Vachanas of the twelfth century are known for their transparency and simplicity. They have demonstrated the capacity of the language to express complex ideas and philosophical issues. However, many of them are construed in the form of riddles. They are known as ‘Bedagina Vachanas’.(ಬೆಡಗಿನ ವಚನಗಳು) The term ‘Bedagu’ means beauty, charm, cleverness and style which are more relevant in the context of folklore. It also has connotations of mysteries and riddles and this connotation is important for our present purpose. Many vachanas of Allamaprabhu belong to this category. The reason for doing this resides in the way the philosophical traditions of a particular kind were flourishing during those times. Any system of beliefs that was in variance with the dominant political power had to adopt secretive and subversive modes of expression. This ruse was necessary for their survival. Even the propagation of these tenets had to take place among the true believers and not those who would betray the cause. These secretive practices tend to grow in to a pan Indian tradition and Allama had come in contact with that tradition extensively. This tradition persists even to this day in small burrows and groups. Many of the details have acquired symbolic value and the knowledgeable grasp the symbolic significance and they in turn explain it to the lay men. Some times the precepts are so deep that they are beyond the grasp of the common man any way. However these Vachanas have a peculiar literary beauty of their own and have an appeal even to those who are not cognizant of the symbolic meaning.

The lingustic style used in these vachanas is also referred to as ‘Sandhya Bhasha’. ‘Sandhya Bhasha’ does not refer to any particular language but to a system of symbols that can be expressed in any language. The student has to master the symbolic system even though he knows the language before he can make an attempt to decipher these texts. Many texts relating to Yoga and Mantra make use of these symbols exclusively. Some of these symbols are provided here for the sake of illustration:

Elephant=Ego, Bird=Soul, Six= six chakras of the psychic body, 5= five different senses etc. These meanings are virtually fixed.

A typical ‘bedagina vachana’ constructs a word picture juxtaposing these symbols with in an unexpected and puzzling manner. This makes the reader to come out of his materialistic frame work and try to fathom the possible kernel of the vachana. Some times a vachana is created even with out these conventional symbols and the author creates an absurd situation with the help ordinary images linked in a manner that defies logic. They do not accept the notion of cause and effect and structured differently. There is intent to express the mystical experiences that are beyond words in the limited medium of language and probably this was one of the strategies adopted by these seers.

These vachanas were not in the mainstream and they were never intended to be like that. In addition to Allama many other vachanakaras such as Chennabasavanna, Molige Marayya, Kola Shantayya, Bibbi Bachaiah, Arivina Maritande, Akka Mahadevi and Remmavve have composed vachanas of this kind. However with the passage of time these were appropriated by the theologians who tried to give them interpretations of their own. It was their intention to explain the meaning of these vachanas to the lay men. Kallumathada Prabhudevaru, Mahalingadevaru, Somashekhara Shivayogi belong to this tradition of commentators.

However for a secular and general reader of our times these vachanas are fascinating because of their poetic plurality and the specific imagery involved in their construction. A couple of ‘Bedagina Vachanas’ are given here without any explicatory material.


  1. Five serpents.

One body and two teeth.

The snake is cut in to pieces,

But the body is moving around.


How can one have Bhakti

In a state of which does not grasp this

Permanent reality?

  1. The king of Delhi died

At the hands of a village pariah

The weeping husband became

The wife’s humblest servant


The master became the bull

For the slave to ride on


The sheaf of hay mowed down

The hilt of the sword


O Mareshvara, the foe of haste. Maaritande, the clown



1. Bedagina vachana parampare,

2. Bedagina vachanagala paribhasha kosha, (Dande, Jayashree) Gulbarga

3.Bedagina Vachanagalu: nele-hinnele, G.S.Shivarudrappa, Samagra Gadya, Samputa 1, Bangalore .

4. Allamaprabhu mattu Shaivapratibhe D.R.Nagaraj, 1999, Akshara Prakashana, Heggodu.




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