Great Contribution of Saint PurandaraDasa in the Progress of Carnatic Music
31 Dec 2020
India is a land of love, spirituality, and devotion. Its history is full of genius artists and saints who revolutionized their field of work. One such great musical legend was Saint Purandara Dasa.
His whole life was devoted to Carnatic music. His compositions in the Kannada language reached the hearts of the layman. He also systemized the teaching of Carnatic music. Because of all these significant contributions, he is regarded as the Pitamahaof Carnatic music.
Saint PurandaraDasawas an adorer of Vishnu and Krishna. His bhajans,Krities, and geetamwere all in praise of his idols. Vijay Dasa carried forwarded his Carnatic music revolution. After him,the trinity of Carnatic music(Thyagaraj, Dikshitar, and Shyam Shastri) took it to another height of popularity.
Some of his krities were also focused on changing regressive traditional norms. Saint PurandaraDasa was a part of the Bhakti revolution in India. Bhakti movement emphasized the importance of almighty only. He wanted to educate people to treat all human beings equally irrespective of their class, creed, colour, or gender.
Srinivasa Nayaka to Saint PurandaraDasa
Saint PurandaraDasa was born in 1484 in Pandarpur. At the time of his birth, he was named Srinivasa Nayaka. His father was a wealthy diamond and pawning merchant of a Deshasth Madhava Brahmin family. And his mother’s name is known to be Leelavati. He was their only son.
Access to money and education was never a concern for Srinivasa. He learned Sanskrit, Kannada, and music and became proficient in all three. He got married to Saraswati Bai according to family traditions and started to get involved in the family business. His parents passed away when he was merely 20 years old.
He was living everyday Sansariklife with his wife and son. His business was flourishing. So much so that he was on his way to becoming Navkoti Narayana. (Worthy of 9 million, a huge deal at that time). Then what happened to a wealthy diamond merchant that he gave up all his money? Started living on alms and spent all his time singing kritis and bhajans of Lord Krishna?
Legends say, Krishna himself came in the disguise of a poor man and asked for Srinivasa’s money. Self-indulgent and greedy, Srinivasa denied help to the poor man. But his wife Saraswatibai’s heart got melted. She discreetly helped the poor man by giving him her gold nose ring. Upon learning this, Srinivasa was furious with his wife. Saraswati tried to suicideto escape the wrath of her husband. But the nose ring suddenly reappeared in the poison box opened by Saraswati to end her life.
Srinivasa had an epiphany that God came in disguise to make him realize how selfish he has become. And the Lord himself saved the life of his loving and caring wife. He searched everywhere for the poor man, but of course, he was nowhere to be found. From that day, his life becomes devoted to almighty and Carnatic music. His guru Vyasatirtha gave him his new name PurandaraDasa.
Father of Carnatic Music
It is believed that Saint PurandaraDasacomposed more than 4.7 million keerthans during his lifetime. He desired to leave the world with 5 million PurandaraDasa compositions. But he died before that at the age of 80 in 1565 in Hampi.
Saint PurandaraDasa transformed the teaching system of Carnatic music. He developed a new teaching technique starting with a basic raga. It is known as “Raga Mayamalavagowal.” This method is followed to date for teaching Carnatic music.
Carnatic music reached the common man because the musical legendpredominantly composed in the Kannada. PurandaraDasa bhajan was the rare combination of simple song lyrics, sur, taal, raga, and bhava. PurandaraDasa bhajan, PurandaraDasa compositions & Keerthanas made a special place in people’s hearts. Therefore, he is known as the Father of Carnatic music and the first Haridasa (Servant of Sri Hari).
The Musical legend began his journey of 4.7 million PurandaraDasa bhajanand Keerthanas with his first song lyric,”Ana laekara.” This song was a confession of his greed and ignorance as Srinivasa.
The Pitamaha of Carnatic music created immortal music all his life. Some of the most prominent PurandaraDasa bhajans are listed as below –
Bhagyadha Lakshmi Bharamma
Deva Banda Namma, Swami Bandano
Kelano Hari Taalano
Homage & Legacy
There is a tradition in south India to hold Aaradhna for great musicians like the Saint PurandaraDasa. An annual event in the name of “PurandaraDasaAaradhna” is held in Karnataka. National and international musicians gather under one roof and sing various PurandaraDasa compositions. It is held closer to the last day of the musical legend’s life, i.e., around February-March.