The Body As Temple — The Vachanas Of The Sharanas

In the third episode of Bhakti Republic with Amit Basole, we journey to 12th century Karnataka, where the Sharanas, ardent devotees of Shiva, spread their message through vachanas, verses composed and sung in simple Kannada, which are infused with profound thought


Emerging in 12th-century Karnataka, Vachana Sahitya gave voice to the Sharana movement. The Sharanas were ardent devotees of Shiva, spreading their message through vachanas, verses composed and sung in simple Kannada, which were infused with profound thought. They advocated social equality and rejected caste, challenging Sanskrit dominance and the prevailing literary and social norms. Many of the Sharana poets came from marginalised groups. Their vachanas criticised rituals and hierarchies, emphasising a personal connection with the divine.

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While saints like Basavanna, Allama Prabhu, and Akka Mahadevi are the most prominent names of the movement, the tradition was equally enriched by the contributions of about 240 sharanas, including thirty or more women. Their simple lyrics championed social equality and resonated with the common people. As the vachanakaras challenged not just established religious practices but the very fabric of caste and hierarchy, they left an indelible mark on Kannada culture. Their thought and teaching became the foundation of a revolutionary literary and social movement.

As Amit Basole elucidates in this episode of Bhakti Republic, the core tenets of the movement find resonance with the values enshrined in the Constitution of India. The title of this episode, Kayakave Kailasa, draws on a quote attributed to Basavanna which translates loosely to Work Is Worship”, but carries a deeper meaning. The sharanas believed that the body is the temple of Shiva, and that every act of it, conducted selflessly and honestly, is a path to the divine.

This episode is enriched by vachanas performed in Kannada by singer M D Pallavi and accompanied by Bruce Lee Mani on guitar. You can enjoy the soundtrack in a special music playlist, Kayakave Kailasa, released by Radio Azim Premji University.


Akshay Ramuhalli, Arjun Jayadev, Bijoy Venugopal, Bruce Lee Mani, Kripa Gowrishankar, Narayan Krishnaswamy, M D Pallavi, Prashant Vasudevan, Sananda Dasgupta, Seema Seth, Shraddha Gautam, Supriya Joshi, and Velu Shankar 

Acknowledgements and further reading

Songs played in the episode:


ಅಪ್ಪನು ನಮ್ಮ, ಮಾದಾರ ಚೆನ್ನಯ್ಯ! — Sharanappa Gollar

Madara Chennayya — Kashinath Metri

Lokada Kalaji — Raghu Dixit Music

Gudiya Nodiranna | Janapad Shailiya Dollinapad | Imamamsab Valleppanavar | Devendra Audio and Video

Kannada Qawwali — Kumbaraki eeki

Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur | Akka Kelavva (ಅಕ್ಕ ಕೇಳವ್ವ) | Akka Mahadevi Vachana | Live at Delhi 

Pt.Kumar Gandharva, Lahanpan dega deva 

Man Kunto Maula — Sabri Brothers — Best Qawwali | official HD video | OSA Worldwide

B. History

1. Lords of the Deccan : Southern India from the Chalukyas to the Cholas by Anirudh Kanisetti

2. Modern South India: A History from the 17th Century to Our Times by Rajmohan Gandhi

3. A History of South India: From Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar by K.A. Nilakanta Sastri 

4. The Struggle for Empire: Vol 5 of History and Culture of the Indian People from Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan (available at The Internet Archive)

5. The Flaming Feet and Other Essays: The Dalit Movement in India by D.R. Nagaraj

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