From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Kanakadāsa lived in CE 1508-1606. He was one of the four most important leaders of the Vaiṣṇava Bhakti Movement in Karnataka. He is an ideal example to show how bhakti or devotion towards the God uplifts human beings by transcending all the barriers of caste or culture.

He was born in Kāginele, a small village near Dharwad in northern Karnataka. He probably belonged to the dāsa, kuruba or beḍa community classed among the śudras. According to one version, he was the son of a chieftain of a small province who lost his everything in a battle with the enemies. He was critically injured but miraculously saved by the grace of Adikeśava.[1] At the command of Adikeśava, he became a haridāsa (servant of Lord Hari) or a saint.

Kanakadāsa was a disciple of Vyāsarāya,[2] a well-known Vaiṣṇava sanyāsin. He was an abbot of the monastery. Purandaradāsa was his co-disciple. He was a great devotee of God and a saint of a very high order.

Prodigy of Kanakadāsa[edit]

Quite a few miracles have been attributed to him. Some of them are:

  • The idol of Kṛṣṇa in the temple at Udupi (Karnataka) turning around to the backside to give darśan to him, who was praying there since he had been denied entry into the main entrance
  • Blasting of a big boulder that was proving an obstacle to a new tank under construction

Works by Kanakadāsa[edit]

Kanakadāsa used his pen-name ‘Kāginele Adikeśava’ in all the compositions by him. Apart from a number of devotional songs, he has also composed the following poetical works:

  1. Mohanatarañgini - a poetical work of a mythological type
  2. Nalacaritre - story of Nala and Damayanti
  3. Rāmadhānya caritre - a humorous composition to prove the superiority of rāgi, a kind of millet, over rice
  4. Haribhaktisāra - an ethic-devotional work
  5. Narsimhastava[3]


  1. Adikeśava was an aspect of Lord Viṣṇu.
  2. Vyāsarāya lived in CE 1447-1539.
  3. Narsimhastava is a hymn on Narasimha, the man-lion incarnation of Viṣṇu, not available now.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore