Verses of devotion

The Haridasa tradition of Karnataka forms one of the important phases of the Bhakti Movement in India.

During and after the time of the Vijayanagar rule, great saints like Vyasatirtha, Purandaradasa, Kanakadasa, Vijayadasa, Jagannathadasa, Sripadaraja, among many others strode the Kannada land, spreading the message of devotion, righteous living and dedicated service to humanity. In simple language that appealed to the masses, they embedded profound philosophical verities contained in the canonical texts and sang them in lyrical metre, which form the corpus of the ‘Dasa Sahitya’- the songs of the Servants of the Lord (Haridasa’s).

The name of Saint Vadiraja occupies a prominent position in this Haridasa tradition. Born to pious parents in Hoovinakere, a small hamlet near Kundapura in the present Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka, he soon came under the wings of another great personage, Saint Vageesha Tirtha. Quickly blossoming into a renowned scholar, he was initiated into the monastic order under the name ‘Vadiraja”. He travelled far and wide, spreading the message of devotion expounding on the scriptural texts and also through his own compositions. An ardent devotee of Lord Hayagreeva, Vadiraja used the name ‘Hayavadana’ as his signature in his works.

The ‘Prarthanadasaka’ is a moving compendium of Saint Vadiraja’s  yearning for spiritual emancipation, to be rid of the undesirable traits that man harbours in himself. ‘Mind alone is the cause for both bondage with material concerns as well as freedom from them’ say the scriptures. Thus it is that Vadiraja asks of the Lord, “May my mind never think about bad and improper matters. Free the mind of its fickleness which never concentrates on uplifting thoughts and runs after evil desires, gets drawn towards bad literature. Free me from evil traits and remove my false pride and egotism.”

One major factor that influences man’s personality is the company that he keeps. To steer clear of bad influences which impel man to do prohibited acts is easier said than done. “Bless me that I do not mix with bad people,” asks Vadiraja. Saying that every activity should be directed towards attaining the Lord’s grace, Vadiraja prays that “May my legs never wander idly and may my eyes never look at other women in an evil manner. May my hands never touch prohibited objects and also those objects given by bad people. May my tongue refrain from gossip and eating impure food. May my ears turn deaf towards scandalous talk and evil words. May my mind ever be engaged in good pursuits and be responsive to your will and command. May contentment with what you have blessed me with be my companion.” Thus prays Saint Vadiraja in his ‘Prarthanadasaka.’

In his other work, ‘Hariashtaka’,  Vadiraja emphasises that man is a mere puppet in the Lord’s hands. Like a piteously bellowing cow that is helplessly flailing its legs after falling into a well, man needs the Lord’s grace every moment of his life, for, wicked people are constantly trying to mislead him.


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