Allama’s Quest For Shiva
Vijaya Ramaswamy
GOD IS DEAD, THERE IS NO GOD: THE VACHANAS OF ALLAMA PRABHU by Manu V. Devadevan Speaking Tiger Classics, New Delhi, 2019, 299 pp., 499.00
May 2020, volume 44, No 5

The title is a misnomer. This tantalizing title of a book of translation that is saturated with divinity is an invitation to the enterprising reader to explore what lies within and what lies beyond the imagined entity called ‘God’. I would like to begin my review of this book with an anecdote which may be apocryphal but illustrates my point. It is said that once Swami Vivekananda went to meet the ‘free thinker’ Ingersoll at his house and found, prominently displayed on his desk, a placard which read ‘God is nowhere’. When Vivekananda was left alone for a few minutes by his host, he changed the saying to ‘God is now here’ merely with one stroke of his pen. It is in this sense that you feel the presence of divinity in these translations—call it God or Goggeshvara as Allama Prabhu did.

Manu Devadevan’s translation of Allama Prabhu’s vachanas is most elegantly done. If the translations carry the distinct stamp of the translator, this is inevitable in the same vein in which AK Ramanujan’s translations carry his style, whether the translation is of the vachanas of Virasaivite Shivasharanes or of Nammazhvar’s devotional outpourings. In this sense it will be interesting to compare Devadevan’s translations of Allama Prabhu with those of Shivaprakash.

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