Friday 15 February 2013

Purandara's sons and Marathi

Last week was the aradhana of Puradara Dasa, the greatest composer in the field of Carnatic music.
Though we know about Purandara’s songs and his life and times in the Vijayanagar capital of Hampi, not much is known about his sons and why and how his compositions came to be lost.
Purandara is supposed to have composed four lakhs and seventy five thousand songs. But only a thousand of them survive.
What happened to the rest and how were they lost. Where are the original compositions or notings if any. These issues are all still in the realms of  mysteries and are yet to be resolved.
However, there are a few facts which are not well known and which may have a bearing on further research on Purandara, his family and compositions. These are not mere conjectures and there are records to back them up.
When Achuta Deva Raya took over the reigns of the Vijayanagar Kingdom, Purandara Dasa had warned him about the excesses being committed and he had also spelt out the dangers of people leading a Epicurean life.
Neither the Emperor nor his subjects paid any heed to the warning the catastrophe was very quick in coming in the form of the Battle of Takilokta or Rakasa Tangadi. (Talikota is near Bijapur in north Karnataka. However, the actual battle between the Vijayanagar and Muslims was fought at two villages called Rakasa and Tangadi in 1565. The battle saw the complete rout of the Vijayanagar Army and the beheading its 92-year-old King, Rama Raya.)
The Muslim Armies of Golconda, Ahmednagar, Berar and Bijapur  marched upto Hampi and completely destroyed the city. Purandara had died an year earlier in Hampi itself in 1564. By then, his Guru, Vyasa Theertha had passed away in 1539 AD and Purandara was survived only by his friend Kanaka Dasa.
When Purandara passed away, the mantle of continuing the Dasa tradition fell of his son Madhwapathi Dasa and of course Kanaka. When Hampi fell, Madhwapathi was still in the City, safeguarding his father’s compositions and reciting them along with his own compositions. He had along with him his two brothers-Hebbana Dasa and Lakshmana Dasa.
However, when news reached Hampi about the death of Rama Raya and of the march by the combined Muslim armies, Tirumala Raya abandoned Hampi and fled, leaving the people to fend for themselves.
While Tirumala Raya locked himself up with treasures at the Chandragiri fort near Tirupathi, Madhwapathi Dasa and a few of his fellow composers along with his brothers moved to Purandhar Gadh near present day Pune and settled down there.
Madhwapathi and his brothers took with them whatever he could lay their hands on in their house and in the temple his father frequented-his father’s compositions, a few notations and family artifacts.
Did the three brothers learn Marathi at Purandara Ghad or did they come back to Chandragiri when the Vijayanagar Empire subsequently rehabilitated itself. These are questions which are yet to be answered.
All we know is that several hundred compositions were discovered in Purandara Ghad and brought to Mysore more than 200 years ago. These compositions were in Marathi and after they were brought to Mysore, they were translated into Kannada.
A majority of the compositions were in Batteesa Raga or the group of 32 ragas that he restricted himself to.  
What poses difficulty for a deeper research in Dasa Sahitya is the absence of written records of those ages. The Dasa tradition of composing and singing was mainly oral. A composition was sung and it was handed down from one Dasa to another.
Purandara’s songs too were orally passed on from generation to generation. Of course, Vyasa Theertha gave it the sanctity of religious texts and Purandara’s songs were heard regularly even in temples in Tirupathi and Udupi and Hampi.
Another problem in sifting fact from fiction is that Purandara did not have any formal disciple. The Dasa tradition, which collapsed in 1565, once again revived under Vijaya Dasa and we still have a tremendous body of literature to fall back upon. But still there were no written records and the Dasa tradition continued to be an oral one.   
It was only in the 19th century that the first tentative steps of taking down notations and putting the compositions on paper started.  This tradition was started by Karigiri Rao of Mysore who was a disciple of  Mysore Sadashiva Rao. These notations are in the 32 ragas enumerated by Purandara.

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