Bhakta Purandaradaasa, the Karnataka Sangeeta Pitaamaha, belonged to the 17th century. The story of how he became a Bhakta is very unusual.
Navanidhi Shrinivaasa Naayaka was a great dhanavanta. However he was a parama-lobhi. His arthaangi, Saravasti Bai was a Bhakta and Daanagunashiili. When she used to do namaskaar to Shrinivaasa Naayaka, he used to say “What aashiirvaadam shall i give you? Shall I say do more daana-dharmas?”. Sarasvati Bai used to reply “after taking your anugnya only I am doing the vratam”. “Aa! aa! you took my anugnya. I thought it was Tulasi-puuja only and hence no expenditure will be there. But in that name you did dampati-puuja, many daanas,… so on. I came to know only when our suputra, Varada, told the accounts today. If you do 4 more of these, each of us must take a bhiksha-paatra and beg on the streets”. “Please donot say like that. If we dont give when God gives us, then can we give when He doesnt?” said Sarasvati. Naayaka used to reply “Now what is there that God gave in this? I, my father and ancestors earned it doing day and night hard-work”. “Dhanam which is not used for Daana-dharmas is it not waste? Also the Saadhu-sajjanas say that these are our stepping stones for satgatis in param” replied Sarasvati. “Aa! Leave these hita-bodhas of Saadhusanyaasis. We will get nothing in Iham if we listen to them. Look Sarasvati! Only a wealthy person is an uttama, uddanda and unnata. One who doesnt have it is a alpa, niicha, adhama. The importance will be realized by a person who earned it”. This was a small example of the kind of sambhaashanas the two had.
Because of Shrinivaasa Naayaka’s puurva janma punyam and because of the saushiilyam of Sarasvati Bai, Shri Paanduranga Vittala wanted to change Shrinivaasa Naayaka into Purandaradaasa. Everyday Shri Paanduranga Vittala used to come as a deena-braahmana, ask Naayaka for help. Everyday Naayaka used to send him away without giving anything. Sometimes he used to bring a baalaka and ask Naayaka to help do his son’s Upanayanam. However Naayaka’s reply was all the while “no”. Aaha! It is difficult to imagine how many pains the Lord took to change the lobhi. One day Shrinivaasa Naayaka told bluntly “I will not give You anything”. Vittala Nath replied “Ayya! some shubha-kaaryam. First I came to you only. Give me something. I will take whatever you give Me”. After confirming repeatedly that Vittala, who is in disguise of a Braahmana, will take anything he gives and goes away, he searched his entire house and finally brought a rusted coin and gave it to Paanduranga Vittala.
After Naayaka left to his shop, Vittala Nath came back to Naayaka’s house and told Sarasvati Bai that Naayaka gave Him a rusted coin, which how much ever He cleaned could not make out the denomination. With a lot of shame, Sarasvati Bai hide her head. Paramaatma replied “Amma! If you give that nose-ring to Me, My purpose will be solved”. Seeing the dainyata of the poor Braahmana, Sarasvati Bai gave away her nose-ring.
But what will she tell her husband? In no time Naayaka was back and immediately noticed that her nose-ring was missing and asked for it. Sarasvati Bai did not know what to say, how to convince him. Naayaka asked her to bring it if she kept it somewhere. Sarasvati Bai went inside. Told her deenata to the Lord Vittala. She thought it is not Satyayugam for miracles to happen and decided to take poison and did Daiva praarthana. She heard Vittala from Aakaashavaani “Saadhvi! I am very happy with you. You bought me completely by giving Me your nose-ring. Please take it back”. There were no limits to Sarasvati Bai’s aanandam. Shrinivaasa Naayaka was shocked to see the nose-ring, because the poor Braahmana sold it already to him in his shop. Both of them realized that it was Lord Vittala who came as the Braahmana.
The Punya-dampatis from then onwards became great Bhaagavatottamas and always did Bhagavannaama sankeertanam. Bhakta Purandaradaasa wrote around 4 lakh Keerthanas!! and gained the name of “the Karnataka Sangeeta Pitaamaha”
Morals in the story:
- Neither Paapam nor Punyam will be destroyed. Because of Naayaka’s purva janma Punyam, the Lord wanted to change him.
- Our elders many times stress the importance of the Gruhini having sadgunas. A purusha, by being good can save himself. But a Gruhini, who is a Saushiilavati like Sarasvati Bai, can change the entire family. Such a women will also be able to bring-up the children well.
- Lobham is a very dangerous durgunam. Even Paramaatma had to put so much effort to change Naayaka.
Search Terms: Shrinivasa Nayaka, Saraswathi Bai, Vittal, Panduranga, Carnatic Music