Sarvajna or ‘the one who knows all’ was a famous Kannada poet from the 16th century known for his Thripadis or three-line pomes. Sarvajna is reputed to have written 2000 poems on the topics of religion, idolatry, sophistry, astrology and Kannada culture.
Although the precise time in which Sarvajna lived is doubtful, due to presence of other Sarvajnas who also composed in the Triphadi metre, it is fairly well known that he lived in the 16th century, a few years before the decline of the Vijayanagar Empire.
The Birth of Sarvajna
The vachanas of Sarvajna dictate that he was born as the son of Basavarasa, a Shaiva Brahman from Masur in the district of Dharwar.
Basavarasa was on a pilgrimage to Kashi and myth holds that God Vishwanath told Basavarasa that he would be blessed by a son who would be virtuous and wise. Basavarasa met Mali, a potter’s widow, in a village called Ambalur and fell in love with her. Sarvajna was the fruit of their union.
His Early Life
Sarvajna’s real name was Pushpadatta. He defied his parents during his childhood, refusing to acknowledge them as their parents and told them that his real parents were Shiva and Parvati.
After being banished from his home Pushpadatta led the life of a nomad, and he travelled from one city of Karnataka to another, while chanting his verses and preaching about the Supreme Being.
It is believed that it was the listeners of Sarvajna, during his wanderings, who later documented the more than 2000 verses as gems of virtue, wisdom and terse prophecies.
His Contribution to Literature
Sarvajna had bound epigrams and idioms with lucidity of expression; and he restated, popularised and even questioned Vedantic principles through his work.
His riddles and prophecies still form a part of Kannada history as well as literature. One of his most famous Triphadis is the description of the Battle of Talikota which would ultimately lead to the downfall of the Vijayanagar Empire.
Sarvajna emphasised the necessity of a Guru, and he preached that caste and creed are mere words and that only a Guru could provide solutions to the problems in a man’s life.
Sarvajna also talked about the absurdity of certain customs through his poetry and declined that blind worship of statues in stone and clay could ever lead mankind towards the ultimate truth. He propagated Vairagya in order to achieve true happiness and eternal bliss. He described the purest form of meditation as the mingling of Bhakti and Jnan.