Akka Mahadevi is among the well-known devotees of Lord Shiva. She was a poet who composed 430 Vachana, devotional poems dedicated to Lord Shiva which are very popular in Kannada literature. She is today celebrated as a poet and also as one of the foremost adorers of Lord Shiva.
Akka, Sister,Mahadevi, Great Goddess
Akka means “Sister”, and Mahadevi means the “Great Goddess”. She related to Lord Shiva as her beloved and therefore was given the title of Mahadevi, as Shiva is known as Mahadeva. The form of Shiva she worshipped is Chenna Mallikarjuna whom she considered her husband. This is a popular form of Bhakti known in Indian tradition as Madhurya.
Devotee of Shiva
Akka Mahadevi was born at Udutadi, near Shivamogga in Karnataka around 1130 CE.
Akka Mahadevi statue at her birth place
Right from a young age, she was devoted to Lord Shiva. She would always sing praises of Shiva as devotional poetry flowed from her towards her Lord, Chenna Mallikarjuna. Her devotion made Her connect with the whole environment as a form of Shiva. She made friends with animals, birds and flowers.
Akka Mahadevi made animals her friends
Jain King attracted to Mahadevi
A Jain king King Kaushika was attracted to Akka Mahadevi. He wanted to marry her. Mahadevi agreed on the condition that she would continue to be a devotee of Lord Shiva and that the king shouldn’t separate her from her devotional practices. She laid two conditions for the marriage.
- The king should not come in the way of her love for Lord Shiva
- The king should not prevent her from meeting devotees and scholars
Married Life, No Difference
Akka Mahadevi married King Kaushika, but continued her devotional practices. They lived together for a few years. But, one day the king became very annoyed as Mahadevi was not spending time with him, but was always immersed in her worship of Shiva. He violated the conditions that he had agreed upon during the marriage. Akka Mahadevi then left the palace, with all her possessions including their clothes. She dedicated her body, mind and soul to Lord Shiva.
To Sri Sailam
Akka Mahadevi travelled to Sri Sailam wherein is installed the Mallikarjuna jyothirlinga of Lord Shiva.
Today, at the cave where Mahadevi stayed is a temple dedicated to her.
Akka Mahadevi Cave Temple
Shrine of Akkamahadevi, Srisailam
Then she travelled to Kalyan, a prominent lingayat centre. On the way, she met two other prominent Shiva devotees, Allama Prabhu and Basavanna.
Akka title by Basavanna
Akka Mahadevi had many discussions and interactions with Basavanna. It was Basavanna who gave her title Akka to her.
Akka Mahadevi with Basavanna
Spiritual guidance by Allama Prabhu
Allama Prabhu guided her further to attain the Supreme state.
Mahadevi meeting Allama Prabhu
Mahadevi composed innumerable vachanas, poems. In many of her poems, the intense sweet love feelings of Madhurya bhakti is revealed. This relation is between Parmatma as husband and Atma as wife. Many books have been published on her Vachanas, devotional poetry, kavita.
Becoming One with Shiva
When she left Kalyan, she sang this vachana,
In another vachana, she sang,
Husband Inside, lover outside
I can’t manage them both
This world and that other, cannot manage them both.
Thus she merged with Shiva. All duality vanished and she became one with the Absolute.