Today is Basava Jayanti – The birthday of Bhakti Bhandari Basavanna.

Basavanna is one of Karnataka’s earliest social reformers – and his writings are known as vachanas (sayings). There is a very strong likelyhood that the later day haridAsas of Karnataka were influenced by the vachanas of Basavanna and others of the 12th century.

Here are some of my favorite vachanas written by Basavanna, with some of my own very rudimentary translation 🙂

The first one tells about the desperation and longing Basavanna had for Shiva, the lord of kUDala sangama ( A place in Karnataka, where river malaprabha joins river krishna).

ಚಕೋರಂಗೆ ಚಂದ್ರಮನ ಬೆಳಕಿನ ಚಿಂತೆ
ಅಂಬುಜಕೆ ಭಾನುವಿನ ಉದಯದ ಚಿಂತೆ
ಭ್ರಮರಂಗೆ ಪರಿಮಳದ ಬಂಡುಂಬ ಚಿಂತೆ
ಎನಗೆ ಎನ್ನ ಕೂಡಲಸಂಗಮದೇವನ ನೆನೆವುದೆ ಚಿಂತೆ!

The partridge bird
worries about moonlight
The lotus flower
worries about the sunrise
The bee only worries
about drinking fragrant nector
My only worry is to be
reminiscing about you
Oh my lord of kUDala sangama!

Watch Dr Vasundhara Doreswamy dance to this vachana (Pandanallur stlyle of Bharatanatya). The haunting chakravAka / Ahir Bhairav raaga greatly accents the mood of this vachana.

The second vachana talks about the likes and dislikes of his lord Shiva:

ನಾದಪ್ರಿಯ ಶಿವನೆಂಬರು ನಾದಪ್ರಿಯ ಶಿವನಲ್ಲ
ವೇದಪ್ರಿಯ ಶಿವನೆಂಬರು ವೇದಪ್ರಿಯ ಶಿವನಲ್ಲ
ನಾದವ ಮಾಡಿದ ರಾವಣಂಗೆ ಅರೆಯಾಯುಷವಾಯ್ತು
ವೇದವನೋದಿದ ಬ್ರಹ್ಮನ ಶಿರಹೋಯ್ತು
ನಾದಪ್ರಿಯನೂ ಅಲ್ಲ ವೇದಪ್ರಿಯನೂ ಅಲ್ಲ
ಭಕ್ತಿಪ್ರಿಯ ನಮ್ಮ ಕೂಡಲಸಂಗಮದೇವ!

They say Shiva loves music;
No, he doesn’t.
They say Shiva loves the learned;
No, He doesn’t.
Ravana, who made wonderful music
did not lead a full life.
Brahma, who learnt all the Vedas,
had to lose his head.
Neither is he fond of music
Nor is he fond of the Vedas
Our good lord of kUDala sangama,
is fond of devotion!

Those who know the composition of Purandara dAsa : kELanO hari tALano, can’t but fail to notice the similarity between the two.

Listen to this vachana here: nAdapriya SivaneMbaru

The third one goes even further. Basavanna calls his body as the temple where Shiva dwells.

ಉಳ್ಳವರು ಶಿವಾಲಯವ ಮಾಡುವರು
ನಾನೇನು ಮಾಡಲಿ ಬಡವನಯ್ಯ?
ಎನ್ನ ಕಾಲೇ ಕಂಬ ದೇಹವೆ ದೇಗುಲ
ಶಿರವೇ ಹೊನ್ನ ಕಳಸವಯ್ಯ!
ಕೂಡಲಸಂಗಮ ದೇವ ಕೇಳಯ್ಯ
ಸ್ಥಾವರಕ್ಕಳಿವುಂಟು ಜಂಗಮಕ್ಕಳಿವಿಲ್ಲ!

Rich build temples for Shiva
What can I, a poor man, do?
My legs are pillars
My body is the temple
My head makes the golden cupola
Oh, Lord of kUDala sangama
The standing will perish
The moving will stay on.

Watch Nachiketa Sharma sing uLLavaru shivAlayava mADuvaru, in rAga madhuvanti:

I will end with another of Basavanna’s vachana that deals with music.

ಎನ್ನ ಕಾಯವ ದಂಡಿಗೆಯ ಮಾಡಯ್ಯ
ಎನ್ನ ಶಿರವ ಸೋರೆಯ ಮಾಡಯ್ಯ
ಎನ್ನ ನರಗಳ ತಂತಿಯ ಮಾಡಯ್ಯ
ಬತ್ತೀಸ ರಾಗವ ಹಾಡಯ್ಯ
ಉರದಲೊತ್ತಿ ಬಾರಿಸು ಕೂಡಲಸಂಗಮದೇವ!

And here is the tranlation:

Make my body the fretboard,
Make my head resonator
Make my nerves into the strings
Sing those thirtytwo rAgas
Play intensely
Oh the lord of kUDala sangama!

I could not find a link for the audio or video. If you happen to know a link, please pass it on!

And, if you are keen on reading more vachanas, but do not know kannaDa, here is your best bet – A collection of vachanas tranlated in English by Prof A K Ramanujam: Speaking of Siva