The avatars of Jagannatha Dasa

One of the outstanding Haridasas of all times is Jagannatha Dasa of Manvi.

Jagannatha Dasa was a renowned devotee of Raghavendra Swamy of Mantralaya and he not only visited Mantralaya where the Brindavana of  Rayaru is situated several times, but also spent time at Bichale and Gandhal.

Jagannatha Dasa has composed several songs on Rayaru and many of them are highly popular. He wrote under the ankita Jagannatha Vitala.

Popular belief has it that Jaganatha Dasa was first born as Sahalada, the brother of  Prahalada. Afterwards, he takes on the role of King Shalya even as Prahalada becomes Bahlika Raja.

Both Prahalada and Sahalada were sons of the demon King, Hiranyakashipu and Kayadu. Both were followers of Hari.

After Hiranyakashipu is killed, Prahalada takes birth as Bahlika Raja and he fights the Kurukshetra war on the side of the Kauravas and against the Pandavas.  

Bheeshma, the supreme commander of the Kauravas, had commanded Balika Raja to join him. Therefore, the Raja along with his son Somadatta and grandson Bhurisravas, had participated in the Mahabharata war with one Akshauhini (division) army of   soldiers.

Bahlika and his grandson Bhurisravas were amongst the eleven distinguished Generals or Senapatis of the Kaurava army appointed by Duryodhana.

When Prahalada was born as Bahlika Raja, his brother Sahalada was born as King Shalya.

Shalya too participated in the Kurukshetra war and he too sided with the Kauravas against the Pandavas.

Shalya was the brother of  Madri who was the mother of the Pandavas, Nakula and Sahadeva. He was also the ruler of the kingdom of Madra.

A skilled archer and mace fighter, he is tricked by Duryodhana into supporting him. On the 16th and 17th day of the Kurukshetra war, Shalya served as Karna’s charioteer during the latter’s heroic battles with Arjuna.

After Karna’s death, Shalya takes over as the commander of the Kaurava forces, rallying them from retreat. He becomes the commander-in-chief on the last day of the war. He is killed after a fierce spear fight with Yudhistera, the eldest of the Pandavas, while Bahlika Raja-the brother of Shantanu, who also commanded the Kaurava army, was earlier slain in a mace fight with Bheema.

Thus we see that Prahalada-Sahalada were reborn as Balika Raja and Shalya respectively and both were on the same side during the Kurukshetra war and both were killed by the Pandavas and both were commanders.

The next avatar of Balika Raja is in the Kaliytuga as Vyasa Theertha or Vyasa Raja (1447-1539) and during this period, Shalya is first reborn as a disciple of Vadiraja Theertha (1480-1600) and then as a son of Purandara Dasa. Interestingly, both Vadiraja Theertha and Purandara are disciples of Vyasa Raja.

When Raghavendra Swamy (1595-1671) strides across the world, the avatar of Sahalada does not come about. It takes more than 50 years after Rayaru enters Brindavana in Mantralaya for the Sahalada avatar to take birth as Jagannatha Dasa of Manvi (1728-1809).

Thus if we see that Shanku Karna has taken the form of Prahalada, Balika Raja, Vyasa Theertha and Raghavendra Swamy, his brother Sahalada is Shalya, disciple of Vadiraja Theertha, son of Purandara Dasa and finally Jagannatha Dasa.

It is only during the Raghavendra Swamy avatar, that Sahalada does not meet his brother. But there is a school of thought that says Appanacharya too had an amsha of Sahalada.

So we find that Jagannatha Dasa was always close to Rayaru in all his avatars.

Jagannatha Dasa’s avatars as Sahalada,  Shalya, disciple of Variraja Thertha and son of  Purandara Dasa is beautifully narrated by his disciple Pranesha Dasa (1736-1822) in his song,

“Hiranyakashipu jasalhada neve eradane janmadi shalyanaada guruvadirajaralli archisida puranadaradasaraayaralli udasida.”

Incidentally, Pranesha Dasa was an incarnation of Pandu Maharaj, the father of the Pandavas.  

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