Tatvada Padagalu (tatvada padagaLu) (ತತ್ವದ ಪದಗಳು) are songs that delineate basic tenets of philosophy. These songs belong to the oral tradition and they are communicated by musical renderings. They are often sung by nomadic singers to the accompaniment of native musical instruments. They are secular and preach human values even though they are contextualized within the parameters of a religion. Many of them such as Shishunala Shariff and Nabisaab are Muslims but they constitute the main stream of this tradition. The contribution of the Sufi tradition to the propagation and popularity of these songs is noteworthy. These singers are also interested in the basic questions of philosophy although they are not well versed in Sanskrit texts. Many of these singers are poets.

The origin of this tradition is traced back to the Veerashaiva saints of the twelfth century who wrote some songs in addition to the more renowned Vachanas. ‘Annana Padagalu’ by Ratnakaravarni is another example of a poet having composed songs like this. He has tried to bring the oral tradition to the main stream. Some philosophical texts by Veerashaiva seers such as Nijaguna Shivayogi, Muppina Shadakshari, Sarpabhushana Shivayogi, Balaleela Mahantha Shivayogi, and Chidanandaavadhuta are either in the form of songs or they are transformed in to songs. Very often these songs are couched in symbolic images that are submerged in the psyche of their listeners.

These songs acquired a greater spread during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A subaltern tradition subverting the rigid and caste based values has grown up around these songs. Kadakola Madivalappa, Shishunala Shariff, Nagalinga Yogi, Hassan Saab from Raichur, Khajaa Saaheba from Halasangi belonging to Bijapur district and Kaivara Naranappa from South Karnataka are in the forefront of this movement and they have contributed in their own way to the health of their communities.

Many of these singers belong to the downtrodden communities such as danDigi dAsaru, holidAsaru, gondaligaru etc. Veerashaivas in rural north Karnataka have their own orchestra of singers and move around the country side.

Of late, these songs are published in the written form and have reached the literate, urban audience. ‘Tatvada Padagalu’ published by the Karnataka Sahitya Academy and ‘Halavu Totada Huugalu’ published by Karnataka Janapada and Yakshagana Academy are huge compilations of songs belonging to this genre.



1.      ‘Halavu Totada Huugalu’, edited by Kalegowda Nagavara and G.V.Anandamurthy, 2000, Janapada mattu Yakshagana Academy , Bangalore .

2.      ‘Tatvada padagalu’, Edited by O.L.Nagabhushanaswamy and others, 2001, Karnataka Sahitya Academy , Bangalore

3.      ‘Barako pada barako’(Songs of Shishunala Shariff) edited by Shivananda Gubbannanavar, Dharawada.


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