Akara is one among the one thousand and eight names of Śiva (Shiva). The word akara can convey two meanings. First, it may denote someone who does no work. According to Sāṃkhyadarśana (Sankhyadarshana) or the Sāṃkhya (Sankhya) school of philosophy, the Divine Soul or parambrahma may be described as sākṣīceta kevalaḥ nirguṇaśca. Similarly, according to Vedanta philosophy, inertness is also one of the many attributes of parambrahma or the Supreme Being besides other characteristics such as formlessness, lack of qualities, etc. Thus Śiva, as the Supreme Being is indeed both devoid of qualities and inactive. And though according to Sāṃkhyadarśana, he, as the Divine Soul is the representative of all consciousness and omniscient, he is still akara or inactive because he is not an authoritative subject. Perhaps this lack of action and authority is also manifested in the śava (shaba or corpse-like) form of Śiva. In Bhagavadgītā (Bhagabadgita), Kṛṣṅa (Krishna), while explaining his inertness as a nature of Brahma, says, “I have no duties and tasks to perform in this world” — na me pārthasti kartavyaṃ triṣu lokeṣu kiñcana.
Because Mahādeva (Mahadeva) also represents this inert self of brahma, he is known as Akara.
Second, while the word upadeśakaraḥ (meaning’one who advises’) that precedes the appellation of akara makes Śiva an advisor in the form of the Supreme Spirit, the subsequent adjective akara itself negates the significance of upadeśakaraḥ. Hence it may also connote that he remains a mute and silent presence in the form of an advisor.
Referring to an account from Upaniṣada, the commentator Nīlakaṇṭha has said that Vāṣkali (Vaṣkali) had repeatedly put forth questions to his guru Bādhva to which the latter had not responded at all. He cited an ancient verse which says, “It is curious that disciples of advanced years are seated at the foot of a banyan tree, but the guru is a youth. The guru does not speak at all but his silence suffices as answers to questions put to him.” When Vāṣkali questioned his guru for a third time regarding this mysterious verse, the guru replied, “I have said what was necessary, but you have not understood that this Supreme Spirit is inert, that is, because He is the Lord of this universe. It can be inferred from this reflection that the word akara means lack of action, a state of calm. It is from this concept of inertness of the brahma that Mahādeva has been named Akara.