Ambigar Chowdaiah is a special person among the 12th century of Kalyana . He was a ferryman by profession ( Kayaka [ಕಾಯಕ] ) and he stands out among the sharanas for his outspoken and blunt way of expressing his views about the people. He was a true follower of Lingayata dharma and lived his life practicing the philosophy he believed in.
Not much information is available about Chowdaiah's early life or why he went to Kalyana. It is said that he hailed from Chowdadanapura village in Ranibennur taluk, Haveri district. There is a memorial in his name near the place on the banks of river Thungabhadra, which has now become a pilgrimage centre.
Ambigara Chowdaiah is state forward writer; we can see sharpness in his ‘Vachanas’ (poems) which indicated his confidence level and courage to represent the truth in a rigid, orthodoxy society.
To study the principles and teachings of Ambigara Chowdaiah, noted Kannada writer Baraguru Ramachandrappa inaugurated a chair of ‘Ambigara Chowdaiah’ at Old Senate Hall, Mangalore University on 25th January 2012.
There is a cave named after him on the outskirts of Basava Kalyana . He was an active working member of Anubhava Mantapa . About 270 Vachana [ವಚನ] s written by him under the penname 'Ambigara Chowdaiah', have been recovered. Chowdaiah's choice of penname reflects independent nature and his deep respect for his Kayaka [ಕಾಯಕ] . He was a revolutionary Vachanakara, who harshly criticised pretentious people. Not only did he criticise, but also showed ways to improve oneself from his Vachana [ವಚನ] s, it is evident that he shunned blind beliefs, superstitions, and old religious customs. He has praised Basavanna , Padihari Uttanna, Haralaiah and others in his vachanas. Several sharanas have praised Ambigara Chowdaiah in their vachanas for his boldness in pointing out the mistakes of people, his awakened consciousness (arivu), and his spiritual life.