Sri Prasanna Venkata Dasaru (1680 to 1752)
Like Purandaradasa, Vijayadasa, Kanakadasa, Jagannathadasa and Gopaladasa, Prasanna Venkatadasa was a famous dasa. His name is still very popular and his songs are sung in several houses.
Venkata Dasa was born in 1680 at Bagalkot which is on the bank of the river Ghataprabha. Bagalkot is a town in the Bijapur District. There lived a family; not a big one. The inmates of the house were two brothers and the elder's wife. The elder brother's name was Raghavendracharya and younger one was Venkanna. Kaveramma was the name of the brother's wife.
Raghavendracharya had the benefit of a little education while his father lived. As he had learnt to conduct religious rites and others. It was not difficult for him to meet the family demands. In addition there was income from the fields inherited by the brothers.
Venkanna was still a young boy when his parents passed away. Therefore he was left without proper impetus for education.
Venkanna's sister-in-law was not the common sort of woman. The jobs he used to do at home were not also simple ones and all kinds of jobs he use to do by the order of this brother's wife.
Although Venkanna had lot of patience, lot of calmness and peace of mind in doing all jobs which has been assigned to him, but once he lost his patience and calmness became very angry when he was not fed properly by his sister-in-law and also she ill treated him. At that moment without telling to his brother he left his brother's house.
Venkanna was a boy who had trust in God. He had learnt a few devotional songs just by hearin. At nights he had attended religous lectures and recital of the stories of Sri Hari's devotees although he would be completely run down by domestic drudgery; he had such interest to listen to them. Although Venkanna was backward in learning, he was not lacking in wisdom and understanding.
Divine voice called him to Tirupathi abode of Srinivasa when he left the house. Then he made up his mind to wend his way to Tirupathi, to have meriorious 'darsan' (holy sight) and then to take any course indicated by him.
On his way, one day Venkanna reached the very holy spot of Mantralya, situated on the bank of river Tungabhandra. On account of divine presence of Guru Raghvendra swamu, Mantralaya is verily the abode of 'mantras'. Reaching such hallowed presence. Venkanna rejoic as if he was in the very presence of Srinivasa. He wished to stay for three days and extended to stay for three years there. One night in his dream Venkanna was blessed by the holy presence of Sri Guru Raghavendra Swami who said " Venkanna Lord Srinivasa is waiting for you. Go there my boy".
Venkanna was overjoyed by the dream he had. With company of group of piligrms he left for Tirupathi. While Venkanna started at one of the cliffs, it lookied as though Lord Srinivasa's large image had been carved out of it with round smiling face, bearing a beautiful crown, with four hands and a bold stature. Venkanna lifted both his hands in supplication and cried aloud "Srinivasa Srinivasa"!. He went to Kapilatirtha and Galigopura and had darshan of Kapilesaraswami and Lord Narasimha.
Along with other pilgrims Venkanna entered the temple of Srinivasa. When Venkanna stood face to face before the graceful image, his joy exceeded all limits. He lifted his hands high up in salutation and ejaculated. "Srinivasa!!!". His voice rolled in waves and touched the feet of Lord Venkateshwara. He came to himself only when the temple servants served him with a rolled up deerskin. Venkanna emerged from the inner shrine and went around it on the outside. He saw some of the Haridasas and others engaged in Samkirtan and singing the glories of God. He joined with them. After some the priests brought food offered to God and distributed it among those that had gathered there.
The inspiring darsan of Lord Srinivasa, participation in the Samkirtan congregation, prasadam distributed by the archak every after noon made Venkanna extremely happy and made him stay for four years since coming to Tirupathi.
One night Sri Raghavendra Swami appeared once again in Venkanna's dream and said "Venkanna God will soon give His darsan to you". Venkanna sat up starteled and cried Where where is my Srinivasa!!. He was in the silent dark mantap where he slept.
Next day as usual he joined the crowd to have darsan of Srinivasa. He was in the forefront of the group that entered the inner shine. Outside it had begun to rain. Ever those who were outside clustered in.
Venkanna had darsan at close quarters. Gazing at the blissful image of Srinivasa, tears of joy swelled in Venkanna's eyes. Instead of the image, there appeared a big tambura and a hand twanging its string. By and by he saw the figure of Purandara Dasaru there. There appeared a small image of Srinivasa in the master's heart. There was another big image of the Lord standing behind him. A ray from that image emereged and went straight into Venkanna;s heart. He was thrilled to highest degree and broke down. Srinivasa came to him and scribed onhis tongue, the word "Prasanna Venkata" and disappeared.
Venkanna got up. he stood looking at the image of Srinivasa and began sing his praise in mellow voice. Formerly he used to come for darsan and walk out quietly. Seeing him singing thus on that day, everyone was highly surprised.
Venkanna was not himself, he seemed to have forgotten the world about him. With joyful tears,he went on singing one song after another; with dancing steps be strode, using his hands as cymbals.
The same night, the Mahant of the temple dreamed. Srinivasa showed Venkanna to him and said: "This is Prasanna Venkata Dasa, my great devotee. Treat him with all honour, make arrangements for his comfortable stay". Later Mahant met Prasanna Venkata Dasa on the temple platform prostrated and conveyed the message of his dream and requested Venkanna to come to have darsanof Sri Venkateshwara. Venkanna uttered "Srinivasa your will!". From that day on, Venkanna become Prasanna Venkata Dasa and he got a proper treatment till he stayed in Tirupathi.
After some time his brother came to know all these miracles happened to Venkanna and went to Tirupathi, requested him to come to his house. The people of Bagakote were glat to see their Venkappaiah coming out as Prasanna Venkata Dasaru. He adorned his dhead by tying up a saffron cloth, which also covered his back. Strings of tinkiling bells tied round his ankles. He had tambura hanging by the shoulder in front and a pair of clatter-cymbals in the left hand.
Sri Prasanna Venkata Dasaru went round in the town every morning singing glories of Sri Hari and teaching people the moral path that would lead them on to reach the Happy Abode of Vaikunta.
Sri Prasanna Venkata Dasaru used to spend his whole time in meditating upon God's greatness, in singing His glory and in composing songs and stories of God. "Samastanama manigana satcarana" is one of his longer poems, which is almost like Sri Vishnusahasranama. "Naradaru Korvani Vesha talda caritre" is full of humour, telling how Narada Maharshi put on the role of a soot-sayer (gipsy woman) and assured Rukmani Devi that Sri Krishna only would be her husband. He has rendered into simple, beautiful Kannada stories of Srimad Bhagavatam. The themes dearest to his hear are those about the childhood pastimes of Sri Krishna. His ankita is "Prasanna Venkata".
Many of his songs are familiar to people in North Karnataka. In Bagalkot
his punya dina is celeberated. Even today one can see in
Bagalkot the single-stringed accomplaniment used by dasa.
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