Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A poem for Mahadevyakka- A.K Ramanujan


Around the 12 th century, the Bhakti poetry movement spread rapidly in the Southern parts of India. Many of these poets especially those in the Kannada region were worshipers of Shiva. Amongst them was a well known woman poet named, Mahadevyakka. An ardent Shiva worshiper, she is said to have roamed around naked. When people asked her, about her immodesty she replied that, since the Lord had already seen her, she did not care about who else saw her.

A.K Ramanujan translated four such poets from the 12 th century, in his book- 'Speaking of Shiva' ( 1973) For Mahadevyakka however he wrote a special poem in a separate anthology called 'The Black Hen'. 

Mythologies 3

'Keep off when I worship Shiva.
Touch me three times, and you'l never see me again',
said Akka to her new groom
who couldn't believe his ears.

Om Om!
she seemed to intone with every breadth
and all he could think of was her round breast,
her musk, her darling navel and the rest.
So he hovered and touched her, her body deathly

cold to mortal touch, but hot for God's
first move, a caress like nothing on earth.
She fled his hand as she would a spider,

threw away her modesty as the rods
and cones of her eyes gave the world a new birth:
She saw Him then, unborn, form of forms, the Rider,

His white Bull chewing the cud in her backyard.

While I am not sure if the last line was meant to spring a surprise or add that little dash of humour as many of his poems, that end in a surprising twist. But Ramanujan is said to have undergone a tremendous change in his persona while he translated these Kannada poets, who spoke on Shiva. 

( The image taken from is a personal favourite of mine, it shows a broken image of Shiva and Shakti in a blissful union under the tree of life. The posture is supposed to resemble a Tantrik Bouddha..somehow the incompleteness of the broken sculpture seems to add to an unspoken of dimension that is yet to be discovered..perhaps never will and hence immensely seductive and mysterious)

( Story of Mahadevyakka from 'An A.K Ramanujan story')


umashankar said...

That is a profound introduction of Mahadevyakka by the great Indian poet. The style is quintessential Ramanujan. I am shamed at my ignorance.

PS: I also wondered at the humour of the last line.

Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury said...

Yeah had me wondering too..I'm glad you liked the post Umashankar :)