Akka Mahadevi across the shores

I didn’t expect to hear Akka Mahadevi’s poetry being recited on a stage in the US. Fire and Ash, a multimedia show about Lord Shiva is where I encountered the poetry of this Kannada saint. The theme of the show conceived by playwright Gouri Ramanarayan centered on the stories and attributes of Lord Shiva. How Lord Siva symbolizes both the positive and negative energy of the universe was effectively brought out by the narration ably supported by vocalist Savita Narasimhan and dancer Anjana Anand. Several compositions ranging from Muthuthandavar’s Teruvil Varano to Tagore’s Srijoner to Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhavam and Akka Mahadevi’s Giriyolu Vanadolu portrayed the various facets of Lord Shiva. The program with its elements of poetry, music, dance, visual art and theatre held the audience spellbound.

In the beautiful vachana Giriyolu, the Veerashaiva philosopher-poet Akka Mahadevi describes how she yearns for the love of Lord Chenna Mallikarjuna who is pure as the white jasmine flower. Akka Mahadevi was a mystic poet and part of the Veerashaiva Bhakthi movement of the 12th century. Her vachanas are her greatest contribution to Kannada literature. Here is another popular vachana of Akka Mahadevi, Ayya Nee Kelidhare Kelu.


In the padam Teruvil Varano, the woman (protagonist) wonders if she will see the chariot carrying Lord Nataraja of Chidambaram. She believes that a mere glance from the Lord will fulfill the yearning in her heart. Here is a rendition of the padam by the Hyderabad Brothers Raghavachari and Seshachari.

I left the program inspired with a whole new perspective on Lord Shiva and his relevance to modern times.

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