Tuesday, April 15, 2008


12th-century social reformer and Kannada poet, Basavanna

Basavanna, Allama Prabhu, Devara Dasimayya, Channabasava, Prabhudeva, Siddharama (1150), and Kondaguli Kesiraja are the best known among more than 300 poets (called Vachanakaras) in this genre. Prominent among the 33 women poets was Akka Mahadevi, who in addition to poetry is credited with two short writings, Mantrogopya and Yogangatrividhi. Credited to Siddharama are writings in tripadi metre and 1,379 extant poems (though he has claimed authorship of 68,000 poems).
The assassination of King Bijjala and eviction of the sharanas (devotees) from Kalyani caused a temporary set back to this order. This curtailed further growth of Vachana poetry until the 15th century when another wave of writings began under the patronage of the rulers of Vijayanagara. An offshoot of the Veerashaiva faith and an attempt to synthesise it with the advaitha (monistic) philosophy of Adi Shankara took shape. A chieftain called Nijaguna Shivayogi is considered the originator of this new philosophy called Kaivalya. A prolific writer, he composed devotional songs collectively known as the Kaivalya sahitya (or Tattva Padagalu, literally "songs of the pathway to emancipation").Shivayogi's songs were reflective, philosophical and concerned with Yoga. Among his other writings, a scientific encyclopaedia called the Vivekachintamani is considered of high value, an indication of which is its translation into Marathi language in 1604 and Sanskrit language in 1652 and again in the 18th century. The writing categorises 1,500 topics based on subject and covers a wide array such as poetics, dance and drama, musicology and erotics.
Other well-known poet saints were Muppina Sadakshari, a contemporary of Shivayogi, whose collection of songs are called the Subodhasara, Chidananda Avadhuta of the 17th century, Sarpabhushana Shivayogi of the 18th century and others. So vast is this body of literature that much of it still needs to be studied.

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