You can confiscate

by Akka Mahadevi

English version by A. K. Ramanujan
Original Language Kannada

You can confiscate
money in hand;
can you confiscate
the body's glory?

Or peel away every strip
you wear,
but can you peel
the Nothing, the Nakedness
that covers and veils?

To the shameless girl
wearing the White Jasmine Lord's
light of morning,
you fool,
where's the need for cover and jewel?

-- from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Although increasingly rare, naked sadhus are still found in India. But naked sadvis, female ascetics, like Akka Mahadevi, were shocking even then. She teases prudish listeners by calling herself "the shameless girl," equating herself with a woman who has taken an illicit lover. But her secret lover is "the White Jasmine Lord" -- Shiva.

And she does in fact wear clothing, a gift from her Beloved, his "light of morning." She wears the dawn, the light of enlightenment. What can cover as well as the light that touches everything? What jewel can compare to its dazzle? For Mahadevi the sadvi, there is nothing else worth wearing.

Recommended Books: Akka Mahadevi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Speaking of Siva The Shambhala Anthology of Women's Spiritual Poetry Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present: Volume 1 Sacred Voices: Essential Women's Voices Through the Ages

You can confiscate