Mahadevi was given the title Akka (the elder Sister) by the great Veerashaiva saints of that time like Basavanna, Allamaprabhu, Kinnari Bommayya, Siddharama, and Dasimayya who were contemporaries of Akka during the Bhakti movement that was underway.
The Early Years of Akka Mahadevi
Akka Mahadevi was born at Udutadi in the Shivamogga district of Karnataka in 1150 A.D to parents who were extremely devoted to the Veer Shaivism movement.
As a child Akka showed great interest in religion and accepted Chennai Mallikarjun as her mystical spouse. When the local King Koushika asked for her hand in marriage, she refused, but later had to agree to protect her family and parents.
The King in his lust tried to impregnate Akka and she left the palace leaving her family, palatial pleasures and worldly possessions behind.
Her Life as an Ascetic
After leaving King Koushika, Akka Mahadevi turned to the life of a Sanyasin. She later discarded all her clothes and stepped into the streets nude. Legends say that she was of extraordinary beauty and that she covered her in her beautiful black tresses.
After her shift in perspective, she started preaching about empowerment and spiritualism. Her unusual ways were questioned extensively by her Gurus Allamaprabhu and Kinnari Bommayya, but she explained and defended them fully.
In search of her divine love, she left for the city of Kalyana in the Bidar district of Karnataka and participated in the Anubhavamantapa (the spiritual and socio-religious congregation) which accepted only the spiritually enlightened. The enlightened had to pass a test held by the President of Anubhavamandapa in Kadal Sangama, Allamaprabhu.
Kalyana was the capital of the Western Chalukyan dynasty at that time. In her 20s she attained enlightenment and subsequently merged with the divine in the village of Kadali.
Her Presence in Kannada Literature and History
Akka Mahadevi stands as a heroic and inspirational figure in Kannada literature and history. She took part in gatherings of learned men during an era when it was considered inappropriate for a girl to attend school.
Akka Mahadevi was one of the earliest feminists in the patriarchal society of India. She was a seer-poet, mystic and social reformer. She lived and preached in the 12th century and in all wrote 430 vachanas in Kannada which are a form of didactic literature.
The vachanas written by Akka Mahadevi attracted a large audience and she wrote extensively about Lord Siva as her lover and husband. She also wrote about her travels through Karnataka where she moved forlorn and naked in the search of her spiritual love.