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Akkamahadevi’s Life at a Glance

Birthplace

 

Uduthadi (Udugani), 12th Century (now in Shikaripur Taluk, Shimoga district of Karnataka) 

 

Early life

Akkamahadevi was born as Mahadevi in Uduthadi to parents who seem to have been ardent devotees of Shiva. Akka or sister was later added to depict the respect and sense of endearment with which the sharanas held her. Accounts suggest that a Guru, who blessed her with the Istalinga, introduced her to the worship of Shiva at a very young age. Thus, shunning the material world and its worldly men, she adopted her chosen god, Channamallikarjuna, as her husband. Akkamahadevi’s devotion to Channamallikarjuna was marked by a fierce, passionate and anarchic love, which finds its ultimate expression in the striking personal intensity of her vachanas. 

 

Personal life

Regarding her marriage, there are disagreements among her numerous hagiographers. Some scholars, including her first biographer Harihara, hold the opinion that she caught the attention of the local King Kaushika and was forced into a marriage with him but on the condition that he would not disrupt her religious practice. Other scholars insist that she never married anyone except her divine lord Channamallikarjuna. As per the popular legend, the marriage did take place but as A.K. Ramanujan put it, the rivalry between the divine lover and the human love seems to have come in the way. Akkamahadevi was unable to reciprocate Kaushika’s worldly desire for her as she considered herself betrothed to Lord Channamallikarjuna. Kaushika’s advances towards her seem to have come in the way of her worship and hence, she is said to have walked out of the marriage. Many oral retellings and legends suggest that she walked out naked renouncing all worldly desires, including her clothes, while others suggest that her hair grew out suddenly to protect her from the advances of Kaushika. 

 

Spiritual life

Thus began her spiritual journey in pursuit of her divine lover Channamallikarjuna. As she wandered into a hostile world, she had to suffer various onslaughts but she continued in defiance and trudged towards the longed union with her Lord. It is after this enlightening journey that she finally reaches the city of Kalyana, which housed the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’ set up by Basavanna. This spiritual abode functioned as a platform for the coming together of all the sharanas of that period, turning into a rich ground for conversation and debate along spiritual, social and political lines. Here, Akkamahadevi was in the company of sharanas like Allama Prabhu who attempted to test her knowledge and spiritual attainments. Akka is said to have impressed and gained the respect of the sharanas through these interactions and these have been systematically organised in the 15th century compilation of vachanas called the Sunya Sampadane. Emerging out of Kalyana, Akkamahadevi continued her journey in search of the divine and is finally said to have found union with her Lord Channamallikarjuna in the dense forests of Kadali in the Srisaila mountains of Andhra Pradesh. 

 

Spiritual movement she is associated with

12th Century Sharana movement (Karnataka)

 

Akka’s signature or ankita in her vachanas

Channamallikarjuna