Akka Mahadevi holds a similar position as that of Meerabai and Andaal. She was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and offered everything in life for the love of Bhagwaan. Akka Mahadevi was born in Udutadi village in Shivmoga district of Karnataka in and around 12th century. She is counted as one of the devotees of Virshaiv devotion drive.
All the great Virshaiv saints like Basavanna, Cenna Basavanna, Kinnari Bommaya, Siddhrama etc. called her Akka (elder sister) with respect and this honored addressing goes on even today along with her name. She had taken initiation of Shiv Ji at the age of ten and worshipped Chenna Mallikarjuna( Bhagvan Shiva).
It is said that when she grew up, the king of the state happened to see her and was so impressed with her beauty that he ended up marrying her. Akka, who was busy with her devotion towards Bhagwan did not want to get married but due to public pressure, she had to.
But even after marriage, Akka could not accept the married life. She had surrendered her body and soul to Bhagwan. She was committed to Shiv Ji.
As she could not find any way to express her grief, she started singing them in poems. In her poems, she has described Bhagwan Shiva as her illegitimate lover. She believed that illegitimate love with Bhagwan was lakh times better than legal married life accepted by the society. She was the first woman saint to think so and this thought was accepted later by Bengal’s Vaishnav bhakti sect and people accepted this too.
In a few instances there was pressure from her husband to consummate the marriage but it was impossible to akka to do so due to fact that she could mentally never accept anyone as her husband but Bhagwan Shiva. It came to a point where it became unbearable for her and she left the palace and accepted the life of ascetic. She wandered aimlessly singing the praise of Bhagwan Shiva.
In one of her poem, she says;
“For hunger, there is the village rice in the begging bowl,
For thirst, there are tanks and streams and wells,
For sleep temple ruins do well,
For company of the soul I have you Chenna Mallikarjuna.”
Akka has created many songs and hymns dedicated to Bhagwan Shiva in which the highest degree of her devotion is seen. Later, she became so engrossed in Shiva’s worship that she lost her consciousness and stopped wearing clothes. For her, the relation between Shiva and soul had become so strong for her that she forgot the existence of society or body. She kept roaming nude singing bhajans of Bhagwan Shiva. Her bhajans are called “Vachan” in Kannada literature. She has created around 430 vachanas which is a precious trove of Kannada literature.
During the last days of her life, Akka Mahadevi set out to reach Shri Shail temple for the darshan of her favourite Chenna Mallikarjun. As she reached Shri Shail, post darshan of Bhagwan, she merged with him. That time she was not even thirty years old.
Akka Mahadevi has contributed a lot towards the religious and cultural upliftment of the society. She was the fore-runner amongst the devotees who forgot everything in devotion of Bhagwan. She started a trend of self-sacrificing devotion where she had imagined Bhagwan himself as her husband. This form of devotion was so inspiring that in the coming years many people took up this path of self sacrificing in devotion. Akka had set an example of such a woman who could think for herself, take decisions for life on her own and being a woman lived her life in her own way in this society ruled by man.
Akka Mahadevi’s bhajans are very melodious. They are so simple and heart touching that even today people love to sing it.