Achyutananda Das (or Acytānanda) was a 16th century poet seer and Vaisnava saint from Orissa, India. He was considered to have the power to see the past, present and future. He was a prolific author and one of a group of five that led a revolution in spirituality in eastern India started by translating sanskrit texts into the local language for common people.

He was one of the famous five friends of spirituality and literature Panchasakhā who transcribed ancient Hindu Sanskrit texts into easily understandable colloquial Odiya for the people of Udra Desha (Orissa). Shri Achyutananda Das was the most prolific writer of the Panchasakhas [ Chaini, p.7 ] and wrote numerous books, many of whom could be loosely translated as the Book of Prophecies. He is known as the Mahapurusha (Great Man) for his vast knowledge on many subjects such as spirituality, yoga, ritual, Buddhist tantra, Ayurveda (science of life, longevity and medicine), and other various science and social regulations.

Early life

As Acyutānanda became a popular figure much of his life began to become legend. He is famous for being one of the few who wrote about the social situation of his time [ Chaini, p. 14 ] and this is a scholarly reason many study his writings. His poetry was often cryptic about himself and written in code or analogies. Achyutananda belonged to Karana caste by birth but some claim he was Khandayata [ Das, p.iii of preface ] . His surname Das means servant (shudras) to god.


Acyutānanda was born in a village by the name 'Tilakana', where two distributaries of the Mahanadi, Luna(Labana Dhara) and Chitrotpala bifurcated, of Cuttack district of Orissa, during the twenty first anka (year of region) of the Gajapati (king) Purushottam Deva. This is thought to be somewhere between 1480 and 1505 by different scholars.
His mother was Padmavati and his father was Dinabandhu Khuntia and his grandfather was Gopinath Mohanty, a scribe in the Jagannath Temple (Puri). He was born after his mother prayed at the pillar in front of the Jagannath Temple and his father had a dream that the divine bird Garuda brought him a child. In legend he is believed to be an incarnation of Garuda.Due to lPANDIT LATE KURAMANI PATHI SAHRAMA THE EXACT LOCATION OF BIRTH PLACE OF SRI ACHYUTANDA HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED .


Acyutānanda had a formal education in Puri. It is agreed by most texts that he met Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in his youth and became the youngest of the Panchasakhā [Sri Sri Mahapurusa Siddha Ashram, p.5] .


Acyutānanda was part of the famous Panchasakhā (five friends of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu), who lived between 1450 to 1550 AD. The contemporaneous five saints- Acyutānanda Das, Ananta Das, Jasovanta Das, Jagannātha Das, and Balarāma Das, shaped Vaiṣṇava philosophy, spiritualism and literature of Orissa.

Two important factors set the Panchasakhas apart from other Indian saints. They were the first to take the Hindu Sanskrit texts of the Brahmins into the ears and hearts of the common people by translating them into the common language (Oriya). This was first done by Sāralā Dasa’s translation of the "Mahābhārata" in the mid-fifteenth century, followed by Balarama Dasa’s "Jagamohana Ramayana", Jaganath Dasa’s "Srimad Bhagavatam", and Acytananda Dasa’s "Harivamsa". The second aspect is their form of Oriya Vaiṣṇavism which sees God as the "Shunya Purusha" and the nature of the soul as being able to merge into the Absolute.

Some authors, such as N.N Vasu, have depicted Orissan Vaisnavism as ‘Buddhist-vaisnavism’ since it does not accept Ramanuja’s Viśiṣṭādvaita philosophy (11th century) nor does it adhere to orthodox Gaudiya Vaisnavism created in the 16th century. Other scholars, such as Prabhat Mukerjee, have denied these claims supporting the different varieties of Vaisnava philosophy. [Prabhat, p.151-152 ] Scholars debate the influence of the Panchasakha from the original Vaisnava agama (Pancharatras) while others source their ideas in sahajayana Buddhism and the Natha sampradaya. Both the Sahajayana Buddhists and the Panchasakha worshiped the image of Jagannath as the Buddha, [Mishra, P.44 ] though the Panchasakha saw Jagannath as an incarnation of Visnu as seen in the dasāvatar image on the main mantel of the Jagannath temple.

Philosophical Ideology of Achyutananda

Sunya Purusha

"Nāhi tāhāra rūpa varṇa, adṛsha avarṇa tā cinha."
"Tāhāku brahmā boli kahi, śūnya brahmhati se bolāi."
It has no shape, no colour,
It is invisible and without a name
This Brahman is called Shunya Brahman. [ Acyutānanda, "Brahma Saṃhitā", translated by Patnaik, p.117 ]
Achyutananda (and the other four saints) believed in a concept of god (Visnu) as Sunya (emptiness, void, zero) called Shunya Purusha and/or Shunya Brahman. This shunya signifies a transcendental principle that eludes the conceptual nexus applied to human thinking as described in the Upanishads. [ Patnaik, p.106 ] Achyutanada’s culminating work is called the "Shunya Samhita" where he discusses this philosophy in depth. [ Chaini, p.57 ]
"Śūnyara ākāra viira śūnyara vicāra, śūnye thāi dekha vīra e sacarācara."
"Dekha e sacarācara śūnyare prakāsha, śūnyu ude hoicanti śūnyare vilāse."
Oh vira look at the shunya
By placing yourself in shunya,
And meditate on mahashunya,
Shunya itself is the form,
Ground of all discriminating knowledge.
Look at the whole world from the pedestal of shunya;
You will find everything manifested in the shunya,
Everything arises out of shunya and
Everything flourishes in the Shunya Brahman. [ Acyutānanda, "Śūnya Saṃhitā Cauṣaṭhī Ṭika", translated by Patnaik p.146 ]

The philosophy is not the Shunya of the Buddhists as it is not empty but full, sometimes even called the Purna Shunya (the full/complete void). The Panchasakha project the deity Jagannath as the embodiment of the Shunya Purusha. [ Patnaik, p.125 ] Achyutananda uses a classical (pre-Ramanuja) concept of Vaisnavism that uses both form and formless aspects of god. This is seen in his statement from the "Gurubhakti Gita":

"Dui je Deṇāre pakṣī uḍikari jāi, dui je cakṣure sehi saṃsāre khelai."
"Eka je na thile kaṇā dui gale anḍha, eṇukari nirguṇa saguṇa sehi bheda."
A bird can only fly with both wings. It can have a perfect vision with both the eyes.
In the absence of one, it becomes one-eyed, and in the absence of both, it is totally blind.
Thus like two eyes Nirguna [god perceived as formless] and Saguna [god perceived with form] are chained together. [ Acyutananda, Gurubhakti Gita, translated by Chaini, p.10 ]

Jnana Mishra Bhakti Marga

The Panchasakhas are very much Vaishnavas by thought . Chaitanya’s path of devotion was known as Raganuga Bhakti Marga (brought to Orissa in 1509) which says all you need is love (bhakti) to get to god. The Panchasakhas differed from Chaitanyas philosophy and believed in Jnana Mishra Bhakti Marga , which states the one needs a combination of love (bhakti) and knowledge (jnana) to reach god. The Panchasakhas therefore promoted a Vaishnavism that involved study, yoga, ritual and devotion.

Pinda-Brahmanda Tattva

The concept of the Piṇḍa-Brahmāṇḍa is that the body (piṇḍa) is a replica of the Universe (Brahmāṇḍa), or microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm. [ Patnaik, p.171 and Chaini p.59 ] Much of the yogic teachings of Acyutānanda are based on this core concept. His teachings are filled with references to outer locations existing as energies in the body.

Sabda Brahman

The concept of the Sabda Brahman is that god created the universe as sound and that all things have sound vibration as their essence. The writings of Acyutānanda are filled with mantras and esoteric concepts about sounds and their effects on consciousness. For example, In Acyutānanda's "Rama Rasa Boli," the demon Ravanna is said to have meditated on the sound "Sleem" while focusing on the ten other sacred sounds (yogadashakshara) to please the goddess Sita. Even more esoteric is this verse from the "Shunya Rahasa" where one can see the interwoven nature of internal yogic theory and sound found in Acyutānanda's writings:

Oh Jnanins: utter the name of Hari [God]
May be you are the eldest or the youngest.
Piercing six chakras blooms the lotus
Near the ethereal void of air
Between the Sutala and Rasatala
The bee abides at the zenith of the void
One is not a servant of the Lord just because they have a rosary
Unless he utters the name of Krisna in his inner heart;
The Name is the seed, rosary its robe
Rosary is of no use if God's name is mindlessly uttered
The three cords are the three triadic streams
Make your oblations there
Ayudhya, Dwarika, and the city of Gopa
This knowledge is memorized by every soul. [ Shunya Rahasa, Canto 3, Verses 1-3, translated by Chaini, p.43]

In this verse Acyutānanda speaks to the Jnanins (those who try to reach God only through knowledge) and tells them to repeat the name of God whether they are eldest or youngest= whether they are uneducated or very big scholars. He speaks about the kundalini (the inner yogic energy) awakening the inner esoteric centers (chakras) and making the highest center in the head bloom (like a lotus). Here in the head he mentions that this lotus is the doorway to the void (Shunya). Sutala and Rasatala are considered to be outer dimensions in Hinduism but inner location in the body according to yoga. He mentions to meditate their on the sound of a bee- this is called 'Brahmari' meditation in yoga. Acyutānanda then goes into scolding that outward chanting should not be done without inner devotion. And then says that this chanting is an offering to the three sacred rivers and cities of Hinduism and relates these two inner energy channels of yogic anatomy. His final statement says that this knowledge is not outside but know inside by all souls, therefore knowable to all people. This is a very simple explanation of the above verse to give a general idea of the nature of the writings of Acyutānanda.


*Chaini, Ratnakar. "Achyutananda Das". Sahitya Akademi, Calcutta, 1998.
*Mansingha,Mayadhar. "History of Oriya literature". Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi,1962.
*Patnaik, Tandra. "Sunya Purusa". Utkal Studies in Philosophy XII. Utkal University, Bubhaneswar in association with D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd., New Delhi, 2005.
* Mishra, Ramprasad. "Sahajayana: A Study of Tantric Buddhism". Punthi Pustak, Calcutta, 1991.
*Mukherjee Prabhat. "History of Medieval Vaishnavism in Orissa". Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, 1981.
*Sri Sri Mahapurusa Siddha Ashram. "Glimpse of a Yogi; Sri Sri Mahapurusa Achyutananda Das". Sri Sri Mahapurusa Achyutananda Trust, Sri Ram Nagar, Puri, Orissa, India, 1998.
* ["The History of Orissa: An Introduction"Pages from the history of India and the sub-continent:SOUTH ASIAN HISTORY]
*Das, Alekh Prasad. Jibanara Daka; an autobiography, 1994; published by Sri Lalita Prakasani, Bhubaneswar. Won Orissa Sahitya Academy Award for autobiography in 2000.


External links


NAME = Acyutānanda Dasa
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Acyutānanda, Sri Acyutānanda Dasa, Shri Acyutānanda, Achyutānanda, Achyutananda, Acyutananda
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Indian Saint from Orissa
PLACE OF BIRTH = Nemala, Orissa

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