Compositions & Style of Haridasas
Compositions & Style

Compositions and Style of Haridass

The Haridasas were the first saints in the world to whom Bhakti through music was the only mode of attaining salvation. All these, inclusive of Sripadaraja, Vyasaraja, Purandara, Vadiraja and Kanaka and othre accept the religion of Madhva and his dualistic philosophy. Purandara was a devout follower of Madhva philosophy. His system Bhajana as described in the Vedas is called Taratamyapaddati.

Amala Bhakti whic is the outcome of continuous Sadhana practice of Satkarman, Chitta Suddhi Gnana, Dhyana, Aparokshanubhuta, lands the Haridasa in Beatitude or Moksha. Sri Hari is described by Madhva as Bimba who is Poorna and Sarva swatantra. The Jeevas are Prati Bimba and therefor are apoorna and Aswatantra. There are vital and primordially eterneal differences between jeeva and Hari; and five Bhedas or differences are dug out from perennial philosophy of the Vedas and upanishads and these are Jeevesha Bheda, Jeeva Jada Bheda, Jeeva Jeeva Bheda, Isha Jada Bheda and Jada Jada Bheda. This bheda siddhanta or Dualistic philosophy confirms the great truth that the world is real and not an illusion, for, what is created by Hari Sarvottama will never be an illusion as borne out by Pratyaksha, Agama and Anumana Pramanas. There is fragrance in God, Music in God, sweetness in God, and He gives us new life, by taking us thruogh the experiences of death and sacrifice for teh sake of his love one meoment with the Beloved bears the signet of eternity.

Like the other redoubtable order of the Virasaiva Vacanakaras in Karnataka the Haridasas have produced, in Kannada a remarkable racy religious and devotional literature covering diverse aspects of the mystic life, ranging from the various stages of self-search like spiritual quest and yearning the sense of sin, penitence the dark night of the soul and the vigil and initiation and discipline, to intuition and the state of beatitude. All these are depicted by these saints in their inimitable songs of realized wisdom. This fact makes the works of these saints part and parcel of the genre of literature relating to the religious mysticism of the Hindus; they have the same claim to universal recognition as have the works of the famous saints in other parts of India, who have left their mark on the spiritual history of the country.

If we look at the entire Haridasa Literature, one can divide into three categories. They are;

  • spare or general compositions,
  • Kavya or poetic compositions,
  • tatva or philosophic compositions/literature.

    General compositons includes all types of compositions which are very special. This can be further divided into the following groups;

  • Keertanas,
  • Ughabhogas,
  • Suladis,
  • others.

    Keertanas are the most attractive compositons of Haridasas. This is also called devaranama. Keertanas or devaranamas are melody based on technical compositions like Gita whose purpose is to elucidate Raga forms and Tala patterns. The emphasis in the Keertanas is on its aesthetic excellence and that is why it is considered as the most important part of Karnatakic classical music. The great master composers who came after Sri Purandara faithfully followed the tradition and form which he established. The Raga and Tala aspects are followed by composers like Dikshitar and Shama sastri and purely Raga aspects by composers like Kshetragna. But it was Tyagaraja who brought out the fullest measure all the three aspects viz Raga Bhava and Tala of the tradition, founded by Sri Purandara.

    It was the genius of Sri Purandara Dasa that created Keertanas on the basis of which Kritiform was evolved. He was also the creator of Compositional types including both Lakshana, and Lakshya Geetas, Choka, Tala, Keertanas, Ugabhogas, Suladis, Tanavarnas and Tillanas.

    Haridasas brought the great mysteries of thought enshrined in the Vedas and Upanishads and the Puranas particularly the Dasavataras of Vishnu, within the easy comprehension and range of the common man. Haridasas had with them the element of revelation which they never crystallised into formulae. Keertanas are the inspiration which sweeps gradual gospels unobtrusively into the minds of man, and this element is more active than moral precepts he has given expression to occassionally. There is certain intense power of vision and feeling which runs through all Padas and Keertanas which express themselves in the form of religious dogma in some places; the value of such a study lies in its power of suddenly directing the attention of the common man and the whole focus of his will and imagination towards a particular part of life. The stories of Matsya, Kurma, Varaha and Narasimha and other Avataras are most fascination to read and particularly when revealed through the Keertanas. Not a single important episode or a character or an event is left out by Haridasas when giving the very essence of Vedic Dharma and of the epics and of the Puranas to the people.

    Haridasas Keertanas compresses an ideal of the moral life of the nation or the spirit of the Age which no literary record of facts could convey. In his simple luminous and easily intelligible verses, they make the individual understand things, make him see a hundred details, every one of them significant, that he would never have noticed by himself; with the result the individual is not only filled with knowledge, but made alive with interest and a sense of movement. Haridasas feels that their feet have been set in a road into future and sees some things with an intensity that has revealed what was before unsuspected and made an illumination in one part of life.

    Haridasas Keertanas come as a revealation to human beings, not as statements of fact but as cries of distress, calls of encouragement, signals flashing in the darkness, for those to whom many parts of life are imperfectly chatted.

    UghabhogasIt is a very simple piece set to Sarvalaghutala, more elementary than the Gita. It is an integrated musical piece of Raga, Bhava, Tala Samanvaya. As far as the Bhava aspect of Ugabhoga is concerned it is the direct translation of the thoughts of the composer in the ectasy of inspiration.

    The word Ughabhoga is in existence since 1210-1240 during Shaggadeva rule. There is no mention of this word in Philosophical literature. The literature used for composing songs were called Prabhandha, and there are two types of Prabhandha viz Nibhadda and Anibhadda. The one which comprises of tala is called Nibhadda and one which is very less or no existence of tala is called Anibhadda. Ugabhoga comes under the perview of Anibhadda. Ughabhoga comprises of five datus viz Udgraha, Melapaka, Druva, Antara and Abhoga for this fve datus if you amalgmate adyantha padas it is called 'udgrahaa bhoga' in sanskrit and in kannada it is called Ughabhoga. Based on these principles Haridasas composed many songs.

    From the composition point of view Ugahabhogas are different from Keertanas and suladis. It is neither in the frame work of raga, tala etc and it is based on the short musical mystic feeling about the incidences or occurances. Ugahabhogas are different from vachanas.

    SuladisSuladis are lengthy compositions set to definite Ragas and Talas, and revealing unquetioned mastery of the technicalities of music. These appear to be a type of composition whic is untouched by anyone, except Haridasas. In these compositions, the anyone except the Haridasas. In these compositions the theme is the same as in the Keertana but there are seven or eight distint divisions with elaborate Sahityas each of which is set to one of the Sapta Talas. The entire composition, though in one Raga has different parts of it set to difficult Talas, in such a way that the composition though sung in the Tala with which it commences. Throughout the rhythm only, changes according to different talas adopted to each of the various parts. In some Suladis different ragas are given to different divisions, and in some others there is one raga for all the divisions. The subject-matter of suladis is both mythological, devotional and psychological.

    The precise connotation of the word Suladi is no where given. It is presumed, however, that it means easy path for the attainment of the eternal Bliss-Sula hadi. They are talamatrikas and very difficult of musical rendering, as singing them involves a profound knowledge of Tala and Raga. The singing of Suladis is not much in vogue now because of the difficulity of rendering them with permutation of Talas and Natya technique. Suladis are usually didactic and were intended for imparting moral instruction and insight into profound metaphysical truths to those, who could not know ancient wisdom, through the medium of Sanskrit. In an Age of great spiritual unest and confusion, created by pedantry and polemics of contending religious groups, it was difficult to bring the common man within the perimeter of spiritual ideas, and experience without a ready resort to a medicum and a mother-tongue of thought which could be no other than music.

    Almost all Haridasas has composed suladis. Although Sri Purandara Dasa composed approximately about 64,000 suladis and very few are available as of to-day. These suladis will narrate the incidences of Harisarvottamattva, dashavatara, devotion with Sri Hari by praising him, nine forms of devotion, etc. In the background of music and within the framework of philosophical literature, these Suladis are very special and unique contribution from Haridasas in publicising the madhva tenets.

    Other compositions include vruttanama, dandaka, tripadi, pattadi, sangathya and ragale

    Vruttanama Combination of a Word and Shloka/hymn compositions are called Vruttanama. Sripadaraja, Sri Vadiraja and Sri Gopaladasa has used this type of compositions. For example Sri Gopala Dasas 'rakshiso venktatagiri raja, ravishta teja Ashritakalpa bhUja' one can observe the vruttanama. Sanskrit words will be absorbed in these compositions and it will be in the form of shardulavikriditha. There is no rules that it should be in the same form and Sripadaraja and Sri Vyasaraja has different style while composing the songs. There are handful of these types of compositions are available as of now. This type of composition has been initiated by Madhvacharya in dvadasha-stotra and Jayadeva's gita govinda and come into the light for others.

    Dandaka This is one form of composition which is in between text and poem. It may be called musical text. This may be in the form of old kannada (hala kannada). In this form one pada constitues 20 matras and it is divided into 5 matras. Sripadaraja has composed/written Bhagavatha's 7th chapter (saptmaskanda) in the form of dandaka. This is only one dandaka is available in Haridasa literature and there is no mention in the musical world also.

    Tripadi Tripadi form of channdassu are found especially in Jagannatha Dasas 'tattva suvali'. The basic philosophical points are put in easy poetic compositions are goal of these type of compositions. The basis of these compositions are Vigneshwara,Rudra, Vrundavana (Tulasi/basil) Sri, Bhu, Durga, brahma, dashavatara, navagraha, agni etc stotras or songs in praise of these devataas, mayavada kandana, rukmani, srinivasa, sri krishna charita etc. Beside 'tattva suvali' one cannot find any other compositions from any othre haridasas.

    Shattadi Haridasas have used 'bhamini shattadi' in all their compositions. Sri Vadiraja and Sri kanaka dasa have used this form in their compositions. Sri Vadiraja has used bhamini shattadi in Vykunta varnane and swapna pada. Kanaka has used this form in nalacharitre, ramadhyana charitre and haribhakthi sara. It is also said that even Sri Jagannatha Dasa has used bhamini shattadi in his harikathamruthasara also.

    Sangathya Kanaka Dasa in his mohana tarangani and Vadiraja in his vykunta varnane has used this form of compositions.

    Ragale These compositions will have definitive matras and equalised ganas. There are three types of ragales viz Utsaha, Lalitha and Mandanila. There will three matras in Utsaha, Five matras in Lalitha and four matras in Mandanila. Though Haridasas suladis are like Ragale it is not because there is no definite ganas in these compositions.

    Kavya/Poetic compositions Among the Haridasas Kanakadasa has very special poetic compositions which are comparable with the high literary works of any other poets. But the guidance which Kanaka got from the compositions of Sripadarajas bramaragita, venugita, gopigita and Vadirajas Vykunta varnane, swapnapada and Lakshmi shobhana. Based on their style of compositions Kanaka dasa has composed Mohana Tarangini, Nalacharitre, Ramadhyna Charitre and Haribhaktisara.

    Kavya grantha (Literary works) (Harikathaamrutha sara) This is different from the poetic composition and it stand as a special work for the publicising the madhva's philosophy. Harikathamrutha sara is in bhaminishattadi's composition. It has 32 sandhis (chapters) and has included about 986 shattadis. This work is not understood by a common man and the haridasas intention is to publicise the madhvas philosophy, style is very serious though some times it is easily understood and there is no lack of poems in this composition. Sridha Viittala has written palastuti in about 24 shattadis and Jagannatha preceptor has told that 'saravendare harikathamruthasara' if there is any essence it is Harikatha nectar essence.

    Style of Haridasas

    The Dasas though learned people, were humble servants of God and undertook to spread the message of Madhva in the simplest, most comprehensive style. Kannada, the spoken language of the commonality was the medium of communication. Telling phrases couched in racy vocabulary made the compositions powerful and effective. Hundreds of common day-to-day figures of speech a heap of thoughtful observations yield in their songs a mine of proverbs. Beauty lies in simplicity without being crude and inane.

    Additionally, Dasas spoke not to particular sect or area but had a universal appeal. Their sole purpose was to praise the Lord for his mercy and beneficence. Their art lay in unfolding their heart with no ego, arrogance, cunning or secrecy. The Dasas broke open the hidden treasures of philosophy unexplored till then except through sanskrit; the common man had the feast of knowledge and drank the ambrosial honey to his heart's content. The Dasas reiterated the basic concept, that devotion was the saviour of mankind.

    Being in touch with the common people the Dasas became shrewd observers of life around, life in the raw. Their compositions, therefore were natural, spontaneous and quick in touch the heart. The Dasas preached some basic things such as ephemeral qualities of human life, the seemings enchanting world and quest for liberation.

    Each haridAsa had a distinct style of his own, inimitable and personal. While purandaradAsa adopted a simple, lucid KannaDa style with telling phrases and similes, kanakadAsa revelled in a strong, fighting style that delivered the message directly. vijayadAsa followed his master, purandaradAsa whereas jagannAtadAsa sprinkled his compositions with many sanksrit words. Each dAsa took a road of his own choice knowing fully well that ultimate goal was the praise of the Lord.

    The compositions of the haridAsas are thought-provoking yet simple, simple yet serious in content, serious yet enchanting, enchanting yet didactic. Many serious philosophical tenets have been explained for the benefit of everybody from the uninitiated to the expert.

    kannaDa, the spoken language of the people was the medium of communication. Telling phrases, couched in racy vocabulary made the compositions powerful and effective. Hundreds of common figures of speech, thoughtful observations served to make their song easily understood by the common man. Beauty lies in simplicity without being crude and inane.

    dvaita sidhdhAnta thus reached many through the music and compositions of the dAsas. Their compositions are equally available to all - the young and the old, men & women, the pious as well as the sinful, untouchables as well as high-caste people, without any distinction of caste, creed, region or religion.

    History of Haridasas Devotion/Bhakthi Haridasas & Other Saints Vyasa Kuta & Dasa Kuta
    Haridasa Literature Haridasas and Music Haridasas and Culture Sri Madhva's Philosophy & Haridasas
    Haridasas on Sri Madhva Ankita Compositions & Style of Haridasas Scope of Haridasa Homepage

    Back to Haridasa HomePage