Author Topic: Kanaka Dasa  (Read 2325 times)


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Kanaka Dasa
« on: August 31, 2010, 01:00:10 PM »

Kanaka Dasa (1509–1609) was a great poet, philosopher, musician and composer from Karnataka. He is known for his Kirtanes and Ugabhoga compositions in the Kannada language for Carnatic music. Like some other dasas, he often used colloquial language for his compositions.

Thimmappa Nayaka was his original name and he belonged to chieftain (Kuruba) family of Kaginele in Haveri district. He was born to the Kuruba gowda couple Biregowda and Beechamma at baad. Kanaka Nayaka being of the warrior community (Kuruba) his defeat in the field of battle, directed him to the path of devotion. He came to be called Kanaka Nayaka as he found a treasure-trove of gold (kanaka means gold in Kannada).

Kanaka Dasa was well educated and capable of analyzing the society microscopically. Based on one of his compositions it is interpreted that after he severely got injured in a war and was miraculously saved, he gave up his profession as a warrior and devoted his life to composing music and literature with philosophy explained in common man's language. 

The deity he worshiped was Adhikeshava of Kaginele, presently in Haveri district of Karnataka. Kaginele, now a village, was a prosperous place and trading center in the Middle Ages. Out of the many of his compositions, about 240 are fully accountable today. All his Karnataka Music compositions end with mudra (signature) Kaginele Adhikeshava.

In addition to being a poet he worked as a social reformer by down playing dogmatic communities that were suppressing the disadvantaged communities. Kanakadasa made extreme effort in reforming the disadvantaged communities by convincing them to give-up their age old obsolete social practices and adapt to the changing world. He effectively used music to convey his philosophy. He lived at Tirupathi in his last days.

He is one of the greatest musician, composer, poet, social reformer, philosopher and saints that India has ever seen.

The following is the translation of Nee Mayeyolago:

Are you a creature of illusion? or illusion your creation?

Are you a part of the body? Or is the body a part of you?

Is space within the house? Or the house within space? Or are both space and the house within the seeing eye?

Is the eye within the mind? Or the mind within the eye? Or are both the eye and the mind within you?

Does sweetness lie in sugar, or sugar in sweetness? Or do both sweetness and sugar lie in the tongue?

Is the tongue within the mind? Or the mind within the tongue? Or are both the tongue and the mind within you?

Does fragrance lie in the flower? Or the flower in fragrance? Or do both the flower and fragrance lie in the nostrils? I cannot say, O Lord Adikeshava of Kaginele, O! peerless one, are all things within you alone?

This was a famous phrase Kanakadaasa is quoted to have said in front of all vedantis, when asked who will attain Moksha . This question was asked by Vyasatirtha in a sabha, to actually bring light into Kanakadasara bhakti. Kanakadasa humbly but assertively tells that no one here will attain moksha. Only he can attain Moksha, on hearing this the pandits present there were taken aback and were very angry.

Then Vyasatirtha asks Kanaka to exlpain what it means , then he goes ahead and explains the meaning , which actually meant who has lost the Naanu ("Self"/"I") i.e.; ego will attain Moksha .

Kanakadasa has special association with Udupi and as he was the follower of Sri Vyasaraja Swamiji. On the advice of Vyasaraja Swamiji he had come to Udupi. He stood outside the matha and was lost in his prayers to Lord Krishna by singing songs in praise of the Lord and had darshan of the lord through a small window.

All devotees who visit Udupi Krishna Matha take a peek at Lord Krishna through the small window, wishing to relive the ecstasy of Kanakadasa. It is also a memorial to Kanakadasa and a testimony to the eclectic Hindu belief that devotion, poetry and sainthood are above caste and creed and certainty above orthodoxy. In all Hindu temples the deity and the main door of the temple face the east, but in Udupi the deity faces the west. Kanakadasa once wanted to have a darshan (encounter) of the Lord Krishna in Udupi. He was not allowed into the shrine by castist priests as he was not a higher-caste by birth. Kanakadasa then started singing the praises of Shri Krishna and was lost to outside world in a corner outside the temple.

Legend has it that the murti of Krishna, which had previously been facing east, turned around to face west, as the western wall collapsed so that Kanakadasa could have darshan. A small window was constructed at the breach later. The idol of Lord Krishna is still today worshipped through the window. This window came to be known as Kanakana kindi (Kanaka’s window). Historical evidence shows that there was indeed a small earthquake on that day which led to the collapse of the wall and turning of the statue of krishna to west. The memory of Kanakadasa was permanently etched in the temple of his beloved Lord Krishna. Today that window stands as a tribute to the unique saint of Karnataka.

From that time onward, Kanakadasa could have the darshan of Sri Krishna with his physical eyes as well as his inner eye. To perpetuate this sacred memory, the tradition of looking at the icon of Sri Krishna through this window before entering the shrine started.


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Re: Kanaka Dasa
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2010, 12:23:54 PM »

Dear prasanth,

Very nice post on this day of Janmashtami.  Kanaka Dasa was an
outcaste and the brahmins of Udupi did not allow him to see or enter
the sanctum sanctorum of Krishna.  He simply stayed near the outerwall on the rear side of the sanctum and was praying to Krishna.
Krishna turned 180 degrees and faced the wall and through the window the saint could have darshan of Krishna.  The orthodox brahmins were bewildered and brought him inside.  Even today, in Udupi, the darshan for everyone is through that window [called Kankana Kidikki], only since Krishna did not turn to the original position again!

Kanakadasa was not well read and he knew only colloquial Kannada
but he brought in sublime thoughts through that simple language.

Coincidentally, in Sri Sankara TV, by about 5 am, this morning, they showed Udupi. We could see Krishna through the window.

Krishna nee begene baro....

Arunachala Siva.