass through the press and boiled in the fiery furnace? Don’t reveal my past sins to me my Lord. I will never desist from seeking Thy shelter even if Thou wouldest kill me. She says, “Thou mayest hear me or not my Lord! I cannot but sing Thy glory.
Thou mayest love me or not, I cannot but worship Thee. Thou mayest grace me with Thy presence or not, I cannot but think of embracing Thee. Thou mayest look at me or not, I cannot help casting my loving glance at Thee and sing Thy praises in delight. I shall worship Thee alone my Lord; and enjoy Divine delight by Thy worship. ” 5. CONCEPT OF GOD ACCORDING TO AKKA MAHADEVI She calls her Lord as Chennamallikarjuna.
In the book of Mahadevi’s path, as we turn the pages, we find that the image of Chennamallikarjuna changing.With time it merges into a higher and higher concept of the Divine. Only in her earlier years do we notice reference to Siva.
Throughout He has remained her Antaryamin to whom she was wedded without a doubt. She says, “Like treasure hid in the ground, like flavour in the fruit, like gold in the rock and oil in the seed, the Absolute is hidden in the heart. ” Further she says, “I am involved with the one who knows no death, nor decay nor form. He has no one place, nor any boundary, no modifications nor origins. He is Unrestricted to any clan, this casteless one is whom I love. For this reason I am for this man, this Chenna Mallikarjuna.
She says, the approach to God must be through ardent love and devotion. She instinctively felt that man can never be fully and wholly fulfilled through self-discipline and knowledge, though self-discipline is arduous and knowledge superior. A more human approach to God lies through pure love and unselfish love which withdraws most of the obstacles that the ego interposes between the divine and the devotee.
Akka was shining star in the Bhatki tradition. Her wedding to the Lord Shiva and her undivided heart of love and surrender to Him can be considered as the path of Bhakti Marga.She also considers that the path of action is very much necessary to have genuine devotion of the Lord. In this way she finds no conflict between these two paths rather it is the two sides of the same coin. Her vachans are the best expressed form of Janan Marga, where she tries to share her knowledge of the Lord. For Akka mahadevi to know the Lord and to worship him in mind and to share this knowledge with others in Vachans was a superior way of devotion. So Bhakti Jnana and Krma margas are not mutually exclusive for the Akka, but all three margas lead us to a true devotion to the Lord. 6.
SPLENDID VISION OF THE LORD: Through His grace, she had soon the vision of the Lord. “I had a Vision” she breaks out in rapture, “I had a splendid vision of the Lord. He had shining golden hair, with a brilliant crown studded (filled) with jewels. A set of pearl-white teeth adorned his beautiful lips that were illumined the seven worlds. At this sight, the famine of my eyes has vanished altogether today. Now that I have seen my Lord Playing with His Primeval Shakti, by identifying Himself with her, I consider my life to have borne fruit.
” This vision brought about drastic change in her entire outlook on life. The forest appeared to her to be full of Wish-trees; all the stones assumed to form touch-stones; every place was a place of pilgrimage; the whole world became full of heavenly ambrosia and every pebble she came across was a heavenly jewel. She saw the mountain very much dear to the Lord-Channa Mallikarjuna and entered the forest of Kadali-plantain trees. ” In this way she went on having one spiritual experience after another and ultimately realized her identity with the Absolute. She says “Can the ghee mixed in milk remain separate from it?Who can differentiate heat from the brilliance of Sun? O Lord of Infinite Glory! My scales fell off my eyes as I realized my identity with Thee! ” Again she says, “Whom shall I worship when my body has become Thine? Whom shall I remember when my mind has merged in Thee? Losing myself entirely in Thee, I have completely forgotten Thee with Thee. ” 7.
LAST DAYS OF HER LIFE Tradition says she left the world in her twenties, entering mahasamadhi (final divine union) with a flash of light. Her travels come to an end when she finds the Kadali vana in the vicinity of the Shrishaila temple.In Kadali vana, Mahadevi matures in nirguna upasana, ready for the final offering. She recognizes the Absolute in all of his creation. The kalpavriksha is all trees. The Sanjeevani is all bushes. All places are teerthas.
Ambrosia is contained in all waters. All animals is the covetable golden deer. Every pebble glows as the chintamani gem. Here she also recognizes the paradox of His being in her body, as her very breath becomes His Fragrance. His form becomes hers. Her life force is no different from His very own. No knowledge to acquire, as she now knows Him.
Who is there to think, of whom, as individuality ceases to be? This young, defiant and vibrant saint Akka Mahadevi attains Aikyastthala, the highest of the six states of Veerashaivism in the vicinity of the temple to Chennamallikaarjuna and Bhramaraambika. 8. THE CONCEPT OF TRIVEDHI PHILOSOPHY According to the Trivedhi Philosophy, all holiness consisted in due regard for three vital things–Guru, linga and Jangam (the guide; the image; and the fellow religionist). Guru: (personal spiritual master), Guru is the personal spiritual guide who has the knowledge of the path and knows how to guide one on it.A guru is the first cover/guard of soul against the attractions of Maya. He is a concept of awareness. He initiates a novice in the worship of Ista Linga, because he is a model in Ista Linga worship and is Jivanmuktha. He performs three functions: He initiates a person into the faith, trains him and guides him to move towards Aikyasthala (merger with Shiva) A Guru was forbidden to eat flesh, to chew betel or to touch liquor: and he wore a “Kempa kavi vastra” Linga: (Siva) Linga plays a very key role in the union of Jiva with Siva.
Shiva should be worshipped through Ista Linga, which is a symbol of Shiva. The communion between God and a devotee is through Ista Linga. Ista Linga is a small black ball made up of certain prescribed materials kept in a silver casket put around the neck with the help of a thread called shivadara (thread of Lord Shiva).
Ista Linga is Shiva Himself. It is universal form of God in a miniature and is the greatest light of the inner most heart which is brought out and shaped into a form by the guru. It is the visible symbol of the invisible energy existing in all beings.
The guru places the Ista Linga on ‘Thanu’ (body) ‘Prana’ (life) and ‘Bhava’ (feelings). The linga placed on the thanu is Ista Linga, the linga placed on Prana is Pranalinga, and the linga placed on the Bhava is called Bhavalinga. The practice of wearing Siva linga constantly on their bodies as a mark of devotion and surrender to Lord Siva. Jangama: (an enlightened spiritual guru) Jangama is the realized soul or the perfect one who has already been through the path and knows how to lead one there. A jangama is a liberated man and moves about from place to place to preach the Lingayat Philosophy.He is a moving spirit of the Lord and is personified in the services of the Lord. He leads a simple life, is a man of detachment and is without shelter of his own. He is inseparable from Linga.
Guru, Linga and Jangama are treated on equal footing and are rendered with equal respect and reverence. One needs to surrender to them and seek their help in intensifying ones devotion to Siva to obtain his grace and achieve the final union. 9. AKKA THE SOURCE OF WOMEN EMANCIPATION She is a prominent figure in the field of female emancipation.Probably, she may be the first feminist in India as she has been in a constant battle against the established institutions and rituals prevalent in India, in the 12th century.
During such time of strife and political uncertainty she launched a movement that made her an inspiration for woman empowerment and enlightenment. 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. It was in the 12the century such a feminist voice, heard from a country like India, where the patriarchal system is at its best.A time when females are forbidden at the school entrance, Akka Mahadevi could take part in many gatherings of learned men at the Anubhavamandapa in Kadal Sangama, to debate philosophy. Though she lived and died young the lines she uttered and the divine life she led keep her as an inseparable part of Indian history in general and the movement of woman’s emancipation in particular. She proves that woman is not the puppet in the hands of male dominant society.
On the other hand she is as free as the objects of the world around. She was never contended with the restricted role of a girl at home.Limitations placed on women in the pursuit of education and spirituality was unacceptable for her. She proved herself that a woman has every right and has all the means to pursue a life of an ascetic. Her entire woman’s life with many traumatic experiences is a testimony to the Power of Indelible Courage and Faith.
Her renouncement of clothes and disregard for the body, or the acceptance of the life of nunnery was not an ordinary step in 12th century. Woman was not yet considered as equivalent to man. Her individual identity was under crisis. Even the great thinker and philosopher like Allamaprabhu questioned her unusual way of life.Akka becomes a distinctive phenomenon in the human history not merely by her style of dressing or unusual way of arguing.
Her distinct pathway through the world, which took her to the climax point of rationalism, establishes her as an ever-shining star of boldness. Her denial of the riches and comforts of the palace and the amputations of the domestic bonds reminds one of Buddha. Her ideal of social and gender equality, propagated in the 12th century had become the creed of higher education in and out of Karnataka. Along with Basaveshwara, she was also one of the socialist reformers who spoke out against the caste system.Among her 315 vachanas, considered as sacred scriptures by the Kannadigas, one proclaims this message: “Unrestricted to any clan, this caste less one is whom I love for this reason, I’m for this man. ” Akka Mahadevi is even remembered and revered all over Karnataka as a seer-poet and a social reformer.
You can see a number of educational and charitable institutions all through the State, named after Akka. Akka Seva Samajas, the charitable institutions in the State, pursue the same goal Akka Mhadevi has propagated – uplifting the status of the girl children.They work for the destitute girls and down trodden women in their three branches at Kumara Park, Rajaji Nagar, Rajarajeswary Nagar along with the first one established at Bangalore. The proceedings of the Samajas are inspired by the life and teachings of Akka Mahadevi who burned up as a flash of light in the caves of Sreeshailam. 10. AKKA MAHADEVI – A MYSTIC SAINT Akka Madhavi is no doubt a great Bhakti saints of the 12th century, she experienced a call within, that no other pre-occupation distract her, in her path to the Lord Shiva.Unlike other girls, the very desire for a family and married life, and other worldly pleasure and comfort she considers these nothing compared to her devotion to the Lord Shiva.
Her poems or Vachnas are the spontaneous overflow of her love for the Lord. Her cloths, beauty and ornaments were the love and devotion to the Lord. This intense devotion and renunciation of worldly affairs made her a great mystic of the time.
She had an experience of the Lord in the heart, this basic experience led her to experience Lord in everything: in the beautiful nature, mountains valleys and everywhere.She finds her home in the nature and everything in it was her companion. In union with the nature and all the being she searched for the Lord and she experienced Him together with all beings. This shows that in totality she experienced and worshipped the Lord in the Universe.
This is the another aspect of her mysticism. There is a massage for all, who search the Lord with the sincere heart that God can be experience in our simple and ordinary life situations and surroundings. There is no need of going to high mountains like Himalayas to search for the Lord; he is here within us and in the nature.Akka madhavi experienced this truth from her child hood itself, and she could experience more intensively and more clearly in her later stages of life. She expresses the unity between her and the Absolute in the following Vachana: I do not say it is the Linga. I do not say it oneness with the Linga.
I do not say it is the Merging, I do not say it is the Parting I do not say it has Happened. I do not say it is to Be. I do not say it is I. I do not say it is You.
The mysticism of the Akka is in par with the existing theological understanding of the experience of the Lord.There is no conflict with the tradition and philosophical thinking of the time. Man’s search for the Lord in the cosmos with the nature and created beings is very much acceptable to the mystics of all times. The out flow of the heart’s desire and her love she expresses in her poems and Vachana is a real treasure and guide to seek the Lord, for the many generation to come. Akka mahadevi is somewhat negative about the concept of body. The bodily beauty was a liability for her in her short life. She calls this body as the site of dirt, lust, greed and rage.
This may be because of her experience with Kaushika and in Anubhava Mantapa. According to her the body and its temptations are the primary causes which come on the way in ones union with the Lord. In this way in her thought we can see the clear cut distinction between body as something bad which belongs to the world and soul in something sacred which helps one to live a holy life. 11.
CONCLUSION Mystics have a double aspect in their life. They are often perceived as rebel in a cultural social ethos. They refuse to walk or to follow the manmade laws and tradition.They have a fine intellect and sharp perception of divine reality. They guide people in the new path towards the absolute. They are courageous, creative and enthusiastic in walking the new unknown path with full trust and confidence. This unusual way of life and their very courage novelty and creativity make them to be rejected in the society, but later they are hailed and accepted in the society. Akka Mahadevi was one among such saints who was intoxicated by Shiva Shakti.
Because of her ascetic way of life she became true Shakti and all other powers of tradition and culture she rejected.This way led to her to the spiritual heights making her a mystic. Thus we can see that akka mahadevi had two aspects i. e. initial rejection as rebel and later acceptance as mystic saint.
Nobody knows exactly for how many years Akka Mahadevi lived. According to one popular belief she lived only twenty-five years. Within this small span of life the achievement she did, the area she had covered from Udatadi to Srisail and the great spiritual personalities she met is something amazing. No other Indian social activist achieves the parallel position with Akka in this regard.It is sure that physically she lived a very short life but spiritually she did surpass the common level. The historians are of the opinion that Akka only in a true sense represents the whole vachana movement, which is in swing till the time present.
The vachanas she wrote is a gem of divine thought. These few Vachanas of Mahadevi gives us the insights into the unique psychology of God –intoxication of this blessed saint. Even linguistically they achieve an everlasting place. Each phase of her life was a step towards the emancipation of not only of womanhood but also of the mankind.She was sure footed in her radical combat with the age-old norms of the society. She lived for the life enlightened and the life divine. Akka is a guiding spirit behind all the women activists, irrespective of the age and space.
One should be thankful to the womankind, which has given “the Sappho of Greece, the Theresa of Christianity, the Lalleshwari of Kashmir, the Rubia of Arabia, the ‘Andal’ of Tamilnadu, the Meera of Rajasthan. ” No doubt all they are incomparable individuals in their life and achievement. BIBLIOGRAPHY Deshpande, M. S. “Akka Mahadevi: St.Mira of Karnataka. ” Pathway to God: A Journal of Spiritual Life 10, 1 (November 1975), 21-26.
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