Purandara Dasa (1484–1564) is a prominent composer of Carnatic music. He is widely referred to as the Pitamaha (the father or the grandfather) of Carnatic Music in honour of his significant contribution to Carnatic music.
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 mudra (pen name), “Purandara Vittala”.
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. He earned much money and lived only to earn it, but eventually gave away all his wealth because of a strange incident and became a devotee of Sri Hari.
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It is interesting to note how Srinivasa Nayaka, having changed his life influenced by his wife’s role and having been accepted by Sri Vyaasaraja as disciple naming ‘Purandara Vittala’, earned the belssings of Sri Hari.
Srinivasa Nayaka who had earned the name of Navakoti Narayana, became a devotee of Narayana, the protector of the mankind and started a new life along with his wife and children. Purandara Dasa’s wife and children appear to have composed verses like him.
He had four sons-Varadappa, Gururaya, Abhinavappa and Gurmadhvapathi.
In his very first song composition, he laments his wasted life of indulgence. It begins with the words ‘Analaekara’ in the Shuddha Saveri raga, set to Triputa tala.
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.
There are around 4.75 lakh kirtanas attributed to him.
He died in 1564 at the age of 80.
Purandara Dasa systematized the method of teaching Carnatic music which is followed to the present day.
He introduced the raga Mayamalavagowla as the basic scale for music instruction and a series of graded lessons such as swaravalis, janti swaras,alankaras, lakshana geetas, prabandhas, ugabhogas, daatu varase, geeta, sooladis and kritis.
Another of his important contribution 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 also composed a large number of lakshya and lakshana geetas, many of which are sung to this day. Scholars attribute the standardization of varna mettus entirely to Purandara Dasa.
Purandara Dasa has explained the essence of Upanishads, Vedas, in simple Kannada. His Keerthanas have simple lessons on leading a noble life.
His works have earned the name ‘Purandaropanishat’.
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.
Purandara Dasa’s compositions are equally popular in Hindustani music.
It is said that saint Thyagaraja(May 4, 1767 – January 6, 1847) was greatly inspired by Purandara Dasa. Thyagaraja has paid tribute to Purandara Dasa in his Prahlada bhakti vijayam. These musical geniuses Purandara Dasa and Thyagaraja lived almost three centuries apart.
Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam is propagating and popularising the literature of Purandara Dasa under the Dasa Sahitya Project. A statue of Purandaradasa was dedicated at the foot of Tirumala in Alipiri.
List of Compositions:
- Geetam Sri Gananadha Malahari Roopaka
- Kriti Kaliyugadalli Jhanjhuti Adi