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By Swami Harshananda


Many a Hindu scripture declares that great saints often camouflage themselves as dull or eccentric persons, to avoid being harassed by self-seeking followers. One such great saint was Jadabharata, ‘Bharata, the Dull’.

Bharata, the son of Rṣabhadeva and Jayantī, was a great emperor whose extraordinary rule got this land of India, the name ‘Bharatavarṣa’ or ‘Bhārata’. In his old-age he entrusted his empire to his sons and retired to the forest for tapas. One day while taking his bath in the river, he chanced to come across a pregnant deer which gave birth to a cub and died. He brought the deer-cub to his hermitage and started rearing it. He was so much attached to it that even at the time of his death, his mind was brooding over it. As a result, he was reborn as a deer. After death he was born again as the son of a saintly brāhmaṇa. Though full of spiritual wisdom, he used to roam

about like a jaḍa or a dullard and thus he was nicknamed ‘Jadabharata’.

Once he was taken captive by the soldiers of a king, Vṛṣala by name, who tried to sacrifice him to Kālī in a forest temple. However, the fierce goddess manifested herself and killed all of them, saving Jaḍabharata’s life.

At another time, the palanquin-bearers of the king Rahugaṇa forcibly employed him as one of the bearers. When his uneven ways of walking started rocking the palanquin, the king got annoyed and scolded him. But his reply couched in highly Vedāntic terms, surprised the king who begged for pardon. He requested the sage to teach him spiritual wisdom.

Jagannāthadāsa (A. D. 1728-1809) (‘servant of the Lord of the world’)

The Haridāsas (‘servants of God’) of Karnataka have carved for themselves an important place in the Bhakti Movement that helped the rejuvenation of Hinduism in medieval India. The four, most important, of these are: Purandaradāsa, Vijaya-dāsa, Gopāladāsa and Jagannāthadāsa.

His original name was Srinivāsā-cārya. Though born in a small village called Byāgavaṭṭe near Mānavi in the Raichur district of Karnataka, he lived most of the time in the latter place. His house has now been converted into his shrine.

Srīnivāsācārya was a born genius in composing poems in Sanskrit. In course of time he acquired astounding scholarship in the scriptures, especially of the dvaita school of Madhvācārya (A. D. 1197-1276). Arrogance of scholarship made him slight Vijayadāsa (A. D. 1682-1755) as a result of

which he contacted a severe disease of the stomach. By divine intervention he was directed to go to Vijayadāsa himself for succour. Vijayadāsa sent him to his own disciple Gopāladāsa who not only cured him but also initiated him into the Order of the Haridāsas christening him as ‘Jagannātha-Vitṭhaladāsa’ or, more popularly, ‘Jagannāthadāsa’. This was in A. D. 1754.

Jagannāthadāsa has composed many works, the magnum opus being the Sriharikathāmrtasāra which he is said to have completed in his 82nd year! It is a voluminous poetical composition of a thousand verses in Kannada, in the meter called ‘bhāminīṣaṭpadī’. He has also composed more than seven hundred songs —both devotional and didactic—in the Kannada language.

His biographers have credited him with many psychic and supernatural powers.

See also DĀSAKUTA.


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore