Songs of Divinity: Songs of the Bards (Dasas) of Karnatak

Songs of Divinity: Songs of the Bards (Dasas) of Karnatak

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Item Code: IDJ779
Author: Keshav M. Mutalik
Publisher: Focus Popular Prakashan, Bombay
Language: Translated into English
Edition: 1995
ISBN: 8171547885
Pages: 168
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.3" X 5.3"
The Author

Dr Keshav M. Mutalik retired as Principal, Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics, then worked as Hon. Director of the Sydenham Institute of Management and Entrepreneurial Studies, which he started. Later, he was Director of the Maharashtra Government's Central Services Training Institute, Bombay. He earned a Ph. D degree from the University of Bombay for his work on Francis William Bain and another Ph. D degree awarded by the Leeds University (U. K.) for his "A Socio-Linguistic study of Kannada." Dr. Mutalik has established himself as a distinguished teacher, researcher and a connoisseur of drama and music. At present, he teaches Communication Skills and Research Methodology in The Mozambique-Tanzania Centre for Foreign Relations, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where he is Associate Professor.

Dr. Mutalik visited the U. S. A. as a senior fulbright scholar where he studied Mark Twain's Visit to India and produced Indian plays in translation. His study on Mark Twain is published under the title Mark Twain in India.

Of late, Dr. Mutalik has undertaken as intensive study of Madhva Philosophy (Madhva Siddhanta) and has published books, Guru Raghvbendra Swamy, Jagannath Dasa, Shri Raghoottma Teertha, Songs of Divinity, and Harikathamruta sara, A Few Pillars of Madhva Siddhanta. His study of Vyasaraya Teertha, Vadiraja Teertha and Guru Madhva are awaiting publication.

Back of the Book

Keshav M. Mutalik Bards all over the world sing the praise of God. Songs of Divinity is a selection of Dasa (Bard or Servant of God) songs translated from Kannada into English. Many Dasas have written songs in simple lucid Kannada to enable common people to understand God's greatness, His merciful nature and His omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. Devotion, total surrender to the Lord, would attract His blessings.

The Songs in the present book are written (or ascribed to, at times) by the prince of Dasas, Purandara Dasa, Scholar-Poet Jagannath Dasa, Vijaya Dasa and other well-known bards. The songs teach man how to conduct himself in the society and how deceit, falsehood and pseudo-religious rituals lead man nowhere near happiness and the Lord's mercy.

The translator was urged by many non-Kannada speakers to undertake the translation. Songs of Divinity therefore would transcend the bounds of language to make the Dasas known everywhere. Divine glory and mysticism contained in many songs are explained by the translator's comments. A brief life-sketch of each Dasa is presented to enable the reader to get familiar with the background.


Total surrender to the Almighty is a signal on the path of devotion. Based on the Upanishads, the Puranas and their personal experience, the builders of the path of devotion have chosen to reach God by their master-servant, lover-beloved, mother-child, brother-sister and preceptor-disciple (Guru-Shishya) relationship. Love and devotion lead one to release from the trammels of worldly sufferings. The royal road starts with the directions in Bhagawata Purana and the Geeta. Total release is devotion's slave. The Bhagawata notes -

(When one merges oneself into the joys of devotion to God) the queen of release wallows at his feet.) Madhvacharya who established the Dvaita School of thought, now popular as Madhva Siddhanta, emphasized the Bhagawata principles of total surrender to God.

(Listening to the praise of God), Singing the songs of Vishnu, remembering Him, worshipping Him at His feet, offering oneself to the Lord, (through fruits and flowers) saluting, being His slave, and friend and opening one's heart to Him.)

The Almighty has to be thus approached in a number of simple, easily-do-able ways. Followers of the great preceptor, Madhva, continued this tradition in their commentaries and writings. The early efforts were in Sanskrit and were mostly the commentaries on the Guru Madhva's writings. The heads of the Mutts (the institutions of recluse established by the preceptor) zealously carried forward the teachings by their religious worship, individual and group preaching and explaining the writing s of Madhvacharya. All these compositions were in Sanskrit, the language of the educated (mostly scholars), and reached but a few. The common man saw the "pooja", followed whatever was preached in his understandable language and just did what he saw or was told. Mass appeal or mass communication did not materialize or, perhaps, was not intended to, in the early stages. The common man was left in the lurch groping in the dark to fend his lonely way to self-realization. Ritualistic methods, tribalism and exploitation of people's ignorance flourished unchecked. Enlightenment, acceptance by the general stream of preachers were far removed and appeared impossible, unattainable. People perhaps, believed that devotion to God was the prerogative of the scholars and beyond the ken of the uneducated (non-Sanskrit learners) mass, the situation, being grave and self-destructive, needed urgent solution. During the pontificate of Vyasatirtha (around 1447 to 1539) and a few years earlier in the period of Shripadaraya, Vyasatirtha's preceptor, songs in praise of the Lord were proudly sung during worship and these were the songs in the local language, Kannada, the language of the common people. God is easily approachable, God is for all, God is to be praised, God needs no ritualistic ornamentation. These thoughts were propagated in their songs by the bards of what they were called "Dasas" (servants, slaves of God) and were fully supported by the pontiffs and scholars. The traditional Sanskrit learning was the field of Vyasakoota (the section of Vyasa, the pontiff) while the preaching and singing of God's praise were the profession and area of Dasakoota (the section of the bards of Dasas, servants of God). Both the sections or groups were blessed by the pontiff, Vyasatirtha. They were like the two arms of the propagators of Madhva Siddhanta. Both the wings enhanced the urgency of spreading the message of the great teacher, Madhva, to the farthest corners of the country. Purandara Dasa with his prolific compositions and extraordinary versatility was the leader of the Dasas. He was a scholar-turned Dasa and is believed to have "written" more than a hundred thousand songs, many of which are unavailable now.

The Dasas, though learned people, were humble servants of God and undertook to spread the message of Madhva in the simplest, most comprehensible style of writing. Kannada, the spoken language of the commonalty, was the medium of communication. Telling phrases couched in racy vocabulary made the compositions powerful and effective. Hundreds of common day-to-day figures of speech, a heap of thoughtful observations yield in their songs a mine of proverbs. Beauty lies in simplicity without being crude and inane.

Additionally, the Dasas spoke not to a particular sect or area but had a universal appeal. Their sole purpose was to praise the Lord for His mercy and beneficence. Their art lay in unfolding their heart with no ego, arrogance, cunning or secrecy. The Dasas broke open the hidden treasures of philosophy unexplored till then except through Sanskrit; the common man had a feast invigorating drink was easily available to all - young and old, men and women, meritorious and sinful, untouchables and polluted, - without any distinction of caste, creed, religion and region. Love was the potent force and through love one could invoke the Supreme Being for His Grace and Blessings. The Dasas reiterated the basic concept, that devotion was the saviour of mankind.

The Dasas were semi-Sanyasis. They renounced all the pleasures of the world but were house-holders and had a normal family. They were mendicants and accepted to beg for their daily food without storing it for profit. Temples and Mutts became their main abode. The Dasas strictly adhered to (Unchhavrutti) which literally means "gleaning or gathering grains". Since they lived getting food from house to house the Dasas followed the Unchha Vrutti. They moved from place to place and toured the whole towns instrument and castanets being their only musical accompaniment. A bag slung to the shoulder was a receptacle of food-offered on the town/village street by people. Barefooted, starkly dressed in dhotee and turban the Dasas presented a picture of austerity and elegance.

Being in touch with the common people the Dasas became shrewd observers of life around, life in the raw. Their compositions, therefore, were natural, spontaneous and quick to touch the heart. The Dasas preached some basic things such as the ephemeral qualities of human life, the seemingly enchanting world and the quest for a release from the shackles of the material enticements. Yet, each one has a distinct style of his own, inimitable and personal. If Purandara Dasa adopts a simple, lucid Kannada style with telling phrases and similes, Kanaka Dasa revels in a strong, fighting style that delivers the message directly. Vijaya Dasa follow his master, Purandara Dasa but Jagannath Dasa couches his compositions in many a Sanskrit word. Each Dasa has taken a road of his own choice knowing fully well that the ultimate goal is the praise of the Lord.

In the same way each Dasa has his characteristic signet ending obtained through long penance and worship. Purandara Dasa ends in "Purandara Vitthal", Vijaya Dasa in "Vijaya Vitthal", Vadiraja Yati in "Haya-Vadana", Kanaka Dasa in "Kaginele Adikeshav" and Jagannath Dasa in "Jagannath Vitthal.

The writings of the Dasas are deep in thought, yet simple; simple; yet serious in content; serious yet enchanting; enchanting yet didactic. Many serious philosophic tenets have been unraveled for the non-initiated to understand. The music in the songs reaches everyone and has spread to remote huts and beautiful mansions. The Dasas, in fact, were the pioneers of music and musicology. The Dvaita Siddhanta thus reached many through the music and writings of the Dasas.

This book has respectfully been dedicated to Poojya Pandit M. G. Vidyasimhacharya, Kulapati, Shri Satyadhyana Vidyapeetha, Mulund. It was he who guided the author by leading him into the heavenly portals of Madhva Siddhanta. He opened the Golden Gates of knowledge and virtually goaded the author to accomplish the almost impossible.

The author gratefully remembers his fiends Prof. M.V. Kelkar, and the great philosopher, Prof. Keshavrao Belsare and his son, Prof S.K. Belsare for their encouragement to make Dasa literature available to non-Kannada readers. It was Prof. M.V. Kelkar's suggestion that I should undertake the translation. It was he who meticulously went through the typed script and made very valuable suggestions. I am thankful to all of them.

My son, Venkatesh and my daughter-in-law Rajanigandha spared no pains to create the right environment for my writing work. Venkatesh and Rajanigandha read the drafts, made very valuable suggestions that lead to refinement and readability. Jagannath, my grandson and Kumud - Pallavi, my grand-daughter are equally interested in my work. They listen to recorded songs on Guru Madhva and Guru Raghavendra Swami. I am most grateful to them.

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