Lord Vishnu called Sage Naradha and asked him to go the world and preach about bhakthi marga as the people were suffering in the Kaliyug without knowing the right path. Sage Naradha then asked Vishnu what if he goes there and he too becomes like others due to the effect of Kali and does not do the preaching. Vishnu then told him that he would not get affected by Kali and if he does get affected he would come to his rescue. Hearing this Naradha agreed to Vishnu’s request and came to this world as Purandharadasa.
Purandharadasa was born in a Brahmin family in Purandhara ghat which near Pandharpur. He was named as Seenapa Nayakar. His parents did not have a kid for long time and they prayed to Lord Srinivasan of Tirumala and got this child, hence they named him as Seenapan. He was born in a very rich family and excelled in his studies. His parents then got him married to a girl called Lakshmi. After some time his parents passed away. Seenapan was blessed with one daughter and one son. Even though he was very rich, he was a miser and would never give anything to any one. He was running a pawnbroker shop and would trade on precious stones for his living. He would never give anything to any one and would not even invite his relatives for lunch or dinner. His wife Lakshmi was very pious and god fearing. She would always pray to Tulasi Devi asking her to show the right path to her husband.
One day Seenapan was sitting in his shop and an old Brahmin who was poor came to his shop. The old man told him that he was getting his daughter married and also performing upanayanam for his son. He then said that everyone in the village had told him that, Seenapan does a lot of charity and had come to ask him for some donation. Seenapan sent him off saying that he would not give him anything even though the old man was repeatedly trying to get something from him. After trying for almost 2 hours the old man gave up and went to the next street looking for someone else. On seeing a very big bungalow, he sat outside the house thinking that he would get some food as he was hungry by then. This happened to Seenapan’s house.
Lakshmi was then performing Tulasi pooja and on seeing the old Brahman went and prostrated him. The old man then told her that he was very hungry and asked if she would give him some food. He also told her that he has arranged for his daughters marriage and asked her to give him something for the same. She then took a costly nose stud and gave it to him. She then told him that her husband would be coming any time and if he happens to see her serving food to him he would get angry; so asked him to leave immediately. The old man then blessed her and left. He again came back to Seenapan’s shop to mortgage the nose stud. Seenapan on seeing this immediately found out that it belonged to his wife. He then asked the old man how he got this and the Brahman said that a lady from the next street gave it to him for his daughter’s marriage. Seenapan then told the old man that it belonged to his wife and said that he would check with her if she gave it to him and come back. He asked the old man to be seated and went to his house. Seenapan came home and screamed at Lakshmi with anger asking where the nose stud was. Looking at him Lakshmi was frightened and lied to him that it was inside. Not believing her Seenapan asked her to show it to him. Lakshmi then went inside and cried to Tulasi Devi. As she was crying she felt something falling in her hand and it was the nose stud. She immediately took it and showed it to Seenapan. He then came back to his shop but the Brahman was missing.
He then opened his locker and checked for the nose stud and that was missing too but the locker was intact. Seeing this he was confused and came back home and asked his wife what happened and who the old man was. She then confessed to him that the old man had come and asked from some donation for his daughter’s marriage and that she had given it to him. He then asked her how she got it again when he had locked it in the shop. Lakshmi said that she had pleaded Tulasi Devi to rescue her and that she had given it to her again. Seenapan then went out in search of the Brahman but could not find him anywhere. He then came back home and was looking at the nose stud. He then realised who he was and also understood that it was Lord Vishnu who had come as the old Brahman to rescue him and show him the right path. He then felt that he had wasted 30 years of his life and decided go in service of god by singing his praise. He then took a Tambura and left his house leaving all his wealth. Lakshmi too followed him with their children leaving everything behind. His relatives and neighbours came running behind him and asked him what happened and why he was leaving his house and going on the streets singing the praise of god. He said that he had wasted his life all along and was now going to Pandharpur to see lord Vitthal. His relatives then asked him how he would take care of his wife and how will he get his daughter married if he leaves all his assets and goes to Pandhari. Seenapan then told them that Vitthal will take care of his family as he is the one who has said “Yogakshemam Vahamyaham” (Which means “I will take care of my devotees”) Lakshmi then asked Seenapan if they could donate all their wealth to the poor and needy. Seenapan replied that nothing belonged to them and everything belonged to Vitthal and that how can they donate something that belonged to Vitthal and said that Vitthal would give it to whomever he wanted to.
Seenapan was now in search of a Guru. He had earlier been to Emperor Krishnadevaraya’s palace on the capacity of a precious stone merchant and Vyasarayar was the Raja Guru in the palace. Earlier during his visits he had never bothered to pay his respects to Vyasarayar but now wanted to make him as his guru. Seenapan went to Vyasarayar’s ashram and prostrated to him, Vyasarayar immediately got up and hugged him and told him that he knew that he would come to him one day and was waiting for the same and blessed him. He then named him as Purandaradasar. The Emperor Krishnadevarayar heard that Seenapan had deserted his 9 Crores of wealth and is now serving the Raja Guru Vyasarayar as his sishya. As he knew him well he came down to the ashram to meet him. He asked him what happened and why he had left worldly pleasures and come here. He then told him that he has been blessed by his guru and has now got the company of Haridassas and is happy singing the praise of Vitthal and that he was now happier than earlier. The king then prostrated to him and told him that he was a Gyani and has had the darshan of Vitthal and said that he would be happy even if he gets a small percentage of his bhakthi. After a few days Purandaradasar requested his guru’s permission to go on a Pandhari yatra as he wanted to badly see Vitthal who had shown him the path of namasankirthan. Vyasarayar then blessed him and asked him to go to Pandharpur.
Purandharadasar set out on a yatra to Pandhari and many bhakthas joined him on the way to Pandharpur. Dasar would perform Unjaverthi (Go on the streets singing the praise of god and collecting rice and dhal from the neighbourhood) and collect food for all of them and feed them every day. This way reached Pandharpur after a few days. On reaching Pandhari, Dasar had a dip in the holy river of Chandrabhaga and came running towards the Mahadhwar. He then prostrated at the Garuda Sthambam and came running towards the yogapeedam to have a darshan of Vitthal. Dasar then hugged Vitthal and was full of tears in his eyes. He then came to Rangashila (the mandap where people sing the praise of Vitthal) and prostrated to every person sitting there. Everyone there hugged him and gave him the thambura and asked him to sing. All of them too sang bhajans and namavallis along with Dasar. He then decided to stay in Pandhari and made a small hut for himself. He would perform Unjaverthi every day and feed his family. He would forever be in the temple singing bhajans and kirthans. Vitthal performed the marriage for his daughter and also the upanayanam for his son. Dasar then wanted to go on a yatra and asked Vitthal’s permission for the same. Vitthal then blessed him and he started on a yatra.
Dasar then toured the entire India and blessed everyone by his presence and his kirthans. He sang 5 lakhs kirthans and also preached about the importance of Namasankirthan. Dasar had a sishya, like Ekalavya for Dronocharya whom Dasar had never met. This sishya had written down all the kirthans of Purandaradasar and would recite the same everyday happily. He was not knowledgeable on carnatic music and others would tease him for singing badly. One day Dasar happened to pass by his house and he was reciting Dasar’s kirtans. Dasar then realised that someone was singing his kirthans inside the house and felt bad with the way he was singing. Dasar then thought to himself that he would not have sung these songs had he known someone would spoil the raga and thalas and sing his songs so badly. He then moved from there and to his dismay he found that he could not sing or speak any more. He then understood the reason behind it and went back to that house. He knocked the door and the man who was singing came and opened the door. On seeing Dasar he was surprised and asked him if he was Purandaradasar and once he knew who he was he prostrated to him and started singing and dancing and became delighted. Dasar then hugged him and thought he was his best sishya and immediately he got back his voice. He then came back to Pandharpur after visiting all holy places.
Purandaradasar wanted to teach his musical skills to someone before he leaves this world so that it could be passed on through generations. There was a dassi in Pandharpur who wanted to learn music and so he started teaching her music. He would go to her house and teach music to her. Seeing Dasar go to the dassi’s house everyday, a rumour spread about him in the village. Vitthal then decided to show the world about the real qualities of Dasar and performed a leela. One day a very costly jewellery of Vitthal was missing and as the priest could not find it they informed the police. The police started harassing and beating every one working in the temple to check who took it. One of the sweepers in the temple also happened to be the sweeper of that dassi. She then told the police that she had seen the jewel in the dassi’s house. The police then sent for her and questioned her. The dassi then told the police that it was Dasar who had given it to her. The police then arrested Purandaradasar and tied him to one of the pillars in Rangashila. Everyone was now waiting for the king to come and whip him. Dasar was quiet and thought that whatever was Vitthal’s wish will happen and there is no point trying to justify anything. The king then arrived and one of the police handed over the whip to the king. The king then asked Dasar to say in front of Vitthal if he had stolen the jewellery from the temple.
Dasar was quiet and did not reply. The king got angry and took the whip and started whipping him, asking why he was not even answering his question. However someone had pulled the whip from the king’s hand before it hit Dasar. The king turned back to see who had pulled the whip from him, but none of the soldiers behind him had the whip. They then found that the whip was inside the shrine with Vitthal. On seeing this, the king ordered the police to untie Dasar and prostrated to him and asked him to forgive him. The people who were speaking ill of him now understood about him and stopped speaking rumours about him.