Posted by: adbhutam | January 19, 2010


Essence of Vedanta in Purandara Dasa songs

The quintessence of Advaita Vedanta established by Sri Shankaracharya can be summed up in just half a verse:

श्लोकार्धेन प्रवक्ष्यामि यदुक्तं ग्रन्थकोटिभिः ।

ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्या जीवो ब्रह्मैव नापरः ॥

//In just half-a-verse let me render what is said in millions of verses: Brahman is the Truth, the world is false and the jiva is none other than Brahman.//

In a way, this one line forms a crisp commentary of the entire Vedic lore.  Conversely, the entire scriptural literature is an elucidation of this one line.

Sri Purandara Dasaru, a great saint-composer of the 15th century, is well known for bringing out the essence of the scripture in a manner that instantly appeals to the audience.  His message is lofty, packed in simple language and profound in meaning.  In the sequel are analyzed a few of his compositions that bring out the meaning of the above verse summarizing the Advaita Vedanta.

The following song brings out the ‘jagat mithya’ aspect of Vedanta:

allide nammane illi bande summane

[My ‘home’ is ‘there’; I have come here only seemingly, with no real purpose.  Another reading of this second  phrase is: ‘illiruvudu summane’ which means: what is ‘here’, in this world, is just an appearance, or my being here is just an appearance.]

Comments:  The opening line brings out the Reality of the Absolute and the falsity of the relative.  ‘Allide nammane’ = ‘Brahma satyam’,  ‘illiruvudu summane’ =  ‘jagat mithya’.

kada bagilirisida kalla mane idu
mudadinda loladO sullu mane
idiragi vaikuntha vAsa mAduvantha
padumanabhana divya baduku mane ||Allide||

[This fictitious house is endowed with doors and windows and is an unreal abode where one wallows in passion.  But that Lord of VaikunTha has made this His divine abode.  ]

Comments: In this stanza the ‘house’ indicates the body with sense organs, which are the doors and windows to the outside world.  This body is a deceit, a make believe, kaLLa mane.  It is a trap camouflaged and appears to give great joy to the jiva who is attached to the body by false identification: suLLu mane.  But the truth is, the Lord Padmanabha is the one who lives here.

This idea is reminiscent of the Bhagavadgita verse 15.10 where the Lord says that it is Brahman that lives out the life of staying in the body, experiencing the samsaric events and transmigrating to different bodies.  He who fails to realize Him, so intimately available,  is the greatest deluded fool.

In the above stanza Sri Dasaru is bringing out the ‘jivo brahmaiva na aparaH’ idea.  The jiva thinks egoistically that he is the one living here but the truth Dasa teaches is that the Lord is the one who is living here.  The jiva is none other than Brahman.  This knowledge shatters the ego completely.  This is the height of surrender.  In the language of the Srimad Bhagavata, it is ‘Atma nivedanam’ that Prahlada taught as the culmination of the nava-vidha-bhakti:  shravaNam keertanam VishNoH smaraNam pAda-sevanam.  Archanam vandanam daasyam sakhyam Atma-nivedanam.’  The path and the goal are brought out here.

mAligemaneyendu nechchi kedali beda
kElayya harikathe Shravanangala
nAle yamadootaru bandeledoyvaga
mAlige maneyu sangada baradayya ||Allide||

[Do not be enamoured by a multi-storeyed house and get deceived.  Engage in listening to the divine sports of the Lord Hari.  When the messengers of Yama arrive to drag you away, the multi-storeyed house will not be of any aid to you.  ]

Comments:  In this verse Sri Dasaru is teaching the need and method for developing dispassion and cultivating bhakti.  The fear of death is inculcated here which brings forth vairagya for earthly possessions, including the body.  The realization that it is the Lord and Lord alone that could save one is conveyed here.

The caution about the unannounced arrival of death by Purandara Dasa is akin to the famous lines of the Bhaja Govindam:

संप्राप्ते सन्निहिते काले नहि नहि रक्षति ’डुकृञ् करणे’

[when death arrives to snatch you away, the vyaakaraNa dhAtu pATha: ‘DukRn karaNe’ is not going to come to your rescue.]

Incidentally, it is pertinent to note that Sri Purandara Dasaru too has conveyed exactly the same message in one of his very popular songs:

‘guruvina gulaamanaaguva tanaka mukuti dorakadaNNa’ (hear this song here)  {So long as you do not completely surrender to a Guru, mukti is nowhere near you.’}  In this song, Dasaru says:

Pari pari shAstragaLa Odidarenu vyarthavaayitu bhakuti [By studying various shAstras – like vyakaraNa, meemaamsaa, tarka, Vedanta – nothing is going to be gained.  On the contrary cultivating Devotion to the Lord is given a go by.]

By the above messages, are Shankara and Purandara Dasa deriding the study of Shastras?  No, not at all.  What they are pointing to is, in the absence of true devotion, the mere study of these shastras will only serve to eke out a worldly living; they would not lead to liberation. They are likely to inflate one’s ego. This meaning of their message should never be missed.  Shankara has also said in His ‘GurvaShTakam’:

षडङ्गादिवेदो मुखे शास्त्रविद्या कवित्वादिगद्यं सुपद्यं करोति ।

मनश्चेन्न लग्नं गुरोरङ्घ्रिपद्मे ततः किं ततः किं ततः किं ततः किम् ॥ ३ ॥

[Attaining mastery over the Veda-s along with their auxiliary sciences, proficiency in various branches of study (shAstra-s), great skill in composing poems and prose – all these are of no use if one’s mind is not set on the lotus-feet of the Guru.]

Continues Sri Purandara Dasa:

madadi makkalemba hambala ninagEko
kadugobbuthanadali mereyadiru
odeya sri purandharavitthlarayana
drudha bhaktiyali nee bhajiselo manuja ||Allide||

[Why do you crave for wife and children?  Do not go about with haughtiness.  Cultivate firm devotion to the Lord Purandara Vitthala and make your life worthy.]

Comments:  In Shankaracharya’s Bhaja Govindam there is this verse:

का ते कान्ता कस्ते पुत्रः

संसारोऽयमतीव विचित्रः ।

कस्य त्वं वा कुत आयातः

तत्त्वं चिन्तय तदिह भ्रातः ॥

//Who is your wife? Who indeed is your son? This samsara is extremely puzzling.  To whom do you belong? Whence have you come? O my Brother, contemplate deeply on these questions. //

Purandara Dasa is prompting us to ask these questions.  His line: ‘kadugobbuthanadali mereyadiru’ is a close reflection of Shankaracharya’s  ‘Bhaja Govindam’ verse:

मा कुरु धन-जन-यौवन-गर्वं

हरति निमेषात् कालः सर्वम्

मायामयमिदं अखिलं हित्वा

ब्रह्मपदं त्वं प्रविश विदित्वा ॥

[Take no pride in your possession, in the people at your command, in the youthfulness that you have. Time loots away all these in a moment. Leaving aside all these, after knowing their illusory nature, realize the state of Brahman and enter into it.]

Hear the above Kannada song:

(This is rendered by Upendra Bhat, in Hindustani style.  Sri Vidyabhushana has rendered it in carnatic style, which I could not locate on the net and which is my preference.)

Watch this thematic video, with the voice of M.S.Subbulakshmi, on Bhaja Govindam:

The following song of Dasaru is analyzed in the sequel:

(ರಾಗ ಶಂಕರಾಬಾರಣ ಅಟತಾಳ)

ಲೊಳಲೊಟ್ಟೆ ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಲೊಳಲೊಟ್ಟೆ ||ಪ||

ಆನೆ ಕುದುರೆ ಒಂಟೆ ಲೊಳಲೊಟ್ಟೆ , ಬಹು
ಸೇನೆ ಭಂಡಾರವು ಲೊಳಲೊಟ್ಟೆ
ಮಾನಿನಿಯರ ಸಂಗ ಲೊಳಲೊಟ್ಟೆ , ದೊಡ್ಡ
ಕ್ಷೋಣೀಶನೆಂಬುದು ಲೊಳಲೊಟ್ಟೆ ||

ಮುತ್ತು ಮಾಣಿಕ್ಯ ಲೊಳಲೊಟ್ಟೆ , ಚಿನ್ನ
ಛತ್ರ ಚಾಮರ ಧ್ವಜ ಲೊಳಲೊಟ್ಟೆ
ಸುತ್ತಗಲ ಕೋಟೆ ಲೊಳಲೊಟ್ಟೆ , ಮತ್ತೆ
ಉತ್ತಮಪ್ರಭುತ್ವ ಲೊಳಲೊಟ್ಟೆ ||

ಕಂಟಕರೆಂಬೋದು ಲೊಳಲೊಟ್ಟೆ , ನಮ್ಮ
ನೆಂಟರು ಇಷ್ಟರು ಲೊಳಲೊಟ್ಟೆ
ಉಂಟಾದ ಗುಣನಿಧಿ ಪುರಂದರವಿಠಲನ್ನ
ಬಂಟನಾಗದವ ಲೊಳಲೊಟ್ಟೆ ||

The meaning and purport of the above song:

In the above song, the entire worldly attainment is shown, by way of highlighting their utter worthlessness.  What is considered as royal wealth like elephant, horse, camel, army, treasury – all this is insubstantial.  Company of women is of no worth at all.  To have the haughty feeling: ‘I am a great emperor’ is simply naught.

Riches like pearls, diamonds and jewels are nothing at all.  Insignias like gold, chAmara, flag are all insignificant.  An expansive fort and high lordship is all devoid of any worth.

‘These are my adversaries and these are my well-wishers’.  Such a feeling is empty of any value. Then what is of real worth at all in this world?  Purandara Dasa replies, implicitly:

He who has not surrendered to the Mine of Virtues, the Lord ViTThala, is a complete wreck.

The above song is a clear depiction of the mAyA nature of the world.  The जगन्मिथ्यात्वं and ब्रह्मैव सत्यं aspects of the essential Vedantic teaching are brought out in an appealing way.  Needless to say, that the jiva who has completely surrendered to the Lord, Brahman, has no separate existence apart from Brahman.  To claim any difference is the proof of incomplete or incorrect surrender; the ego still remaining, आत्मनिवेदनम् has not yet been accomplished. The last line of the song is indicative of the जीवो ब्रह्मैव नापरः.

Thus, this one song of Purandara Dasa has in it the complete purport, verily an elucidation, of the Vedantic verse quoted in the beginning.

Hear this song: (the audio link could not be located; anyone might pl. help and it shall be updated here.)

The next song taken for analysis is: (alli nodalu Rama..)

alli nODalu rAma illi nODalu rAma |

ellelli nODidaralli shrIrAma ||

Hither Rama, thither Rama, wherever I look, I see Sri Rama there.

rAvaNana mUlabala kaMDu kapisEnE AvAgale bedari ODidavu|

IvElE naranAgi irabAradendeNisi dEva rAmachaMdra jagavella tAnAda||

Seeing the frightening power of RavaNa the vAnara army took to flight immediately.  Rama thought ‘Now I should not remain a human any longer’ and He ‘became’ the entire world.  And see the consequence of this:

avanige iva rAma ivanige ava rAma avaniyOlIpari rUpavuMTe |

lavamAtradi asura durularellaru avaravar hODedADi hatarAgi hOdaru ||

Each one sees Rama in the other’s place.  A sees B as Rama and vice versa.  Is there a form other than that of Rama’s in the entire universe!!

The result of this transformation is two-fold.  On the asura side, quickly they killed each other and ended themselves.  For, one asura saw Rama, as an enemy, where another asura stood.  Thus each asura saw another asura as Rama, the adversary and beheaded him.  This mutual Rama-darshana decimated the asura army.  Now what happened in the vAnara army?

hanumadAdi sAdu janaru appikoNDu kuNikuNidADidaru haruShadiMda |

kShaNadalli purandaraviTTalarAyanu konegoDeyanu tAnobbanAgi ninta ||

The noble-minded Hanuman and others, too, saw Rama in the place of each of themselves.  Out of devotion, joy, they embraced each other and danced in ecstasy.  In a moment, the Lord Purandara Vitthala, Sri Rama, remained as He Himself.

In the above song we see beautifully depicted: सर्वं ब्रह्ममयम्, सर्वं खल्विदं ब्रह्म, नेह नानास्ति किन्चन, आत्मैवेदं सर्वम्, ब्रह्मैवेदं सर्वम् – all scriptural passages declaring that Everything is Brahman indeed.  Also the passage: तत्त्वमेव त्वमेव तत्, अहं ब्रह्मास्मि, तत्त्वमसि, ज्ञानी त्वात्मैव, etc. – all proclaiming the fact that the individual is in truth Brahman alone. Of course, the names and forms the inert world possessed were now disregarded and only Rama, Brahman, mattered for all, everywhere.  This is what constitutes the demonstration of jagat mithyA.

Hear this song:

To conclude, the three songs, selected as a sample from innumerable ones, affords a bhakti-filled, soul-stirring, soul-filling, vedAntic mananam for a mumukshu.  Glory to Sri Rama, Glory to Sri Shankara, Glory to Sri Purandara Dasa. The exercise, along with the hearing of the songs rendered by adept musicians, transports one to a transcendental plane.  And this is the purpose of any devotional composition, musical and literary.

Om Tat Sat

The Aradhane of Sri Purandara Dasa was observed all over Karnataka during this past week.

A rich resource on Purandara Dasa:

Watch this beautiful animated video excerpt from a film on his life on YouTube:

(I bought this exquisitely produced animated picture on the life of Sri Purandara Dasaru.  It is a marvel.  The story has been very well told, the sequences aptly depicted, songs thoughtfully selected and rendered with true bhAva.)




  1. […] SHANKARA AND PURANDARA DASA (tags: guru advaita spirituality) […]

  2. respected sir,
    the whole scholar world knows that Shri purandara dasaru has followed dvaita siddhanta throughout his life. we can get to know him from his life history and also from his compositions. i don’t mean to disrespect the great Shankaracharya who did a great job by reestablishing supremacy of hinduism and vedas. but telling that purandara dasaru followed advaita and his compositions also were advaitic in nature is disrespecting the great dasaru. and also he is shishya of vyasa thirtharu..

    • Dear Sir,

      Please note that I have not even remotely implied that Sri Purandara Dasaru was a follower of Advaita or that his songs are composed based on Advaitic tenets. His compositions have great appeal to a cross-section of the society. Just as each of the Acharyas has given his view while commenting on the PrasthAna-traya and just like the Srimad Bhagavatam , one can see Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita in his songs. Each person will take what appeals to him and he appreciates that in those songs and leaves out the rest. I know very well that he was initiated by Sri VyAsa Tirtha. I am quite familiar with the tenets of the Dvaita system. There is nothing derogatory to Purandara Dasaru in my blog.

  3. […] His songs explained the precepts of Upanishads and the Vedas in simple terms. His messages were lofty and profound yet cast in simple language from which it is easy to derive meaning. Simple teachings for everyone […]

    • Thank you for your thoughts on Purandaradasa. His songs make an impact on the mind and brings about a soothing effect.

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