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Speaking of Siva

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  214 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Speaking of Siva is a selection of vacanas or free-verse sayings from the Virasaiva religious movement, dedicated to Siva as the supreme god. Written by four major saints, the greatest exponents of this poetic form, between the tenth and twelfth centuries, they are passionate lyrical expressions of the search for an unpredictable and spontaneous spiritual vision of 'now'. ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 30th 1973 by Penguin Classics
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This is an English translation of some Kannada bhakti poems composed by four saints of the Virasaiva bhakti movement in the 12th century CE. The samplings are from Basavanna, Allama prabhu, Mahadevi akka and Dasimayya.

The Bhakti movement is a monotheistic socio-religious movement that promoted personal faith and devotion. They were opposed to Vedic rituals and caste hierarchy. They emphasised equality of everyone, as opposed to the Vedic religion where women, shudras and outcastes were treated a
Susanna Rose
AK Ramanujan takes the prose of four medieval Virasaiva saints and translates it into rich haunting modern poetry. Basavanna speaks often of isolation and despair:

Don't make me hear all day
'Whose man, whose man, whose man is this?'
Let me hear, 'This man is mine, mine,
this man is mine.'

Devara Dasimayya was apparently the best missionary. He talks a lot about power and fire:

Till fire joins wind
it cannot take a step.

Do men know
it's like that
with knowing and doing?

Mahadeviyakka wandered nude and l
Lindsay Goto
I wasn't expecting to like this, but the poetry is absolutely gorgeous although sometimes in amusing ways. The poetry is really pretty though, one day when I'm not reading it for school and have more time to appreciate it, I'll go back. In the same way that the Christian Medieval tradition treated Jesus like a lover, Siva is often written to as if he were a lover even going so far as in Mahadeviyakka 88 to say

He bartered my heart,
looted my flesh,
claimed as tribute
my pleasure,
took over
all of me.

I enjoyed this collection far more than I was expecting to, I found it to be a calming read. By doing some reading on the four poets - Basavanna, Dasimayya, Mahadeviyakka and Allamu - beforehand I think I was able to better understand their personal relationships with Siva which led to a greater understanding of the poetry itself, especially in the case of Mahadeviyakka. I will definitely try to read more about Hinduism in general.
Ivan Granger
This book became an immediate favorite of mine ever since I picked up a copy of it a couple of years ago. Stunning poems from the Shiva bhakti tradition of India. Basava, Devara Dasimayya, Akka Mahadevi, Allama Prabhu. The commentary in the book, though a little academic, is genuinely insightful. Enthusiastically recommended!

The pot is a God. The winnowing
fan is a God. The stone in the
street is a God. The comb is a
God. The bowstring is also a
God. The bushel is a God and the
spouted cup is a God.

SO GOOD. Poetry from Virasaiva poets aka Lingayats. Probably one of the most rhetorically interesting and revolutionary Bhakti sects. Read if you are interested in South India or Hinduism especially the more subversive and counter-cultural side of it. Ramanujan is also a great scholar on this subject so his introductions and notes and blurbs on each poet are amazing.
PTS Books Club

Composed in Kannada, a Dravidian language of South India, the poems are lyrical expressions of love for the god Siva. These are fascinating medieval Bhakti poems by four Virasaiva saints: Dasimayya, Basavanna, Allamu, and Mahadeviyakka, flourished in the tenth to twelfth centuries.

This is the one of the finest contribution to the general English readers through the translation of this rare works by A.K. (Attipat Krishnaswami) Ramanujan (1929–1993. He wore many hats as a Indian poet, scholar and
Namitha Varma
I've read Tale Danda by Girish Karnad and so am familiar with the Veershaiva movement and its ethos, and have read a few of AK Ramanujan's translation of Basavanna's vachanas. This small book brings together selected vachanas of Basavanna, Devara Dasiyamma, Mahadeviakka and Allama Prabhu. I liked Mahadeviakka's poems the best - she looks upon her "lord white as jasmine" as her lover. Basavanna sees his "lord of the meeting rivers" as a friend, Guru; and for Dasiyamma and Allama Prabhu, "Ramanath ...more
Picked this up on a Goodreads recommendation. A very well-written book with adequate notes, although I skipped Appendix 2 for now. If you're looking for something different and less known within the Indian canon, this is a good short read.
this is one of those books which im supposed to say i loved and cherish blah blah, but in truth as i was reading it i was pretty bored half the time. partly i dont have a very poetic spirit i think, partly my attention span probably isnt good enough to stay focused enough upon these small poems to really penetrate deeply into their core. the introduction and appendix were also extremely boring and long. for religious poems i think ill stick to ikkyu sojun, there's a raw beauty and wisdom to his ...more
This was a fantastic read, and I certainly will try to find more translations by this author, and by these saints. I'm particularly facinated by Basavanna now, as well as Mahadeviyakka! Basavanna speaks more to my own personal feelings toward God. Mahadeviyakka speaks to my feminine desires. My facination with Shiva is growing by the minute!

I think I can make the rest of you facinated if I just post one vacana (from Basavanna):

The crookedness of the serpent
is straight enough for the snake-hole.

Bob Hooker
Brilliant poetry including an 11th Century Female Sage
Saoirse Sterling
I'm sure the original language version is much better, but since I will never know, I'll have to go by this dross. People who write sentences and then break them up in to lines and call it poetry are killing the trade and that's what we have here. I don't hold with learning about the writers before, during or after you read their work to "understand" it. There are plenty out there who are understandable without such homework. Admittedly, I am perhaps not the intended audience, but that has never ...more
Don Hackett
Free verse devotional poetry from a sect in southern India, written in a southern dialect (Kannada?) and translated by an Indian-born English-language poet who taught at the University of Chicago. Four poets ranging, for me, from good to excellent (the last two poets in the book), presenting insight into the devotional life.
Larissa Shmailo
This book contains translations by the remarkable A.J. Ramanujan of the vacuna-form poetry of Akka-Mahadevi. This Godiva precursor, by legend, left kingdom, king, and wise men behind to become a homeless wanderer writing devotional poetry to Siva. You can learn everything necessary from her.
The poetry translations were beautiful. The introduction to each of the poet-saints, as well as the background information on the overall climate of the time added greatly to its rich portrayal of this particular Saivite movement.
More poetic and less straightforward than The Dhammapada, but oddly more engaging and intriguing (…not to draw unfair comparisons) but that may be due in part to the subject matter: sex and death.
Aug 10, 2007 Sachin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: classics-poetry
A superb translation of Kannada Vachankaras. A marvelous feat which demonstrates that Indian medieval poetry is a fabulous thing and that Ramanujan is one the best poet-translators we have.
If poetry were easily ratable, this would probably rate first for me. Divine in every sense of the word. Got the English language version in Berlin yesterday!
Really nice short book the poems are lovely but most of it was lost on me really need to work at poetry would recommend this
John Devlin
Indian philosophy written in various psalmic styles. Kernels of insight and beauty strewn about.
Feb 17, 2013 Adam added it
O Lord of the meeting rivers cuomo is a joke that has an audience of about 10 people.
I am enjoying this book, over and over again. I'll never be finished with it.
mwr marked it as to-read
Nov 24, 2015
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Ramanujan was an Indian poet, scholar and author, a philologist, folklorist, translator, poet and playwright. His academic research ranged across five languages: Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Sanskrit, and English. He published works on both classical and modern variants of these literature and also argued strongly for giving local, non-standard dialects their due.

He was called "Indo-Anglian harbingers
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“If a rich son is born to one born penniless, he’ll delight his father’s heart with gold counted in millions; if a warrior son is born to a milk-livered king who doesn’t know which way to face a battle, he’ll console his father with a battlefront sinking and floating in a little sea of blood; so will I console you O lord of the meeting rivers, if you should come and ask me.” 0 likes
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