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TAMIL

Vachanas of Madadevi Akka

MAHADEVI AKKAVIN ARULMOZHIGAL (Mahadevi Akka's Words of Grace): Kalyani Venkataraman — Tr. in Tamil; Sri Taralabalu Jagadguru Bruhan Mutt, Sirigere-577541. Rs. 150.

STEEPED IN Virasaiva literature, Kalyani Venkataraman who has already presented Basaveswara's Kannada hymns in crystalline Tamil has now translated the 342 Vachanas indited by Mahadevi Akka. When the message of the hymns sung by the Nayanmars and the epic Periya Puranam by Sekkizhar spread to Karnataka, Saivism in the region registered a phenomenal growth.

The leader of this new pathway was Basaveswara (12th Century). Rebelling against soulless ritualism and rejecting casteism and gender-based inequality, Basava announced that the Lord had initiated him into the Virasaiva faith.

He organised the "Anubhava Mandapa" where the leaders of the Virasaiva movement like Allama Prabhu and Chennabasava discussed theological and philosophical concepts and the Virasaiva hymnologists were heard with attention. Neither caste nor status nor gender debarred one from taking part in the "Anubhava Mandapa".

One day Mahadevi who had rejected family-life with her husband Kausika as he would not subscribe to the Veerasaiva faith came to the "Anubhava Mandapa". She wore no garment but covered herself with her tresses. The glow on her face was enough to prove her immersion in Siva consciousness. Saluting her, the elderly Allama Prabhu called her "Akka".

Her words of fire and wisdom during the discussions with him proved that she was a total renunciate. With the blessings of Allama Prabhu and Basava, she retired to the banana grove in Srisailam, lived there as a recluse and reached oneness with Lord Mallikarjuna. One is reminded of Karaikkal Ammaiyar who willed her body to dry up and spent her days in Thiruvalankadu (the banyan grove) singing of Siva.

The contours of Mahadevi Akka's life are best seen in her Vachanas. She lashes out at man's pettiness and calls upon people to cleanse their mind and merge it in thoughts of the Lord before the body disintegrates. This she says is the only way to escape rebirth.

Mahadevi Akka uses images from everyday life and often it becomes difficult to follow the line of her thought. It is here the translator gives a helping hand with her commentary and widens our vision with comparative quotes from Tamil hymnologists like Thayumanavar and Manickavasagar.

Even more astonishing is the perfect ease with which she brings in the hymns of the Azhwars. Having reached the crests of devotion these messengers of the Divine say the same thing. Are we prepared to listen?

PREMA NANDAKUMAR

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