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Purandara Dasaru
Date: Fri Nov 08 1996 - 19:34:37 PST

Thanks to Sri Sadagopan for visiting Purandara Dasa's works.
Sri Muralidhara Rangaswamy just gave us a brief
account of early life of Purandara Dasaru.
Here is a version I grew up(?) with.

Purandara Dasa, prior to his taking the Dasa hood 
was (Srinivasa or Krishnappa Nayaka) a shrewed 
Gold Smith and a pawn broker in a
town near modern day Pune. 

This town is called Purandara Gad.  I don't  know if  
the name came becuse of Purandara Dasaru or the 
other way. Today, people speak only Marati language 
there and most of them are oblivious of Purandara
Dasaru's name and works.

As S/K Nayaka, he was very stingy and was not
approving his father Varadappa Nayaka's generous
qualities. Once Varadappa fell ill, S/K Nayaka took
total control over the business and house affairs.
 He also adviced the physicians attending his sick 
father not to be too extravagant, as death is 
inevitable and spending too much money does
not have to be inevitable! 

After the demise of hi sfather, S/K Nayaka 
went after the debtors unabated. As fate would
have it, his wife Saraswathamma was a true
devotee of God. She prayed incessantly to God 
asking him to forgive her husband and turn him
 around. God never fails in answering true devotees
and we have Purandara Dasaru. This transformation
was to come about in a rather round about way.

Lord, in the garb of a old man approached Nayaka
asking for financial help to conduct his grandson's
upanayanam. The old man was quite persistant
and annoyingly humble. Nayaka would pich up some
reason or the other and turn him away telling
him that he i stoo busy and to come some 
other time. It seems the old man visited Nayaka's
shop for six months! Finally, Nayaka got so mad, he
gave him a faded coin of no value and asked him not
to ever come again for money.

The old man, smilingly accepte dthe worthless coin,
went straight to Nayaka's home and told Saraswathi
of his plight. Saraswathi suspected that the stingy man 
who sent this old man with a faded coin is none 
but her own husband. She wanted to help the old man.
But there was nithing in the house which she could
hand over without enraging her husband. A thought
came to her. One of her Gold nose ring was given to
her as a gift from her side of the family. This she had 
woren for a long time, and was not part of her 
wedding ornaments. Thus she felt 100% ownership 
of that and gave that to the ol man.

The old man immediately ran to Nayaka's shop to
sell it to Nayak and get some money. Once Nayaka 
looked at it, he kind of suspected it. He took it out of the
old man's hand and asked him to come next day as
he has to really evaluate th evalue of this exquisite
jewellery and would take some time. The old man 
left with a grin. 

Nayaka kept looking at it and was convinced that there
 was no other one more stupid than his wife in the entire 
town to part with such an exquisite jewellary in the name 
of Dharma.  He locked it up in a safe place and dashed home 
to quizz his wife.

Saraswathi was taken aback at the early arrival.
Nayaka noticed that the nose ring was missing.
He demanded her to produce the nose ring.
Saraswathi said she had taken it out prior to
oil bath and she has placed it somewhere  in the puja 
room and she would get it right away. Saying thus, 
she entered the puja room and made a diamond 
potion from her diamond ring  by scraping it on the
stone kept for making sandal paste. She was about to 
drink the potion, then some object fell in it and it
was nothing but her own nose ring!  She put on the
nose ring and appeared before her husband. Nayaka
was astonished at this. Nevertheless, he ran to
his shop looking for the nose ring he had placed in the
safe. It was not there!! He rushed back home again 
like a mad man, and was transformed instantaneously.
He gave away all his material wealth to poor and with
the entire family (Wife and many children) became a Dasa.

One of his composition pays tribute to his wife thus:

"Hendati sanathati savirawaagali gandage bettha hidisidalayya"
Let the wive's leneage become 1000 fold as one such made
her husband to hold a staff ( a Dasa) !!!

No one really knows, how many padas (Pashurams) 
Dasaru composed. I have heard the number as 1 lakh
 (about the size of Mahabharatha). But I think, this is
just an expression for a large number. I have 800 
of his Padas.  
While Bhakti is the underlying theme of his works,
Purandara Dasaru was also a great social reformer.
He opposed many social practises and hypocracies
of his time which he felt were bad or evil:
1. Muppina Gandanu Bedakka
(Sister don't marry old man)
2. Ibbara sangha abhimana bhanga
(Against multiple wives)
3. Holaya bandanendhu...
(against untouchability)
4. Achara villada naaligae..
(against gossip)

 Here is  some observation for our introspection:

Why is not our Alvars poetry not received the 
same popularity among Karnatic musicians,
although a good number of them are Tamilians?
I have heard Thiruppavai by MLV (very good)
and few others such as Thiruppaliellachhu and
few pashurams of other Alvars here and there by
DKP, Mani Krishnaswamy, T.A. Soundara Rajan etc.

One of our own local musician Kannikeshwaran has
 rendered a tape entitled "Thiruvarangam" with 8 or so 
Alvar Pashurams on Sriranga Nathar. In this
marvelous tape he has covered first verse
of Amalanaadipiraan of Thirupannalvar
(whose thirunakshatram falls on Nov 26).
I was told a local Sri Vaishnava (Sri Vijaya
Raghavan) gave him this idea.  
Having heard that tape, I have numerously
requested Kannikeswaran to complete at least
all the Pashurams of Amalanaadipiraan if not
the entire 40000 DP.

Why is this  void in presentation of these RICH works
among musicians?

Is it because Alwars are so systematically incorporated
 by one sect?
OR is it because, we ourselves have held it
too close to our heart and hesitant to popularize?
(after all quite a few singers are Srivaishnavas).
If Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar can sing
GANDU DHANYA NADHEN (Kandu Dhanya Nadey)
of Purandara Dasaru, why did he not sing 
" Kondar Vannaney..." of Thirupaanalvar? or 
may be he did, just not popularized by the
Karnatik Music industry.

I hope Ganavisharadas such as Sri Sadagopan 
will comment on this and those endowed with
sangeetha gnanam will make this revolution
in  music happen.


K. Sreekrishna (Tatachar)