Thursday, 2 January 2014

The miser who became a Haridasa

Just like his friend Purandara Dasa, he too was rich person and he was a miser too. If Purandara Dasa lived in Kshemapura in Shimoga district, he lived in Belur in Hassan district.
Though both were contemporaries, they did not know each other. If Purandara Dasa was a Madhwa Brahmin, this person was a Srivaishnava. If Hari himself transformed Purandara Dasa into a Haridasa, it was Vadiraja Theertha (1480-1600) who gave this man from Belur deekshe and transformed his mundane life into a pious and holy one.
Both Purandara and the man from Belur met at Hampi where they quickly became close friends. Both accepted the venerable Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha (1447-1539) as their guru and both composed innumerable devaranamas.
The man from Belur later went on to make a mark as a great devotee of Sri Krishna whom he always worshipped. This man is none other than Belur Vaikunta Dasa (1480-1550).
It was Vadiraja who reformed a rich Vaikunta Dasa and gave him a Hayagriva Saligrama. Vadiraja told Vaikunta Dasa that he could amass untold wealth and riches if he worshipped the Saligrama with sincerity and devotion.
More out of greed, Vaikunta Das began performing pooje daily to the Saligrama. Slowly but surely, he became devoted to the Saligrama and the pooje continued. Over a period of time, he realised that the Saligrama was more precious than all his wealth and that it could never be quantified.
He became a devotee of Hayagriva and lost interest in the materialistic world. When Varidara realised that Belur Vaikunta dasa was a transformed man, he blessed him and named him “Sri Vaikunta Dasa.”
Vaikunta Dasa became a Haridasa and began composing Kirtanas in Kannada on Sri Hari with Ankitha Vaikunta.
Vaikunta Dasa was a native of  Belur and he rarely if ever stirred out of Belur. He has a few compositions in Kannada which bear the ankita nama Vaikunta Dasa. He became a close friend and companion of Purandara Dasa and Kanaka Dasa and also a disciple of Vadiraja Theertha.
His devotion to Hari was such that Krishna danced in front of him when he sang. All the three dasas -Vadiraja, Kanaka and Purandara have paid tributes to Vaikunta Dasa.
Purandara Dasa went around the Vijayanagar Kingdom spreading the tenets of Madhwacharya and singing the glory of Hari. During one such tour, he came to Belur in Hassan district where Belur Vaikunta Dasa was staying.
Vaikunta Dasa rarely, if ever, stirred out of  Belur and the few times he did was to visit his friend Purandara Dasa and his guru, Vyasa Raja. Though he was a Srivaishnava scholar, he  composed many songs on Hari.
Vaikunta Dasa lived in a house in Belur and when Puranadara Dasa came, he saw a beautiful child playing on the lap of the Dasa. Both Belur Vaikunta Dasa and the boy, whom Belur Vaikunta Dasa called Keshava, were so engrossed in playing that they did not notice Purandara Dasa.
When Purandara Dasa came very near to them, he suddenly realised that the Keshava who was playing in the lap of Belur Vaikunta Dasa was none other than Krishna himself.
Even as Puranadara Dasa was about to speak, the child looked up and on seeing a stranger burst into tears. The incessant crying of the child immediately spurred Purandara Dasa into composing a poem.
This beautiful poem is:

 “aLuvadyaadako raMgaa! atta raMjisuva  gummA  

puTTidELu divasadali!duShTa pootaneeya koMde
muTTi moleya haaluMDa kaaraNa! dRuShTi taakitE ninage kaMdayyaa  1

bAlakatanadalli gO! paalaroDagooDi
kALiMga maDuvanu kalakida kAraNa! kaalu uLakitE ninage raMgayyaa    2

turuva kaayalu pOgi! bharadiMda maLegareye
beraLali beTTavanettida kaaraNa! beraLu uLukitE ninage kaMdayyaa    3

vasudEva sutanaagi asurara mardiside
basurali bommana paDeda kAraNa! kisaru taakite ninage raMgayyaa     4

sharaNu vElaapurada  doreye  chennigaraaya
sharaNara salahuva karuNAnidhiyE varada puraMdara viThala rAya        5

When Purandara Dasa began singing in his melodious voice, the child stopped crying and gave a smile.
Puranadara Dasa stayed back at the home of Belur Vaikunta Dasa for some time before proceeding on his onward journey.
Another time, when Purandara Dasa was walking on the streets of Hampi or Vijayanagar one evening with Belur Vaikunta Dasa, a rogue elephant suddenly came out of nowhere and charged at them.
While Purandara Das managed to take evasive action, Vaikunta Dasa came face to face with the animal. Purandara Dasa immediately began singing,

“Sakala duritagala parihara maado Venkatesha, bhaktige volidu bandu bhaktana kaayo Venkatesha….varada Purandara vittala,”

Meanwhile, the elephant ran upto Vaikunta Dasa and it saluted the Dasa with its trunk and left. A dumbfounded Purandara Dasa had no words to describe his feelings and he embraced Vaikunta Dasa and both continued their evening stroll.  

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