We often say that everyone has a turning point in life. Many of them change for the better while some change for the worse. It could be an incident or a sudden realisation of a new idea that changes one’s life completely. Here, I would like to narrate the story of Purandara Dasa whose life took a drastic turn due to an incident that took place in his life.
Purandara Dasa is one of the greatest devotees of Lord Vishnu and has composed thousands of songs in praise of the lord and about the philosophy of Dwaita. He is also considered to be the “father of Carnatic Music”. If you do not know this, then it would be heartening to know that the beginners lessons of sarali varisai, janti, tharasthayi, geetham, etc. are all laid down my this great Saint.
Do you know that this great saint was a stinking rich money lender?? His father had left a whole property which Dasa was taking care of. His initial name was Srinivasa nayaka. Though he was very rich, he was extremely stingy. He would not donate a pie to any poor. He was called “Navakoti Narayana” because of his riches but would not part with a single morsel of food to the needy. He has a pious wife by name Saraswati.
He thought he was the richest man in that village and was very proud. But destiny had other plans for him. He was not meant to enjoy the riches of his own wealth but to become a servant of the lord. When the destined time came, Lord Narayana came in the form of a poor Brahmin to Srinivasa’s shop. He requested Srinivasa to give some money as he wanted to conduct his son’s thread ceremony (Upanayana). Srinivasa flatly refused. But this poor Brahmin would not give up. He would repeatedly come to Srinivasa’s shop every day and beg for help. Srinivasa also would negate him and send him away. This went on for 6 months.
The poor Brahmin then learnt about Saraswati and went to Srinivasa’s house. He pleaded for some money to complete his son’s thread ceremony. The wife was overcome with compassion but was helpless. She told the Brahmin that she could not give anything without the consent of her husband. The Brahmin in return asked to give him anything which she got from her father’s house over which she had a right. Sarawati thought for a while and removed her diamong-studded nose ring and gave it to brahmin. The poor man was very happy. HE went straight to Srinivasa Naik’s shop and pledged the ring. Srinivasa saw the nose ring and immediately recognized that it belonged to his wife. He asked the Brahmin to come the next day, locked the ring in a box and hurried home.
On reaching home, he saw that his wife’s nose ring was missing. He asked her about it. She gave weird answers, but he insisted that he would like to see the ring at that very moment. Saraswati was overcome by guilt and grief. She fervently prayed to Lord Vishnu. When she realised that she could not escape, she decided to end her life. She filled poison in a cup and intensely prayed to the Lord. And Lo!!! While she took the poison to the lips, she heard a tingling sound inside the bowl. She looked and to her pleasant surprise, she found the ring in the bowl. She was surprised and astounded. She ran and showed the ring to her husband. Srinivasa still did not believe and pressed her to narrate what had happened. Saraswati told him the entire story. Srinivasa hurried to the shop to check for the ring. He was aghast to see that it was missing from there.
His mind was full of confusion and delusion. He calmed down and introspected as to what had happened. It then dawned on him that it was lord Narayana who come as a brahmin to give him true knowledge and remove him from the vagaries of this world. This incident in Srinivasa’s life changed him completely.
The hands that were laden with golden bangles, was holding the tanpura and jingle bells. The rich clothing which he adorned was all donated. He wore a simple dhoti below his waist, tied a turban around his head and renounced life. His wife also followed him as a devotee. He was completely transformed. Songs in praise of the lord just started flowing from his lips. He forgot the world and completely surrendered to the Lord Narayana’s feet. Such is the grace of the Lord.
More stories of Purandara Dasa in my next post….