Sri Gopala Dasa (1722–1762) was a prominent 18th-century saint, under the Haridasa tradition. Along with other contemporary Haridasas such as Vijaya Dasaru, Jagannatha Dasaru and Venugopala Dasaru, Gopala Dasaru propagated the Dvaita philosophy of Sri Madhvacharya throughout South India through Devaranamas or "Songs of God" in the Kannada language.
Sri Gopala Dasaru (1722-1762)
Murariraya and Venkamma were a poor Brahmin couple living in village Mosarakallu in Raichur district of Karnataka. They were blessed with four sons—Bhaganna, Dasappa, Seenappa and Rangappa. When Rangappa was an infant, Murariraya died, leaving his family helpless and destitute. They were driven out of the village by their kinsmen. Venkamma moved with her children to Sankapura, another village. There also they could not find any shelter as the villagers offered them no help.
In the outskirts of Sankapura there was a dilapidated temple of Anjaneyaswamy. As the saying goes - God is the refuge of the helpless - Anjaneyaswamy gave them shelter! The mother and sons started to live there.
Venkamma used to go to the village for alms. Cakes became delicious dishes for the children. During the harvesting season, she was able to collect food-grains. One compassionate farmer donated them a piece of land and another farmer helped them cultivate it, yielding a bumper crop. But the village Karnam, accusing Venkamma of illegally utilisizing water from the Government Tank, confiscated the food grains. Actually, he was taking revenge against her for not working as a servant in his house. Venkamma begged him to show mercy but he drove her away mercilessly. Seeing his mother shedding tears, Bhaganna became angry and cursed the Karnam to remain childless and his tank to remain dry forever. Miraculously, Bhaganna's curses came true. The village Karnam dies childless and the tank remains dry even today!
Venkanna approached the village teacher and requested him to accept her sons as his students. The compassionate teacher agreed and started teaching them with affection. The three boys began learning enthusiastically.
After sometime, one householder in the village performed Bhaganna'a thread- ceremony along with that of his son. Bhaganna was initiated into the Gayathri-Mantra and decided to meditate on it, with his mother's encouragement. One day, when Bhaganna was meditating, a huge serpent entwined his body and put its hood above his head! Seeing this, people ran to Venkamma and brought her there. However, knowing the power of the Gayathri Mantra, Venkamma did not panic. Before their very eyes, the serpent uncoiled itself from Bhaganna's body and disappeared!
One day Bhaganna felt as if some unknown hand was writing the 'BhIjakshrAs' on his tongue. From that moment, he developed extraordinary powers like spontaneously composing songs, predicting the future, peering into the past of a person (going back to up to three births) etc. From then, a new chapter began in his life.
Bhaganna once visited Advani (Adoni), a town in Andhra where the famous saint Sri Vijaya Dasaru lived. Bhaganna who had heard many legends about him decided become his disciple. He wanted to be initiated into the Dasa order and enlightened by the famous saint. Sri Vijaya Dasa was happy to initiate him and give him the Ankitha of 'Gopala Vitthala'. From that day onwards Bhaganna became 'Gopala Dasa'. He travelled all over the country from Rameshwaram to Badari. He used to visit Tirumala every year for the 'Brahmostvam' of Lord Sri Venkateshwara.
There was a renowned scholar named Srinivasacharya in Manvi, in Raichur district. He did not like Haridasas and thought very poorly of Kannada dEvaranAmAs. He resented the popularity of Vijaya Dasa and Gopala Dasa.
Once when Sri Vijaya dAsa and Sri Gopala Dasa visited Manvi, a great feast was organized in their honor. Even though Srinivasa was absent at the feast, Sri Vijayadaasaru sent him a personal invitation to attend the feast. In order to avoid the feast Srinivasa sent a message saying that because of stomach problems he had already taken lunch. Sri Vijaya dAsa said "So be it!". From that day, Srinivasa developed intense stomach problems which grew worse by the day, finally reaching unbearable proportions. Srinivasa went to Tirupathi, Ghatikaachala and Mantralaya, performing intense Seva towards the Lord, Vaayu Devaru and Sri Raghavendra Swamigalu. None of this proved to be of any avail. Finally, at the end of his stay in Mantralaya he decided to commit suicide. That night, the epitome of mercy, Sri Raghavendra Swamigalu, appeared in his dream and told him that the cure for his problems lay in surrendering to Sri Vijaya dAsa and seeking his blessings. Srinivasa felt intense disgust at his own arrogance and rushed to Sri Vijaya dAsa, deeply regretting his behavior. Sri Vijaya dAsa welcomed him without rancor, gave him a cure right away, and directed him to Sri gOpAla dAsa who would be his swaroopa guru. Srinivasa went to Sri gOpAla dAsa and spent some time with him. He realized the greatness of both the dAsas and the fallacy of his own thinking.
Later, Sri gOpAla dAsa and Srinivasa visited Tirupathi, where another miracle happened. Due to a combination of his previous ill-health and the strain of travelling to Tirupathi, Srinivasa expired on Bhadrapada Shukla Navami. Then, Vijaya dAsa appeared in an astral form before gOpAla dAsa and directed him to donate 40 years of his life-span to Srinivasa and revive him. gOpAla dAsa immediately complied, and by the grace of the Lord, Srinivasa came back to life again.
Later, Gopala dAsa gave Haridaasa Deekshe to Srinivasa and directed him to Pandarapur for ankitha. Later Srinivasa became renowned as jagannAta dAsa.
This is the evidence of the sacrifice of Gopala Dasa. After warding off the stomach ache of Srinivasacharya, Gopala Dasa himself got that ailment and suffered the rest of his life from it.
It is said that even though Gopala Dasa had travelled all over India, and composed songs in Vittala's name, he had not visited Pandharapur. Once while he was in the forest looking for tuLasi, a horse-rider started chasing him. Finally, when he was unable to run any further, Dasaru gave up and surrendered to the rider, expecting the worst. The rider came near him and said 'Ale Nahi' and vanished (in Marati this means 'you did not come!"). After recovering his poise, Dasaru realized that the rider was none other than Panduranga Himself, complaining about Dasaru's failure to visit Pandharapur. He promptly visited Pandharapur and Udupi. How great must he have been, who was personally invited by the Lord! And what do you say about the compassion of the Lord who complains about His devotee's failure to visit Him!!
On the eighth day of the dark half of the lunar month of Pushya of the year Chitrabhanu, Gopaladasa performed panchamritabhsheka and Sahasaranamarchana to Lord Srinivasa in the temple and at his house. After that he sat in meditation and laid down his mortal body. His famous disciples were Vyasa Tatvagnya, Ajit swami.
Dasappa, Gopala dasa's brother was called Guru Gopal Dasa. He was a great seer. Seenappa Dasa too, was a seer and his fame spread far and wide.
gOpa prakara sankAsham gOpAlarchana tatparam gOdEva vandya pAdArjam gOpAlaKhya gurum Bhaje
Gopala Dasa has composed numerous songs in Kannada in praise of the Hindu god Purandhara Vittala.