The lyrical Krishna of Karnataka

Today is Krishnastami, Janmastami, Krishna Janmastami or Gokulastami and all households in India celebrate the unique festival. This is one of the most important festivals of Hindus and it is the occasion when Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, was born at midnight in Mathura.

The festival is celebrated with fervour in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, where there are performances of Krishna Lila, the folk dramas depicting scenes from Krishna’s life.

In Tamil Nadu, wooden poles are smeared with oil and they are called as Urayadi. A pot of money is tied at the top of the pole  and boys dressed as Krishna try to climb the pole and win the prize even as spectators squirt water at them and try to block their path to the top of the pole.
In Maharashtra, the festival is known as Govinda and we have seen hundreds of films where pots containing money, curds and butter are suspended high over streets. Boys form human pyramids climbing on each others’ shoulders and to try to break the pot even as the people throw water. This act takes us back to the childhood days of Krishna who loved milk and butter.

In Karnataka, the day or rather night is celebrated with preparation of dishes which were dear to Krishna such as dry Avalakki (which Sudhama gave to Krishna) and a variety of sweets. Udupi, which houses the Krishna Matha, sees lakhs of devotees thronging to the temple.

However, what is unique about Karnataka and Krishna is that we have two of  our front-ranking Madhwa seers-Vyasa Raja and Raghavendra Swamy writing about Krishna.

What makes these compositions all the more rare is that they are by the avatars of Vyasa Raja and Raghavendra Swamy and both the compositions have attained extremely high levels of popularity.

Of course, as Vyasa Raja avatar came first, his composition, Krishna Nee Begana Baro, was written first. This song is a vital part of all dances in India and Sripadaraja, the Guru of  Vyasa Raja, witnessed Krishna dancing to the songs of Vyasa Raja, when he was worshipping idols of Mulabagal matha in Mulabagal.

An overwhelmed Sripadaraja handed over the Gopalakrishna idol permanently to Vyasaraja, saying that the idol is his as he had made it to dance. Even to this day, the Gopalakrishna idol, in an dancing pose, is with the Sosale Vyasaraja Matha.

Vyasa Raja composed all  his songs under the Ankita Krishna but he had to change it to Sri Krishna when Krishna came in his dreams and said he (Krishna) deserved respect as he was a married man and therefore, he should be addressed as Sri and not by his name. A humbled Vyasa Raja concurred and from then, he addressed Krishna as Sri Krishna.          
In his next avatar as Raghavendra Swamy came the seminal song Indu Enage Govinda which was composed extempore when Rayaru visited Udupi.

This song too has attained great heights of popularity.

Thus both the songs-Krishna Nee Begane Baro and Indu Yenage- have formed part of our daily repertoire and Karnataka should consider itself fortunate in possessing these treasures.

krishna nee begane baro by Vyasa Raja

krishna nee begane baro

begane baaro mukhavannu toro 
krishna nee begane baaro

kaalaalandhuge gejje nilada baavuli 
nelavarnane naatya vaaduta baro
krishna nee begane baro

Udiyalli udigejje beralalli ungura
koralalli hakida vaijayantiya maale
krishna nee begane baro

kaashi peethambara kaiyalli kolalu
pusida shreegandha mayyolagamma
krishna nee begane baro

taayige baayalli jagavannu torida
jagadhoddhaaraka namma udupi sri krishna 
krishna nee begane baro

Indu Enage Govinda by Raghavendra Swamy


Indu Enage Govinda ninna padaara
Vindava toro mukundane

Sundara vadanane nandagopana Kanda
mandarodhara aananda indiara ramana

nondenayya naa bhavabandhanadolu saluki
munde daari kaaNade kundide jagadolu
kandanamtendenna kundugalenisade
tande kayo Krishna kandarpa janakane

mudhatanadi balu hedijivananaagi
drudhabhakutiyanu maadalillavo hariye
nodalillavo ninna paadalillavo mahime
gaadikaara Krishba bedikombeno ninna

dhaarunilolu bhubhaara jivananaagi
daari tappi nadede seride kujanara
aaru kaayuvavarilla seride ninagayya
dhira venugopala paarugaaniso hariye.


This is not to ignore other Haridasas and Madhwa seers who have composed a variety of songs on Krishna. Purandara has innumerable keertanas on Krishna as does Kanaka and others. This post is only to highlight the songs of the avatars of Vyasa Raja and Raghavendra Swamy and both are in Kannada.   


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