In memory of a saint-poet

Last Updated 23 November 2015, 18:22 IST
The great saint-poet Kanakadasa lived during the 16th century in Bada village (Shiggaon taluk, Haveri district). He was well-versed in academics, Vedas, literature and the art of war. Due to the early demise of his father, Kanakadasa, who was then called as Thimmappa, became the chieftain of Bada. According to a legend, while carrying out excavation in Bada, Thimmappa found a large treasure chest of gold, which he used for the cause of people. After this, people started calling him by the name Kanaka (golden) Nayaka.

Many believe that once, when he was critically wounded in the battlefield, Kanaka Nayaka felt a divine presence near him, when Lord Krishna asked him to become his dasa (devotee). Kanaka Nayaka then abdicated his chieftainship, became a hermit and called himself Kanakadasa. Thereafter, he immersed himself in authoring devotional songs, poems and other lyrical works and is believed to have been blessed with the darshan of Lord Krishna on many occasions.

During recent excavations in Bada by the Archaeological Department, ruins of a fort and a palace, identified as remnants of Kanaka Nayaka’s reign, were found. Subsequently, the State Government has developed a fitting memorial of Kanakadasa in the vicinity.

A magnificent fort with layered steps leading right to the top has been built. Just before the entrance, at the top, is a life-size statue of Kanakadasa posing as a warrior on horseback and painted in golden colour. The fort, which is spread over 5,000 sq metres, is modelled according to the Vijayanagara-style architecture.

Inside the fort, we find a majestic palace which includes a huge durbar hall, and a smaller Kanaka Memorial Hall. There is a gigantic metallic statue of Kanakadasa inside the palace and the corridors around the halls display beautiful paintings and sculptures depicting various legendary episodes from the poet’s life and times. The fort and the palace are reckoned as centres of knowledge for those who desire to know more about the great poet’s life and his achievements in philosophy, poetry and social reformation efforts.

Kanakadasa initially worshipped Lord Krishna as Adikeshava at a small shrine in Bada. He moved to Kaginele, a small village in Byadagi taluk, after giving up his princely life. He is said to have carried the idol with him to protect it from the invaders, and installed it at the present location in Kaginele. This ancient shrine of Kaginele Adikeshava stands in all its glory even today. The Adikeshava shrine has a small mantapa and a garbhagriha, where a panchaloha idol of the deity is installed in the vishvaroopa form. There is a neem tree behind this temple with a bench-like platform built around it. Called Kanakadasa’s bench, they say he used to deliver his sermons from here.

Situated at a little distance away from the temple is a shrine called Saint Kanakadasara Gaddige, which has been built above the samadhi of the poet, with a statue of Kanakadasa holding the tanpura and cymbals installed within. A conch and the begging bowl, said to have been used by Kanakadasa, are exhibited here. A large auditorium called Sabha Bhavan has also been built near the samadhi by the Kaginele Development Authority. One can also find a beautiful lake called Kanaka’s Lake adjacent to the samadhi. This is a source of water for many villages in the vicinity. A garden has come up near the lake. A beautifully-decorated chariot called Kanaka Keshava Chariot is placed under a small mantapa nearby and is utilised during processions on Kanaka Jayanthi.

It is heartening to note that the Kaginele Development Authority has played a major role in developing these heritage sites and in popularising Kanakadasa’s thoughts and literary compositions.

(Published 23 November 2015, 16:34 IST)

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