Sharanas: Akkamahadevi

Akkamahadevi was born in Uduthadi. Her parents were Sumathi and Nirmala, were devotees of Shiva and had a great influence in teaching Akka Shiva’s ways of life. Akkamahadevi was in love with the invisible Lord Chennamallikarjuna.

One day while returning to his kingdom, king Kausika passed in front of Akka’s house where he witnessed the youthful Akka, who was watching the king’s pageantry from the balcony. He fell in love with her beauty, and sent his ministers to her house asking for her hand in marriage. However, her parents did not want their daughter to marry a Jain king, but also were aware of the punishment for not agreeing to the wishes of the king. Akka, recognizing the situation of her parents, agreed to marry the king if the he met her condition that “she would not consider herself as his wife till he accepted the Shiva faith”. The Jain king, full of lust, eagerly agreed to her conditions. The king and Akka hastily married, but the marriage was short lived. After marriage, Akka spent most of her time either worshiping her Istalinga or hosting a stream of jangamas. The king was not pleased with her fiduciary irresponsibility using funds for hosting festivities for religious monks, and thus the King broke off their marriage contract. Akka departed the king’s court in her early twenties to seek salvation through the sharanas.

Akka arrived in Kalyana and entered Anubhavamantapa covering herself with her long hair. Basava introduced Akka to Allamaprabhu (also known as Allama, and Prabhu), the president of the Sunya Peeta (chair) in the Anubhavamantapa, and to the sharanas who were assembled for that day. To the surprise of Basava and the sharanas, Allamaprabhu subjected Akka to a rigorous test. Allamaprabhu interrogated Akkamahadevi with many difficult spiritual and social questions most notably on conquering lust. Without hesitation, Akka answered all the questions to the satisfaction of the sharanas. The sharanas accepted her as their sister and initiated her as Akka. Thus Akka became Akkamahadevi by winning the respect of the sharanas, which included Allamaprabhu, Basava, and Chennabasavanna.

By this time, the journey was yet to be completed, Akkamahadevi was ready to depart Kalyana to attain salvation as well as find her lover, Mallikarjuna. The sharanas were saddened to see her leave, but with sage advice, Allamaprabhu instructed Akkamahadevi to go to the Kadalivana (Banana plantain grove) in Srishaila, Andra Pradesh. There she would attain her salvation. Before departing Kalyana, she took time to praise the sharanas. Her vachana praising Basava is the most significant one because it summarizes the sharana philosophy of life as the qualities of Basava.

Akka praised Basava with the following vachana on the eve of her departure from Kalyana. Thus, she accomplished two things, praising of Basava, and consolidating the discussions of the sharanas in the Anubhavamantapa. The following vachana by Akka expresses the Veerashaiva philosophy as the qualities of Basava.

  • Without the beginning or the end
  • Shiva the Lord, who is with form and without
  • Who knows the truth about you!
  • Everlasting Vedas can’t pierce you
  • Hidden from Puranas
  • Cannot be seen by Agamas
  • Logic cannot infer about you
  • You are above all prayers and praises
  • O Lord Shiva
  • Some say you are Sakala (for all times)
  • Some say you are Nikhala (void)
  • Some say you are Sukshma (delicate)
  • Some say you are Sthula (heavy)
  • With these kind of thinking
  • Hari, Brahma, Indira, Chandra Ravi, Kala, Kama and Daksha,
  • Including all Devas and Manavas
  • Neither seen you nor realized you
  • Their ignorance made them bavis in this world
  • Expect them not to die as bavis
  • Our Basavanna came as a savior of this world
  • With his 52 qualities
  • Showed the Veerashaiva way

In the above vachana, Akkamahadevi not only praised Basava for his achievements, but also summarized the philosophy of Veerashaivism. She arrived at these qualities because they were thoroughly discussed by the sharanas and recorded as the proceedings of the Anubhavamantapa in Shunya Sampadane. The qualities of Basava listed above are simple and easy to practice, and the steps to experience God.

Cited from: Divine Guides by Guru S. Bale, 2003, Sid-Asha publishing Company