Purandara Dasa

Purandara Dasa

Father of Carnatic Music
Background information
Native name ಪುರಂದರ ದಾಸ
Birth name Srinivasa Nayaka ‌
ಶ್ರೀನಿವಾಸ ನಾಯಕ
Born 1484
Kshemapura, near Tirthahalli, Shivamogga district, Karnataka
Origin Kshemapura, Shivamogga, Karnataka state, India
Died 1564
Hampi, Karnataka state, India
Genres Carnatic music
Occupation(s) Carnatic vocalist

Purandara Dāsa (Kannada: ಪುರಂದರ ದಾಸ)[1] (1484–1564) is a prominent composer of Dasa Sahithya, a poetic form of the Madhwa philosophy and one of the chief proponents of the South Indian system of music called the Carnatic Music. In honor of his significant and legendary contributions to Carnatic Music, he is widely referred to as the Pitamaha (lit, "father" or the "grandfather") of Carnatic Music.[2][3][4][5][6] He formulated the basic lessons of teaching Carnatic music by structuring graded exercises known as Swaravalis and Alankaras, and at the same time, he introduced the Raga Mayamalavagowla as the first scale to be learnt by beginners in the field - a practice that is being followed till date. He also composed Gitas (simple songs) for novice students.

Purandara Dasa addressed social issues in addition to worship in his compositions, a practice emulated by his younger contemporary, Kanakadasa. Purandara Dasa's Carnatic music compositions are mostly in Kannada; some are in Sanskrit. He signed his compositions with the ankita (pen name), "Purandara Vittala" (Vittala is one of the incarnations of the Hindu god, Vishnu).


Inscriptional evidence suggests Purandara Dasa was born in 1484 CE in Kshemapura, near Tirthahalli, Shivamogga district, Karnataka state.[7] According to other opinions, his native town was Purandaraghatta in Karnataka,[8] or Purandaragad near Pune, but the latter is considered a historical mistake - connecting his "pen name" (his ankita) with a location that mainly served as a military encampment in the 15th and 16th century.[9] The only son of Varadappa Nayaka, a wealthy merchant, and Leelavati, he was named Srinivasa Nayaka, after the Lord of the Seven Hills. He received a good education in accordance with family traditions and acquired proficiency in Kannada, Sanskrit, and sacred music. At age 16 he married Saraswatibai, said by tradition to have been a pious young girl. He lost his parents at age 20, thereby inheriting his father's business of gemstones and pawning. He prospered and became known as navakoti narayana(abundantly rich man; owner of nine crores).

According to popular belief, he was led to devote himself to musical composition by a miraculous incident which made the heretofore greedy and miserly merchant realize the worthlessness of his attachment to worldly possessions.[10] A poor man (Lord in disguise) wanted to perform the sacred thread ceremony (upanayana) for his son and came to Srinivasa's wife for money. She gave him her nose ring to sell, and the man sold the nose ring to Srinivasa himself. The miserly Srinavasa lent the man his money. Meanwhile, his wife was worried about what to say to her husband, so she prayed to her favorite deity, who gave her a nose ring just like the one she had just given away. When Srinivasa hurried home, anxious to know if the nose ring was hers, he was bewildered seeing her wear the same one. She confessed what had happened, and he was converted to belief in the virtue of a charitable life. At 30 years of age, he gave away all his wealth to charity and together with his family left his house to lead the life of a wandering minstrel to proselytise religion. In his very first song composition, he laments his wasted life of indulgence. It begins with the words 'Ana lae kara' in the Shuddha Saveri raga, set to Triputa tala.

In the course of his wandering he met the holy sage Vyasatirtha, one of the chief exponents of Madhwa philosophy and the rajaguru of Krishnadevaraya, the emperor of Vijayanagara kingdom. According to Prof. Sambamoorthy,[11] Srinivasa had his formal initiation at the hands of Vyasatirtha in 1525 when he was about 40 years old, with the name Purandara Dasa bestowed on him. Purandara Dasa traveled extensively through the length and breadth of the Vijayanagara empire in Karnataka, Tirupati, Pandharapura composing and rendering soul stirring songs in praise of god. He spent his last years in Hampi and also sang in Krishnadevaraya's durbar. The mantapa (mandap) in which he stayed is known as Purandara Dasa Mantapa (mandap) in Hampi. He died in 1564 at the age of 80. Tradition and legend holds that he composed 475,000 kirtanas. Further, according to this legend, his original desire was to compose 500,000 keerthanas (songs). Being unable to do it in his present life, he requested his younger son to complete them. His son Madhwapathi told his father that he could do this in his next janma(birth). It is believed that he was reborn as the famous Vijayadaasabirthplace is Cheekalparvi village near Maanvi town, Raichur district in Karnataka Stateand completed the remaining 25 thousand keerthanas as promised. Most his songs are in praise of Lord Narayana and other Devatas. Due to this, he is believed to be an avatar of Narada, the celestial singer and son of Goddess Saraswati. One of the trimurtis (three icons) of Carnatic music, Saint Thyagaraja, has paid tribute to Purandara Dasa in his geya natakam(an opera) Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam.[12]

Purandara Dasa and Carnatic music

Purandara Dasa systematized the method of teaching Carnatic music which is followed to the present day.[2] He introduced the raga Mayamalavagowla as the basic scale for music instruction and fashioned series of graded lessons such as swaravalis, janti swaras, alankaras, lakshana geetas, prabandhas, ugabhogas, daatu varase, geeta, sooladis and kritis.[13] Another of his important contributions was the fusion of bhava, raga, and laya in his compositions. Purandara Dasa was the first composer to include comments on ordinary daily life in song compositions. He used elements of colloquial language for his lyrics. He introduced folk ragas into the mainstream, setting his lyrics to tunes/ragas of his day so that even a common man could learn and sing them.[14] He also composed a large number of lakshya and lakshana geetas, many of which are sung to this day. His sooladis are musical masterpieces and are the standard for raga lakshana. Scholars attribute the standardization of varna mettus entirely to Purandara Dasa.

The itinerant dasas who succeeded him are believed to have followed the systems he devised, as well as orally passing down his compositions.According to traditional sources his compositions number as many as four lac and seventy five thousand.[15] But not more than 700 compositions are accessible now.

Purandara Dasa was a vaggeyakara (composer-performer), a lakshanakara (musicologist), and the founder of musical pedagogy. For all these reasons and the enormous influence that he had on Carnatic music, musicologists call him the "Sangeeta Pitamaha" (lit. grandfather) of Carnatic music.[16]

Purandara Dasa had great influence on Hindustani music. The foremost Hindustani musician Tansen's teacher, Swami Haridas also a Saraswat Brahmin was Purandara Dasa's disciple.[17]

In contemporary music

In the pure Carnatic tradition, Bidaram Krishnappa was one of the foremost singers of modern times to popularize the compositions of Purandara Dasa. Singer, Madras Lalithangi, and her illustrious daughter Padmavibushan, Sangeetha Kalanidhi Dr. M.L.Vasantha Kumari have rendered yeoman service in propagating the compositions of Purandara Dasa; both were considered as authorities on Purandara Dasa. M.L.Vasantha Kumari was awarded an honorary doctorate by Mysore University for her contributions to Purandara Dasa's music.

Though the compositions of Purandara Dasa are originally in the ragas of Carnatic system of music, his compositions have been adopted and made equally popular in Hindustani music. Hindustani music legends such as Bhimsen Joshi, Madhav Gudi and Basavaraj Rajguru have made them more popular in recent years.

Many other young and well known artists such as Anant Terdal, Pandit Ananth Kulkarni, Upendra Bhat, Puttur Narasimha Nayak, Pandit Venkatesh Kumar, Nagaraja Rao Havaldar, Ganapathi Bhatt, Vidyabhushana, Shankar Shanbhag, flautists Prapanchand performing Purandara Dasa's compositions and other dasa sahitya songs in Carnatic as well as Hindustani music concerts. Of late, Mysore Ramachandracharya is industriously propagating dasa sahitya through his concerts. Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams is also propagating the dasa krithis through the Dasa Sahitya Project. He also composed the first 'Lullaby' songs in Carnatic music such as 'Thoogire Rangana'[18] 'Gummana Kareyadire'[19] etc., which led to creation of many other similar songs later by others.

Memorials, Monuments

The Purandara Mantapa, adjoining the Vijayaitthala temple at Hampi,is one of the longstanding monuments relating to Purandara Dasa. This is the place where he is said to have composed and sung in praise of Lord Vishnu. Of late, a statue of Purandara Dasa has been erected at the foothills of Tirumala.[20] Sri Purandara Dasa Memorial Trust (SPDMT)[21] formed in Bangalore in 2007, has been actively involved in promoting and researching all aspects of the life and works of Purandara Dasa. The Indiranagar Sangeetha Sabha at Indiranagar, Bangalore, has dedicated an auditorium called Purandara Bhavana,[22] to his memory.


Aradhana is an observation to remember and honor the departure of saintly persons from this world. Purandara Dasa's aradhana or punyadina is held on the pushya bahula amavasya[23] of the Indian chandramana calendar (a new moon day, generally in Feb-March). The musicians and art aficionados in the state of Karnataka, South India and many art and religious centers around the world observe this occasion in deep religious and musical fervor. His compositions are sung by established and upcoming artists on this day.

Film director and playwright Girish Karnad made a documentary film titled, Kanaka-Purandara (English, 1988) on the two medieval Bhakti poets of Karnataka.[24][25]


The philosophy of Purandara Dasa is harmonious with the concept of Bhakti of Hinduism, broadly based on the Narada Bhakti Sutras and essentially synchronous with the pan-Indian Bhakti Movement. It teaches complete self-surrender and unadulterated love towards Lord Vishnu, the Supreme. The philosophy of Bhakti in Purandara Dasa's compositions stems from the essential teachings of the realistic-pluralistic Madhwa Philosophy of Vaishnavism, and has been rendered in simple Kannada. The individual soul (jeeva) is a pratibimba (reflection) of the Lord (Ishvara), who is the bimba(source). The jeeva owes its existence, knowledge and bliss to the Ishvara, and any sense of independence with regards to one's actions and the results thereof is to be given up.[26] The mind has to be turned away from transient pleasures and possessions of this world;instead, it is to be turned towards the Lord, who alone is the abode of unadulterated, unswerving Bliss. His Keerthanas have simple lessons in this regard and impel men to lead a noble life of a Vaishnava.[27]

Purandara Dasa fought the evils of casteism through his songs.[28] In his song aavakulavaadarenu aavanadarenu aatma bhavavariyada mele he wonders what is the use if one does not understand the spirit of humanism whatever caste or status one might be accredited to.[28] In the same song when relating to cows of different colours and sugarcane of different shapes he emphasizes that one's birth cannot merely decide the highness or lowness of any individual.[28] He asks will the sweetness of a crooked sugarcane be also crooked or will the milk of cows of many a colour be also of many colours.[28]
Purandara Dasa has made some forceful expressions on untouchability which was dogging the society.[28] His strength comes perhaps from the support of his guru Vyasathirtha with the backing of powerful king Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara himself.[28] In one such song Holaya horagihane oorolagillave he opines that an individual should not be branded untouchable on the basis of his/her birth in any specific caste, however it is rather his conduct which should make him untouchable if at all he can be called so. The usage of the word untouchable is not used in the limited context of physical contact with the person, it is the worthlessness of the association with that person which is highlighted here. This is evident by the subsequent expressions in the song which says that one who does not practice self-discipline is untouchable, one who plots against his own government is untouchable, similarly one who shirks charity while having wealth is untouchable,one who poisons to eliminate his opponents is untouchable, one who does not use soft language is untouchable,one who prides over his purity of caste is untouchable and finally one who does not meditate on Purandara Vittala is untouchable.[28] Dasa's message is loud and clear rejecting untouchability in our society.[28] He uses the name of Purandara Vittala to imply any God.[28] This is evident from his other songs on various Gods and Goddesses.[28] Similar ideas were expressed by many other poets also.[28]

Example Poem: Good - he became an ascetic-Hari Dasa

Purandaradasa says how his wife made him Hari devotee and renounce all his crores of wealth and became an ascetic.

ಆದದ್ದೆಲ್ಲ ಒಳಿತೆ ಆಯಿತು
ರಾಗ : ಪಂತುರಾವಳಿ ; ತಾಳ : ಆದಿತಾಳ

Aadaddella oLitE aayitu namma
Shreedhara seve maadalu sadhana sampattayitu;
Dandige betta hidiyodakke
mande maachi naachutalidde,
Hendati santati saavirvaagali
Dandige betta hidisidaLyya
GopaaLa butti hidiyodakke.
Bhupatiyante garvisutidde,
Aa patnee kula saavirvaagali,
GopaaLa butti hidisidaLayya;
TuLasi male haakuvudakke
Arasanante naachutalidde,
Sarasijaksha Purandhara ViTTala
TuLasi male haakisidnayya!


Whatever happened happened for good
Raga: panturavali; Tala: Aadi.

Whatever happened happened for good
A way to serve the God imbibed with all wealth !
To hold the carrying-stick[1] on my shoulder,
I had bent my head with shyness,
She like my better-half emerge in thousands,
Who made me carry the shoulder-stick.!
To stretch my hand with begging bowl,
I was abashed with pride like a king,
This wife like lineage come out in thousands!
She made me to hold out the begging bowl!
To wear a Tulasi garland, I hesitated
In shyness like a crowned king,
Made me wear the wreath of TuLsi[2]
He, the God Vittala of Purandara - with lotus eyes

  1. ^ A stick on shoulder with weight on two ends.
  2. ^ Ocimum tenuiflorum plant - wearing the Garland of its leaves like an ascetic.
—from Dasara Padagalu collection by G. V. Shastri
free from copyright
For Kannada text see Talk:Purandara Dasa


Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam is propagating and popularising the literature of Purandara Dasa under the Dasa Sahitya Project.[29] A statue of Purandaradasa was dedicated at the foot of Tirumala in Alipiri.[30]

Compilations of Purandara Dasa's lyrics

See also


  1. Kamath 1980
  2. 1 2 Iyer (2006), p93 (Quote: "He is considered to be the Pitamaha of Carnatic music because he codified the teaching of Carnatic music by evolving several graded steps like Sarali, Jantai and Tattu Varisai; alankaras and geethams")
  3. Thielemann (2002), p. 22 (Quote:"The most well known among the haridasas is Purandara Dasa (1480 or 84-1564), whose significant contribution to South Indian music is honored by referring to him as the 'father of Carnatic music'")
  4. Kassebaum (2000), p211
  5. Parthasarathy, T. S. (1991). "Margadarsi Whom Swati Tirunal followed". The Journal of the Music Academy, Madras. Music Academy. 62: 72. (Quote: "The great Purandara Dasa was a 'Margadarsi' in many ways although he is generally referred to as the 'Pitamaha' (grandfather) of Carnatic music")
  6. R Zydenbos in Cushman S, Cavanagh C, Ramazani J, Rouzer P, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics: Fourth Edition, p.767, Princeton University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-691-15491-6
  7. Sharma 2000:598
  8. Chaitanya Deva (1995), p. 83
  9. Desai, Krishnarao and Sharma in Sharma 2000:Appendix VII
  10. Iyengar 1964
  11. The Hindu online, 2006-10-20
  12. http://thyagaraja-vaibhavam.blogspot.in/2011/07/prahlada-bhakti-vijayam-part-1-dance.html
  13. Iyer 2006:93
  14. Purandaradasa: Fountainhead of Karnataka sangeeta i.e., Carnatic music
  15. K Paniker, Ayyapan (2008). medieval India Literature. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 196–198. ISBN 81-260-0365-0. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  16. http://www.sruti.com/June06/bbook.htm
  17. Gavai 1956
  18. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5S8DbE6pWI
  19. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-V7dfBRZ9g
  20. http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra_pradesh/article445160.ece
  21. http://www.purandara.org/
  22. http://www.isangeethasabha.in/Purandara_bhavana.html
  23. http://www.sumadhwaseva.com/dasaru/purandara-dasaru/
  24. Kanaka-Purandara IMDB
  25. AWARDS: The multi-faceted playwright Frontline (magazine), Vol. 16, No. 03, Jan. 30 - Feb. 12, 1999.
  26. http://madhwabrahmanas.blogspot.in/2010/09/essence-of-madhva-philosophy.html
  27. http://bellurramki18.wordpress.com/2007/01/19/sri-purandara-dasa-1494-1564/
  28. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 M.K.V, Narayan (2010). Lyrical Musings on Indic Culture: A Sociology Study of Songs of Sant Purandara Dasa. Read Worthy Publications Private Limited. p. 11. ISBN 9789380009315. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  29. "Dasa Sahitya Project". Retrieved 29 Oct 2015.
  30. "Purandaradasa statue unveiled at Tirupati". Retrieved 1 Nov 2015.


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