Transgressing Boundaries: The Songs of Shenkottai Avudai Akkal
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Shenkottai Sri Avudai Akkal, a remarkableeighteenth-century woman saint from Tamil Nadu, was a self-realised advaitin who sang passionately about the ecstasy of spiritual union with the Absolute. A desolate and stigmatised Brahmin child-widow, she was initiated into Vedanta by the great master Tiruvisainallur Shridhara Venkatesa Ayyawal. Her songs, a radical elision of the metaphysical sublime and personal devotion, are narrated through existential tropes sourced from daily life, and also offer a powerful critique of the oppressive orthodox socio-religious practices of that period.
Composed in simple, colloquial Tamil, and bringing hope and solace to women in general and widows in particular for almost three centuries, these songs by Avudai Akkal were preserved within the oral tradition by Brahmin women of Tirunellveli district who sang them on all occasions. The songs were documented in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and have appeared in many Tamil publications. They appear in English translation for the first time in this book. Each song is accompanied by annotations and themed essays.