siva image

Bhakti poets—who were in some cases lower-caste Hindu women—and their audiences drew emotional sustenance from these verses, which expressed a pure devotion to Hindu deities. Their poetry, written in local languages beginning in the 6th century in South India and the 12th century in North India, attracted large audiences among the marginalized in Hindu society, such as women and “untouchables.”

In this 12th century vacana (poem), Akkamahadevi, or Akka, is lamenting her separation from her lord, Siva, (Lord White as Jasmine). At times in Akkamahadevi’s poetry, Siva is her illicit lover, and at times, he is her legitimate husband. In this poem, she writes of her wandering, in search of Siva. Her travels took her to various parts of India, where, traveling naked and forlorn in search of her true love, Akkamahadevi often had to ward off molesting men and the harsh criticism of other wandering saints who were aghast at her imprudent nakedness.

Source: “O mother I burned.” In Speaking of Siva. Translated by A. K. Ramanujan. London: Penguin, 1973.


“O mother I burned
in a flameless fire

O mother I suffered
a bloodless wound

O Mother I tossed
without a pleasure:

loving my lord white as jasmine
I wandered through unlikely worlds.”
(Vacana, 69)