25th January, 2009 is Purandara Dasa Aradhane. I am posting here an article that I wrote for the February 2009 issue of ‘Guru Sarvabhouma’, a monthly publication by Sri Guru Raghavendra Matha, Mantralaya. Kannada compostions are written in devanagari script, for those readers who can’t read Kannada
इन्दिन दिनवे शुभदिनवु
इन्दिन वार शुभवार
इन्दिन तारॆ शुभतारॆ
इन्दिन योग शुब्गयोग
इन्दिन करण शुभकरण
इन्दु पुरन्दरविट्ठल रायन
In the above kannada ugaabhoga (written in dEvanagari for those who can’t read kannada script) , Purandara Dasa says “Each and every day is a good day. One does not have to worry about the tithi, vaara, nakshatra, yoga or karana at all; because when one thinks of Hari, the day turns out to be a good day after all”. Similarly any day is indeed a good day to remember great souls such as Purandara Dasa. However it is customary to pay homage to such great people on special occassions such as the day they were born or the day they passed away. Such days give us a chance to read about, talk about, and understand their good deeds. This helps us to practice the principles and values which such noble people stood for, and thereby turning us towards the right path for life. So I think it is very apt to highlight some aspects of Purandara Dasa’s works at this time of Purandara Dasa’s aradhane.
He is considered as one of the four pillars on which the entire edifice of haridasa literature stands, along with Sripadaraya, Vyasaraya and Vijaya dasa. A very popular shloka venerates these four haridasas as follows:
नमः श्रीपादराजाय नमस्ते व्यासयोगिणे ।
नमः पुरन्दरार्याय विजयार्याय ते नमः ॥
(I bow to thee, Sripadararaya and to the yogi vyAsa. I bow to the noble Purandara and Vijaya)
Purandara dasa is remembered as the noblest of all hari dasas. पुरन्दरगुरुं वन्दे दासश्रेष्ठम् दयानिधिम् – ” I bow to the great teacher Purandara, who is the best among the dasas, and an abode of compassion” so goes the saying. He is considered as the best among all the haridasas, so much so that his own guru says “If there one is a dasa, he should be like Purandara dasa” -‘ दासरॆन्दरे पुरन्दर दासरय्य ‘ “ದಾಸರೆಂದರೆ ಪುರಂದರ ದಾಸರಯ್ಯ”. There are not many pupils in this world who have been praised thus by their own teachers.
(A Sculpture of Purandara Dasa, possibly from Hampe. This is a photograph of a photograph)
Purandara dasa is also called as the ‘pitaamaha’ of Karnataka sangeeta as it is practiced today. Purandara has had a varied role – a devotee, a haridasa (servant of God), a poet, a musician, a social reformer, a saint and a traveler who traveled all over south India. However, as it happens to many important men and women in Indian history, the details of his life that are available are rather scant and sketchy. We do not exactly know the day he was born or the the place he was born or the day he was initiated to the haridasa fold. But, if we know one thing certianly, it is the day of his passing away.
Purandara dasa left this world on the Pushya amavasye in the Raktakshi samvatsara (This corresponds to the year 1564 AD). We get this information from a composition attributed to Purandara dasa’s son Madhwapa dasa. Here is what he says:
तॆरळिदरु हरिपुरकिंदु ॥ पल्लवि ॥
पुरंदरदासरायरु दीनबंधु ॥ अनुपल्लवि ॥
रक्ताक्षिवत्सर पुष्यांत रविवार
मुक्तिगैदिदरु केळि बुधजनरु ॥ १ ॥
विरूपाक्ष क्षेत्रदि विठलन्न सन्निधियल्लि
शरीरवनिरिसि अनाथरनु हरसि ॥ २ ॥
The pallavi and anupallavi lines in this song say that it was composed right on the day of Purandara Dasa passed away. The first charana clearly states that it was on amavasye, Pushya mAsa, Sunday. when Purandara dasa passed away. The second charana mentions Viroopaksha Kshetra (Hampe) and the line ‘in the sannidhi of vithala’, indicate that Purandara passed away somewhere in the viscinity of the Vijaya Vitthala temple in Hampe, very likely at the mantapa called as Purandara Mantapa nowadays.
Why does this song become important to us? This shows us how a song can be used to get historical information. Even if we do not know lots of things about Purandara’s life, we can still understand the principles he stood for. Whether or not one believes in miraculous incidents that are supposed to have taken place or not, the works of Purandara dasa are a great resource to guide us. In fact, Purandara dasa’s greatness lies not in the miracles that are associated with him, but in his works. Although Purandara dasa is said to have composed hundreds of thousands of songs, only a small fraction of that has been handed over to us through tradition. Luckily, within the available compositions there is plenty of information to understand the life and times of the period when Purandara dasa lived. Haridasa poetry is more like a mirror to the society. They show the positive attributes, as well as the shortcomings of their times. Many of these aspects are relevant even today, as they were several centuries ago.
Vijayadasa, who was instrumental in collecting Purandara dasa’s songs in the 18th century mentions that Purandara dasa was a merchant before he became a haridasa. Purandara dasa himself refers to trade and business in some of his songs. There might be an element of autobiographical content in such songs.
In one composition Purandara dasas says:
श्रीपतिय पादारविंद सेवॆयॆंबो ।
हरिकरुणवॆ अंगि गुरुकरुणवॆ मुंडासु
हरिदासर दयवॆंबो वल्लि
परमपापि कलियॆंबो पापोसु मॆट्टि
दुरात्मरादवर ऎदॆमेलॆ नडॆवंथ ॥ व्यापार नमगायितु॥
बिळियकागद हृदय बायि कलमदानि
लोलन कथॆ नामंगळ
शीलमनवि बरॆदु हरिगॆ ऒप्पिसुवंथ ॥ व्यापार नमगायितु॥
Purandara says here: “It is a fortune to be in the trade of serving the lotus feet of the Lord of Lakshmi. Wearing the Hari’s mercy as a coat, and the kindness of guru as my turban, the sympathy of other haridasas as a shoulder cloth, and wearing shoes that are none other than Kali himself, and then walking over the chest of evil men, is indeed a very good trade. Writing stories containing the names of Hari, in a paper that is none other than the heart, using the tongue as a pen, using the mouth as the ink pot is indeed a wonderful trade”. Here on one side, Purandara dasa describes the dress worn by a trader, and says that it is his ‘business’ as a haridasa is to tread the evil deeds and the evil in this world. The mention of the word ‘vyaapara’ – trade – rather than any other occupation might support the beleif that Purandara was a merchant before he became a haridasa.
Similarly, we can cite another ugabhoga where he says:
ऎन्न कडॆहायिसिरुवुदु निन्न भार
निन्न नंबि बदुकुवुदु ऎन्न व्यापार
It is your responsibility to take me to the other side
It is my business to have faith in you!
Such was the outlook and philosophy of complete surrender to Hari that Purandara dasa, a great saint of all times had. Let us try to keep in mind his message at this time of Purandara dasa aradhane.