The life and times of Raghavendra Swamy is full of miracles and it is interesting to note that the previous avatars of Raghavendra Swamy-Shanku Karna, Prahalada, Balika Raja and Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Raya had a deep and abiding impact on the men and society of the ages in which these avatars strode the Earth.
One of the most fascinating aspects is how the Guru in one Yuga became the Shishya in another. And how the Shishya repaid the faith and trust that the Guru had in him.
This is how it happened and this is where it all began.
It was Kreta Yuga and Brahma cursed Shanku Karna to be reborn as a mere mortal. This being took birth as Prahalada, the son of the demon king Hiranyakashipu and his wife Leelavathi.
Hiranyakashipu was a renowned solider and a man with immeasurable strength. He had the ability to defeat anybody in war and this made him a proud and vain man. When Prahalada was about to be born, Hiranyakashipu had imagined himself to be all the nmore power ful and more strong than any of the Gods.
Hirabyakashipu’s vainess began building up even as Leelavathi who was pregnant with Prahalada began listening to the discourses about God and dharma from Sage Narada.
Narada also began telling Leelavathi about the glory of Hari, his greatness, his strength and his righteousness. Prahalada, who was evolving in Leelavath’s womb also began listening to the marvels of Hari and his creation.
Hiranyakashipu slowly began believing himself as more than an equal to God. Narada, on the other hand, filled Prahalada with positive energy and ensured that he became a supreme devotee.
The next time these two divine characters meet are in the Kali Yuga. This is the time when Prahalada takes rebirth as Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Raya and Narada becomes Purandara Dasa.
Vyasaraja gives Deekshe to Purandara Dasa who then becomes his ardent devotee. Vyasaraja also helps in founding the Dasa Koota and Purandara is the first among the Haridasas who propogated the Dwaitha Siddantha through songs.
Vyasaraja encouraged Purandara and guided him in his compositions. Thus in the Kali Yuga, the Guru becomes the shishya and the Shishya here repays the faith that Vyasaraja had in him by composing 4,75,000 Devara Namas (Of this only a few hundreds survive).
Purandara popularises Dasa Koota and along with Kanaka becomes the fulcrum of the Dasa or Bhakti movement in south India. Both Vyasa Raja and Purandara Dasa make Vijayanagar or Hampi the base of their activities.
Each respect the other and each is aware of the other’s holiness. When Vyasa Raja bcomes the Chancellor of Vijayanagar University, which at that time had more than 10,000 students, he requests Purandara to give lessons to the students in his own unique way –by singing.
Purandara obliges and on several occasions composes songs extempore. Vyasa Raja holds Purandara Dasa’s compositions in such high esteem that he places it alongside the upanishats in importance. Infact, he called the compositions as Purandaropanishat.
Purandara returns the favour by singing the glory of Vyasaraja and carrying forward the school of Dasa Koota that he had founded. A single line in a composition is enough to attest to the respect and reverence that Narada had for his Guru.
He says, “Guruvina Gulamanaguvathanaka
He also praises Vyasa Raja as, “Esu munigaliddrnu maadidaru Vyasamuni Madhwamathavannu Uddharisidha Kashi Gadaadharamishrananu Soleesida Dasanna Maadikonda Dharaniyolage Kashipakshadhara Vajapaya Narasimha Yogi Linganna Mishra Modalaada Vidwamsara Noorentu Mandiya Jaiesi Jaya Patrikeyanu Vasudeva Gopalakrishnage
Bhooshana Maadi Haakisida Shreesha Purandara Vithala Brahma Eesha Indraadigaligella Eeshanendu Dangurva Poyisi Merda Jagavariye” , meaning that Vyasa Raja had indepth knowledge of the puranas, shastras and all religious texts while others seers only have superficial knowledge and it is Vyasa Raja who took forward the legacy of Madhwa.
Vyasa Raja reciprocates this by composing, “Dasarendare Purandara Dasaraiah.”
Vyasaraja was born in Bannur sometime in 1447 or 1460 as Yathiraja and he entered Brindavana in Nava Brindavana on March 8, 1539. This is ten years after Krishna Deva Raya died.
Purandara Dasa is a witness to the Brindavana Pravesha of Vyasa Raja and he speaks of the inciodent along with the day and date in one of his compositons. When Vyasa Raja enteres Brindavana, the Vijayanagar Emperor, Achuta Deva Raya was a witness to the grand spectacle along with lakhs of people who throng the Nava Brindavana and its environs.
Purandara Dasa is believed to have died at the Purandara Mantapa in Hampi in 1564, an year before the Vijayanagar Empire was defeated by the Muslim forces of the Deccan in the battle of Talikota or Rakasa Tangadi. His place of birth is debatable.