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Vachana Literature In Kannada

Vachana literature is the words of Virashaiva saints. Vachana literature in Kannada was born in the middle of the 12th century CE under the leadership of Basavanna. Virashaivism adopted colloquial Kannada as an effective medium for spreading its tenets. Mystics such as Basavanna were poets also. They were responsible for the emergence of a new kind of literature called Vachana. It brought a revolutionary change in the religious and social attitudes of the common people.

Basavanna used a simply style in Kannada which could be understood by the masses. Though there were vachanakaras such as Devara Dasimayya, Basavanna had an edge over others in spearheading this movement. Apart from this devotion and genuine yearning for God, his position as the chief minister of the state during the period lent credibility and support to his expressions.

Vachana literally mans the spoken word. Here it is used for a speech of divine experience of a Shaiva saint in a simple rhythmic style, without the constraints of meters.

Vachanas are like pearls, complete in meaning and thought. They constitute a harmonious blend of prose and poetry, lyrical charm and brevity. It is believed that the vachanas were set to music and song. But no such tradition has been handed down to posterity. They express the various moods and mystical experiences of the saints, their yearning and communion with the Supreme Being. Besides the philosophical outpourings, the vachanas are employed for propagating moral values.

Allama Prabhu, Chenna Basavanna, Siddharama, Akkamahadevi and a host of other vachanakaras form all walks of life, irrespective of caste, creed or sex, joined together under the leadership of Basavanna to propagate the new faith of Virashaivism. All of them assembled in Anubhava Mantapa (Academy of Mystic Experiences) under the chairmanship of Allama Prabhu to discuss and debate religious and social matters pertaining to their new faith. The utterances of the vachanakaras who participated in the dialogue were recorded by later Virashaiva poets under the title of Sunya Sampadana. Though not as extensive as the compositions of other, the Vachanas of Akkamahadevi are unique in poetry and melody. Renouncing her royal household, she wandered in search of the Supreme Being, and her Vachanas are expressive of the mystical experiences she had.

Vachanas may be classified into two major

  1. Those revealing the canonical tenets of Virashaivism
  2. Those revealing mystical experiences and social observations of individual sharanas.

Hence, Vachana Sahitya is known as Vachana Shastra also. Vachanakaras have exhibited their knowledge by quoting from Vedas, Upanishads and the Saiva Agamas. Thus in their Vachanas, they showed their yearning to eradicate religious and social evils in society.

Shiva Sharanas who believed in simple living, gave expressions to their spiritual experience in plain, simple words, using similes and metaphors from day-to-day life. They brought down metaphysical knowledge to the level of the common man. The duty designated to person, however humble it may be, is to be performed with dedication, which will be a sure means of self-realization. Kayakave Kailasa, which means that work is heaven, was the gospel of this movement.