Why Kankadasa will always remain relevant.

“How can we let a lowly Kurba in/” the Brahmins of the Mutta hurled at the man,

Vadiraja Teertha decided it was time to humble the arrogant Brahmins. He had immense faith in the devotion of the man, so he kept quiet.

The Man stood out and sang the praise of the Lord …

Lo behold the Lord turned west, breaking the door and allowing Kanakadasa to see him…

This is a story most kids of Udupi for that matter  even Karnataka have grown up with. Today being Kankadasa Jayanthi, my humble homage to the warrior, social activist, poet, and Philosopher of Haveri.

The ugabhoga’s, Mandige and keertane’s of Thimmappa Nayaka the son of Biregowda and Bachchamma  are a must for every Kannada scholar and adepts of Carnatic Music.

Thimmappa was thinker, he analyzed society  and was also a warrior.  An injury brought him to the world of literature, music and philosophy the world knows of him of Kanakadasa.

12th Century saw the emergence of the Sharana parampara, and the 16th century hearalded the dasa parampara.Dasa’s were the wandering bards singing the praise of lord and passing on the philosophical values.

He begins his poems usually with a dedication to the Velapura or belur Chennakeshava, addressing him in various forms like Lakshmipathy, Pandavavandita etc. and ends with the signature  “rakshisunammananavarta.” Or bless us or eternal being.

Many a times people ask me why Kanakadasa and not Purandaradasa … well the way I understood Kanakadasa’s poetry and I could be wrong what comes up is the philosophy of living and observations of society, he does not dispense morals, nor does he sing the glory of defined God. Kanaka to me talks of the eternal one, and he chooses to call him “Belura Chennakeshava.”

In the poem “Ramadhaanya Charitre” he uses the Ramayana to create a conversation between the rice brain and the Raagi grain to establish superiority. The rice grain representing the Brahmin and the Raagi representing the peasant. This is a rare book on caste struggle. The poem ends with Lord Rama declaring their equality.  Kanakadasa uses the inanimate to educate the animate that is something I find very fascinating.

Nalacharitre or the story of the Nishada prince Nala, who interestingly looses the to cousin Pushkara in a game of dice, and gets exiled, he abandons his wife. Eventually to become the charioteer of the King Rituparna while the abandoned Damayanti, is adopted by the Chedi king she, returns to her father who decides to have her remarried, this brings Nala back to her life. The patriarchal structure of the soceity is quite emminent here, but within the parametre of patriarchy Kanakadasa is able bring out a strong, opinioniated Damayanti.kanakana kindi

Mohana Tarangini, is another amazing poetry which deals with the lineage of the Yadava’s of Dwaraka, Krishna and Balarama, Kanakadasa likens the Vijayanagara kings to the Yadava as he draws the descendents, Pradyumana and Aniruddha, despite the many charecters that emerge in the poetry, it is a poem on Krishna, and along with the story of Krishna, Kanakadasa presents the people and living of Vijayanagara.

Narsimhahastava  is a rather lost poem.

The relevance of the poet’s philosophy quite often needs a teacher to interpret and bring it to contemporary context. For me it has been Dr.Madhav Udupa, constantly  guiding me and navigating me through the deep waters of Dasa parampara literature. Dasa-Sahitya or the literature of the Haridasa’s happens to be his doctoral thesis.

Here is a humble request to add anything that can add to my knowledge of Haridasa, please put it down in the comment column. Looking forward to the learning.

“rakshisu nammananavarta”

4 Replies to “Why Kankadasa will always remain relevant.”

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