Purandaradasa is considered to be one of the Fathers (Pitamaha) of Carnatic Music. He is the one who introduced the Mayamalavagowla Ragam, which is like the ‘ABC’ of Carnatic Music learning. He created the structured method of teaching music which is followed to this date.
Purandaradasa’s compositions are all about his love for Lord Narayana, but he also makes a strong plea to fight evils of the society such as casteism and untouchability.
But did you know that at one stage in his life, Purandaradasa (born Srinivasa Nayaka), was himself a miser, and it took Lord Hari himself to come down to earth in the form of a beggar to open his eyes?
Srinivasa Nayaka was the son of a wealthy diamond merchant in Shimoga, Karnataka He was highly proficient in Kannada, Sanskrit and Music. However, he was a miser and didn’t believe in charity!
One day, a beggar approached Srinivasa for help in conducting his son’s thread ceremony. Srinivasa refused. The beggar then approached Srinivasa’s wife, who was wanted to help, but was afraid of her husband. The mendicant then asked her to give him any possession of hers. Being a magnanimous person, she gave away her precious nose stud without her husband’s knowledge. The beggar then went back to Srinivasa Nayaka to sell the stud. Srinivasa immediately recognised the nose stud as his wife’s, but being unsure, gave the beggar the money. He then went to his wife and demanded to know here her nose stud is. Terrified of her husband’s wrath, she decides to end her life. After her prayers to Lord Hari, when she was about to drink the cup of poison, the nose stud appeared in the cup out of nowhere ! She gave it to her husband who rushed back to his safe to check, and was astounded to find that it was missing from the safe! He immediately realised that the beggar was none other than Lord Hari who took the form of the beggar to make him realise his narrow-minded behaviour!
Srinivasa realised that material wealth is useless, and the pursuit of the divine became his calling. Thereafter he renounced all his wealth to become Purandaradasa ( named by his guru Vyaasa Raaya) and he wandered around the town wearing bells on his ankles , a Tulasi Mala on his neck and a Tamboora in his hand, singing praises of Lord Hari.
The contrast in his life as a miserly merchant and as a devotee of Lord Hari became the content of his verses.
Over time, he composed over 4,75,000 pieces of music (including geetams, swarajatis and keertanams) , of which unfortunately, only 800 are available today.