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Biography

Purandara Dāsa (Kannada: ಪುರಂದರ ದಾಸ) (1484–1564) was a Haridasa (a devotee - servant of Lord Hari (Vishnu)), great devotee of Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and a saint. He was a disciple of the celebrated Madhwa philosopher-saint Sri Vyasatirtha, and a contemporary of yet another great Haridasa, Kanakadasa. His Guru, Sri Vyasatirtha himself glorified Purandara Dasa in a song thus: Dāsarendare purandara dāsarayya (ದಾಸರೆಂದರೆ ಪುರಂದರ ದಾಸರಯ್ಯ). Purandara Dasa was a composer, singer and one of the chief founding-proponents of the South Indian classical music (Carnatic Music). In honor of his significant and legendary contributions to Carnatic Music, he is widely referred to as the Pitamaha (lit, "father" or the "grandfather") of Carnatic Music. He is respected as an avatara (incarnation) of the great sage Narada (a celestial being who is also a singer).

He was a wealthy diamond merchant from Karnataka, who gave away all his material riches to become a Haridasa,a devotional singer who made the difficult Sanskrit tenets of Srimad Bhagavatam available to everyone in simple and melodious songs, and is one of the most important music scholars of medieval India. He formulated the basic lessons of teaching Carnatic music by structuring graded exercises known as Svaravalis and Alankaras, and at the same time, he introduced the Raga Mayamalavagowla as the first scale to be learnt by beginners in the field - a practice that is being followed till date. He also composed Gitas (simple songs) for novice students.

Purandara Dasa is noted for composing Dasa Sahithya, as a Bhakti movement vocalist, and a music scholar. His practice was emulated by his younger contemporary, Kanakadasa. Purandara Dasa's Carnatic music compositions are mostly in Kannada, while some are in Sanskrit. He signed his compositions with the ankita (pen name), "Purandara Vittala" (Vittala is one of the incarnations of the Hindu god, Vishnu).

Purandara Dasa systematized the method of teaching Carnatic music which is followed to the present day. He introduced the raga Mayamalavagowla as the basic scale for music instruction and fashioned series of graded lessons such as swaravalis, janti swaras, alankaras, lakshana geetas, prabandhas, ugabhogas, daatu varase, geeta, sooladis and kritis. Another of his important contributions was the fusion of bhava, raga, and laya in his compositions. Purandara Dasa was the first composer to include comments on ordinary daily life in song compositions. He used elements of colloquial language for his lyrics. He introduced folk ragas into the mainstream, setting his lyrics to tunes/ragas of his day so that even a common man could learn and sing them. He also composed a large number of lakshya and lakshana geetas, many of which are sung to this day. His sooladis are musical masterpieces and are the standard for raga lakshana. Scholars attribute the standardization of varna mettus entirely to Purandara Dasa.

The itinerant dasas who succeeded him are believed to have followed the systems he devised, as well as orally passing down his compositions.According to traditional sources his compositions number as many as four lac and seventy five thousand. But not more than 700 compositions are accessible now.

Purandara Dasa was a vaggeyakara (composer-performer), a lakshanakara (musicologist), and the founder of musical pedagogy. For all these reasons and the enormous influence that he had on Carnatic music, musicologists call him the "Sangeeta Pitamaha" (lit. grandfather) of Carnatic music.

Purandara Dasa had great influence on Hindustani music. The foremost Hindustani musician Tansen's teacher, Swami Haridas also a Saraswat Brahmin was Purandara Dasa's disciple.

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