Purandara Daasa – Short Biography

He lived from 1484 to 1564 AD. Purandara Daasa is called the father of Carnatic music.

Purandara Daasa’s Compositions:

Purandara Daasa created several “Devara Naama” and “Ugabhogas”. He is said to have created more than 5 lakh compositions.  His Guru Vyasaraya called his compositions by “Purandaropanishat”. He helped the society with music, teaching basic concepts of humanity, spirituality through simple songs. Purandara Daasa had the pen name of “Purandara Vittala”. His song were devotional and devoted to lord Vishnu aka Krishna aka Vittala. Most of his compositions were in the language Kannada and some in Sanskrit.

Some of the most all time famous compositions of Purandara Daasa are –

1.”Ambiga Na Ninna Nambide” – In this song Purandara Daasa request God to somehow help him cross the river of life. Lord Vishnu is the “Ambiga” or the boatman. This song helps the human to understand that be whatever the difficulties, we are in the hands of God and that he will protect us.

2.”Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma” – This song is sung in the praise of Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu’s consort. The song invites Lakshmi goddess wealth to people’s homes to bless them.

3. “Aacharvillada Naalige” – This song is addressed to a “tongue”. This is a classic example of a song that prompts people to stop talking ill about others.

Creator of Academic Text:

He has the credit of creating the “Abhyaasa Gaana” or the initial academic structure for Carnatic music students. Every student of Carnatic music firsts learns “Sarale Varase”,”Janti Varase”, “Daatu Varase”,”Swara JAti”, “Jati Swara”. These compositions are set in “MayaMaalava Gaula Raaga”. Purandara Daasa has set up these compositions for the students. The student thus strengthens her foundation for Carnatic music, by learning about the various “swaras”, their arrangements, and the different speeds. The student also learns the importance of “shruthi”, practice and discipline. Vocal student tries to get control of her voice, and a student of instrument gets to know the instrument. This series is followed by “Geete”, “Varna” and finally “Keertanas”. This initial academic text was created by Purandara Daasa.

Purandara Daasa died at the age of 84. Yet, his work and his songs are sung even today and will be sung probably till mankind exists.

Purandara Daasa was born in the small village of Purandar Ghad. He was the only son of Varadappa Nayaka and Leelavati. Varadappa Nayaka was a wealthy merchant. He and Leelavati laid a strong foundation of education for their son, making him proficient in languages, Vedas, Upanishads and music. When Srinivasa Nayaka was 16 years of age, he got married to Saraswati. She was a pious girl. When Srinivasa Nayaka was 20 years old, his parents passed away. Srinivasa Nayaka hence took care of the family pawning business. He would lend money to people, based on the value of the personal items that they pawned with him. Srinivasa Nayaka was a miser. He would not help people even though he had lot of money, but would only do business with them.

The story of his transformation goes like this –

Lord Vishnu (Vittala), decided to teach Srinivasa Nayaka a lesson about life. He transformed himself into a poor brahmin and appeared before Srinivasa Nayaka. He begged for his help, as he needed money to perform Threading ceremony for his son. The miserly Srinivasa Nayaka not only denied him, but drove him away from the shop. Even after multiple attempts, the brahmin returned empty handed. One day Srinivasa Nayaka drove him away with an old useless coin.

The brahmin went to Srinivasa Nayaka’s house. He explained to Saraswati about his predicament and told her what happened at the shop. Saraswati wanted to help the brahmin. But she was not entitled to donate anything that belonged to her husband. She then thought of the nose stud she was wearing. This was a gift to her from her parents. She gladly gave it to the Brahmin. The brahmin thanked her and left.

The poor brahmin went back to Srinivasa Nayaka. This time, he said he had something to pawn for money. Srinivasa Nayaka examined the nose stud. He was suspicious that it belonged to his wife. He thought that may be the brahmin stole it from his house. He decided to check his suspicions before lending money to the brahmin. He asked the brahmin to come next day for the money, but kept the ornament with him. Srinivasa Nayaka securely locked his treasury with the ornament in a box. He locked his shop securely and rushed home.

Upon reaching home, he found his wife without the nose stud. He enquired her where it was. Saraswati was surprised that her husband noticed the missing ornament. At the same time, she feared that if he came to know what she had done, he would do something drastic with her as she had been disobedient. She lied to him, that it must be around and that she had removed the ornament during the day. Anxious to see the same, Srinivasa Nayaka asked his wife to produce the same. Now Saraswati was in a fix. She had to tell him the truth. Instead of going through something that shameful, she decided to put an end to her life. She went in, poured some poison in a cup. She raised the cup to her lips. She saw something sparkling in the cup. Lo and behold! It was her nose stud! Astonished at the phenomenon, she thanked God for saving her life and her honor. She took the nose stud to her husband. Srinivasa Nayaka still could not believe the co-incidence that there were two pieces of exactly same custom made jewelry. He again rushed back to his shop. He unlocked the doors and his treasure chest. He opened the box, where he had placed the nose stud. And voila! It was not there!

Indian woman with nose stud

Srinivasa Nayaka ran to his house in utter disbelief. He forced his wife to tell the truth. She told him the whole story.  Srinivasa Nayaka realized that it was Lord Vittala who had come in the guise of the brahmin to enlighten him. Srinivasa Nayaka felt disgusted with himself and the miserly life he was leading. At that moment onwards, he was a changed person.

Srinivasa Nayaka gave away all his wealth and became Purandara Daasa. Daasa means servant. He called himself a servant of God. He traveled with his family to the famous town of Hampi in the then prosperous Vijayanagara Dynasty. He stayed in Hampi with his family of wife and four sons. Everyday he went out wearing anklets in his legs, singing songs. He had a Tanpura in his hands and Tulasi Maala (Favorite of Lord Vittala) in his neck.