Talk of Women Haridasas or rather Haridasis and the first name that comes to out mind is Helavanakatte Giriamma and Harapannahalli Bheemavva.
What many tend to forget is that apart from these two Haridasis-yes they should be called so if the men can be called Haridasas-there are a host of others who are credited with more than 7,000 compositions.
A majority of these women writers were Haridasis and Vaggeyakara.
One of the first Haridasi was Galgali Avva who wrote under Ankita Rama. She lived from 1670 to 1760 and her compositions on the Pandavas are unique and distinguish her from others of her ilk.
She had an apt disciple, Bhagamma who was also called Prayagavva.
Harapanahalli Bheemavva (1823-1903) was introduced to Dasa Sahitya by her grandfather who always sang Dasara Padagalu for her. She was given the Ankita Bheemesh Krishna by Narada.
She has many compositions on Hari,
Krishna, Prana Devaru. She is famous
even today for her Harati Hadagalu.
One of her best works is on the Dasavathara and it is called Stuthi Mallike. Many of her compositions are on Madhwa philosophy. In one of her compositions, while describing Krishna’s Rasa Leela, she speaks of more than 70 types of saris, including, Uppada, Kornad,
Chanderi and varieties of Paithani.
Yadugiriamma (1828-1908) was another Vaishnava poetess. Her collection of songs was brought out in 2003 under the title. “Yadugiriammanavara Krutigalu”.
She was a versatile writer and she knew Sanskrit apart from Kannada, Telugu and Tamil. She visited several pilgrim places and wrote about them. Her compositions on Melkote, Tirupati, Srirangam are evocative. She gives us a visual description of the various festivals of the Srirangam temple and Ranganatha.
She was a master of composition and this is shown when she gives the gist of the Ramayana in 100 stanzas of two lines each. This is the Ramayana Mangalam. It is a composition in 55 stanzas and it is classified as one of her 52 dheerga kritis or long compositions.
Yadugiriamma’s compositions are similar to the Neeraattam pasurams that we see in the Divya Prabandham. Her compositions on Andal are superb.
Yadaugiriamma’s Ankita was Venkata or Venkatakrishna.
Another outstanding poetess is Nanjangud Thirumalamba (1889-1982). She was married, as was the custom during those times, at the age of 10 and was widowed at the age of 14. She then educated herself and learnt to read and write Kannada, Telugu and Tamil all by herself.
A doughty woman, she began a journal in 1916. She published 28 books in 20 years. One of her stories became controversial. Here, the housewife reforms her philandering husband, who apologises to her. This story incensed Masti Venkatesha Iyengar who objected to the idea of a husband apologising to his wife. He then wrote an essay criticising Thriumalamba’s story and this can be seen in Vimarse, Volume IV, a collection of Masti’s critical writings.
Masti’s trenchant criticism led to Thirumalamba being ostracised by the literary world until the late 1970s. Thirumalamba died in 1982 at the ripe age of 93.
Helavanakatte Giriyamma (1691-1725) is perhaps the most famous among all of the Haridasa poetess of Karnataka. She was born in Ranebennur. Her Ankitha was Helavanakatte Ranga.
Her Udhalikana Kathe has 448 charanas and Chandrahasana Kathe has 355 charanas. The Kannada Adhyayana Aamsthe (
Institute of Kannada
Studies, ) has published a
book on her called “Helevankatte Giriammana Hadagalu in 1987. It was edited by T. K.
Udupi Yashodamma was popularly known as Bhajane Yashodamma as she was regularly performing bhajans in temples n and around Udupi for four decades. She was a well-known Harikatha, bhajan and harmonium artiste.
There are several other women poetess or Haridasis. Some of them include, Turadagi Timmamma (Her ankita was Hoohoor Esha), Orevaayi Lakshmidevamma who wrote under the pen name Narasimhavithala, Tulasabai who was also called sunadarabai and her Ankita was Shreevenkatesh.
Other Haridasis are: Nadigara Shantibai (Her pen name was Shanti), Radhabai (Venkatavitala Raghavendra), Sarasabai ( Ramavallabhavittala), Namagiriyamma (Guru Prasanna Venkata Vittala), Rangamma (Balakrishna), Gundamma ( Rukmaneeshavittala), Amabai (Gopalakrishna Vittala)
Kalasada Sundaramma (Kalimardana Krishna), Nidaguruki Jeevubai (1897-1983- Kamalanabhavithala), Venkatasubbamma ( Venkatasubbi), Kalasada Sundaramma (Mookambike), Chechamma (Sheshakka) Maruti Odeya, Kamalabai (Gurujayesha Vittala), Saraswati Bai (Sri Srinivasa), Saraswati Raajawade ( Giribale), Padmavati Kolara (Krishnaveni), Sarpaadi Ganagamma (Ganagajanaka), Rukmini Bai Rotti (Rukminikrishna), Maniyamma (Venugopala), Doddi Sudhabai (Kapila), Lakshmibai Badasheshi (Koppara Narasimha), Shanatabai Maski (Venkatavittala), Lakshmibai Bannigola (Lakumipriya), Chandoobai (Giri Venkatesh).Many of these poetess wrote about common things of life just as Purandara Dasa did. All of them were devotees of Hari and their compositions are as evergreen today as they were when composed.