Sunday, 25 August 2013

The first woman Haridasa poet

There here have been close to four hundred Haridasas in Karnataka and these poets-composers have left behind a rich treasure trove of literature spanning several centuries and touching almost all genres of literature.
However, the Haridasas have mainly concentrated on Hari and sung his glory. Talk of  Dasas and the first name that come to our mind is Purandara and the rest such as Kanaka, Vijaya, Jagannatha, Vaikunta follow.
However, what many people do not know is that apart from the Haridasas, there are nearly a hundred Hari Dasis or women writers who equalled their male counterparts in composing hymns, Devarana Namas, Suladis and other forms of poetry.
They have left behind a vast body of Bhakti literature. Unfortunately, only a few of the Hari Dasis such as Helavanakatte Giriyamma, who wrote under the pen name of  Helavanakatteranga, have gained recognition.  
There are several other women Kannada poets and composers of the Bhakti tradition but their names are almost forgotten and barring students of Kannada language and literature and a few research scholars, they remain unheard of.
Among the first Hari Dasais was Galagali Akka (1670-1760). She can be classified as the first Madhwa women poet and certainly among the first Haridasis.  
As her name suggest, she belonged to the Galagali family and her original name Rama. She was the daughter of a village accountant.
Mudgalacharya, a 95-year-old scholar, saw Rama and enchanted by her beauty,  married her. She was just 12 then. He died eight days after the marriage, leaving Rama a widow.
Rama, however, did not lose heart. She began learning shastras and Devarana Namas and quickly mastered them. Her five grown up step sons began tutoring her in Madhwa Siddantha and Madhwa Sampradaya apart from Shastras. She soon began taking part in religious discussions and contests and helped her step sons defeat other scholars in debates. She was honored by the Peshwas, the Wodeyars and others.
What sets aside the compositions of Rama is the manner in which she treats her subject. In one composition on Krishna, she voices the embarrassment that the God feels when he sees he has married so many women.
Today, we have 263 songs and compositions of Rama or Galgalli Akka, as she was affectionately called. Some of  her compositions are Muyyada Haddu which deals with Gowri Pooje: Bheegara Haadu, which as the name itself suggest deals with events after a Hindu wedding: Sringara Tara Tamya, which gives us an exquisite description of various ornaments worn by women. She spent her last few days in Shurpali, near Jamkhandi in Bagalkot district, which was her ancestral home.One of her famous disciples was Bhagavva.

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