Purandara Dasa: A Divine Intervention That Took Classical Music To The Layman
A glimpse into the devotional magic that was crafted by ‘pitamaha of Carnatic music ’ Purandara Dasa on his ‘arandhane’ day.
If there is someone who can be credited with infusing classical Carnatic music into every layman’s life, it has to be the tamboori-wielding saint-poet from Karnataka, Shri Purandara Dasa.
Hailed as the ‘pitamaha’ of Carnatic music, whom Sri Tyagaraja himself considered his guru, Purandara Dasa was a ‘riches to rag’ story.
His countless keertanes (compositions) have spoken about every rasa, every bhava there is to human existence.
His metaphors make sense to a simpleton yet are profound enough to deliver one to the beyond.
From being a miser trader to a mendicant whose works were to form the greatest wealth of Bhakti tradition, Purandara Dasa’s life comes a full circle and his songs take one through all the nuances there in.
He was born Srinivasa Nayaka in Araga of Shimoga. Following his transformation, he was initiated into the Bhakti’s path and given the name, Purandara Dasa by Vyasa Rayaru, the royal guru of Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara.
On the day he left his mortal coil, which is celebrated as his Aradhana Mahotsava (although not at a scale that it should be — for a saint of his stature), we can only humbly look at five of his almost 5 lakh compositions that sum up the journey of human life, lessons, lures and liberation.
He taught and transformed all those who he touched with his 'pada’ (song). In the times of ritualistic grandeur, he redefined ‘seeking’ by steering a semantic shift in the cultural perception of society, quashing gently and subtly the demons of patriarchy, casteism, untouchability among others.
Hear his definition of the seeker in this one rendered by the young singer Raghuram Manikandan.
Tamboori meetidava, bhavaabdhi datidava (The one who plucks the string of the tamboori, is the one who has crossed the ocean of worldly existence)
One would only sound frivolous to claim to have picked the best of his works or even the most popular ones for it is almost impossible to classify any of them as such. But all of us sure have our favourites.
‘Karuniso Ranga Karuniso’ is a digest of all forms of devotion and the exalted devotees that have set a benchmark, yet he says “I ain’t none of them, but you shall have to have mercy and grace". Here this one (above) from the Dasavani album by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.
And these words came from the one who chanted Narayana’s name all his life but until realisation happened was known as ‘Navakoti Narayana’ himself for all the wealth he held.
The one who pawned jewels, sat on wealth as a miserly rich trader transformed into an anklets sporting, cymbal clapping, barefoot mendicant who went around singing praise, abuse, tales of his ‘Vithala’.
When he was once hailed as being ‘bhagyashali’, Purandara Dasa remarked that the real bhagyashali is the one who cajoled and played with the ‘Purushothama’ himself.
This rendition both in verse by Balamuralikrishna as well as the one on saxophone by Kadri Gopalnath, take one on a journey of motherhood and the bond that Yashodha shared with the ‘Jagadodhara’.
From his music initiation lessons in raga mayamalavagaula that every student strikes literally the first chords with, the first geetes in Malahari that conjures up images of tiny tots naively and often not-so musically singing their ‘first’ songs with those tiny palms tapping the thighs, to the densest of emotions and thoughts he wove in his songs, there cannot be a work that matches his.
Not for nothing do we say "Daasarendare Purandara Daasarayya’.
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