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Pureprayer offers Bhakti Naman to Sri Purandara Dasaru in Pure Devotion

Amavaasya (No Moonday) of Pushyamaas occurring on 21, January 2023 is notable for the Aradhana of Sri Purandara Dasaru. Purandaradasa was a great literary figure in the Bhakti movement. He preached the virtues of a simple life through his songs, known as ‘Padas’ submitted to the lotus feet of Lord Krishna.

Purandara Dasa’s Contribution to Carnatic Music

Purandara Dasa systematized the method of teaching Carnatic music which is followed to the present day. He introduced the Raga Mayamalavagoula as the basic scale for music instruction. His classification of Swaravali, Jantivarase, Alamkara, and Lakshana factors are practiced throughout south India.

Purandara Dasa’s Pillarigeete (or four compositions) in praise of Lord Ganapati is used for the initiation to learning classical music even today. His compositions render themselves beautifully to music. They are in many styles like lullaby, folk-song or Bhajan songs.

Purandara Dasaru composed to include comments on mundane life in his compositions.

Purandara Dasaru has expressed his devotion to Lord Krishna in many ways. Purandaradasa was a vaggeyakara (performer), a lakshanakara (musicologist). He is revered as ‘ಕರ್ಣಾಟಕ ಸಂಗೀತ ಪಿತಾಮಹ’ (father of Karnataka classical music).

His works have earned the name ‘Purandaropanishat’.

Celebrating Lord Vishnu in the form of Hari, at the prime age of 30, he renounced all his wealth. Together with his family left his house to lead the life of a wandering Hari Dasa, spreading the name of Hari. He was bestowed the Ankita (Pen-Name) of Purandara Vitthala by the pontiff Sri Vyasaraja Teertharu of Madhwa Philosophy. Sri Vyasaraja Teertharu was the spiritual master and advisor to Sri Krishnadevaraya, the king of Vijayanagar Empire.

Impact of Purandaradasa Compositions

Compositions of Purandaradasa have travelled to the West as far back as 160 years ago, when a German missionary translated them to German. Many songs have been beautifully translated.

Purandara Mantapa

Purandara Mantapa in Hampi makes for an interesting place of visit. It is actually in the river bed of Tunga Bhadra. Mantapa is a simple looking structure, built of heavy granite blocks with as many as 60 pillars. One of the pillars has an image of Sri Purandaradasa facing the river side, depicting the great musician attired in a Dhoti, Peta, Tamburi and Chitike.

A platform has been built in recent times and used as a stage for Carnatic music festival, held in memory of Sri Purandara Dasa. It is said that Purandara Dasa spent his last years at Hampi. Legend says that he took birth as Vijayadaasa at Cheekalparvi village near Manvi in Raichur district.

Background of Purandara Dasa

Sreenivasa was the only son of a wealthy merchant Varadappa Nayak. He was given the name Sreenivasa by his father, after the Lord of Tirumala. He received a good education in accordance with family traditions and acquired proficiency in Kannada, Sanskrit, sacred lore, and in music. He inherited his father’s business (in precious stones and pawn-broking).

This earned him the appellation ‘Navakoti Narayana’. There are several legends about Purandara Dasaru.

Legend of acquiring Vairagya

Lord Narayana took the form of a poor man (Brahmin) and approached the jeweller-trader, Sreenivasa Nayak for financial help, in order to perform Upanayanam (Sacred thread ceremony) of his son. Days rolled by, Nayaka did not give anything, but the Brahmin too did not relent. He visited Sreenivasa Nayak again and again.

Sreenivaasa had a collection of worn-out coins that were more or less worthless. He poured this in front of the Brahmin and asked him to take one and never come back. The Brahmin went away crestfallen and went to the jeweller’s residence and met Saraswati, Nayak’s wife.

He told Saraswati, his story and how her husband had sent him away with nothing. The kind-hearted woman tried to make amends for her husband’s miserly attitude. She expressed her helplessness. The poor man asked if she had something given by her parents (which, presumably, she could give without asking for her husband’s permission). She agreed and gave him the nose-ring that her parents had given her.

The Brahmin immediately went to Sreenivas and offered the nose-ring as safe custody and requested for loan. Nayak was skeptical and asked the Brahmin to show the ornament.

He saw the ornament and was perplexed. He immediately recognized it as the one belonging to his wife. Sreenivasa left the shop and returned home. When he saw his wife without her ornament he questioned her about it. She tried to stall him with evasive replies, but he insisted on seeing it immediately. She went and prayed to Lord Krishna and was about to swallow poison. She heard something falling into the bowl containing poison. She discovered her nose-ring in that bowl. She took the bowl and nose-ring to her husband. Sreenivasa was non-plussed by all these developments.

The next day he offered money to the Brahmin and asked a small boy to follow the Brahmin. The boy reported that the Brahmin entered Purandara temple and vanished. Sreenivasa immediately opened his jewel box in which he had safely locked away the ornament. The box was empty and the nose-ring was missing. This miracle changed Sreenivasa Nayak. Closing his shop, Sreenivasa rushed home and asked his wife to tell him the whole truth.

Saraswati narrated everything that had happened. This put his mind in a turmoil. He realized that the Brahmin was none other than Lord Purandara.

Purandaradasa has acknowledged the role of his wife Saraswati in bringing about the change in him. In one of his kritis (composition: ಆದದ್ದೆಲ್ಲಾ ಒಳಿತೆ ಆಯಿತು) he explains how a wife should be, saying such be born in thousands.

He had four sons-Varadappa, Gururaya, Abhinavappa and Gurmadhvapathi.

Legend of Appanna

Appanna was believed to be Purandara Dasa’s disciple. Some writings claim he was a potter who lived across the River Tungabhadra in Vijayanagara (Hampi). Being an untouchable, he was not allowed entry to the temple.

Purandaradasa heard that Appanna was a great devotee of Vittala and the claim that the Lord spoke to him daily. To test the veracity of this claim, after the evening pujas Purandara Dasa, went across the river to Appanna’s hut. It was dark by then. Purandara Dasa heard only one voice conversing – asking questions and giving answers too and the voice was that of Appanna. Piqued, he peeped in and found Appanna alone talking to himself. Enraged, Purandara Dasa hit him on his forehead with a brass vessel.

Purandara Dasa, returned, but his mind was disturbed. He felt he made a mistake. Early next morning Purandara Dasa went to the temple. He was shocked to find a big swelling on Vittala’s forehead where he had struck Appanna and tears were flowing from the idol. He ran to Appanna’s hut across the river, fell at his feet and sought forgiveness.

Appanna with fear requested Purandara Dasa to stop, because if anyone saw it, he would be punished. But Purandara Dasa was adamant that Appanna declare he had forgiven him for his misconduct.

After this, he went back to the temple to notice the swelling had disappeared and the tears had stopped.

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