There have been many books, commentaries, interpretation and even differing versions of Sri Harikathamrutsara, the magnum opus of Jagannatha Dasa (1727-1809) of Manvi.
The Harikathamrutsara is one of the most important books in Madhwa parampare and today there is not one discourse or lecture on Vaishnava thought and philosophy where it is not mentioned.
The work is one of the most important in Vaishnava idealogy. However, it would be very unfair to restrict it to just one segment of society. The work is rare text of passion and devotion, of godliness and rare beauty, The language is unmatched and so is the style. This surely must be one of the most read and most commented work of all times and it has transcended all barriers time and language.
The Harikathamrutasara is also one of the most discussed and dissected texts and we find seminars, workshops, discourses, discussions, debates and even contests relating to this work.
Ever since the Sriharikathamrutasara came to be written, it has been commented upon and each word and each syllable has been intensely scrutinised.
Some of the earliest commentaries on the Sri Harikathamrutsara are by Sankarshna Wodeyar in Telugu and by Modekal Sesha Rao or Guru Vijaya Vittala, Guru Sreesha Vittala or Kuntoji Dasa, and Drupedesha Vittala.
Pranesha Dasa, one of the most prominent disciples of Jagannatha Dasa, too has written a commentary on the Sri Harikathamrutasara and this is supposed to be among the very first such works.
But what many do not know is that Jagannatha Dasa himself composed a separate poem extolling the virtues of the Sri Harikathamrutasara.
He called the eulogy as “Taaraka vidu Harikathamrtasara Janake”. The entire poem is believed to have been dictated by Jagannatha Dasa to his son Sri Damodara Dasa.
We know that Damodara Dasa lived upto 1770 when he died. Strangely, Damodara Dasa refers to the fact that the Sri Harikathamrutasara had ten verses or chapters. He makes a clear allusion to this. This means that Jagannatha Dasa dictated the first part of the Sri Harikathamrutsara in 1770 at Manvi itself and the rest at Hosaritti where he went with all his prominent disciples.
There is enough evidence of Jagannatha Dasa composing the rest of the work at Hosaritti where he stayed along with Dhirendre Theertha, the then pontiff of the Raghavendra Swamy Matha.
When he moved from Manvi to Hosaritti on the banks of the serene Varada, Jagannatha Dasa has lost his son. Thus the new chapters of the Sri Harikathamrutasara that were added in 1791 was at Hosaritti in Dharwar district, when his son,
Damodara Dasa was not alive.
Manohara Dasa, another disciple of Jagannatha Dasa, was at Manvi in 1765-66. He composed a poem of 17 verses extolling the Harikathamurtasara” as a book with 10 chapters only.
In the thirteenth verse of his book, Manohara Dasa specifically
mentions the exact number of verses in the Sri Harikathamrutasara. He says the magnum opus of Jagannatha Dasa had 10 chapters with 302 verses and this tallies with the total number
of verses of the ten chapters.
It is believed that Pranesha Dasa wrote down the text even as Jagannatha Dasa dictated. This original manuscript of Pranesha Dasa, as dictated by Sri Jagannatha Dasa himself, is supposed to have been written between 1756-58 to 1798. This text is in Devanagari script and it is still available at Manvi
in Raichur district.
We know that the chapters after the tenth (till the 32nd chapter ) were dictated by Jagannatha Dasa to his other disciples and they were most probably written in Hosaritti. Among his disciples was Karagji Dasa who wrote the Phala Stuti for the Sri Harikathamrutasara.
Karjagi Dasa or Dasappa later came to be known as Srida Vittala. The other disciples who were with Jagannatah dasa at Hosaritti include Guru Srisha Vithala of Kampli (
Abhinava Janardana Vittala, Pranesha Dasa and Srisha Vittala. Bellary
However, the first work which indicates that the Sri Harikathamrutasara had 32 verses or chapters is mentioned in a book written by Bhimsena Vittala called “Pancharatna Prakashike”.
Bhimsena Vittala was a contemporary of Jagannatha Dasa and possibly his disciple.
Sankarshana Wodeyar (1810-62), who hailed from Dharwar, gave the first discourse on the Sri Harikathamrutasara in Girimpeta in Chitoor district of Andhra Pradesh. He is believed to have dictated his commentary in 1852 to Arni Hanumanta Rao and other disciples.
Wodeyar’s commentary is generally accepted to be one of the most authoritative of its kind. However, it differs from the account of Pranesha Dasa.Guru Jagananatha Dasa of Kowthalam or Kosigi Dasa (1837-1918) wrote commentaries on Sriharikathamrutasara in both Kannada and Sanskrit. This Jagannatha Dasa is often confused with the Jagannatha Dasa of Manvi.