Sunday, 24 July 2011

Akka Mahadevi

'Akka' who is popularly known as Akka Mahadevi of twelfth century, stands to this day not only as a sublime personality, a soul force conjoining devotion, knowledge, and non-attachment, a pioneer of the movement of woman's emancipation, the pinnacle of the glory of Vachana literature, she is also an ever-shining example of transcendental world-view, a supreme mystical vision. " In the history of mankind we have more than one empress, thinker, warrior and freedom fighter, more than one anchorite, artist and scholar; but it has given only one elderly sister, that is Akka Mahadevi.

AKKAMAHADEVI was one of the most popular saints of the Veerashaiva reformist movement of the 12 th century.
Born in Udutadi, North Karnataka , this young Veerashaiva saint achieved Aikya or Oneness with the Divine within a short twenty years of age. Her outpourings are contained in over 315 vachanas and in a small text for advanced sadhakas called Yoganga Trividhi. She came on the scene when the reformist movement of Veerashaivism had just begun to impact, particularly the lower rungs of the society, with its remarkable empowerment techniques.

Right from her childhood unlike other young girls she chose the Beautiful Lord, Pure white as the Jasmine, Chennamallikarjuna, as her playmate. Her friends chose to play with dolls instead. She was never content in fulfilling the restricted role of a girl in the house. She was more interested to hear the glories of the Lord. The urge to go beyond the average practice of Shaiva sampradaya was compelling. The limitations placed on women, in the pursuit of spirituality and otherwise in those days, was unacceptable to her. This persistence facilitated her study in the local gurukula under a Veerashaiva teacher, a rare happening for those days!
Through “Vachanas” or small poems, Akkamahadevi speaks of her great love for her Lord of the White Jasmine – Chennamallikarjuna.
Akkamahadevi's Vachanas has a lyrical quality and direct personal appeal with rare poetic elements. The similes she chose have great mass appeal because they are true to life.

I love the Handsome One: 
He has no death 
decay nor form 
no place or side 
no end nor birthmarks.

I love Him O mother. Listen. 
I love the Beautiful One 
with no bond nor fear 
no clan no land 
no landmarks
So my lord, white as jasmine, is my husband.
by Akkamahadevi
              Translated by A. K. Ramanujan      
With the Vachana movement, Kannada language broke the traditions of court poetry and opened avenues to one and all who aspired to express his/her inner soul. The Vachanas even to this day have become the common man's literature.
Like waters flowing to a dry bed, like rain falling on parched twigs, while enjoying the joys of life, the prospect of a Higher path appeared. Look , blessed indeed it was, when I resorted to the feet of the guru. 

Aralu gonda keyregey thorey banduhaayidanthey 
Baralu gonda sarigey maley suridanthaayithu noda 
Indanagey ihadasukha paradagathi nadeythu bandandaayithu noda 
Chennamallikaarjunaiya gurupaadava kandu dhanyalaadenu noda 
Her entire woman's life with many a harrowing experience is a testimony to the Power of Indelible Courage and Faith. She proved that a woman has every right and has all the wherewithal to pursue a life solely engaged in the exploration of the divine, while being deeply involved in none other the seeker herself !
Who was this Chennamallikarjuna for her? In the book of Mahadevi's path, as we flip 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, the matted Lord. That too he is not the puranic Lord as much as the one wedded to Parashakti! Throughout He has remained her Antaryamin to whom she was wedded without a doubt.
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
She realized way early in her life that outward rituals are not what pleases her Lord the most. The framework of Veerashaivism where rituals were reduced to minimum made it natural for her to come to this conclusion. Individual refinement itself was the greatest way to do worship. The Lord does, certainly not prefer rituals offered by any other than this.
Refining the body is the preferred immersion for the Lord, not any other. Cleansing of the mind is the offering of flower, not any other. Providing solace is the akshata and unguents for offering, not any other. Acquiring wisdom is the waving of lights to Him, not any other. Purification of attitude is the naivedya food offering, not any other .The purification of faculties is the tambula, not any other. The lotus of the heart is the asana for the Lord, not anyother. Listen,how then did such a Lord graciously come to the palm of my hand ?
Thanukaragadavaralli majjhanavanolleyaiya neenu 
Manakaragadavaralli pushpavanoleyaiya neenu 
Haduligaralladavaralli gandhaakshathayanolleyaiya neenu 
Arivu kandeyreyadavaralli aarathiyanolleyaiya neenu 
Bhaavashudddhavilladavaralli naivedyavanolleyaiya neenu 
Thrikaranashuddhavilladavaralli thaamboolavanolleyaiya neenu 
Hriday kamalaaralavdavaralli iralolleyaiyaa neenu 
Yenalli yenenteyndu karastthaladalli imbugondey hela chennamallikaarjunaiya
The Prime Cause of the Universe- the Absolute represented as the Linga in its sthula and sukshma form-this is her choice of the bridegroom. The choice was the most natural and logical one for her.
Would the peacock rather not dance on a hill than on a grassy mound? Would the swan rather not splash and play in the lake than in a puddle? The kokila's music will emerge only when the mango bursts into bloom, not otherwise. The bee will enjoy the flower that is fragrant and none other. I will enjoy only my Deva Chennamallikarjuna as my heart dictates, and none other. Do listen and understand!
Giri alladey hullu morali yallaaduvudey na vilu. 
Kolavalladey shiruvalla keylisuvudey hansey 
Maamara thalithalladey svaragaiyuvudey kogiley 
Parimalavillada pushpakeyla suvudey bhramara. 
Yenna deyva mallikaarjunagalladey 
Anya keyla suvudey yenna mana peylirey 
Her advice to those who pine for the Divine is to immerse in this love totally, without any inhibition until:-
The arrow that is shot should penetrate so deeply that even the feathers do not show. Hug the body of the Lord so tightly that the bones must be crushed to crumble. Weld to the divine until the very welding disappears.
For one who felt that mortal men are like a smooth leaf with hidden thorns it must have been the ultimate sacrifice when Mahadevi was given in marriage to the amorous King Koushika. Only to save her parents' lives did she agree to this. Even in this transaction she called the shots when she gave the King, injunctions that would ultimately lead to her grand getaway! Burning in a flameless fire, agonizing over a bloodless wound and tossing without accompanying pleasure was her life in this place. Her frustrations at balancing this palatial world and her inner world only served to strengthen her determination to win Chennamallikarjuna. Her concerns surrounded immortality not mortality unlike those around her.
The buffalo has the sole concern of saving his hide. The cobbler's concern is yet another. Dharma is the preoccupation of some while Karma is that of others. I am of concern to myself whereas your passions are of concern to you.Get away,let go of my sari you fool! My sole concern is whether or not my lord Chennamallikaarjuna will make his presence felt.
Yemmeygondu chinthey, samagaaragondu chinthey 
Dharmigondu chinthey, karmigondu chinthey 
Nanagey nanna chinthey, thanagey thannakaamada chinthey 
Valley hogu seyraga bidu maruley 
Nanagey chennamallikaarjuna deyvaru 
Valivaro valiyaro yemba chinthey
It is said that Mahadevi was an extraordinarily beautiful girl with long tresses. This bodily beauty that she was blessed with, was a liability for a long time in her short life. She calls this body as the site of dirt, lust, greed and rage. Her spirit belonged to space and not to her individual equipment. When she leaves her palatial home of her husband Koushika, with only her hair to cover her, she reasons that when the Lord is omnipresent though hidden what then is there to conceal?
Intellectually too she was not like many other prominent Veerashaiva saints of her time. The reformers, saints and sharanas who gathered at the anubhava mantapa at Kalyana when she visited that place, had to accept her Individual Search for the Lord. Her answers to Allama Prabhu's questions were forthright and admirable. No wonder that the title Akka is given to her. The only others in that level are Basaveshwara who is Anna and Allama who is Prabhu to the Veerashaiva sharanas. Here was a true Sharanu Sati- Linga Pati in its purest and tender form. The residents of Kalyana at the anubhava mantapa become appropriately, the bridal party, that sends her off to Shrishailam to join her very own Lord and Husband
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. Oh listen, Mother. Knowing no sansar, nor fear,is this Fearless One of mine. Unrestricted to any clan, this casteless one is whom I love. For this reason I am for this man, this Chennamallikarjuna. All other men who are perishable are to be cast into the fire.
Saavillada keydillada chaluvaanganolidey avvaa 
Yedaillada thadaillada theyrahillada shuruhillada chaluvaanganolidey eyley avvaa 
Neenu keyla thaaye 
Bhavavillada bhayavillada nirbhayachaluvaanganolidey avvaa 
Kulaseemeyillada nisseema chaluvaanganolidey avvaa 
Idukaarana chenna mallikaarjuna chaluvaagandananagey 
Ee saavakeyduva gandarano idu voleyolagikku.
Her travels come to an end when she finds the Kadali vana in the vicinity of the Shrishaila temple. Here she lives the rest of her life in a cave. She may have abandoned Maya but Adimaya has not abandoned her. Her former connections in the form of her parents and husband Koushika visit her even here. Her refusal to be manipulated by Maya is seen in the following song where she recognizes the Adimaya that follows everyone. It is the yogini for the yogi, the nun for the monk, the proclaimer for the saint. She dares in her proclamation that she will not be manipulated by the machinations of this Maya of the Lord as she belongs to Him and to Him alone.
Bidadiddarey bembitthu maaye 
Yogigey yoginiyaayitthu maaye 
Savanangey savaniyaayitthu maaye 
Yedigey paraakiyaayitthu maaye 
Ninnamaayegey naananjuvalalla 
Chennamallikaarjuna deva nimmaney
Here 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.
She 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? Only the waiting remained for the Final Dissolution sans the physical container!
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. In Kadali vana, the merging into the Great Void is achieved. The bee that was engaged all along in drinking the nectar from the white jasmine is consumed totally in that very process. Not even the Symbol remained.
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 isYou. 
At the Linga Chennamallikaarjuna other than the Oneness with cosmic Linga
The utterance is- “ Nothing, none whatsoever”!!

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