Kanakadasa (1509 - 1607) was contemporary of Purandara and though he belonged to a socially low caste he rose to become a great Bhakthi saint. He wrote many devotional works like Haribhakthisara, Kalacharithre, Mohana Tarangini and others.
His faith in Adi Keshava of Kaginele was absolute and complete. He repudiated the distinctions of caste and creed, and conceded greatness only to the true devotee.
For, he alone is a true Jnani. Kanaka delighted in the total surrender to the will of God, for, in fact, nothing really belongs to the individual; “This body is yours; life within it is yours; the power in the ear, the vision in the eye, the pleasure of fellowship, and participating in the fragrance and the ebullition of life, and the enjoyment of the senses, all are Yours”.
The Haridasa tradition continued under Guru Raghavendra (1600-71) the great Sage of Manthralaya. Vijaya Dasa (1687 – 1755) and his disciples Mohana Dasa and Gopala Dasa (1721 – 1762) kept the Haridasa movement alive by their pious lives inspiring teachings and by their appealing Keerthanas and Suladis.
Helavanakatte Giriyamma was another contemporary of Vijaya Dasa who like Akka Mahadevi and Meera Bai shunned the mundane marriage and sought communion with her Lord Ranganatha.
Jagannatha Dasa (1728 – 1809) was a great Haridasa of the 18th century. He wrote Harikathamrithasara besides numerous Uga Bhogas, Keerthanas and Tathva Suvalis. He was a profound scholar and a master of caste and mellifluous Kannada.
The Bhakthi movement of Karnataka took many forms and shapes.
Yet, they were the expressions of the fundamental unity of Godhead. Religion should not be a squabble over trivial external details; it should, instead provide the true insight into the Reality.
It should promote better understanding between man and man, for humanity is the expression of the Divine.
The saints of the Bhakthi movement in Karnataka expounded religion in its simple form, shorn of its orthodox frills. They tried to purge the religion of its hypocrisy and obscurantism, its insularity, its exclusiveness.
Salvation is not a promise for a chosen few; it is a possibility for all.
Humanizing and democratizing religion was the greatest legacy of the Bhakthi saints.
Karnataka naturally enjoyed a unique tradition of religious tolerance and eclecticism. The rulers of Karnataka described themselves as Chatussamaya Samuddarana or the promoters of four religions. An inscription from Karnataka proclaims the unity of all religions in the following manner.
“He whom the shaivas adore as Shiva, the Vedantins recognise as Brahman, the Buddhists worship as Buddha, the dialecticians and Naiyayikas regard as the Agent, those well – versed in Jaina Sasanas perceive as Arhant, the Mimamsakas as Karma may that Hari, the Lord of the Universe, grant us the boons for which we pray”.
From next edition: The Vijayanagar Empire