The life of Kanakadasa states that he hailed from the Kuruba Gowda community, born to Biregowda and Beechamma. At his birth he was christened Thimmappa Nayaka , by his parents and later assumed the name, Kanaka Dasa, given to him by his spiritual master, Vyasaraja.
The life of Kanakadasa took a sudden twist with the intervention of divine grace. It is believed that Kanakadasa was engaged in a battle with an opponent to win the hand of one Krishnakumari. The divine intervened in the form of Lord Krishna, and suggested him to surrender. Kanakadasa blinded with passion, refused to succumb and continued with the battle, only to suffer mortal wounds. However, with divine intercession he is miraculously saved. From then on till the end of his life, Kanakadasa's passion was directed towards Lord Krishna, that he came up with innumerable compositions in Karnatic music on the Lord. He was all put into one, a composer, a musician, a poet, a social reformer, philosopher and saint.
The life of Kanakadasa has it that he was inspired by the Haridasa movement and became a follower of its founder, Vyasaraja. It is believed that he spent his later part of his life in Tirupati.
Kanakadasa in Udupi
The divine miracle in Udupi, in the life of Kanakadasa, which still stands as a testimony, is familiar among people. However, to make a mention of it during Kanakadasa Jayanti is to partake of the bliss of the divine intercession.
Kanakadasa belonging to a lower caste, was denied admission into the temple of Udupi, where he wanted to worship Lord Krishna. His eyes were about to be plucked for the breach of the rule, when the idol of Lord Krishna turned around to the direction where Kanakadasa stood, with his voice breaking forth into devotional rendition; the wall is said to have broken to reveal the sight of the Lord to Kanakadasa. Later a window, called the Kanakana Kindi was created on the wall, where to this day, devotees set eyes on the Lord.
It is believed that, the idol turned itself to face the west from its former way of facing the east.
The numerous compositions of Kanakadasa in Carnatic music, reveals the dominance of devotion in the life of the saint.
Nalacharitre (Story of Nala), Haribhaktisara (core of Krishna devotion), Nrisimhastava (compositions in praise of Lord Narasimha), Ramadhanyacharite (story of ragi millet) and an epic, Mohanatarangini (Krishna-river), were some of the most popular ones.
His compositions not only revealed the aspect of devotion, but also carried messages on social reformation. While condemning, the mere following of external rituals, his works also emphasised the importance of moral conduct.
An interesting incident in the life of Kanakadasa, crisply reveals the spiritual maturity of the saint. Once when he was confronted by one Vyasatirtha, in a gathering, as to who would attain Moksha or liberation, Kanakadasa humbly asserted that only he can attain Moksha, much to the shock of the pundits.
When asked for an explanation, Kanakadasa revealed the essence of Vedanta in his reply, that only the one who has lost the 'I', the ego would attain Moksha. This is represented in the popular phrase quoted by the saint, “I shall go (to heaven) if my-self (my selfishness) goes (away)"
Let us thus dwell on the crux of Vedanta, as revealed by Kanakadasa to seek eternal liberation. Let us celebrate Kanakadasa Jayanti holding on to this view.