February 7th is Sri Purandara Dasa Aradhane. A few tidbits of information and trivia related to the devaranamas and the great soul.
• Sri Purandara Dasa decided that “Malava gowla” of the South was most suited for beginners. The corresponding Raga in the North is called “Bhairav”. In “Malavagowla” subsequently named as “Maya Malavagowla”, the difference of pitch between ‘Ri’ and ‘ga’ and ‘da’ and ‘ni’ are the same and the notes sa-ri-ga-ma and pa-da-ni-sa are perfect concordant notes. That is why Purandara Dasa found Maya Malavagowla the best Raga to begin lessons in classical music. This system of music is called “Karnataka Music” as he belongs to that region and the music is very pleasing to the ears. He created several phrases of notes called “Sarali” “Janta”, Hetchu-sthayi, “Thaggu sthayi” and “Datu” Swaras. He also simplified “Thala” system and moulded it into “Pancha-Thrimsathi” Thala system and composed “Alankaras” to be sung in those Thalas
• All these initial notes or Swaras are to be sung in Maya Malavagowla. The next phase of learning of a beginner is “Geethe” for which Purandaradasa created “Pillari Geete” in Raga-Malahari” a derivative of Maya-Malava-Gowla. Gradually the Ragas and their notes are to be changed to acquaint the student with different notes step by step. Purandara Dasa was therefore, rightly called Karnataka Sangeeta Pithamaha.
• Bidaram Krishnappa did great service in propagating Purandara Dasa/ Haridasa compositions. He was the first musician to give an all Devaranama concert.
• Vidwan Chennakeshavaiah, an Asthana Vidwamsa of Wodeyar, set to notation a 100 (could be more) Purandarada Saara Devaranamas which was published during the 4th birth centenary of Sri Purandara Dasaru.
• We should also recall ML Vasanthakumari`s mother Lalitangi as she also popluarised Devaranamas. Lalithangi was a very good artist in her time. In a CD by Carnatica, there are a couple of tracks by Lalithangi (including Gajavadana beduve). MLV learnt several Devaranamas from her mother.
• To listen to Dasa compositions, I prefer the pristine padanthaaras and native pronunciations of Sri RK Srikantan, Mysore Vasudevachar and Bidaram Krishnappa that bring out the beauty and simplicity of the compositions.
• R.K.Srikantan indeed is another musician who has rendered yeoman service in popularising Devaranamas.
• A beautiful Kannada movie ‘Navakoti Narayana’ with Rajkumar in the lead role was made in the early ’60s. There is another Kannada movie ‘Sri Purandara Dasaru’ with KS Ashwath in the lead.
• Recently an animated Kannada movie Sri Purandara Dasaru has been produced particularly with children in mind! The playback singers for this movie are Sarvasri S.Sankar, V.Kalavati, and Vidyabhushana. More info here – http://www.mediateck.biz/
• Vocalist R.K.Padmanabha has produced drama on Sri Purandara Dasa with himself in the lead role. This has done more than a 100 shows all over karnataka.
• Vidwan R.K.srikantan Trust (R) has published a book: Haridasa Kirthana Rathanamala which contains 22 devaranamas of Sripadaraja, Vyasaraja, Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa and Vijaya Dasa complete with text, notations in Kannada, English and Tamil with Swara Samyojane by RKS. They have also CD containing vintage melodies.
• A popular folk song starting, “Mullu koneya mele mooru keraya katti” (raga Paraz) is a maze of riddles spun by Purandara Dasa. He has composed many such puzzling songs called, ‘Mundige’ (allegory). In mundige the wordings are such that we cannot understand the meaning easily. The songs are full of abstract imagery and one has to ponder over and make out one’s own comprehension of the real theme of the song.
The song (translation) goes like this:
“Three ponds were dug in the sharp point of a thorn, out of which two ponds were dry and the third never got filled,
“Three simpletons came to the unfilled ponds, two of them were lame and the third had no legs at all,
“Three buffalos were sold to the legless simpletons, two of the buffalos were sterile and the third didn’t have any calf at all,
“Three sovereigns were paid for the buffalos, two of which were counterfeit and the third was not acceptable,
“ Three inspectors came to check the sovereigns, two of them were blind and the third did not have eyes at all,
“Three villages were given as grants to the blind inspectors, two villages were in ruins and the third was deserted,
“Three potters came to live in the villages, two of them were disabled and the third didn’t have hands at all,
“Three pots were made by the potters, two of which had holes and the third was bottomless,
“Three rice grains were cooked in the pots, two of which were spoiled rice and the third didn’t cook at all,
“Three guests arrived to eat the rice, two of them were on fast and the third was not hungry at all…”
Purandara Dasa himself concludes this song saying, “Only Purandara Vittala knows the meaning of this and no one else”. Religious commentators give Vedantic meaning to this riddle giving metaphorical reference to human body and soul. But we can make out that the riddle subtly indicates how people live in our society making false promises, deceiving others and priding over useless charity. (Courtesy: Sri MVK Narayan)
• I recall a discussion on the Sangeetham board on the attribution of compositions as follows:
1) the songs with the ankita, “purandara viThala” were composer by Sri Purandaradasa
2) the songs with the ankita “tandE siri purandara viThala” were believed to be composed by his sons
Some musicians say “tande purandaraviThala” and “guru purandaraviTHala” are the Mudres of his sons. But there is some confusion as Purandara Dasaru might have composed some songs with “guru” or “tande” preceding his mudre. Readers can kindly throw more light on this.
• The first 3 Devaranamas I learnt were: Narajanma Bandaga, Karuniso Ranga, Pogadirelo Ranga. I must have been in First standard then.
Also visit Sri Purandara Dasa (1494-1564)