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Life History of Bhakta Kanakadasa

Bhakta Kanakadasa (1508 AD to 1606 AD) is a mystic poet in the Haridasa tradition of Karnataka. The life history of this great leader of the Bhakti tradition is filled with adventures and miracles. He was also a revolutionary who led socio-religious movement against the caste system. But today he is famous for his Kirtanas, short songs, that unmask the hypocrisy in society.


He was born in the Dasa tribe at Kaginele in Dharward District, Karnataka. Kuruba community also claims him as their ancestor.

Village Chief

The popular belief is that he was the village chief of Bada and renounced worldly comforts because of losses in family and humiliation in battle.

Education – Bhakti

  • Vyasaraya, a contemporary of Purandaradasa, initiated him into neo-Vaishanavism.
  • He was the greatest exponent of the Haridasa tradition in poetry and song, which characterized the medieval Kannada literature.
  • He was a wandering mendicant and visited popular shrine of his period in Tirupati, Hampi, Udupi etc.

Miracles in Folk Tradition

The folk tradition in Karnataka credits him with several miracles. The most popular is on the one which happened in the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple.

Kanakana kindi in Udupi Sri Krishna Temple

It is said the orthodox priests of Udupi Sri Krishna Temple denied entry to him to the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine. Bhagavan Sri Krishna turned towards the bhakta and gave him darshan through a trellis window. This window is known as Kanakana kindi. This can be seen even today, and devotees visiting Udupi worship him through this window.

His Literary Works

He was a poet and music composer and majority of his poetical works are based on the Puranas.
The most important among them are:
  • Thousands of Kirtanas composed by him to be sung is set ragas. They deal with social themes. They initiated silent social revolution in medieval Karnataka. The songs parodies quarrels in family, fake swamis and gurus, greedy men, immoral and orthodox priests, faithless men and women, caste, inequality, cunning merchants and more…
  • Haribhaktisara – Bhakti songs mostly on Vishnu
  • Mohana Tarangini – Dedicated to the life story of Kamadeva, the Hindu God of Love
  • Nalacharitre – Story Nala and Damayanti
  • Ramadhanya Chairtre – a short poem on a contest between paddy and ragi