Purandara Vitala
Sri Purandara Dasa


Purandara Dasa is famous among the Haridasas of Karnataka; foremost among the talented Karnatic composers. He earned much money and lived only to earn it, but eventually gave away all his wealth because of a strange incident and became a devotee of Sri Hari. He practised the principle contained in the popular saying "we must swim across suffering win victory over it". He earned the well-deserved praise-'Among the devotees of Hari, Purandara Dasa is the greatest'(from his preceptor Sri Vyaasa Tiirtha). His works have earned the name 'Purandaropanishat'.

After Nayaka Became Saint

After Srinivasa Nayaka became the saint-singer celebrating Sri Hari, he sourght a teacher for guidance and was received as a disciple by Sri Vyaasaraja. Sri Vyaasaraja who had been accepted as a great saint had composed verses both in sanskrit and Kannada. He bestwoed the name of 'Purandara Vittala' on the unattached Srinivasa Nayaka and blessed him heartily. Purandaradasa has expressed his gratitude to Sri Vyaasaraja in one of his verses thus: "My only refuge is the feet of Vyaasaraja. I was able to understand Purandara Vittala by his grace"..

Srinivasa Nayaka who had earned the name of Navakoti Narayana, became a devotee of Narayana, the protector of the mankind and started a new life along with his wife and children. Purandara Dasa's wife and children appear to have composed verses like him.

In course of time Purandaradasa came to Hampi and settled down with his wife and children. He had four sons-Varadappa, Gururaya, Abhinavappa and Gurmadhvapathi. Every morning Purandaradasa went into the town wearing bells on his ankels and tulasi mala around his neck. He carried a tamboori in the hand and sang his Hari-keertanas sounding the tamboori with his fingers. The verses he sang were his own compositions. They were on a variety of themes. Some of them described Sri Krishna's adventures in this world. Some others sang about God's kindness to man. A few more verses were simple compositions expounding the philosophy contained in the Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavadgita in simple words. In yet other verses Purandaradasa praises Lord Krishna affectionately. In some verses Purandaradasa has even made fun of the Lord. He sang these songs to the accompaniment of tamboori and the bells tied to his ankles and went about the streets of the town. The people admired the listened to his songs. Purandaradasa accepted alms given to him during the wandering and led a life of renunication. He who had been called Navakoti Narayana now had willingly accepted the life of a saint and begged for his food.

In Praise of the Devotees

It is intersting to note how Srinivasa Nayaka, having changed his life influenced by his wife's role and having been accepted by Sri Vyaasaraja as disciple naming 'Purandara Vittala', earned the belssings of Sri Hari. In his verses (keertanas) he praises all the devotees of Sri Hari who had earned the blessings of the Lord and supplicates before Sri Hari. He praises the good fortune of Lakshmi, the consort of Sri Hari, who had the rare fortune of serving the Lord with love at all times. He sings "How fortunate is Lakshmi, how pious is Lakshmi who serves Sri Hari with love at all times!"... Yashoda treated the protector of the world as her child and played with him and enjoyed every moment she spent with the child Krishna. Purandardasa envies her and sings "It is the good fortune of the Gopi that Sripati is in the form of a child". Thinking of Vidura who satisfied his friend and Lord of the World with just one cup of milk, he praises him for his good luck and sings: "it is the good fortune of Vidura that the universe in the for Padmajaanda (Lord Krishna) is fully satisfied with what Vidura has offered".


Even though Purandardasa had taken the vow of Haridasa, his mind had not yet acquired equipoise (peace/restfulness). He feels unhappy over the state of his mind which was still unable to reach a stage of complete restfulness. He bemoans in a verse: "I did not think of you during the day, I failed to do so during the night also because of thirst and hunger. I am the victim of these two desires. O Purandara Vittala."

Again he gives expression to the conflict in his mind about his inability to give up his house, wife and children in a verse: "the love of my house and my wife on the one hand and the longing and anziety for the children on the other hand..". The all-too-human weakness and conflict are beautifully depicted in this verse. The sole object of Purandaradasa was to be victorious over these desires and to win God's blessings. This problem was constantly before him. Sometimes he dreamt that Sri Hari appeared before him because of his constant preoccupation with the Lord. At times he appeared to him (at a mental level) the screen of his mind. The Lord seemed to test the depth of his longing and his sincerity. Purandardasa seems to have been disturbed and upset because of the severe test to which he was subjected. Hence he complains in a bannering verse "who was ever rescued by you, Sri Hari having placed complete trust on you!" The next moment there is complete surrender to the Lord as the verse indicates "No one who trusted you was ever ruined." This is the comfort he derived at the end of the conflict in his mind.

World of Purandaradasa

Purandaradasa went on singing and praying for God's grace and finally he realised God's grace. He felt the ectsasy of God realisation and at such moments he broke into song delcaring "I saw Achyuta with my own eyes". He often became unconscious on account of the joy of God realisation and sang: "I am saved, I have conquered life. The good fortune of serving at the feet of Padmanabha has come to me".

Each stage of Purandaradasa'a growth and development as a pious man moving towards the higher stages of God realisation is significant. The greatness of his divine nature can be compositions (Suladis and Ugabhogas). The conflicts, anxieties, his hopes, fears and despair have been expressed in simple Kannada very eloguently and clearly. Purandaradasa bcame great because of his success in living the life of piety and proving the superiority of the soul over the wordly success. He has created a world of his own with his preoccupation with the life of the spirit and the strength of his devotion. We can read his verses and understand how the boy Dhruva and the sinner Ajamila reached the highest places as devotees by their devotion and piety. Krishna's advetnures as a boy have been beautifully recoreded and sung in his verses. If his playfulness, mischief and cleverness endear themselves to us in a particular way, the picture Purandaradasa gives about the coquetries and the passionate attachment of Gopis for krishna, their lover may please the readers in quite a different way. There are vivid pictures of the Gopis complaining to Yashoda about her son's mischief in these verses.

There is also the picture of the other Gopis taking the boy Krishna in their arms, kissing him with materanl affection and solicitude and propititing the evil powers in various ways so that nothing evil should happen to him. We can enjoy such pictures described beautifully by purandaradasa in his verses.

Purandaradasa has expressed his devotion to Lord Krishna,(Panduranga Vittala) his personal deity, imagining him in so many ways and had relationships with him. His pure love and devotion came out very clearly in all his verses. He admits that he has erred in hundred ways which he ties his tongue making it different for him to ask for forgiveness. He sings again -"you are the God who can kill and save. I have not seen gradeur like yours in any other God". Before a God Purandaradasa surrenders completely and asks for refuge. His love and devotion and the stages by which he travelled before coming to the summit can be understood by us according to each one's ability to understand such spiritual development.

Good Conduct

Purandaradasa set the highest value on good conduct. The strength and greatness of Sri Hari's name have been beautifully enshrined and sung in this world. People who do not know Sanskrit find it hard to understand the vedas and upanishads. But Purandaradasa has explained the whole essense of these scriptures in simple kannada and show the way that one should live. He practised in his life what he preached. It is important to note ths aspect of his life. He gifted away all his wealth and lived the life of renunciation which he preached to others. Although he took to the life of renuciation and asceticism he did not desert his wife and children. He lived with them.

He made it clear to others by his conduct how it ws possible to achieve purity of thought, word and deed regardless of caste, religion or creed. He did not believe that man could understand God by mere external purity unless it was accompanies by purity of mind.


Whatever Purandaradsa says, the way he introduces it and explains it is very pleasant. His similes are very simple and telling. He compares wicked men to the knotted tree of thorns. He warns the non believers that life is being wasted at every stroke of the bell. When he saw a post man he sang "A letter has arrived from Padmanabha. A letter that has been written by Padmanabha himself!".

He preached several moral precepts making use of familiar incidents like the postman delivering letters. It was God's gift that Purandaradasa was able to preach, in simple kannada, what is difficult even for philosophers to put across in a way which the ordinary people can understand.

Incidents of Life

Just as Purandaradasa used incidents to preach the value of devotion he was able to put across difficult principles in the few simple words in Kannada. Here is the verse: "The eyes which cannot see Narahari (Krishna) are no better than the eyes of peacock's feathers". He has criticised the pretense of people who merely shave off their heads without cultivating detachment of mind and pose as saints.

Scholars think that Purandara lived for about 84 years (from AD 1480 to 1564). On the basis of the verse in the name of Madvapathi his son it is held that Purandaradasa must have passed away a year before the fall of Vijaynagar. Taking it as authentic, his death anniversary is celeberated on the New Moon Day, in the second fortnight of Pushya.

It's once own duty to understand Purandaradasa's personality from his compositions and not be content with the stories that have grown around his name. We cannot come across such originality and variety in any other saint of that creed. On the basis of a verse in his name, it is said that he composed 4.75,000 songs. Whatever the number of his songs we can see the greatness from the verses available now.

It's once own duty to understand Purandaradasa's personality from his compositions and not be content with the stories that have grown around his name. We cannot come across such originality and variety in any other saint of that creed. On the basis of a verse in his name, it is said that he composed 4.75,000 songs. Whatever the number of his songs we can see the greatness from the verses available now.

He made music and song an integral part of the common man's life. About a quarter of his songs deal with his spiritual life and how it grew stage by stage. The remaining songs reveal his abundant experience, devotion, wisdom and his detachment.

Vyasaraya, his teacher himself has called his verses "Purandaropanishat". There is no need for some one else's praise. Some great man who saw the greatness of the soul which has pleased and guided the people for four hundred years has praised him in the following line which may be our tributealso to that great soul:

"Salutations to you, Purandaragur, Greatest of the saints and the kindliest"

(Purandara gurum vande Dasa-sreshtham dayanidhim)

Few Compositions of Sri Purandara Dasaru


Sri Pada Raja Tiirtha Sri Vyasa Raja Tiirtha Sri Vadi Raja Tiirtha Sri Raghavendra Tiirtha Sri Purandara Dasaru
Sri Kanaka Dasaru Sri Vijaya Dasaru Sri Gopala Dasaru Helevanakatte Giriyamma Sri Jagannatha Dasaru
Sri Pranesha Dasaru Harapanahalli Bhimavva Sri Prasanna Venkata Dasaru Sri Venu Gopala Dasaru Sri Mohana Dasaru
Sri Guru Jagannatha Dasaru Sri Asygyala Govinda Dasaru Sri Mahipathi Dasaru Haridasa HomePage FAQ