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Kanakadasa the Saint-Poet



Saint-Poet Kanakadasa (c 1509-1609 A.D.) belongs to the tradition of Haridasa literary movement which ushered in an era of devotional literature in Karnataka, South India (Hari=God, Dasa=Servant, Haridasa=He who serves the Lord).


The Haridasas have composed songs in praise of Lord Krishna (incarnation of Vishnu, one of the holy trinity). Right from 14th century to 19th, we find several Haridasas who wrote devotional compositions which could be set to music with simple instruments like Tanpura (a string instrument), and Tala (cymbals). They wrote kirtans, bhajans, prayers, lullabies, festival songs, and house-hold-chore songs. They were written in simple and spoken Kannada and had universal appeal.


Purandaradasa and Kanakadasa are the foremost among Haridasas. Besides conveying "dualism" tenets, they preached kindness and equanimity in a world full of sorrows. They condemned superstitions, hollow rituals and upheld virtues of a pious life.


It is believed that Kanakadasa was a member of shepherd community. The deity he worshipped was Adikeshava of Kaginele, presently in Haveri district. Kaginele, now a village, was a prosperous place and trading center in middle ages.


Kanakadasa is a poet among composers. He wrote about two hundred songs (kirtans, padas and mundiges or philosophical songs) besides five major works.


Kanakana Kindi (window of Kanaka) enjoys a special place at the Shri Krishna temple of Udupi. There is a legend that Kanakadasa, who was a non-Brahmin (Brahmin=The Intellectual and spiritual class, in the Indian caste system), wanted to have a 'darshan of the idol (Darshan=to visually see in physical form, darshan word is derived from "drishti" which mean the optical sensory system). He was not allowed into the shrine by orthodox Madhwas, as Kanakadasa was not a Brahmin by birth (non-brahmins were not allowed to enter the temple of God). Kanakadasa then started singing praise of Shri Krishna and was lost to outside world in a corner outside the temple. Suddenly there was a breach in the wall, where Kanaka stood, and Lord Krishna apparated personally, thus allowing full darshan bending towards poet. A small window was constructed at the breach later. The idol has still a bend!


Today that window stands as a tribute to the unique saint of Karnataka. Almost all devotees who visit Udupi Krishna temple try to have a peep at the idol, through the petty window wishing to relive the ecstasy, Kanaka had at the divine 'darshan'. It is also a memorial to Kanakadasa and eclectic Hindu belief that devotion, poetry and sainthood are above caste and creed and certainty above orthodoxy.



Source: Kamat's Potpourri


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