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Hari Sarvottama Vayu Jeevottama

A very warm welcome to the blog of Madhwa Brahmins community.
We, Madhwa Brahmins are followers of Jagadguru Sriman Madhwacharya. We originally hail from places in Karnataka and the neighboring states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Our main dialects are Kannada, Tulu, Marathi, Telugu and Konkani.

A brief background of Jagadguru Sri Madhwacharya:

prathamO hanumAn nAma dviteeyO bheema Eva cha |
pUrNaprajna tRuteeyastu bhagavat kAryasAdhakaH ||

As the above shloka from khila vAyustuti explains, Sri Madhwacharya (also known by the names Poornaprajna and Anandateertha) is the third incarnation of Lord MukhyaprAna Vaayu, after Lord Hanuman and Lord Bheemasena. He is the chief proponent of TattvavAda, popularly known as Dvaita. He was born on Vijayadashami day of 1238 CE at Paajaka Kshetra, a small village near Udupi. He is the 22nd commentator on the Brahma sutras of Lord Sri Veda Vyasa.

Kindly note that this blog contains important topics discussed in our Orkut community and some articles on tattvavAda philosophy. All the topics can be found in the BLOG ARCHIVE (right side)

15 March, 2009

Sri Kanaka daasa

Sri Kanakadasa (1508-1606)

Sri Kanakadasa is one of the most famous Haridasas of Karnataka. He lived during the same time as Sri Vadiraja teertha and Sri Purandaradasa. He distinguished himself as great poet, philosopher, musician and composer. His Kirthanas and Ugabhoga compositions in Kannada language are very relevant even now. Being a disciple of Sri Vyasaraja, Kanakadasa also propagated Dwaitha philosophy of Madhvacharya through poetry and music to the masses in South India. He worshipped Adikeshava of Kaginele, presently in Haveri district of Karnataka. Kaginele, now a village, was a prosperous place and a trading center in his times. He lived for 98 years and during his life time he traveled various places and temples.

Birth and youth days

Thimmappa or Thimmappa Nayaka was the original name of Kanakadasa and he was born in a Kuruba (Shepard) tribe of Bada village in Dharwad district, Karnataka. Though we attach him to this place, there is no clear proof giving details of his origins. There is also no clear reason why his name was changed to Kanaka. Some stories say he distributed money and wealth to the poor and emptied the exchequer and people started calling him by the name Kanaka which stands for gold or wealth.

Another story says the Kanakadasa was the son of Beerappa Nayaka and Bachchi. As the couple had no children for long time after marriage they started worshipping Thimmappa of Tirupathi. Later they had a son and they named him Thimmappa. Thimmappa was a very intelligent boy even in childhood and he was less concerned about physical satisfaction. He was philosophical in thinking even in a very tender age. He lost his father very early and he was left alone with his mother at home. His mother started calling him Chinna which means gold or jewel. The Sanskrit form of Chinna is Kanaka. So he got the name Kanaka.

As Kanaka grew up he became the chieftain of Bankapura. But as he could not enjoy the richness as thousands were deprived of it, he distributed everything in the exchequer to the poor. As a result he was driven out of the power. At the same time he lost his wife too. But this made him realize the meaning of life. Instead of leading a meaningless life of being lured by worldly advancements, he thought, it would be good to become a Haridasa and preach the real essence of life.

He soon became the disciple of Sri Vyasaraja and travelled to various places singing songs and kirthanas, ugabhogas, mundiges. On the basis of one of his compositions it is deduced that after he got severely hurt in a war and miraculously saved, he gave up his warrior’s profession and devoted himself to writing songs and composing music. It appears that he started traveling to places to gain more knowledge.

Kanakadasa in Udupi

Kanakadasa has special association with Udupi. On advice from his Guru Sri Vyasaraja teertha he came to Udupi. But it was the time when the discrimination on the caste basis was at its peak. So he used to stand outside the temple and pray to Lord Krishna by singing songs praising Lord Krishna. Owing to the call of his devotee Lord Krishna gave darshan to Kanaka through a window.

Today that window stands as a tribute to Kanakadasa. Almost all devotees who visit Udupi Krishna temple try to have a peep at the idol through the small window wishing to relive the ecstasy, Kanaka had at the divine 'darshan'. 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.

Kanakana kinDi

There are many popular legends regarding Lord Krishna's revelation to saint Kanakadasa. We can unravel the mystery of this episode on the basis of the available historical documents as follows. Kanakadasa came to Udupi as a pilgrim. Sri Vadiraja teertha who was in charge of Udupi mutt at that time knew about this pious devotee of the Lord, and made arrangements for his stay in a hut in the roadside in front of the temple. Kanakadasa used to play on his tambuura and sing in the hut, but the wall of the temple was there between the icon and himself. Being of a lower class, by tradition he was forbidden to enter the temple and have darshana of Sri Krishna. The wall of the shrine was, of course, a barrier to the physical eyes, but who could prevent the vision of his inner eyes? They were fully open and the Sri Krishna was visible to Kanakadasa.

Some time passed and then one night there was an earthquake and a small crack appeared in the wall of the shrine. Through this crack Kanakadasa was able to have darshana of the icon of Krishna. Sri Vadiraja teertha became aware of this crack and of the fact that Kanakadasa was using it to have darshana of Sri Krishna. Instead of having the crack plastered over, Sri Vadiraja enlarged it and turned it into a window. To commemorate Lord Krishna's darshana to Kanaka Dâsa, the window has been designated as 'Kanaka's window.'

From that time onward, Kanakadasa could have the darshana 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 was started.

Not only pilgrims, but even the piiThaadhipati-s of the eight Mutts who go to take charge of the temple at the time of paryaaya come in procession to this window. It is only after looking at the icon through this window that they enter the shrine. This tradition has been going on since the time of Sri Vadiraja teertha.

Controversy of Krishna idol turning to West

The story that is current now is quite different. According to this story the icon of Sri Krishna was formerly facing East. Since Kanakadasa was singing on the Western side of the temple, the icon turned to the West when Krishna was pleased with Kanakadasa's devotion. This popular story, however, does not agree with the evidence available.

The architectural plan of the temple has been the way it is since the time of Sri Madhvacharya. A portico for the distribution of sacred water and prasaada, a tuLasi plant, and discourse-hall -- all face the West. Hence it is quite unlikely that the icon alone was facing the East. The Eastern door, which is now closed and barred by Chenna Keshava, was being used by the Swamijis to go out for holy dip in lake. Swamijis used to bathe in the sacred tank and enter the sanctum sanctorum through this door.

Sri Madhva installed the icon of Krishna facing Westwards and that is why all the shrines of the eight Mutts have their icons facing West. More than anything else there is a reference in the commentary known as sanyaasa paddhati Tiike written by a piiThaadhipati of Bhandarakeri Mutt, Sri Surottama Tîrtha, who was a puurvaashrama brother of Sri Vadiraja. It states that Sriman Madhvacharya had established the icon facing the West. For these reasons, the story of Krishna's icon turning towards the West must be a later invention.

Kanakadasa offers rice gruel to Lord Krishna

There is another incident connected with him which is not known to many people. But for Sri Vadiraja Teertha, it would have been forgotten a long time ago. That interesting episode can be stated thus: It was noon and Kanakadasa had baked rice cake for his lunch. Suddenly, his attention was drawn towards a small hole on the Northern side of the discourse hall. From the kitchen inside, some rice gruel (teLi) was flowing out through the hole. Kanakadasa took the shell of a coconut and filled it with some gruel. He then took the cake and the gruel to the front of the temple and prayed for Krishna to accept the offerings, and then ate it.

Sri Vadiraja teertha came to know of this due to his divine vision, summoned his attendants and said, 'Kanaka is a great devotee. Krishna is more pleased with his gruel water than with our costly dishes. He may be a shepherd by caste, but he does not lag behind in his devotion and enlightenment. He is like pure gold (`kanaka' means "gold"). From this day onwards we will also offer rice gruel and cake to Sri Krishna to perpetuate the memory of Kanaka's great devotion.'

This tradition continues even today. Rice gruel and cake are offered, along with other dishes, except that the coconut shell has been replaced by a silver goblet. Sri Vadiraja teertha has thus immortalized this episode in the history of Udupi.

Kanakadasa’s Compositions

Kanakadasa composed many poems and not all are available now. His compositions end with the mudra of Kaginele Adhikeshava. In addition to being a poet he worked as a social reformer by ridiculing dogmatic communities that suppressed the disadvantaged communities. Kanakadasa made a supreme effort to reform the disadvantaged communities by convincing them to give-up their age-old obsolete social practices and to adapt to the changing world. The literature of Kanakadasa has a kind of novelty and variety in it.

The narrations, dialogues and situations explained in his songs are out of his real life experiences and societal conditions. He never made attempt to serious narrations with highly sanskritised words. Instead his poems portray the life and culture during his period. His writings were simple, straight and appealing.

His works include Nalacharitre, Haribhaktisara, Nrisimhastava, Ramadhanyacharitre, Mohanatarangini. In addition to this he has written around 240 Kirthanas including many ugabhogas, padas and mundiges. His writing style was unique and he used the language of the people. They were simple but rich in meaning. So his compositions are very popular.


Kanakadasa Adhyayana Samshodhana PeeTha, Udupi

Dvaita homepage - Web resources for Madhvacharya's doctrines

... the entire world is saying that idol was first facing east ... then it turned to west when Kanaka sang the song *baagilanu teredu*.

On the occasion of Sri Kanaka jayanthi utsava in Udupi, Sri Bannanje Govindacharya has said in Udupi that "bAgilanu teredu sEveyanu koDu hariye" song was sung in Tirupati in front of Lord Venkateshwara and not in Udupi. However he did not say anything about the breaking of the wall and turning of the idol in this occasion.

Nevertheless he has said in numerous other occasions that Madhwacharya had installed the Krishna idol facing to the west. And that the story of idol turning from East to West is a fake. (incidentally, Sri Govindacharya has translated Madhwa's "tantrasAra sangraha" from Samskruta to Kannada when he was just 17 yrs old. This work of Madhwacharya deals with Temple vAstu, pUja vidhAna, etc.)

However many false stories about our history and puranas are going on in the society, including this one, and people believe it. This is because, the number of people speaking the lie are more, so naturally their voice is more audible. It overshadows the strength of truth. So even if some people like Govindacharya tell the truth, there is hardly anyone to believe.

You will be surprised that many Maadhwas too believe in the fake story that Krishna idol turned from East to West during the time of Kanakadasa. I am sure that one day the darkness of fake story will be destroyed, and the light of truth will triumph.


In Karnataka Bhakta vijaya also this song Baagilanau teredu...
is said to composed by another devotee...( mostly Vaikuntha daasaru... i have forgot )
there is a politico-relegio reason for ShriMadhwacharya to install Lord in the current format...


ShrI surOttama tIrtharu was the pontiff of Bhandarkeri mutt in the 16th C. He was the pUrvAshrama brother of shrI vAdirAja tIrtharu. He has written commentories on shrI vAdirAja tIrtha's yuktimallika and shrI viShNu tIrtha's sanyAsapaddhati.
shrI surOttama tIrtharu in his TIka on sanyAsapaddhati has clearly mentioned that there is no hard and fixed rule that the vigraha in a temple has to be facing east and can be installed facing the west and ShrImadAchArya has installed uDupi kRuShNa facing the west only.
This pontiff was a contemporary of ShrI vAdirAjaru and kanakadAsaru as well.

When shrI kanakadAsaru was in uDupi , he was residing in a make-shift tent at the place where his statue has been installed. In the night there was an earthquake and the wall of the temple cracked and dAsaru had a darashana of kRuShNa. He saw the same Lord that he had seen from his inner-eyes! dAsaru has composed a dEvaranAma too "naDurAtriyali Eke naDugidiyE tAyi..."
ShrI vAdirAjaru, who noticed this crack in the wall, retained it and made a window through which kanakadAsaru had seen the Lord and called it kanakana kinDi.
The inner navadvAra kinDi existed since AchArya's times. The temple represents the body (garbha gRuha) and the nine holes respresent the navadvAra-s in our bodies (2 eyes, 2 ears, 1 mouth, 2 nostrils , and mala-mUtra dvAras). AchArya is indirectly telling us to have darshana of the Lord within our bodies through our inner eyes.

Ref: Bannanje barahagaLu - 1 (Author: Shri Bannanje Govindacharya)

According to the vEdas, during any yAga-ya~jna, the agni kunDa is to be facing the west and the yajamAna has to be facing the east.

shrI madhvAchArya who brought all the Vedic rules to practice, installed kRuShNa facing west so that the person who performs pUja can face east like in a ya~jna.
In case the idol was to face the east, the yajamAna cannot face the west to perform pooje since facing west and south is prohibited for any pooja or mantra japa. In this case he would have to sit north facing to the side of the idol. Eventhough tantrAgamas accept this, it is not according to vEdic ~yajna.

Another interesting fact is the pooja rooms in all 8 muttas are west facing irrespective of the direction of the door of entry.

There are a lot of muttas and ancient temples in and around uDupi that follow this system, eg : koDvUru kAnangi ShankaranArayaNa temple that AchArya visited in his childhood, viShNu mUrti temple at palimAr, etc. These temples are much older than kRuShNa mutta.

If we consider the vAstu of the garbha guDi we would realise its not possible for kRuShNa to have changed directions.
There is madhvasarOvara behind the temple. If we walk towards the garbha guDi from the sarOvara we find the closed doors. These doors were earlier open throughout the year unlike today which are opened just once a year. These doors were meant for the sanyAsis to enter the garbha gRuha after a bath in the madhvasarOvara.
What people say is that earlier kRuShNa was to be seen through these doors. However, if one enters through these doors, one finds a room meant for yatis to perform sandhyAvandane and not the kRuShNa pratima. The main idol is in a different room altogether! There is a pradakshiNa path from this room to the garbha gRuha.

If we consider the vAstu of the outer part of the temple, the tuLasi kaTTe, dIpasthamba, shrines of prANadEvaru and garuDa, chandrashAle used for pravachanas are all infront of the idol facing west. Incase kRuShNa was once facing east, it wouldnt make sense to have all these behind the idol against temple vAstu.
And there are no records of reconstruction of the temple apart from the renovation of the garbha gRuha.

Ref: Bannanje barahagaLu (shri Bannanje Govindacharya)

kanakadAsaru who was a realised soul, whose persona is so high, doesnt require stories like these to testify his greatness. His unparalleled works like haribhaktisAra, kEshavanAma and innumerable dEvaranAmas that reflect his insight bear witness to the saint’s magnitude in character. It’s very unfortunate that his name is being used for political gains.

The story of he being not allowed inside the temple by orthodox brahmins and the idol rotating have been popularised by harikathe dasas, dance ballets and movies.

This isnt the only story cooked up by entertainers for popularity. The other famous one is kRuShNa tulAbhAra!

This is a brief transcript of what shri Bannanje Achar narrated in one of his discourses.

The idol of prANadEvaru in uDupi is not straight but slightly slanting. The pANipITha itself is not perfectly parallel to the ground.
Roughly around 40 years ago, the then paryAya Svamiji of ShirUr mutta (the paramaguru of the current pontiff) took the project of renovation of prANadEvara guDi. The stone carvings and wood work were all completed and the idol had to be moved for the reconstruction of the shrine. A day or two before this event, the paryaya svamiji who was descending the staircase in his mutta to come to kRuShNa mutta for the mahApUje, slipped and fell from just a few steps of the staircase. The pontiff who was hail and healthy passed away.

This caused a lot of fear since this was the first case of a pontiff passing away during the paryAya term. To decide whether to continue this renovation or not, the ashta muttas decided to call an astrologer (prAShNika) for ashTa-mangLa- prashne. It’s a process where the astrologer does some pooje and answers questions using some manuscripts (sAri). The answers are in the form of Sanskrit verses. The system is such that the person answering questions cannot compose his own Sanskrit poetry bound to a specific meter spontaneously.

The ashTa-mangLa- prashne was held in the presence of all seers of the eight muttas. pUjya shrI vidyAmanya tIrtharu and shrI Bannanje Achar were also witness to this event.

The prAShNika said that on the movement of the idol of prANadEvaru, the sAnidhya would be lost and on re-consecration the same sAnidhya wouldn’t be restored. The reason for this was that there is no yati bearing the same mantra shakti of the person who originally installed the idol (it was shrI vAdirAja tIrtharu who installed prANadEvaru). He continued that if all 8 yati-s would do it simultaneously there could be a chance to reinstall it, however all the seers wouldn’t come to a consensus.

Having this issue cleared, Shri Bannanje Achar asked the astrologer about the movement of kRuShNa idol. Surprisingly, he answered referring to his manuscripts, that the idol had been moved thrice after its installation. When asked about the sAnidhya of kRuShNa, he said that since the idol was consecrated by a mahApuruSha the sAnidhya can never go away. This made clear the fact that the idol of kRuShNa has been moved only thrice as recorded and the story of kRuShNa rotating (and coming from one chamber to another) for the sake of kanaka dasaru is wrong.

To listen to the same, logon to anandamala.org -> bannanje vani -> narasimha ashtottara shatanama stotra.


Deepa said...

In "bhaktha vijaya" , pg 263, describes that kanakadasa indeed got krishna darshana because the idol turned towards west.

H. V. Balachandra Achar said...


How can Bhaktha Vijaya be an authentic proof for Kanakadasa incident? Whether the author was living at the same time as Kanakadasaru? No!

H. V. Balachandra Achar said...

By coincidence, today itself this news came in karavali karnataka news: