Sri Purandhara Dasaru


Shri Purandara Dasaru (1484-1564) ("the follower (dasa) of Lord Shri Purandara Vittala, Lord Vishnu in one of his many avatars.") is known as the father (Pitamaha) of Carnatic music. The dasas, among them Sripadaraya, Kanaka Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa, Vijaya Dasa, and Kamalesha Vittala and others, propounded bhakti to the Lord through music over several years.

Purandara Dasa always concluded his songs with a salute to Lord Purandara Vittala. He is believed to have composed around 475,000 songs, although only a thousand or so of them are known today. All his musical compositions are in
Kannada language, the state language of Karnataka.

Life History:

Purandara Dasa was born to a pawnbroker named Varadappa Nayaka. Varadappa Nayaka and his wife Lakshmi Bai had been childless for several years, and finally, after praying to Lord Srinivasa of Tirupati, they became proud parents of a child whom they called Srinivasa. The family are supposed to have hailed from Pandarapur in modern day Maharashtra but Purandara Dasa lived in Hampi during the latter part of his life.

Srinivasa Nayaka grew up and entered his father's business. However, unlike his father, he was a miser, so much so that it is said that he even baulked at spending money on treatment for his father's illness. His wife Saraswathi bai was the opposite: always wishing to contribute to charity much to the displeasure of her husband.

One day, Lord Vishnu in the guise of a poor priest visited Srinivasa Nayaka's shop who wanted some alms to perform the thread ceremony for his son. Srinivasa Nayaka, being a miser, asked him to return the following day, and kept the Brahmin coming for another six months. Finally, fed up with the Brahmin's persistence, he gave him one fake coin that he played with as a child. Vishnu as the priest then told Srinivasa's wife Saraswathi the pitiful story of how a miserly pawnbroker made him come to his shop every day for six months only to give him a fake coin in the end. Saraswathi's heart melted and she gave the Brahmin her nose ring as alms (a gift from her parents and thus not something that she got from her husband). The Brahmin promptly took the nose ring back to Srinivasa Nayaka's shop, where he wanted to pawn it for money. The pawnbroker recognized it, however, so he locked it up in his safe and hurried home. He demanded that Saraswathi produce her nose ring immediately. Struck with fear, Saraswathi locked herself in the kitchen and tried to swallow poison. Miraculously, the nose ring dropped from the heavens into her cup of poison and she was able to produce it for her husband. Upon returning to his shop, he opened the safe, only to find that the nose ring in the safe had vanished. This put his mind into a turmoil. After deep thought, he came to the conclusion that the brahmin was none other than Lord Shri Purandara Vitthala Himself. He recalled all the incidents that had transpired in the previous six months. Wonderstruck, he was ashamed of his miserliness, Srinivasa Nayaka decided to renounce all material belongings and become a dasa (servant)of god. Thus, Srinivasa Nayaka came to be Purandara Dasa. In gratitude for this event, he would later compose a song dedicated to his wife, for having shown him the path to God. From that day onwards he became a devotee of Shri Hari. The once Navkoti Narayana became a Narayana bhakta, the hands which sported gold and diamond rings now played the tamboora, the neck which used to be resplendent with golden chains now housed the tulasi mAla. The man who had turned away countless people away, now himself went around collecting alms and living the life of a mendicant. The Nayaka who would have lived and died an inconsequential life became the Great Purandaradasa, loved and revered even centuries after his death.

Above content is an extract from Wikipedia.


SOME FACTS about Purandara Dasa's songs are not so well known. The Dasa passed away in 1564 A.D. and the next year the Vijayanagar Empire collapsed at the battle of Talikota. In the chaos that followed the saint's sons moved from Hampi to their native Purandaragad near Poona taking with them whatever material they had like the text of the saint's songs as noted down by them.

These were in Marathi script, were brought to Mysore 200 years later and transliterated into Kannada script. Then followed printing of these songs in any number of books, paying little attention to the correctness of the texts. Many faults were there naturally. Many good editions have also been brought out, like the one by the Karnataka State Government , edited by S. K. Ramachandra Rao.

But the literary side is less than half the work needed. To Purandara Dasa's reforms on the music side we owe the present Carnatic system. Carnatic music, after separating from Hindustani music, had started showing signs of breaking up into a number of local variations. It was the Dasa who arrested this trend with his farsighted reforms.

Among others he restricted the number of ragas to around 35-called Batteesa ragas. All his compositions were in these ragas. It is therefore surprising that in this book the ragas mentioned for many songs were not there in the saint's time. Some of these ragas are "Peelu," "Hindusthani Kapi," "Behag," "Kharaharapriya," "Kambodhi" "Mohana"(?), and "Dahanasri". The tunes of these songs are obviously by half-baked pseudo composers. Care should have been taken to point out these oddities. It is somewhat easy to differentiate an original Purandara Dasa composition from others. He had brought about a complete fusion of the three ingredients of a song — raga, sahitya and tala. It is to be noted that the only other composer to have achieved perfection in this respect is Thyagaraja himself.

The mood or rasa of a raga matches well with the sahitya in these compositions and the sahitya has been composed in such a way that the number of syllables matches perfectly the beat of the tala.
The content in 'Works' is an extract from The Hindu, written by G.D.

His Songs:

Purandara Dasa always concluded his songs with a salute to Lord Purandara Vittala. He is believed to have composed around 475,000 songs, although only a thousand or so of them are known today. All his musical compositions are in Kannada language, the state language of Karnataka (India). The songs composed by Purandara Dasa had its appeal to illiterate common people.Through his songs Purandara Dasa praised the Lord Vishnu and also penetrated a huge amount of bakthi among the singers and listeners. Purandara Dasa's songs are filled with rhyme and meaning. All of Purandaradasa's works are in simple metrical songs, which can be sung on all occasions, and convey devotion in the Bhagavata philosophy.

Purandaradasa was the originator of the musical scale by which all the rules of Carnatic school are formed. His classification of swaravali, jantivarase, alamkara, and lakshana factors are accepted and practiced throughout.

The content in 'His Songs' are extracted from

Few Compositions of Sri Purandhara Dasaru can be found in


Rangakrishnan Srinivasan said...

There is a belief that Saint Purandaradasa was an avatara of Narada; and thereby, the prolific nature of his musical compositions and great virtuousity.

parimala said...

purandara dasaru's contribution is enormous.well narrated.