The Bheeshma Pitamaha of Carnatic music and the pioneer of Haridasa Sahitya, Purandara Dasa (1484-1564), gave up a comfortable life and took to a life of Sanyasa.
When he met Vyasa Theertha or Vyasa Raja (1447-1539) in Hampi of Vijayanagar, he obtained Deekshe from him and became his constant companion for several decades.
Both Purandara Dasa and Vyasa Raja were patronised by Krishna Deva Raya (1509-1530). The Vijayanagar Empire reached its zenith during this period and Sahitya, sangeetha and other arts received both royal and popular patronage.
Krishna Deva Raya patronised among others several writers in Kannada, Telugu and Sanskrit. Himself a poet, he introduced the Prabandha to Telugu literature. He was also the author of Amuktamalyada or “A Garland Dedicated to the Lord:, This books is also titled as “The Giver of the Worn Garland.” It describes the pangs of separation by Andal, an incarnation of the goddess Mahalakshmi.
His court had the Ashtadiggajas or the “eight elephants”, all of whom were considered to be the greatest of poets of that time.
This “court of poets” were also called Bhuvana Vijayam (Conquest of the World). The poets were Allasani Peddana, (1510-1575AD), who is known as Andhra Kavita Pitamahudu or Grandfather of Andhra Poetry, Tenali Rama Krishna, Nandi Thimmana or Mukku Thimanna (1475-1550), Madayyagari Mallana, Dhurjati (1480-1540), Ayyalaraju Rama Bhadrudu, Pingali Surana, Tenali Ramakrishna and Ramaraj Bhusha.
Krishna Deva Raya’s was a poet’s king. He not only patronized poets and writers but also battled with them in the literary field. He frequently entered into literary bouts with them.
Poets, scholars, Haridasas, literary giants and seers were given importance and the Emperor honored them. Thus, these persons attained high social and economic status in the then society.
With Krishna Deva Raya personally interacting with Vyasa Raja as his Raja Guru and Purandara Dasa, foreign travelers and other Kings and Emperors too followed suit. They too paid visits and honored Vyasa Raja and Purandara Dasa.
The Adil Shahi Emperor, Yusuf Adil Shah, and the Mughal Emperor Babur conferred umbrellas on Vyasa Raja. The Madhwa religion and philosophy that Vyasa Raja propagated received high royal patronage.
The Vaishnava mathas and other Vaishnava seers that Vyasa Raja introduced to the Emperor too received grants and favours. Thus the institution of the Matha came to occupy an important position during the Vijayanagara period.
We can trace this close bonding to the time of Sripadararaja of Mulabagal who too was a Raja Guru and he too was placed on the throne of Vijayanagar and honored with Ratna Abhisheka. It was Sripadaraja himself who suggested the name of Vyasa Theertha as the Raj Guru. So we see the emergence of the Madhwa Matha from 1450 as a powerful force in Vijayanagar society from 1450 till the death of Krishnadeva Raya and a few years later.
We can see the consecration of 732 idols of Hanuman in different parts of south
Raja as a means of conferring legitimacy to the Emperor and his vast Kingdom. Apart
from the Madhwas, the Vijayanagar Emperors patronised Srivaishnavas (Tirupathi)
and Shaivites (Kalahasti). India
When Vyasa Raja ensues that the Kingdom is rid of Kuhu Dosha, Emperor Krishna Deva Raya hands over the Kingdom to the seer and refuses to take it back.This is sometime in 1523 and the Emperor also confers several villages near Hampi to Vyasa Raja who in turn hands it over to other Brahmins and Haridasas, including the sons of Purandara Dasa. Thus, we see that the Emperor honored saints and religious institutions alike.
This patronage extended to the Haridasa lineage too. Krishna Deva Raya recognised Purandara as the Naik who was a prominent money lender and an extremely rich man. He allows Purandara to wander around Vijayanagar city and other parts of his Kingdom unfettered. Purandara, on his part, not only meets the Emperor whenever he wants, but also leads a typical life of a wandering minstrel.
Purandara attached himself with Vyasa Raja and accompanies him on his tours. If Vyasa Raja preaches, Purandara sings. When in Hampi or Vijayanagar, these two are joined occasionally by Belur Vaikunta Dasa and Kanaka Dasa.
Other eminent seers and Haridasas make it to Vijayanagar when Vyasa Raja is in town. They include such stalwarts as Vadiraja Theertha (1480-1600), Vijendra Theertha (1517-1614), Sudheendra Theertha, Srinivasa Theertha, Rama Theertha and many others. All of them meet with Vyasa Raja, converse and debate with the seer on the premises of the
. The Emperor,
Krishna Deva Raya, joins them occasionally. Vijayanagar
However, this rich bonding between Kingship and literature does not last.
When Krishna Deva Raya dies in 1539, literature literally goes to the streets. Poets and writers move in the bazaars trying to sell their writings.
Achuta Deva Raya is unable to stem the rot and he is caught in the crossfire between opposing camps in Vijayanagar. This brother of Krishna Deva Raya has to contend with the Raya’s son-in-law, Aliya Rama Raya.
Aliya Rama Raya come across as a scheming and intolerant ruler. He dismisses Brahmins from positions of power and prestige though Vyasa Raja remains the Raja Guru of Achuta Deva Raya till he passes away in 1539.
Vyasa Raja and Purandara each have easy and continuous access to the Emperor and his court. There are many compositions of Purandara Dasa wherein he celebrates the greatness of Vyasa Raja and in one of them he directly refers to the patronage by the Emperor.
After the demise of Krishnadeva Raya and Achyuthadeva Raya, Purandara loses all patronage and in one of his compositions he asks Hari why he brought him into that state (Rajya), where there was no king to recognise him.
In another pada, he says he says he is bothered as there is no King or Emperor to honor him. This could be after 1542 when Achuta Deva Raya died and Aliya Rama Raya became de facto ruler of Vijayanagar.
During the two and half decade rule of Aliya Rama Raya, royal patronage to mathas and temples, religious institutions and seers, Brahmins and Haridasas declined. Poets and writers, most of whom were Brahmins, also suffered. This is best exemplified by the state of the eminent Telugu poet, Allasani Peddana.
Peddanna is reduced to penury, and says “his life after the death of his patron (Krishna Deva Raya) was worse than death.”
All men of letters and seers move away from Vijayanagar. Vadiraja Theertha settles down on the coast and makes Sonda and Udupi his home. Vijendra Theertha and Sudheendra Theerta prefer to stay back at Kumbakonam. The seers of the Sripadaraja Matha at Mulabagal too keep away from Vijayanagar. The Vijayanagar kings also begin to give less patronage to the Sringeri Matha of Shankaracharya.
University declines and Kanchi and reemerge as main
centres of learning in the south. Madurai
Kanaka Dasa also wanders all over Karnataka. Belur Vaikunta Dasa decides not to leave Belur in Hassan district.
Vijayanagar begins to rise as a decadant power, full of internal disputes, family quarrels and a lazy life bereft of all morality and ethics. The punishment is quick and devastating. The Muslim states of the
Deccan vanquish the Vijayanagar forces in the battle of Talikota on 1565 and virtually grind Hampi to