Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Hari Dasas and their compositions

 There are scores of  Bhakti traditions or movements in India but perhaps the most unique of them is the Haridasa system. It is also known as the Vaishnava system and it flourished from 1350 to 1850 AD.
This movement was confined almost exclusively to Karnataka (the old Mysore state which also comprised parts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu) in the beginning before it spread to other states.The Haridasa movement traces its origin to the teachings of Madhwacharya and his followers.
Hari means Vishnu and Dasa means servant. There is a huge volume of devotional songs and compositions called Devaranamas under the Haridasa genre and they are mostly devoted to Rama, Krishna, Srinivasa, Vittala and Narasimha.
The Dwaitha philosophy of Madhwacharya (1238-1317) had a great bearing on the Haridasa movement. Many of the Dwaitha saints were also Haridasas of note.
Though Madhwacharya wrote several works, all of them were in Sanskrit. There is a belief that Madhwacharya wrote two  books in Kannada, not much is known about them and even their veracity is not proved. His followers did write hymns and devotional songs but they were primarily in Sanskrit. Many saints who came after Madhwacharya tried to simplify his teachings and also wrote in the language known to the common man.
One such saint is Naharahi Theertha, one of the four direct disciples of Madhwacharya. The other three direct disciples are Padmanabha Theertha, Madhava Thertha and Akshoba Theertha.
Narahari Theertha wrote two books so that the common man can understand the Haridasa concept preached by Madhwa. He is also the pioneer of the Yakshagana system in Karnataka and the Kathakali dance form in Kerala. (See earlier article in the archive for the contribution of Madhwacharya and Narahari Theertha to the origin and development of Yakshagana).
He has written a few Kannada songs on Vishnu which are available today. The Srikumam inscriptions credits the origin of Haridasa Sahitya to him.
The Haridasa tradition, as it is today, owes much to Sripadaraja Theerha (1404-1502) of Sripadaraja Matha in Mulabagal. This seer was the first to write or compose songs in Kannada. His song Baroo Namma Manege caught the imagination of the people. Soon, Dasas realised the importance of composing songs and singing them in Kannada. Sripadaraja is, therefore, rightly called the pioneer of the Haridasa movement.
A disciple of Sripadaraja was Vyasa Theertha, This seer, who was born in Bannur in Mysore was a major influence on the Bhakti movement and Dwaitha tradition in South India during the period he lived. Vyasa Theertha entered Brindavana on 1539 at Nava Brindavana in Hampi. He was a friend and guide to Purandara dasa, Kanaka Dasa and perhaps even to Vaikunta Dasa.
Vyasa Theertha had a large number of  disciples such as Sudhindra Theertha. Govinda Wodeyar, Srinivasa Theertha and  Vadiraja each of whom made valuable contrinution to Haridasa and Dwaitha literature.  
His Krishna Nee Begane Baro is commonly and ofcourse mistakenly attributed to Purandara Dasa.   
Vadiraja Theertha (1480-1600) was also a great composer. The saint, whose Brindavana is at Sode, was perhaps the most notable and eminent disciple of the redoubtable Vyasa Theertha and his works gave a fresh impetus to Dwaitha philosophy and literature.  
A peculiar feature of the Haridasa sahitya or literature is that it is almost exclusively devoted to Hari or Vishnu and the tenets of Dwaitha philosophy as propounded by Madhwacharya.
 This literature is very similar to the Jain literature that flourished in Karnataka several centuries prior to the birth and spread of  Haridasa literature.
The Jain literature in Karnataka has produced some of the most magnificent works in Kannada and poets such as Pampa, Ranna, Chavundaraya, Naga Chandra and others. The Haridasa literature or Sahitya had a direct bearing on Carnatic music and even the growth of Yakshagana and Vaishanava prose. A Vaishnava, Narayannappa of Gadag, wrote Kumara Bharata and he was called Kumara Vyasa by Vyasa Theertha. Another Vaishnava, Kumara Valmiki, wrote Torvi Ramayana. Both these authors were deeply influenced by the Haridasa movement.
The compositions of Purandara, Kanaka, Jaggantha Dasa, Vijaya Dasa, Gopala Dasa and others was a harmonious mix of litearrture and lyricism and they became the new cornerstone of  Carnatic music.  
Some of the Dasas are:
Purandara Dsa (1480–1564)
Kanaka Dasa (1509–1607)
Vijaya Ddasa (1687–1755
Gopala Dasa (1721–1762).
Jagannatha Dasa (1727–1809)

The most famous of the Dasas and perhaps the most prolific is Purandara Dasa. His riches to rag story is too well known to repeat here. An ardent devotee of Vittala of  Pandrapur (now in Maharashtra), he was greatly influenced by Vyasa Theertha or Vyasa Raja, the preceptor of Krishna Deve Raya and Achuta Deve Raya of the Vijayanagar Kingdom.
His original name was Srinivasa Nayaka and he was given the name Purandara by Vyasa Theertha.
He has written hundreds of devaranamas and all his compositions are based on the Ramayana, Mahabharata or Bhagavatha Geeta.
The Purandara Mantapa which is built in the Tungabhadra river in Hampi was the place where he composed hundreds of songs. He composed Jaggadodharana after seeing the Ambegallu Krishna idol at the Apremaya Temple in Doddamalur which is near Chennapatna on the Bangalore-Mysore highway. Bhagyada Lakshmi Baaramma, his composition, has been made famous by Bheemsen Joshi. Innu Daya Barade, Yaare Rangana, Yaadava Ne Baa, Taarakka Bindige, Amma Nimma Mane Gallali, Bandhidella Barali, Dayamado Dayamado,  are some of his compositions.
Purandara is also called the father of Carnatic music. He also influence Hindustani music. Swamy Haridasa, the Guru of Tansen, was a disciple of Purandara.   
He not only sang in temples but also in the court of Krishna Deve Raya. He was also a notable personality who taught Devaranamas to students of Vijayanagar University of which Vyasa Theertha was the Chancellor. This University was headquartered in Hampi and it had 11,000 students.   
Vyasa Theertha, in one of his compostions, says “Dasarendere  Purandara Dasaraiha”
Kanaka Dasa was a contemporary of Purandara Dasa. His earlier name was Thimmapa Nayaka and he belonged to a family living in Kaginale.
He belonged to the shepherd community (Kurubas) and he is believed to have been born in Bada in north Karnataka. Purandara held him in high esteem and both were in the court of Krishna Deve Raya.
Kanaka Dasa too composed several songs. Once when he was denied entry to the Krishna temple in Udupi and the door of the Garba Gudi was closed on him, he sang so sorrowfully that Krishna turned and a hole appeared in the wall, enabling him to see Krishna. This hole exists even today and  is called Kanakana Kindi. Devotees to the temple have to see Krishna through this hole.
Some of his compositions are Nammama Sharade, Yallaru Madhuvudhu, Heggiddu Heggade, Nee Maayeyo. He wrote 240 Kirtanas, mundigas and Ugabhogas.  His five major works are Nalacharitre, Haribhaktisara,  Nrisimhastava,  Ramadhanyacharitre, a rare work on class struggle and Mohanatarangini..
In his last days, he lived in Tirupathi.
The next Dasa in importance is Vijaya Dasa (1687–1755). The second important development in Haridasa movement began with this Dasa. Born as Dasappa, it is believed that  Purandara Dasa appeared to him in a dream and wrote his ankita or kavyanama  ‘Vijaya Vitthala’, on his tongue.
The tradition of  Dasa Sahitya set by Vijaya Dasa was continued by Gopala Dasa, Prasanna Venkata dasa, Mahipathi Dasa and Jagannatha Dasa. The Harikathamrutasara of Jagannatha dasa is a major work in Dwaitha literature and it is being read, interpreted, discussed and written bout even today.
The advent of Raghavendra Swamy (1595 to 1671) and his miraculous powers gave a new meaning to Hari Dasas of the period. Jagannatha Dasa and Prasanna Venkata Dasa were highly influenced by Raghavendra Swamy. Several dasas visited Mantralaya, the abode of  Raghavendra Swamy, and sang his praises.
Some of the other Dasas who have enriched Kannada literature and contributed to the vast body of Haridasa Sahitya Mohana Dasa, Timmanna Dasa, Rama Dasa, Yogendrappa (Pranesha Vitthala), Karajagi Dasappa (Srida Vitthala), and Ananda Dasa.
It would be grossly unfair to say that only men contributed to Haridasa Sahitya. Women too were in the forefront  and poets and composers such as Helavanakatte Giriyamma, Harapanahalli Bhimavva and others who have made significant contributions.
The Haridasa movement was not confined to Karnataka only. It spread to north India under Chaitanya and to Gujarat (Vallabhacharya), Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Thereare two major forms of Dasa Sahitya- Dasa Kooata
Each Haridasa had his own pen name or Ankita Nama. Narahari Theertha wrote under his pen name  Narahari Raghupathi. The other  writers and their Ankita Nama are as follows: Sripadaraya: (Ranga Vitthala), Vyasatirtha  (Sri Krishna), Vadiraja Teertha (Hayavadana), Raghavendra ( Dheera Venu Gopala),  Purandara Dasa ( Purandara Vittala), Kanaka Dasa ( Adi Keshava),Vijaya Dasa  ( Vijaya Vittala) Gopaladasa (Gopala Vittala), Helevanakatte Giriyamma (Helevanakatte Ranga), Jagannatha Dasa ( Jagannatha Vittala), Mahipathi Dasa (Mahipathi), Prasanna Venkatadasa (Prasanna Venkata), Venugopala Dasa ( Venugopala Vittala), Mohana Dasa ( Mohana Vittala).
 The mention of  the word (not the movement ) Haridasa  or Vaishnava can be traced during the period of the Gangas and Kadambas. The records of these two dynasties speak of them as such.
One of the earliest Kannada work, Bhaktivijaya speaks of a Dasa named Achalananda Dasa.
Though not much is known of this Dasa, he is believed to have been a follower of Lord  Narasimha. He lived in the ninth century during the time of the Rashtrakutas. He was a native of a small village near Bangalore and lived most of his life in Turvekere.
He once went to Pandrapur where he sang the glories of Vishnu. He was then named as  Narasimha Dasa.
Another earlier Haridasa was Pundalika. He is mentioned as a poet in the time of Chalukya King Someshwara. He is mentioned in an inscription dated 1237.
(This is the first article in the series on Haridasas and Haridasa literature. I  will write separate articles on the Haridasas and their contribution as otherwise the article would be too long.)

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