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Sri Kanaka Dasa: A great poet and musician from Karnataka

Brief Introduction About Sri Kanaka Dasa

Sri Kanaka Dasa, born in 1509 in the town of Baada, Karnataka, emerged as a luminous figure in the 16th-century Bhakti movement within the Vijayanagara Empire. Initially known as Thimmappa Nayaka, he earned the name Kanaka Dasa due to his profound devotion to the deity Kanakachala Laxmi. This saint, poet, philosopher, and musician left an indelible mark on the cultural and spiritual landscape of South India. His literary contributions, primarily in Kannada, include devotional songs and musical compositions, with the notable “Haribhakti Sara” encapsulating the essence of Bhakti.

Beyond his artistic pursuits, Kanaka Dasa became a fervent advocate for social justice, challenging prevailing inequalities and advocating for a society grounded in compassion and equality. His teachings emphasize the universal brotherhood of all individuals. Sri Kanaka Dasa’s legacy endures through the continued resonance of his devotional works, sung in temples and cultural events, and his life serves as a timeless source of inspiration for those seeking spiritual enlightenment.

Early Life of Sri Kanaka Dasa

Here you can read about the Early Life of Sri Kanaka Dasa provided below:

Birth and Name

  • Sri Kanaka Dasa was born in 1509 in Baada, Karnataka, India.
  • His birth name was Thimmappa Nayaka.

Early Struggles

  • Faced social and economic challenges during his upbringing.
  • Specific details about his early life are limited.

Spiritual Inclination

  • Showed a keen interest in spirituality and literature from a young age.
  • His life took a transformative turn when he developed a deep devotion to the deity Kanakachala Laxmi.

Transformation and Name Change

  • Due to his profound devotion, he came to be known as Kanaka Dasa.
  • The name change reflected his spiritual connection and marked a significant turning point in his life.

Contribution to Bhakti Movement:

  • His early devotion laid the foundation for his later contributions to the Bhakti movement.
  • Kanaka Dasa emerged as a prominent figure in the 16th-century Bhakti movement in the Vijayanagara Empire.

Themes of Social Justice

  • Likely influenced by his early struggles, he developed empathy and concern for social justice.
  • Themes of social equality and justice became prominent in his later poetic works.

Formation of Philosophical Beliefs

  • While details about his early life are scarce, it is evident that his formative experiences played a role in shaping his philosophical beliefs.
  • His spiritual journey and contributions were deeply rooted in his early connection to Kanakachala Laxmi.


  • Despite the limited information about his early life, Sri Kanaka Dasa’s legacy endures through his profound contributions to literature, spirituality, and social justice.

How a Warrior Turned into a Great Devotee?

  • Defeat and Miraculous Survival: In his youth, Sri Kanaka Dasa suffered defeat in a battle, sustaining mortal wounds. Miraculously, he was saved from certain death, an event that had a profound impact on him.
  • Shift to Spiritual Path: Influenced by the miraculous escape, Kanaka Dasa abandoned his previous profession. He redirected his focus towards a spiritual path, leaving behind worldly pursuits.
  • Entry into Haridasa Tradition: Choosing the path of devotion, he joined the Haridasa tradition. Under the guidance of his spiritual master, Vyasaraja, he was renamed Kanaka Dasa, signifying a new spiritual identity.
  • Literary Contributions: Kanaka Dasa, now a poet-composer, expressed his devotion through beautiful literary works in Kannada. His compositions reflected profound spiritual insights and a deep connection with Lord Vishnu.
  • Religious and Social Reformer: Beyond his artistic pursuits, Kanaka Dasa emerged as a religious and social reformer. He criticized societal ills such as the caste system and advocated for social equality.
  • Devotion to Lord Vishnu: Throughout his life, Kanaka Dasa remained a devoted follower of Lord Vishnu. His spiritual journey and compositions were centered around his unwavering devotion to the divine.
  • Social Critique: Kanaka Dasa actively criticized societal injustices, particularly the disparities between the privileged and the poor. His role extended beyond the spiritual realm, addressing and challenging prevalent social issues.

Kanaka Dasa the Eternal Devotee and Composer

  • Kanaka Dasa, a multifaceted personality, transcended being just a social reformer and a remarkable composer; at his core, he was a devoted follower of Lord Narayana.
  • Under the guidance of Vyasaraja of Udupi, he blossomed as a disciple.
  • The final phase of his life unfolded in Tirupathi.
  • Renowned as an exceptional writer, poet, composer, and social reformer, Shri Kanaka Dasa stands out as a prominent figure in the realm of Carnatic music.
  • His contributions include the composition of significant works such as Hari Bhakti Sara, Nala Charitra, Mohana Tarangini, Nara Simhastava, and devotional Kannada songs like ‘Krishna Nee Begane’ (Yaman Kalyan).
  • Through his devotional compositions and dedicated efforts, Kanaka Dasa played a pivotal role in uplifting backward communities.
  • Among his notable signatures were ‘Kagineli Kesava,’ ‘Velapuri Kesava,’ and others.

The Story of  Kanakana Hindi – Kanaka’s Window

Sri Kanaka Dasa longed to visit the Udupi Krishna temple and have a Darshan of the Lord, but the narrow-minded priests would not allow him inside the temple as they considered him to be of inferior birth.
Sri Kanaka Dasa was distraught and expressed his anguish to Sri Krishna. Immediately, the temple wall collapsed on one side, a slit appeared in the Sanctum, the idol of Sri Krishna turned towards him and he was able to have a direct Darshan.
The wall was later reconstructed, but a small window was built there to mark the place where the Lord gave Darshan to his anguished devotee. This window is called Kanakana Hindi – Kanaka’s Window. Even today, devotees have a Darshan of the lord through this window before proceeding to the main entrance of the sanctum.

Importance of Sri Kanakadasa Jayanthi

Sri Kanakadasa Jayanthi is a significant celebration in honor of the renowned saint and poet Sri Kanakadasa. This day marks the birth anniversary of Sri Kanakadasa and is observed with great enthusiasm by his followers and admirers. Here are some key reasons highlighting the importance of Sri Kanakadasa Jayanthi:

  • Spiritual Significance: Sri Kanakadasa was a devout devotee of Lord Krishna and a prominent saint in the Bhakti movement, which emphasizes the path of love and devotion to the divine. His life and teachings hold immense spiritual significance, inspiring people to cultivate a deeper connection with the divine through devotion and righteous living.
  • Cultural Heritage: Sri Kanakadasa’s contributions to Kannada literature and devotional music have left an indelible mark on Karnataka’s cultural heritage. His compositions, known as “Keertanas,” are revered for their devotional fervor and philosophical depth. Celebrating Sri Kanakadasa Jayanthi helps preserve and promote the rich cultural traditions associated with his life and works.
  • Social Harmony: Sri Kanakadasa was a strong advocate of social equality and harmony. His famous composition, “Jagadoddharana Adisidalu Yashode,” reflects his vision of a world where social distinctions dissolve in the love of the divine. Observing Sri Kanakadasa Jayanthi serves as a reminder of his teachings on unity, equality, and compassion.
  • Educational Values: Sri Kanakadasa’s life story and teachings offer valuable lessons in humility, perseverance, and the pursuit of knowledge. His journey from a humble background to becoming a revered saint and scholar underscores the transformative power of education and devotion.
  • Musical Legacy: Sri Kanakadasa was a pioneer in the field of Carnatic music, and his compositions continue to be an integral part of the musical repertoire. His innovative approach to music and the use of simple, heartfelt lyrics make his compositions accessible and cherished by music enthusiasts. Sri Kanakadasa Jayanthi is an occasion to celebrate and promote his musical legacy.
  • Devotional Practices: Observing Sri Kanakadasa Jayanthi involves devotional practices such as singing bhajans, reading his compositions, and organizing cultural events. These activities contribute to a sense of community and shared spiritual experience among devotees.

In conclusion, Sri Kanakadasa Jayanthi is a day of reflection, celebration, and inspiration. It brings people together to honor the life and teachings of a saint who made significant contributions to spirituality, literature, and music. The observance of this day helps in fostering a deeper understanding of cultural values, promoting social harmony, and encouraging a spiritual way of life.

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The birth anniversary of the famous poet, Shri Kanakadasa is celebrated as Kanakadasa Jayanthi by the government of Karnataka. It is celebrated on the 18th day of Kartik Month as per the Hindu Lunar Calendar.


Q. Was Sri Kanaka Dasa a Brahmin?

Ans: No, he belonged to the Kurube Gowda community, who were warriors.

Q. When Sri Kanaka Dasa was born?

Ans: He was born in 1508 and died in 1606.

Q. Sri Kanaka Dasa wrote in which Indian Language?

Ans: Sri Kanaka Dasa composed beautiful literary works in Kannada.

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