Tuesday 1 January 2013

The palanquin that carried itself

It is generally accepted that after Purandara Dasa and the demise of the Vijayanagar Empire, the Haridasas shifted their place from south Karnataka and Hampi-Vijayanagar to north Karnataka, particularly Raichur.
However, there is a Haridasa from Bangalore about whom much is not known. Belur Keshavadasa, a well-known Harikatha scholar, claimed in his book “Karnataka Bhaktavijaya” that the Haridasa movement was inspired by Achalananda Dasa, a saint of Turvekere which is now in Tumkur district.
He assigns the Dasa to the 9th century AD and this makes him the first Haridasa not only of Bangalore but also in the entire State.  However, neither the language used by Achalananda in his  compositions nor the history of Dasa Sahitya back this theory. Moreover, a composition with the pen name Achalanada Vitthala,  mentions the 13th-century philosopher Madhvacharya, and this does not support the 9th Century AD.
However, what we know of this Haridasa is that he was born in Haiganpura in Bangalore District and that he was an ardent devotee of  Lord Narasimha.
He toured the entire country barefoot and propagated the Bhakti movement. His devotion to Narasimha was so great that he had the idol placed on a palanquin, while he walked besides it. He used to sing the glories of Hari by stringing  the Tamburi.
According to folklore, the palanquin of Narasimha was carried by the invisible Rudra Ganas To the people, the palanquin moved by itself and this was a miracle.
Thousands of people followed the dasa to see for themselves the palanquin that carried itself. The palanquin was well-decorated with flowers. Many people were overcome with devotion and became his followers.
He once came to Pandharapur, where he was blessed by Panduranga Vithala. It is said that Panduranga Vittala gave him darshana one afternoon when he was offering  Arghya (the religious worship) to the Sun in the Chandrabhaga river.
Achalananda Dasa was so overcome by the incident that from that day onwards all his compositions were dedicated to Achalananda Vithala.
Once, when he was touring Nepal,  the prince of Nepal had died of snake bite. The king of Nepal humbly prayed to Achalananda Dasa to save his son.
The Dasa chanted Garuda mantra, summoned the serpent that had bit the prince and made it to suck back the poison. The Prince got up hale and hearty as if he had emerged from sleep.
Apart from Achalananda, other family members like Mudduvithala, Gopinatha, Haridasa, Timmannadasa and Panduranga joined him in propagating the Bhakti cult.
The first reference to Achalanada by a fellow Dasa is by Vijayadasaru.
In one of his compositions Vijaya Dasa has referred to  Achalananda Dasa and some other names of  the Adya family.  The Karnataka Bhaktavijya speaks of Achalananda Dasa who travelled all over South India during the period of the Rastrakutas.
The book says the Dasa lived in Turvekere for most part of his life.
Prof BNK Sharma says Achalananda Dasa might have been the link between the period of Narahari Theertha and Sripadaraja Theertha.
He says Achalananda Dasa and the Adya family could have been Smartha Brahmins who had taken to Dasa Sahitya, possibly under the influence of  the Vachanagaras. However, he males it clear that much of their lives and compositions are mired in obscurity.

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