One of the foremost composers of Carnatic Music, Purandara Dasa was born at Kshemappura in Karnataka in 1484 CE. He was named Srinivasa Nayaka after the ‘Lord of Seven Hills’ in Tirupati.
Wealthy Person, Extreme Miser
Srinivasa Nayaka was a shrewd businessmen, the biggest jeweller of his times. He was so rich that he was nicknamed Nava Koti Narayana, meaning his wealth was more than 9 crores of those days’ currency. To expressively state this, he installed 9 kalasa on the top facade of his house, to announce to the world that he was wealthy to the extent of 9 crores.
On the other hand he was an extreme miser.
The incident that changed his life
According to the local legends, Lord Vishnu disguised himself as a poor man and approached Srinivasa Nayaka at his shop. He asks Srinivasa Nayaka for money. Srinivasa Nayaka refuses to lend him a penny. After repeated pleas, this man goes to the richest house in that town. Incidentally, this house happens to be the house of Srinivasa Nayaka himself. There he asks his wife for charity. His kindhearted wife finds nothing else but her own nose ring to give in charity.
This man now goes to Srinivasa Nayaka’s shop with the nose ring. As Srinivasa Nayaka had earlier refused to give him any wealth, this poor man pledges for money by giving the nose ring to Srinivasa Nayaka.
Srinivasa Nayaka recognizes it to be his wife’s nose ring, asks him to wait, locks up the nose ring in his safe vault in the shop and goes home to accost his wife.
He asks her to bring him her the nose ring. His wife is at a loss as to how to explain to her miserly husband the charity, dhana that she has done. All the same, in his presence, she goes to the cupboard and opens her jewel box, praying to Devi, to save her. And Lo! She finds her nose ring in her jewel box and with a sigh of relief hands it over to Srinivasa Nayaka.
Now it was Srinivasa Nayaka’s turn to be perplexed. He takes this nose ring and runs to his shop. He opened his safe vault where he had locked his nose ring earlier. Lo and behold, the nose ring was no longer there.
Srinivasa Nayaka then learnt of all that had happened from his wife. By then, the old man had vanished and was not traceable. Srinivasa Nayaka learnt a big lesson from this miracle.
This incident changed his life. It shook him into realization that he was an epitome of Narada, the Divinity for Music.
Srinivasa Nayaka then gave up his wealth in charity and started a wandering devotional life along with his family, to inspire devotion to the Lord in people, through his compositions.
The subsequent life of Purandara Dasa was spent travelling and composing many songs on Lord Narayana.
He composed over 4 lakh odd songs.
He travelled all across the country visiting major temples such as Tirupati and Pandharapura. He got the name Purandara Dasa after the Deity at Pandharapura – Panduranga, Dasa meaning ‘Servant’.
Formulated Carnatic Music learning
Purandara Dasa formulated the method of learning Carnatic music that is still followed. He brought together the components of Carnatic Music such as Bhava, Raga and Laya.
Pitamaha of Carnatic Music’
He is fondly known as the ‘Grandfather, Pitamaha of Carnatic Music’ for his great contributions to this form of Music.
His work consisting of the 4 lakh songs are respectfully referred to as, ‘Purandhara Upanishad’.
Purandara Dasa left for the heavenly abode in 1564 CE, on a Pushya Amavasya Day which falls in the month of January-February.