December 2 is celebrated as the birth anniversary of South Indian poet, Kanakadasa. Apart from being a renowned poet, Kanakadasa was also a philosopher, musician and composer from Karnataka, who was born in 1509 and died in 1609. The great poet hailed from Haveri district of the southern state and is known for his devotional songs and Ugabhoga, compositions in the Kannada language for Carnatic music.
Like other poets and saints associated with the Haridasa movement, he used simple Kannada language and native metrical forms for his compositions. Originally, Kanakadasa was named Thimmappa Nayaka. He belonged to a shepherd Kuruba caste of Kaginele in Haveri district. Born in Baada village, near Bankapura, Kanakadasa was a warrior at Bankapura fort.
Based on one of his compositions, it is interpreted that he was seriously injured in a battle and was miraculously saved. After this life-threatening incident, he gave up his job as a warrior and devoted himself to composing music, writing literature and explaining philosophy to the common man. His early work includes poems like Narasimha stotra, Ramadhyana Mantra, and Mohanatarangini.
The Haridasas were the Vaishnava saints of Karnataka, who were further classified into the Vyaasakuta and Daasakuta. The Vyaasakuta were the pontifical saints known for their scholarship and exposition of Madhva's philosophy, usually of higher castes. The Daasakuta were the travelling saint disciples of the Vyaasakuta sanyasins. They were talented singers and composers and used classical music and the Kannada language as a medium to propagate the teachings and philosophy of the Dvaita school of thought to the common people.
Kanakadasa was the disciple of Vyasatirtha Swamiji, who hailed from Udupi.
The occasion of Kanakadasa Jayanthi is celebrated by the Bharatha Samskriti Prathishtana every year on the birth anniversary of the great poet. In order to pay tribute to the saint of the sixteenth century, the Government of Karnataka also declares the birthday of Kanakadasa as a state holiday.