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Shunya Sampadane – Virasaiva Literary Work

Shunya Sampadane is a religious work of the Virasaiva sect. It is a peculiar type of collection of poetic-prose arranged in the form of dialogues to generate dramatic effect. Sivaganga Prasadi Mahadevaiah of 1400-20 CE was the genius who first created this unique work, choosing vachanas of Allamaprabhu, Basavanna, Canna Basavanna and others. Mahadevaiah conceived the work as the story of an era where the above-mentioned and other saranas came to this world with a mission to make others achieve shunya (not nothingness but sivatva which is inclusive of all). Allamprabhu grew in stature as an epoch making mystic (yuga purusha) that move on to Muktayakka, Siddarama, Basavanna, Canna Basavanna, Marul Sankara Deva, Madivala Machaiah, and others helped them to achieve Shunya (Shunya Sampadane). Kalyana became the center of activities, which attracted Akka Mahadevi and others.

This story, as well as the concept, was inherited from different sources. Firstly, a few vachanas are themselves dramatic in nature and Hendada Marayya’s Vachana, which contains the episode, is a good example of that. Later, Basavadevaraja Ragale, Prabhudevara Ragale and Mahadeviyakkana Ragale of Harihara and Basava purana of Palkurike Somanatha (in Telugu) and Bhimakavi (in Kannada) provided rich material to re-create the cultural history of 12th century Virasaiva sadhus. Many of the episodes (prasangas) connected with the lives of the saranas from Kalyana must have haunted Sivasaranas subsequently. There is a large number of folk tales and songs on Nilambike, medara Ketaiah, Madivala Macaiah, Gangambike, Basavanna, and others.

The genius Mahadevaiah very rightly blossomed out into a great literary and religious works called Shunya Sampadane. Mahadevaiah very consciously calls his work a great episode (mahaprasanga) of Allamaprabhu, which includes episodes (prasangas) of Muktayakka, Siddarama, Basavanna, Canna Basavanna, Marulsankara Deva, Madivala Macaiah, Akka Mahadevi and other saranas and saranis (women saints). He claims at the end that his work itself is the quintessence of Virasaiva philosophy and religion.

Halageyarya of 1500 CE was the first saint who revised the edition of Mahadevaiah and claimed that the revision was made to ensure that Siddaramanna and others were depicted as Shaivas were initiated into Virashaivism by giving them the initiation (deeksha).

Halageyarya not only revised the edition but added one more episode of Nuliya Chandaiah, which illustrates the greatness of kayaka tattva with all literal quality. The other two who have re-edited it have copied down this prasanga (episode) word by word. In Mahadevaiah, the episode of Akka Mahadevi gets concluded when she left Kalyana of Srisaila. Halageyarya for the first time narrates in detail the journey of Akka to Srisaila, making use of lyrical and autobiographical vachanas of Akka and describes how she searched for Channamallikarjuna, her divine lover, then found and became one with him. True, there are few descriptions which cross the limits of propriety. Halageyarya added twenty three vachanas of Marul Sankaradeva in that prasanga for the first time.

The second editor, of 1560 CE, Gummalapura Siddalingayathi, added the episode of Aydakki Marayya and Lakkamma, and also dramatized the incident of Goraksha, using a few of Akkama and Goraksha’s Vachanas. He beautifies a few more prasangas like Marulashankaradeva, Aikya of Basavanna and a few others.

The third editor, Guluru Siddaviranna of 1580 CE, divided the story of Shunya Sampadane into 21 chapters, and in the beginning of each chapter there is a poem, which gives out the gist; at the end, concluding remarks regarding the chapter are made in prose. He added two more episodes – one of Molige Marayya and his queen Mahadevi, and the other that of Ghattivalaiah. He also added an incident of Nilamma, using a folk song related to her farewell to both Shiva and Basava.

The genius that crystallized the vision of Shunya Sampadane is undoubtedly Mahadeviah alone. His vision appears to be universal and nearer to the 12th century CE. Of the subsequent three editors, Halageyarya’s edition appears to be more religious when compared to other two.