There has been a rather close connection between music and philosophy, at least in the Madhwa Parampare. The two has been closely intertwined between the two right from the time of Madhwacharya (1199-1287).
Madhwacharya, the pioneer of Madhwa Siddantha, sparked the first waves of Haridasa Sahitya when he composed the beautiful and evocative Dwadashi Stotra. Soon, one of his four direct disciples, Narahari Theertha, followed his Guru and began composing poems in the name of Hari.
Though Narahari Theertha was a prolific composer, only three compositions of his remain. They are “Yanthu marulade nanenthu”, meaning how deluded have I become: “Hariye idu sariye” - meaning Hari is this proper and “Tiliko ninnologe neene,” meaning knowing within thyself. He wrote under the Ankita Narahari or Narahari Raghupathi.
The actual credit for writing in Kannada goes to Narahari Theertha and this was subsequently popularised by Sripadaraja (1404-1502) of Mulabagal. Some of his famous devaranamas with his ankita Ranga Vitala are “Ne ittahange iruveno hariye”, Kangalidyathako kaveri rangana nodada and Bhushanake Bhushana.
Sripadaraja wrote kirtanes, Ubhabhogas, suladis,Dandakas ands Vrittanamas and set them to music.
It was Sripadaraja who taught Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha (1447-1539) all the arts and Vyasa Raja wrote under the Ankita Krishna or Sri Krishna. His most famous composition is “Krishna Nee Begane Baro” which today is ranked among the top songs of all times.
However, it is to the credit of Vyasa Raja that he founded and nurtured the Haridasa or Dasa Koota and Vyasa Koota or philosophical school. He was entirely responsible for the coming of age of several Haridasas such as Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa and Vaikunta Dasa.
Vadiraja Theertha (1480-1600) was among the most prolific Madhwa seers. He wrote several songs and stotras which are popular even to this day such as Lakshmi Shibana, Dashavatara Stotra.
Raghavendra Swamy (1595-1671) is among the best known Madhwa saints among non-Madhwas. He is also ranked as highly by Madhwas as by others and he inspired the second renaissance of the Haridasa movement.
There are more than a hundred dasas (infact the count is closer to two hundred) who have written about Raghavendra Swamy and most of them are from Raichur and north Karnataka. Some of the notable dasas who have written on Rayaru include Vijaya Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa of Manvi who wrote Harikathamrutsara, Gopala Dasa, Guru Jaganatha Dasa (of Kosigi and Koutalam), Pranesha Dasa, Ibharampura Appa, Krishna Avadootaru and others.
Historically, the earliest dasa is Achalananda of Haiganpura in
He is believed to have lived in the 9th century. However what is amazing is
that his compositions closely resemble those of the 16th century. He has
written on Narasimha, his favourite deity. Bangalore
He was the first Dasa to tour
and also propagate the Bhakti movement. His Ankita is Achalananda Vittala.
After him, some of his family members or descendents such as Gopinatha,
Haridasa, Mudduvithala, Timmannadasa, and Panduranga also propagated the Bhakti
He was the first Dasa to tour
Unfortunately, most of Achalananda Dasa’s compositions are lost and there is also not much evidence of his exact period. All we know is that he placed Lord Narasimha in a palanquin or Pallaki and walked barefoot behind it. He travelled in this manner all over
and sang the glories of Narasimha. India
He has been quoted extensively by Belur Keshava Dasa (1884-1944), the son of Belur Venkata subba Dasaru. He has traced his lineage to Vijaya Dasa.
After this Dasa, the first trace of Haridasa movement is during the life and times of Madhwacharya and subsequently during the time of Sripadaraja and Vyasaraja and again during the period of Raghavendra Swamy and after the centuries after he entered Brindavana.
Another little known figure is Belur Vaikunta Dasa (1480-1555), a close friend and contemporary of Purandara Dasa. He was also a disciple of Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha and he wrote under the Ankita Vaikunta. He has many compositions on Hari to his credit. He is belibed to have been reborn as Venugopala Dasa and because of his earlier birth he was called Pangunamada Dasa.
Though Vaikunta Dasa was a Srivaishnavite by birth, he became a Haridasa. He never left Belur and whenever he did, he stayed at Hampi where he interacted with Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa and Krishna Deva Raya.He was specially blessed by Lord Krishna who danced in front of him whenever he sang. It was Vadiraja who gave him the name Vaikunta Dasa. Both Vadiraja and Kanaka have praised Vaikunta Dasa and his compositions.