“ Songs for Siva: Vacanas of Akka Mahadevi “ … “ Andal and Akka Mahadevi: Feminity to Divinity “…
“ The divine cuckoo: English rendering of Akka's 50 vacanas “ … “ Prem Deewani "
Akka Mahadevi or Mahadevi or Mahadeviyakkha, a brilliant medieval Kannada poet, rebel and mystic, was a prominent figure of the Veerashaiva Bhakti movement of the 12th century Karnataka. From an early age she was initiated into the worship of Shiva. She considered this initiation to be the most important moment of her life and she became a devoted worshipper of Shiva.
The term 'Akka' (elder Sister) which is an honorific was given to her by great Veerashaiva saints like Basavanna, Chenna Basavanna, Kinnari Bommayya, Siddharama, Allamaprabhu and Dasimayya speaks volumes of her contribution to the movement that was underway. She is in hindsight seen as a great and inspirational woman for Kannada literature and the history of Karnataka. She is said to have accepted the god Shiva ('Chenna Mallikarjuna') as her husband, traditionally understood as the 'madhura bhava' or 'madhurya' form of devotion.
Mahadeviyakkha is said to have then travelled to the region of Kalyana. Kalyana was a refuge for genuine Shiva bhakti, it stood out from the normal religious and social customs of the time. One of the leading saints Basavanna is said to be one of the first socialists because he spoke out against the inequities of the caste system. But primarily Basavanna and Allama were uniting those dedicated to Shiva worship.
She is a prominent figure in the field of female emancipation and a person of mystical vision. During a time of strife and political uncertainty 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 enlightenment (or Moksha, termed by her as "arivu"). 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.
Her Vachanas in Kannada, a form of didactic poetry are considered her greatest contribution to Kannada Bhakti literature. Much of Mahadeviyakkha’s poetry refers to her vivid descriptions of her beautiful Lord. It is said that she was the first woman to write Vachanas in Kannada literature. In all she wrote about 430 Vachanas. Akka was a revelation here in that she not only rose for emancipation but also has sung vachanas which are so simple but of highest order. Her poetry exhibits her love for Chenna Mallikarjuna and harmony with nature and simple living.
In the first phase she had renounced the worldly objects and attractions and in the second, discards the entire object based rules and regulations and in the third phase she starts her journey towards Srishila, where her eternal lover Chenna Mallikarjuna’s temple locates. Also it is the holy place of the Shiva cult since before the 12th century. Akka’s spiritual journey ends at Kadali the nearby thick forest area of Shrisaila (Srisailam) where she is supposed to have experienced union (aikya) with Chennamallikarjuna.