Vachana sahitya

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Vachana sahitya (Kannada: ವಚನ ಸಾಹಿತ್ಯ) is a form of rhythmic writing in Kannada (see also Kannada poetry) that evolved in the 11th Century C.E. and flourished in the 12th century, as a part of the Lingayatha 'movement'. Vachanas literally means "(that which is) said". These are readily intelligible prose texts.

Madara Chennaiah, an 11th-century cobbler-saint who lived in the reign of Western Chalukyas, is first poet of this tradition. Later day poets, such as Basavanna (1160), prime minister of southern Kalachuri King Bijjala II, considered Chennaiah his literary father.

Vachanas and Lingayatism[edit]

Palm leaf with Vachanas (11th - 12th century).

Basavaadi Sharana's Vachanas are their experiences in the process of God realization through oneness with the pure consciousness in the prana. About 800 sharanas practiced the technique and wrote their experiences in terms of Guru (Unmanifest Chaitanya), Linga (Manifest Chaitanya), Jangama (Pure consciousness of Lingatattva in one's prana), Padodaka (intimacy with the knower/source of Lingatattva), and Prasada (becoming lingatattva). Research on Vachanas are being disseminated and discussed in Anubhava Mantapa by Dr.S.R Siddalingappa. Every 2nd Saturday, Anubhavamantapa is being conducted with a group of people,to understand the original/experiential meaning of vachanas and how sharanas become lingatattva with the guidance of Basavanna. Like Basavanna succeeded through the group discussion model in the form of Anubhava Mantapa where an even novice can rise his comprehension to the elite most, even today Anubhava Mantapa made available for those who want to read into the true sense and depth of Vachanas to get into the serious act of God realization. As per record, this form exchange of experience of the realization of the God in group discussion has happened only in Karnataka by the sharanas mainly under the guidance of Basaveshvara, Akka Mahadevi, Allama Prabhu and Siddheshwar.[1] This fact has been attributed to the popularity of the movement. More than 200 Vacahana writers (Vachanakaras) have been recorded, more than 30 of who were women.[2][3]


ಉಳ್ಳವರು ಶಿವಾಲಯ ಮಾಡುವರು ನಾನೇನು ಮಾಡಲಿ ಬಡವನಯ್ಯಾ
ಎನ್ನ ಕಾಲೇ ಕಂಬ, ದೇಹವೇ ದೇಗುಲ, ಶಿರವೇ ಹೊನ್ನ ಕಳಸವಯ್ಯಾ
ಕೂಡಲಸಂಗಮದೇವಾ ಕೇಳಯ್ಯಾ, ಸ್ಥಾವರಕ್ಕಳಿವುಂಟು ಜಂಗಮಕ್ಕಳಿವಿಲ್ಲ

uLLavaru shiválaya máduvaru nánénu mádali badavanayyá
enna kále kambha dehavé degula shiravé honna kaLashavayyá
Kúdala Sangama Devá keLayya sthavarakkaLivunTu jangamakaLivilla

The rich will make temples for Shiva. What shall I, a poor man, do?
My legs are pillars, The body the shrine, The head a cupola of gold.
Listen, O lord of the meeting rivers (Kudala Sangama deva), Things standing shall fall, But the moving ever shall stay.[4] ?

Vachanas are brief paragraphs, and they end with one or the other local names under which Shiva is invoked or offered Pooja. In style, they are epigrammatical, parallelistic and allusive. They dwell on the vanity of riches, the valuelessness of mere rites or book learning, the uncertainty of life and the spiritual privileges of Shiva Bhakta (worshiper of lord Shiva).[5] The Vachanas call men to give up the desire for worldly wealth and ease, to live lives of sobriety and detachment from the world and to turn to Siva for refuge.[5]

Authors of a particular Vachana can be identified by the style of invocation of God (Basveshvara invokes "Kudala Sangama Deva", while Allama Prabhu invokes "Guheshwara", Akkamadevi invokes "Channa Mallikarjuna", Siddhrama (Siddheshwar) of Solapur invokes "Kapilasidda Mallikarjuna") in the vachana. The existing readings of the vachanas are mostly set by the European understanding of the Indian traditions.

About 20,000 vachanas have been published. The government of Karnataka has published Samagra Vachana Samputa in 15 volumes. Karnataka University Dharwad has published collections of individual vachana poets.

Devara (Jedara) Dasimaiah is called the 'Adya Vachanakara' (The First Vachanakara).


Some of the vachanas by Basava...
"Vachanadalli nAmAmRuta tumbi
nayanadalli nimma mUruti tumbi
manadalli nimma nenahu tumbi
kiviyalli nimma kIruti tumbi
kUDala saMgama devA
nimma charaNakamaladoLagAnu tumbi "

Meaning: The words spoken (by me) are full of ambrosia of (Your Holy) Name ! The eyes are enriched with the vision of Your Form ! The mind is full of Your thoughts ! The ears are filled with Your Glory ! Oh Lord of the meeting rivers, in Your Feet as soft as a lotus, I am there as a bee !

neerige naiDile sRiNgaara
samuDrake tereye sRiNgaara
naarige guNave sRiNgaara
gaganake chandrama sRiNgaara
namma kUDala sangana sharaNara
nosalige vibhUtiye sRiNgaara

Meaning: For the water (pond) water-lily is the charm; For the ocean tides are the charm; For the woman character is the charm; For the sky moon is the charm; For foreheads of the devotees of the Lord of the meeting rivers, the holy ash is the charm.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Siddharameshwar
  2. ^ Sastri (1955), p361
  3. ^ Other well known Vachana writers were Chennabasava, Prabhudeva, Siddharama, Kondaguli Kesiraja etc. (Narasimhacharya 1988, p20)
  4. ^ Speaking of Siva, by A. K. Ramanujan. Penguin. 1973. ISBN 9780140442700. p. 1.
  5. ^ a b Edward Rice, A History of Kannada Literature, 1921, Asian Educational Services, (Reprinted 1982), pp 56


  • Narasimhacharya, R (1988) [1988]. History of Kannada Literature. New Delhi: Penguin Books. ISBN 81-206-0303-6. 
  • PM Giriraju
  • Sastri, Nilakanta K.A. (2002) [1955]. A history of South India from prehistoric times to the fall of Vijayanagar. New Delhi: Indian Branch, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-560686-8. 
  • Rice, Edward P (1982) [1921]. A History of Kannada literature. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services,Oxford university press. 

External links[edit]