Carnatic Recommendation – 3

This week’s Carnatic recommendation is Purandara Dasa’s “Alli Nodalu Rama”. Purandara Dasa is regarded as the father of Carnatic Music. Much like Panini formalized Sanskrit and Patanjali formalized Yoga, Purandara Dasa systematized Carnatic Learning making Mayamalavagowla as the baseline for learning Carnatic Music.

He was a contemporary to Kanakadasa. He is also known by the name Purandara Vittala.

According to popular belief, he was led to devote himself to musical composition by a miraculous incident which made the heretofore greedy and miserly merchant realize the worthlessness of his attachment to worldly possessions.[13]. A Brahmin man wanted to perform the sacred thread ceremony (upanayana) for his son and came to Srinivasa’s wife for money. She gave him her nose ring to sell, and the man sold the nose ring to Srinivasa himself. The miserly Srinavasa lent the man his money. Meanwhile, his wife was worried about what to say to her husband, so she prayed to her favorite deity, who gave her a nose ring just like the one she had just given away. When Srinivasa hurried home, anxious to know if the nose ring was hers, he was bewildered seeing her wear the same one! She confessed what had happened, and he was converted to belief in the virtue of a charitable life. 30 years of age, he gave away all his wealth to charity and together with his family left his house to lead the life of a wandering minstrel to proselytise religion. In his very first song composition, he laments his wasted life of indulgence. It begins with the words ‘Ana lae kara’ in the Shuddha Savaeri raga, set to Triputa tala.

In the course of his wandering he met the holy sage Vyasatirtha. According to Prof. Sambamoorthy,[14] Srinivasa had his formal initiation at the hands of Vyasatirtha in 1525 when he was about 40 years old, with the name Purandara Dasa bestowed on him by Satyadharma Teertha, a later occupant of the Vyasatirtha Matha (or Vyasaraya Matha). [Taken from Wikipedia]

It is important to note that Purandara Dasa took to music at the age of 40, which means he spent a good decade in deep introspection.

Story of transformation of a man to Bhakti is not new. One story which is told often is that of Pundarik. Pundarik realized importance of Bhakti when faced with several difficulties after indulging in carnal pleasures. Pundarik went on to found a new sect called Varkari Sect after ward. It is believed that he persuaded Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana to construct Vithobha Temple in Pandharpur.

There some similarities between Pundarik’s life and that of Purandara Dasa. Both realized importance of Bhakti in their 30s. Both went on to do a lot for Bhakti movement. Difference is Purandara Dasa’s contribution is in Music. Purandara Dasa lived during the time 1484-1864 in Southern India. He is believed to have traveled length and breadth of Vijayanagara empire. It is important to note what a flourishing kingdom can produce. It can produce geniuses like Purandara Dasa who can built an invisible traditional school of Music that can span centuries and survive all the challenges thrown at it.

Purandara Dasa is also known to be the teacher of Swami Haridas, who is in turn teacher of Tansen. This means, Hindustani and Carnatic had very close links even before Purandara Dasa formalized the system of learning. Purandara Dasa himself composed several Kritis in Behag Raag which is known to be a favorite among Hindustani Raagas.

The composition “Alli Nodalu Rama” is a treatise to Sri Rama.

Alli Nodalu Rama, Illi Nodalu Rama, Yellelli Nodidaralli Sri Rama

Which means

If you look here, it is Rama, look there it is Rama. Wherever you look it is Sri Rama

Here is a Balamurali Krishna performance of the Kriti

My fav line:

avanige iva rAma ivanige ava rAma avaniyOlIpari rUpavuMTe

Which means

They see Rama in each other.

Heres another performance of the same Kriti.

Another version, which is very different from other two above by Swami Purushottamanandaji

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