Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Royal perceptor and a wandering ministrel

If one was a religious preceptor and the Raja Guru of kings, the other was a singer and composer of extraordinary calibre. If the preceptor was proficient in prose, the singer-composer was a master of verse. Both were considered the best in their fields and both adorned the Vijayanagar court for several decades.
If the preceptor was to leave an everlasting impression on the Madhwa religion and philosophy, the singer-composer refashioned the world of music and set it to a genre of lilting tunes that today is known as Carnatic music. Both shared a close bond with each other and each respected the other’s genius.
They both were incomparable companions and when the preceptor shed his mortal body, the singer-composer with tears streaming down from his eyes composed a beautiful song even as the reigning Vijayanagar monarch Achuta Deve Raya stood watching his Raj Guru entering Brindavan in agony and pain.
Yes, this is the story of an endearing and enduring friendship between two contemporaries who lived in the Vijayanagar court-the great Dwaitha saint-philosopher and writer Vyasa Raja and Purandara Dasa, the Bheeshma Pitha of Carnatic music and Dasa Sahitya.
Haridasa Sahitya can be broadly divided into two main categories-Vyasa Koota and Dasa Koota. If  Vyasa Raja can be termed as the man who laid the foundations of Vyasa Koota, Purandara can be conferred the right of initiating, nurturing and popularising the Dasa Koota.
Both these two schools of Sahitya met at Vijayanagar. If Vyasa held daily courts and darbars, Purandara went around the magnificent city of Hampi-a wandering minstrel singing the glory of Purandara Vittala and other Gods.
Whenever Vyasa Raja wanted him, Purandara was at hand. When Vyasa taught at the Vijayanagar University of which he was the Chancellor, Purandara sometime sat and marvelled at the mastery and scholastic ability of Vyasa Raja. On his part, Vyasa Raja appreciated the songs and compositions of Purandara and placed the as the first of equals.
Vyasa Raja often started a composition by picking up on a subject and asked Purandara to complete it. To the amazement of the 11,000 students of Vijayanagar University, Purandara completed the rest of the compositions extempore.
Vyasa Raja , in one of his compositions, said “Dasarendare Purandara Dasariah”, and Purandara reciprocated it several times over by praising Vyasa Raja in several of his compositions. In one of his compositions, he speaks of how Vyasa Raja sat on the throne of  Vijayanagar and ensured that the reigning Emperor Krishna Deve Raya would not die of Kuhu Roga.  
The Smartha poet, Somanatha, who is believed to have been born at Kanchi, has written a biography of Vyasa Raja. Apart from him, Vyasa Raja’s immediate successor, Srinivasa Theertha, has also written about Vyasa Raja.
These two books give us a fair idea of the lives of some of the personalities in the court of Krishna Deve Raya (1509-1530) and his successor Achuta Deve Raya. The accounts of Portuguese travelers Dominque Paes and Nuniz specifically mentions Vyasa Raja. They too paid obeisance to Vyasa Raja in his court after earlier meeting and presenting their credentials to Krishna Deve Raya.
The Ambassadors of the Kingdoms of Adil Shah and Golconda have also written about Vyasa Raja and the power he wielded. Krishna Deve Raya himself acknowledged Vyasa Raja as his Raja Guru and went by what his Guru told him. There is a small and simple inscription on the Vijaya Vittala temple in Hampi where Krishna Deve Raya mentions Vyasa Raja as his Raja Guru.
Purandara was among the galaxy of Shishyas or disciples that Vyasa Raja had. Some of the others are Vadiraja Theertha, Sreenivasa Theertha, Sudhindra Theertha (the Guru of  Raghavendra Swamy), Kanaka Dasa and to an extent Vaikunta Dasa.
The Dasas of the period revered Vyasa Raja and each one of them were inspired by the Raj Guru and his works. On his part, Vyasa Raja took everyone under his wings and gave them the shelter that only an umbrella can do on a hot summer or rainy day.
Vyasa Raja was so impressed by the depth of Purandara dasa’s songs and his devotion that he labeled them as “Purandaropanishath.”
Both the Guru and the Dasa often travelled together to cities and provinces away from Vijayanagar (Hampi). When both once came to Chennapatna near Bangalore, Purandara was overcome by the sheer magnificence of the idol of Srinivasa (even today this temple is located in Chennapatna) that he stayed on here and sang his Dasara Padagalu.
Vyasa Raja had built this temple after he came back from Tirupathi. Purandara began singing every day and hundreds of people gathered to listen. When Purandara donated all the money to the temple, Vyasa Raja ensured that a Mantapa was built in Purandara’s honour. Even to this day, this mantapa is called Purandara Mantapa.
There is also a Purandara Mantapa in front of the Apremaya Temple in Dodda Malur which is just a few kms from Chennapatna. It was built when Purandara sang Jaggadodharana on seeing the Ambegalu Krishna at the temple. This structure too exists.         
Thus we can see that Prahalada and Bahlika Raja in both his subsequent avatars as Vyasa Raja and Raghavendra Swamy had close companions. As Vyasa he had the redoubtable Purandara and as Raghavendra he had the matchless Appanacharya as his close companions.
Vyasa Raja died in 1539, a decade after Krishna Deve Raya died. He entered Brindavana at Nava Brindavana in Hampi and this event was watched by hundreds of people, including a sobbing Purandara Dasa, Srinvasa Theertha (the next in line to Vyasa Raja of the Vyasa Raja matha) and the Emperor Achuta Deve Raya.
Purandara Dasa lived for twenty five years more and he died n 1564, an year before the catastrophic Battle of Talikota (Rakasa and Tangadi) in which the Vijayanagar forces were defeated.
After Vyasa Raja entered Brindavana,  Purandara could not bear himself to be at Hampi as every stone and every moment reminded him of his Guru. He often went to Nava Brindavana to pay his respects to Vyasa Raja. He then went around the country side singing the praises of Vittala.  
 Alas, today there is not even a trace of the University. The marauding forces of the Deccan Sultans set fire to buildings and razed it to the ground. The seat of Vyasa Raja also vanished without a trace. Similarly, the streets of Hampi where Purandara went around losing himself in his Vittala and singing his praises were destroyed. Today, all that is left of the streets is the Raja Beedhi. The other streets have vanished.
What endures is the works of Vyasa Raja and the compositions of Purandara Dasa. And of course the Brindavana of  Vyasa Raja at Nava Brindavana and the Purandara Mantapa amidst the Tungabhadra in Hampi where Purandara composed many songs.
What happened to the Emperors who patronised these two great personalities. Krishna Deve Raya died and a 64-pillared hall exists even today at Anegundi to mark the place where he was cremated. There is no trace of the burial site of Achuta Deve Raya.

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