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Vachana sahitya is a form of rhythmic writing in Kannada (see also Kannada poetry) that evolved in the 11th century C.E. and flourished in the 12th century, as a part of the Sharna movement. The word vachanas literally means "(that which is) said". These are readily intelligible prose texts.

Madara Chennaiah, an 11th-century cobbler-saint who lived in the reign of Western Chalukyas, is the first attested poet of this tradition. Later poets, such as Basava (1160), prime minister of southern Kalachuri King Bijjala II, considered Chennaiah to be his literary father.

Vachanas and Sharana movement[edit]

Palm leaf with Vachanas (11th - 12th century).

Basavaadi Sharana's Vachanas are their experiences in the process of God realization through oneness with the pure consciousness in the prana. About 800 sharanas practiced the technique and wrote their experiences in terms of Guru (Unmanifest Chaitanya), Linga (Manifest Chaitanya), Jangama (Pure consciousness of Lingatattva in one's prana), Padodaka (intimacy with the knower/source of Lingatattva), and Prasada (becoming lingatattva).[citation needed]

As per record, this form exchange of experience of the realization of the God in group discussion has happened only in Karnataka by the sharanas mainly under the guidance of Basava, Akka Mahadevi, Allama Prabhu and Siddheshwar.[citation needed] This fact has been attributed to the popularity of the movement. More than 200 Vachana writers (Vachanakaras) have been recorded, more than thirty of whom were women.[1][2]


ಉಳ್ಳವರು ಶಿವಾಲಯ ಮಾಡುವರು ನಾನೇನು ಮಾಡಲಿ ಬಡವನಯ್ಯಾ
ಎನ್ನ ಕಾಲೇ ಕಂಬ, ದೇಹವೇ ದೇಗುಲ, ಶಿರವೇ ಹೊನ್ನ ಕಳಸವಯ್ಯಾ
ಕೂಡಲಸಂಗಮದೇವಾ ಕೇಳಯ್ಯಾ, ಸ್ಥಾವರಕ್ಕಳಿವುಂಟು ಜಂಗಮಕ್ಕಳಿವಿಲ್ಲ

uLLavaru shiválaya máduvaru nánénu mádali badavanayyá
enna kále kambha dehavé degula shiravé honna kaLashavayyá
Kúdala Sangama Devá keLayya sthavarakkaLivunTu jangamakaLivilla

The rich will make temples for Shiva.
What shall I, a poor man, do?
My legs are pillars,
The body the shrine,
The head a cupola of gold.
Listen, O lord of the meeting rivers,
Things standing shall fall,
But the moving ever shall stay.[3]

Vachanas are brief paragraphs, and they end with one or the other local names under which Shiva is invoked or offered Pooja. In style, they are epigrammatical, parallelistic and allusive. They dwell on the vanity of riches, the valuelessness of mere rites or book learning, the uncertainty of life and the spiritual privileges of Shiva Bhakta (worshiper of lord Shiva).[4] The Vachanas call men to give up the desire for worldly wealth and ease, to live lives of sobriety and detachment from the world and to turn to Siva for refuge.[4]

Authors of a particular Vachana can be identified by the style of invocation of God (Basveshvara invokes "Kudala Sangama Deva", while Allama Prabhu invokes "Guheshwara", Akkamadevi invokes "Channa Mallikarjuna", Siddhrama (Siddheshwar) of Solapur invokes "Kapilasidda Mallikarjuna") in the vachana. The existing readings of the vachanas are mostly set by the European understanding of the Indian traditions.

About 20,000 vachanas have been published. The government of Karnataka has published Samagra Vachana Samputa in 15 volumes. Karnataka University Dharwad has published collections of individual vachana poets.

Devara (Jedara) Dasimaiah is called the 'Adya Vachanakara' (The First Vachanakara).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sastri (1955), p361
  2. ^ Other well known Vachana writers were Chennabasava, Prabhudeva, Siddharama, Kondaguli Kesiraja etc. (Narasimhacharya 1988, p20)
  3. ^ Speaking of Siva, by A. K. Ramanujan. Penguin. 1973. ISBN 9780140442700. p. 1.
  4. ^ a b Edward Rice, A History of Kannada Literature, 1921, Asian Educational Services, (Reprinted 1982), pp 56


  • Narasimhacharya, R (1988) [1988]. History of Kannada Literature. New Delhi: Penguin Books. ISBN 81-206-0303-6. 
  • Sastri, Nilakanta K.A. (2002) [1955]. A history of South India from prehistoric times to the fall of Vijayanagar. New Delhi: Indian Branch, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-560686-8. 
  • Rice, Edward P (1982) [1921]. A History of Kannada literature. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services,Oxford university press. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vachana_sahitya — Please support Wikipedia.
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32 news items

The Hindu

The Hindu
Thu, 19 Nov 2015 16:06:33 -0800

District president of the parishat Eshwarayya Math addressing presspersons here on Thursday said that music experts have been invited to perform on the various compositions of vachana sahitya scripted by 12th century Sharanas. Pandit Ravindra Sorganvi ...
Deccan Herald
Sun, 15 Nov 2015 10:52:35 -0800

Davanagere Vachana Sahitya Mattu Samskrithika Parishat district unit convener Dr S T Shantagangadhara said no mutt in the state follows the righteousness preached by Vachanas and they are serving as Swiss banks in the present context. He was speaking ...
The Hindu
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 16:06:01 -0800

Mr. Jatti said that the seminar would throw more light on the contribution of Dr. Kalburgi to the Vachana Sahitya. Dr. Kalburgi was the Director of the Translation Project of the Vachanas of the 12th Century social reformers into all the Indian ...

The Indian Express

The Indian Express
Sat, 29 Aug 2015 23:50:26 -0700

A resident of the Kalyananagar area in Dharwad city the former vice- chancellor was renowned researcher on Vachana Sahitya and ancient Kannada literature. The commissioner of police for the twin cities of Hubli and Dharwad, Ravindra Prasad, said two ...

The Hindu

The Hindu
Thu, 20 Aug 2015 17:00:00 -0700

“He was one of the Vachana artistes selected by HMV-Sangeetha cassettes to be recorded nearly 30 years ago as he had put to music hundreds of Dasa and Vachana sahitya,” informs Jambaladinni's only student Narasimhalu Vadavati, Professor of Sharana ...

The Indian Express

The Indian Express
Tue, 01 Sep 2015 15:57:46 -0700

The Kannada Vachana Sahitya researcher, who was shot dead in his Dharwad house by an unidentified gunman Sunday, had faced several threats over comments he made regarding urination on idols nearly 18 months ago. But his son said Kalburgi hadn't been ...

The Hindu

The Hindu
Tue, 20 Oct 2015 17:22:30 -0700

Speaking after inaugurating the camp organised by the SSL Law College, District Child Protection Unit, Om Yoga Kendra and Karnataka Vachana Sahitya Academy, Yoga Master D. Siddappa said yoga was not merely physical exercise but a procedure which ...
The Hindu
Sat, 10 Oct 2015 17:13:42 -0700

Seminars on topics, such as 'Janapada Sahitya', 'Prachina Kavya', 'Vachana Sahitya Mathu Sarvajna' and 'Adunika Sahitya' will be held on the occasion. A special session on the works of M.M. Kalburgi would also be held. The main programme will be held ...

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