Purandaradasa the poet Saint of Karnataka

  • By K.R.K. Murthy
  • March 15, 2024
  • Know briefly about the life and thoughts of Purandaradasa, a poet saint steeped in Bhakti and father of Carnatic music.

Purandaradasa was a famous poet-saint of Karnataka. He was a composer and singer of many famous and popular Carnatic songs. His devotional songs have won the hearts of millions of people, especially lovers of music. He was born in 1484 CE to a rich Brahmin family in Thirthahalli, Karnataka. His original name was Srinivasa Nayaka. He loved music and was highly proficient himself. He carried on a prosperous jewellery and money-lending business as well. He had a luxurious life but was a miser by nature. His wife was very pious and generous by nature and was unhappy with her husband’s miserly attitude. 


One day an old Brahmin came to him asking for money to perform his son’s thread ceremony. For six months the old man tried to persuade Nayaka, but in vain. Realising the futility of his endeavour, he approached the house and entreated Nayaka’s wife. She was overcome with pity and parted with her gold nose ring. 


First published in Journal of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.


The old man went to her husband at his shop, and asked for money in exchange for the nose ring. Nayaka instantly recognised the ring and questioned the old man about its source. The old man instead told Nayaka that he would return later for the money. Nayaka locked the ring in a safe and went home.


When he questioned his wife and asked her to bring out her nose ring, she thought of committing suicide. She was about to drink a cup of poison when the nose ring dropped into the cup. She thanked the Lord for his mercy and showed the nose ring to her husband. When Nayaka went to the shop to check for the nose ring he had locked in the safe, it was not there! When he learned the truth, it was a turning point in his life. He knew the old man was God Himself who wanted to test him. He renounced the world, and gave away all his wealth to the poor. He left for Vijayanagara and became a disciple of Vyasathirtha who was a great scholar and saint. Thereafter he was known as Purandaradasa.

The Purandaradasa Mantapa, situated close to the Vijaya Vitthala temple, where saint poet Purandaradasa sang songs in praise of his favourite god, Vitthala.

He spent the rest of his life in spreading Bhakti through his devotional songs. He was aware of the social evils of that period, the decline in moral standards and the evils of the caste system.


Purandaradasa spoke his mind about goodness and virtue, purity of mind, body, and actions, and about blind beliefs.


He explained his philosophy in simple language, which reflected his views on life and society, which enriched the local language immensely. He was an exponent of the tenets of Dwaita Philosophy preached by Madhavacharya.


He believed there are no outcastes, except those who are not clean in their minds and do not practice charity. He shunned orthodoxy and hypocrisy. He preached that unkindness should be returned with kindness. In his compositions, he brought the fusion of Raga, Laya, and Bhava.


He preached through his writings that the devotees should live like heroes, fight ignorance with courage, and have unflinching faith in God. They must be detached from selfish worldly pleasures, and chant the name of God.


Purandaradasa died in 1564 CE. He is acknowledged as a saint all over India and abroad. He is also regarded as the father of Carnatic music. His melodious songs keep his memory alive even today


To read all articles by author


This article was first published in the Bhavan’s Journal, 1 February 2024 issue. This article is courtesy and copyright Bhavan’s Journal, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai-400007. eSamskriti has obtained permission from Bhavan’s Journal to share. Do subscribe to the Bhavan’s Journal – it is very good.


Receive Site Updates