Kanaka Dasa

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Kanaka Dasa
Thimmappa Nayaka

3 December 1509
Died1609 (aged 100)
Kaginele, Byadagi Taluk (Haveri District)
  • Beerappa (father)
  • Bachchamma (mother)
OccupationRuler, saint, poet, philosopher, composer
OrderHaridasa (Dasakuta)

Kanaka Dasa (1509–1609)[1] was a Haridasa saint and philosopher, popularly called Daasashreshta Kanakadasa (ದಾಸಶ್ರೇಷ್ಠ ಕನಕದಾಸ). He was a renowned composer of Carnatic music, poet, reformer and musician.[2] He is known for his keertanas and ugabhoga, and his compositions in the Kannada language for Carnatic music. Like other Haridasas, he used simple Kannada and native metrical forms for his compositions.[3]


Kanaka Dasa was born into a Kannada Kuruba (shepherd) family in Baada village, near Bankapura in Karnataka, and was a warrior at the Bankapura fort. He was taught by Srinivasacharya. As a child, he became an expert in "tarka", "vyakaran", and "mimamsa".[4] Based on one of his compositions, it is interpreted that he was seriously injured in battle and took to the practice of chanting the name of Lord Hari. A beggar appeared to Kanaka Dasa, and Kanaka asked who he was. The beggar responded by saying he was called by him (Kanaka). Kanaka Dasa understood the beggar to be Lord Hari (Krishna) Himself. Lord Hari offered to give Kanaka Dasa three wishes. Lord Hari first asked if Kanaka wanted treasures. Kanaka Dasa refused, but asked for the following, 1) To be healed of all his injuries, 2) For Lord Hari to appear whenever Kanaka Dasa called for Him, and 3) To give darshan in His Original Form. The Lord granted these wishes. Upon seeing Lord Hari in His Original Form, Kanaka Dasa became mesmerized. After this incident, Kanaka abandoned his profession as a ksatriya (warrior) and devoted himself to composing music, writing literature and explaining philosophy to the people about Sri Hari. His early spiritual works include poems such as "Narasimha Stotra", "Ramadhyana Mantra", and "Mohanatarangini".[5]

In Udupi[edit]

Kanaka Dasa had a connection with Udupi as he was the disciple of Vyasatirtha.[6] The priests would not let him enter the mutt, judging him to be a member of lower caste based on his clothes, even though Vyasatirtha asked them to let Kanaka Dasa into the temple. It is believed that a wall cracked and the idol of Krishna turned towards Kanaka.[7] Although, it is argued that this story has been contrued and spread later[4]

Kanaka Dasa spent only a short time in Udupi. He used the phrase, "Kagineleya Adikeshava" as his signature referring to the deity of Kaginele.


Major works[edit]

  • Nalacharithre (ನಳಚರಿತ್ರೆ)
  • Haribhakthisara (ಹರಿಭಕ್ತಿಸಾರ)
  • Nrisimhastava (ನೃಸಿಂಹಸ್ತವ)
  • Ramadhanyacharithe (ರಾಮಧಾನ್ಯಚರಿತೆ), a rare work on class struggle
  • Mohanatarangini (ಮೋಹನತರಂಗಿಣಿ)

Kanakadasa wrote about 240 Carnatic music compositions (kirtane, ugabhogas, padas, and philosophical songs)[8] besides five major works. Around 100 songs in Kannada[9] and 60 songs in English[10] are published in popular books.

Kanakadasa Palace[edit]

Kanakadasa Fort

During an excavation at Baada, Shiggaon region of Karnataka, the archaeological department found ruins of a fort and a palace which was identified as the magnificent era of Kanaka Dasa (who was earlier called Thimmappa Nayaka). The State Government of Karnataka has built a new fort, palace and idols of Kanaka Dasa and his life scenarios commemorating the religious leader.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

Kannada actor and singer from the Kannada movie industry Dr. Rajkumar played Kanaka Dasa in the movie Bhakta Kanakadasa and the movie received a good response from the public.

Girish Karnad made a documentary film, Kanaka-Purandara (English, 1988), on the two medieval Bhakti poets of Karnataka.[12]


Kanaka Guru Peetha[edit]

Kaginele Kanaka Guru Peetha, a mutt established by the Kuruba community, is named in honour of Shri Kanakadasa.[13]

Kanaka Dasa stamp[edit]

Indian Postal Stamp honouring Sri Kanakadasa

In 1990, the Government of India honored Kanaka Dasa by releasing a postal stamp in his name.[14]

Kanakadasa Jayanthi[edit]

Kanaka Dasa's birthday is celebrated in Karnataka, particularly in the Kuruba community. In 2008, Government of Karnataka decided to commemorate his birthday as a state festival and declared 15 November a state holiday.[15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Karnatakada Mahasant Kanakadasa by M. Basavaraj,(2007) The Publications Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt of India". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015.
  2. ^ says, Anantha Raju (15 December 2018). "Illustrious Saint Kanakadasa". Star of Mysore. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  3. ^ Medieval Indian Literature, A Anthology (1997) by Shiva Prakash H.S., edited by Ayyappapanicker, Sahitya Akademi ISBN 8126003650, pp. 198–200
  4. ^ a b Prof., Sudhakara (1997). Kagineleya Kanakadaasottama. Pratibha Prakashana, Mysore.
  5. ^ HARISHANKAR. "The Great Saint Sree Kanaka Dasa". Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  6. ^ Rao, Vasudeva (2002). Living Traditions in Contemporary Contexts: The Madhva Matha of Udupi. Orient Blackswan. ISBN 978-81-250-2297-8.
  7. ^ Hegde, Sanjay (28 April 2014). "For human resolve, not miracles". The Hindu.
  8. ^ Kanakadasa-The Golden servant of Lord Hari (2001) by Basavaraj Naikar, National Book Trust ISBN 81-237-3664-9
  9. ^ Kanaka Daasara Padagalu (1997) By S Rudramurthy Shastri, Bhagya Laksmi Publishers, Bangalore
  10. ^ Songs of Three Great South Indian Saints by William J. Jackson (2002), Oxford India Paper, ISBN 0-19-566051-X
  11. ^ "In memory of a saint-poet". 23 November 2015.
  12. ^ AWARDS: The multi-faceted playwright[Usurped!] Frontline (magazine), Vol. 16, No. 03, January 30 - February 12, 1999.
  13. ^ "Kanaka Guru Peetha Kaginele".
  14. ^ "Postage Stamps:: Postage Stamps,Stamp issue calendar 2014, Paper postage, Commemorative and definitive stamps, Service Postage Stamps, Philately Offices, Philatelic Bureaux and counters, Mint stamps". postagestamps.gov.in. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  15. ^ Nanjappa, Vicky (26 September 2008). "K'taka: Historic cabinet meet in Gulbarga". Rediff. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  16. ^ "Kanakadasa jayanthi holiday". Deccan Herald. The Printers, Mysore. 4 November 2009. Retrieved 30 November 2021.