Friday 16 November 2012

Purandara and his sons

Though much is known about Purandara Dasa, particularly his compositions, his personal life after he became a Dasa, is shrouded in mystery.
This is perhaps due to the fact that he gave up his wealth completely and he became a wandering mendicant. He sang the praises of Purandara Vittala and wandered the streets of Hampi. Collecting alms and living on them. His wife was an ardent companion and she followed her husband live a faithful shadow.
The little that we know of Purandara can be gleaned from some contemporary accounts and the Dasa who followed Purandara Dasa.
A little of the life of  Purandara Dasa can be gleaned from his compositions itself. In one of his songs, he himself says he was to write 5,0000 compositions but he could only achieves 4,75,000. In another, he sings mournfully about the loss of a son.
Purandara was born in the later part of the 15th century. Some scholars say he was born in 1480, while others say the date is 1484. His father Varada Nayaka was a money lender and trader. His mother Leelawathi, a housewife. Purandara continued the family business which flourished under him.
At the age of 16, he married Lakshmibai and four years later his parents died.
Purandara Dasa had four sons and a daughter. After his life transformed and he became a devotee of Purandara Vittala, he settled down at Hampi where his wife and sons joined him.
The family lived a simple and frugal life, a far comparison from the days when wealth flowed into their house almost every day.
Vyasa Raja took Purandara Dasa as his disciple and gave him the much needed literary push. Purandara Dasa constantly thought about Hari and ceased to worry about daily life. His wife and sons did not complain about the changed circumstances.
His daily routine in Hampi was simple. He tied bells around his ankle and with a tambouri in hand went around the streets of Hampi singing Devara namas. People followed him and admired his compositions. Purandara accepted alms and went back home where his wife cooked for him and their three sons.
He regularly met with and discussed several academic issues with Vyasa Raja, both at the Vyasaraja Matha and at the Vijayaagar University of which Vyasa Raja was the Chancellor.
A Shasana or inscription found in Tirthalli says Hebanna was Purandara Dasa’s son. Another  Shasana found in Sagar in Shimga district says Purandara is associated with Kshemapura.
These Shanasas and other records roughly indicate that Purandara Dasa was perhaps born in 1480. But there is still controversy on whether he was born at Pandrapur or near Sagar in Shimoga district. However, his date of death can be exactly pinpointed to 1564 as one of his sons composed a nama (song) on the day Purandara died.
A few years before Vyasa Raja entered Brindavana, he gave Deeksha to three of the four sons of Purandara. One of the sons had passed away earlier. Thus, Purandara Dasa’s sons also followed their father in the Dasa tradition.
A copper plate found in Kamalapura and dated 1526 says that Vyasa Raja gifted villages to the three surviving sons of Purandara-Lakshmana Dasa, Hebbana Dasa and Madhwapathi Dasa. The Shasana also says that Purandara belonged to Vasistha Gotra and that his sons were empowered or eligible to receive gifts.
The villages were once gifted to Vyasa Raja by Krishna Deve Raya. However, Vyasa Raja gifted the villages to Purandara’s sons considering the latter’s precarious financial position.
Whether or not Vyasa Raja gave Ankita Nama to Purandara Dasa is debatable. But what is sure is that he accepted Purandara Dasa as his disciple and encouraged him to compose songs and spread the message of Hari.
Purandara Dasa foresaw the gradual decline of the Vijayanagar empire after the death of Krishna Deve Raya in 1509. The later rulers like Achuta Deve Raya, Sadashiva Raya and Rama Raya could not match the military prowess and ability of Krishna Deve Raya. Nor could they impose their will as Krishna Deve Raya did on their neighbouring Kingdom.
A few years before he passed away in 1564, Purandara Dasa warned the people of Vijayanagar about the danger of vices and falling into the trap of wealth and improper conduct. He sang, “Neechadhiree Bhagya” but the Emperor and the masses remained oblivious. Retribution was swift and the Vijayanagar forces lost in 1565 and Hampi was plundered and thousands of people put to the sword.
But what about Purandara Dasa’s sons. An year after the death of their father, Vijayanagar was in shambles and all the Dasas, including Purandara’s sons, dispersed from Vijayanagar.

Hebbanna (called Lakshma in another record), Madhwapati and Abhinava all composed songs, each with their own and distinct Anikta Nama. Some scholars believe that the Pillari geete – paduma naabha  paramapurusha – is not by Purandara but by his son Abhinava Purandara Dasa.
Purandara Dasa’s sons too composed several songs and they also sang their father’s compositions. Unfortunately, no written records of their contribution exists and even if they did compose, we can only credit it to Purandara Dasa.
One of his sons-Madhwapati Dasa- gives the day and date of death of Purandara Dasa in a composition.
The first line of the composition (Pallavi) and the second line (Anu Pallavi) says the verse was composed on the day Purandara passed away. It further mentions that day and date as Amavyasa. Pushya and Ravi Vara (Sunday). The other lines of the composition clearly states that Purandara died at Virupaksh Kshetra (Hampi where the Virupaksha Temple exists even today). We can also infer from the composition that Purandara passed away in a place adjacent to the Virupaksha Temple.
Madhwapati was reborn as Vijaya Dasa and he composed 25,000 songs.
Interestingly, the Purandara Mantapa, is very near to the Virupaksha temple. The University of Vijayanagar was also somewhere here. There is not even a stone tablet or structure indicating that the University existed. This was the extent of the destruction that the Deccan Sultans wrought on Hampi or Vijayanagar.
My research tells me that almost all the Dasas, including the sons of Purandara Dasa, fled Vijayanagar when the Deccan Sultans began destroying Vijayanagar. When Aliya Rama Raya was killed in the Battle of  Talikota in 1565, Tirumala Raya carried away the wealth of Vijayanagar to Penu Konda in Andhra Pradesh, leaving Hampi defenceless.
Though there is no exact account of the migration of Dasas from Hampi, contemporary accounts detail the manner in which people left for safer destinations and the plunder that Hampi was subjected to.
Some of the Dasas migrated towards Mysore area where Wodeyars were ruling over Srirangapatna and Mysore. The keladi kings over Bidanur and Shimoga,  Nayakas at Chitradurga and Tanjore.
After the end of the Vijayanagar dynasty, Dasa sahitya flourished in and around Mantralaya as Jagannatha Dasa and others like Prasanna Venkata Dasa, Mahipathi Dasa  made places away from Hampi popular seats of Dasa Sahitya.
Purandara, in his last few days, accepted Sanyasa. But the moot question is from whom and when did he accept Sanyasa.Not much is known about his sons and his daughter. I will deal with this aspect separately in my coming article.    

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