Saturday, 9 November 2013

Germans discovered this Haridasa

Haridasas are a household name in Karnataka and even elsewhere. Many of the Haridasas such as Purandara Dasa never bothered to write down their compositions. They went about singing their compositions, oblivious of  the need to preserve their literary gems in the written form.
However, the compositions of  the Haridasas needed no introduction and people took to them like duck to water. Their compositions were simple to understand, easy to sing and much easier to memorise.
The Haridasas came to widely known even outside their place of residence. Thus, we have several Haridasas such as Purandara, Kanaka, Vijaya Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa and others whose fame spread far beyond the borders of Karnataka.
There was perhaps not a single Haridasa except this one whose works remained largely unknown not only to the people of the State but also to critics and literary historians. The fact that this Haridasa was a native of  Udupi and he lived most of his life in and around this region was perhaps another reason for his obscurity.
It took two German authors to bring to light the compositions of this Haridasa. One of the German authors who discovered the writings of this Haridasa was none other than Rev. Ferdinand Kittel (1832-1903), the man who earned the gratitude of millions of Indians when he published his remarkable dictionary.
The Haridasa was Nekkara Krishna Dasa, an eighteenth century man of letters. He was essentially a Kannada poet-saint who mainly wrote Keertanes or Devara namas under his pen name Varaha Thimappa.
Krishna dasa as born in a family of Nekkaras in Udupi.
His remarkable compositions work were first discovered by the Basel missionary Hermann Mogling (1811-1881) of Germany. A stunned Mogling, who rated the compositions very highly, published 72 poems of this Dasa in 1856. He called this book. Dasara Padagalu”.
Subsequently, another German, Rev. Ferdinand Kittel came to India and he mentions 24 more unpublished poems of Krishna Dasa in October 1872. These were published in the monthly magazine Indian Antiquary. Unfortunately, these compositions are still untraceable.
Kittel ranked this Dasa alongside Purandara Dasa and Kanaka Dasa.
After the Germans discovered him, Krishna Dasa once again lapsed into obscurity and it is only in the past few years that interest in him has revived. What is more sad is that many of his compositions have been plagerised by some singers who have passed it off as the works of Purandara Dasa.
Krishna Dasa was a great devotee of Srinivasa of Tirumala. Hence, we see a lot of compositions dedicated to Venkateshwara. He also has several compositions on Udupi Sri Krishna.
His compositions clearly exhibit the influence of Madhwacharya. Some of his compositions are invaluable as they document the daily, monthly and annual rituals and rites of the Sri Krishna temple of Udupi.
Like Purandara Dasa, this Haridasa too has written about the life and times of the people, the society in which he lived and the trials and tribulations of people. Thus, we see a social touch in his writings.   
He was born as Krishna Raya to a family of Perampalli Nekkars near Shivalli village. He later became a disciple of  Vibudendra Theertha Swamy of Krishnapura Matha, one of the Asta mathas of Udupi.
Two of his compositions, “Lakshmi Kalyanaa” and “Sri Krishna
Charitre” are considered as classics of  Haridasa literature. All his compositions bear the Ankita Varaha Thimappa.
Some of his other popular compositions include “Ballarolu”, “Ninna Nambidhe Nannu”, “Neene Guruvaagenage”, “Dhanavu Iddhare Saaku”, “Yarige Dooruvenu” , “Salahikomuvarille”, “Endige Dayebaa”, “Rokka Eradakku Dukka Kaanakka  ”,  “Kaadadiru” and “Thannolagidhu”.
Varaha Thimappa Dasa was perhaps only less prolific than Purandara Dasa and Vijaya Dasa. He is supposed to have lived in the times of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. When Sagar fell into the hands of Hyder Ali, he fled to Tirumala. He was a contemporary of Madhava Dasa of Udupi.
It took several decades after this incident for this Haridasa to be brought to the notice of the outside world and we owe this to the two German authors. Thus, Varaha Thimappa Dasa must be one of the few poet-saints who were first recognised by foreigners and it was they who brought him back into circulation in the place of his domicile and in the State he lived. 

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