Purandara Dasa

At that time Srinivas Nayak showed no signs of the spiritual giant that he would eventually become. Legend has it that, God - Narayana decided that it was time for Srinivasa Nayaka to give up his love of money, and take his rightful role among saints. So, He took the form of a poor man (brahmin) and approached Srinivasa Nayak for money in order to perform the thread ceremony of his son.

Days rolled by, Nayaka did not give anything, but the brahmin too did not relent. He visited Srinivasa Nayaka’s shop again and again. Six months passed by in this fashion. Finally, Nayak decided that he had to do something to get rid of the brahmin. He had a collection of worn-out coins that were more or less worthless. He poured this in front of the brahmin and asked him to take one and never come back. The brahmin went away, seemingly crestfallen.

Saraswathi, Nayak’s wife, was a kind hearted soul who in her own way, tried to make amends for her husband’s miserliness. The brahmin, who knew this, went directly from Nayak’s shop to his residence. He told her his story and how her husband had sent him away with nothing.

Saraswathi was appalled by her husband’s behavior. She wanted to help the poor brahmin, but felt helpless since she could not give anything without her husband’s permission. When she explained her helplessness, the poor man asked if she had something given by her parents (which, presumably, she could give without asking for her husband’s permission). She agreed and gave him the diamond nose-ring that her parents had given her.

The brahmin took the ornament straight to Srinivasa Nayak’s shop. When Nayak became angry with the brahmin for coming back, despite his instructions to the contrary, the brahmin clarified that he was there not to beg, but to pledge an ornament and take a loan. Nayak was skeptical and asked the brahmin to show him the ornament.

When he saw the ornament, he was perplexed because he immediately recognized it as the one belonging to his wife. When questioned about the ornament’s antecedents, the brahmin told him that it was a gift from a benefactor.

Asking the brahmin to come back the next day, Nayak safely locked away the ornament in a box and went home. When he saw his wife without her ornament he questioned her about it. She tried to stall him with non-committal answers, but he insisted on seeing it immediately. He was angry because he thought she had given away a valuable ornament to a beggarly brahmin.

Saraswathi felt the ground giving way under her feet. She knew that her husband would punish her if she told him the truth. Unable to think of an alternative, she decided to commit suicide. She poured poison into a cup and lifted it to her lips. Just as she was about to drink the poison, she heard a metallic sound. Lo behold, wonder of wonders, the ornament was right there in the cup. She could not believe her eyes. Her heart filled with gratitude, she prostrated before the idol of Krishna and took the ornament to her husband. Nayak was astounded as it was the very same ornament that he had safely locked away in his shop.

Next day he paid the Brahmin the value of the diamond nose stud and asked a street urchin to follow Him. The urchin reported that the Brahmin entered Purandhara Temple and vanished. Srinivasa opened his jewel box in which he had safely locked away the ornament. The box was empty and the nose stud was missing. He was now completely and totally dumbfounded. This miracle challenged Srinivasa Nayak.

Closing his shop, Srinivasa rushed home and asked his wife to tell him the whole truth. Saraswathi narrated the whole tale and told him everything that had transpired. This put his mind in a turmoil. He realized that the Brahmin was none other than Lord Purandhara Himself. He became a changed man. He was disgusted with his behaviour of the past six months and his miserliness. Then and there he decided to give away his vast wealth in charity to the poor and needy. He felt that his wife had conducted herself far more decently and generously than himself. Since it was his love of money that had made him ill-treat the Lord, he gave away all of his wealth with the Lord’s name on his lips and became a Haridasa. He became a wandering mendicant – a devotee of Lord Hari, started singing His glories and in due course became the famous Vaishnavite Haridasa, known to us as Purandara Dasa.

Whether this story is true or just a myth, undoubtedly there occurred in Srinivasa Nayak a change, due to some event in his family. His fellow merchants confirmed the story of an old man regularly visiting the shop for charity, and on the day Srinivasa paid him money, he closed his shop early, before noon and thereafter gave away everything in charity.

Purandara Dasa has also acknowledged the role of his wife Sarwasthi in bringing about the change in him. In one of his kritis he talks of the role of his better half, his wife Saraswathi – one in a thousand women - who was responsible for opening his heart to Purandara Gopaala. In the kriti he sings “...... Aa patnee kula saavirvaagali,

Gopaala butti hidisidalayya; Tulasi male haakuvudakke Arasanante naachutalidde,....” .


CAST & Crew

Concept choreography: Dr Sreedhara Akkihebbalu

Purandara Dasa: Dr Sreedhara Akkihebbalu
Saraswati Bai: Akhila Rao
Mother: Dr Durga Suryadevara Patel
Group dancer: Mrudula Venkateswaran and Suma Ganji


The story is presentd by Guru Akkihebbalu Srheedhara and Akhila Rao.