Purandara Dāsa is one of the most prominent composers of Carnatic music and is widely regarded as the "Grandfather of Carnatic Music". Purandara Dasa addressed social issues in addition to worship in his compositions, a practice emulated by his younger contemporary, Kanakadasa. Purandara Dasa's Carnatic music compositions are mostly in Kannada; some are in Sanskrit. He signed his compositions with the mudra, "Purandara Vittala" (Vittala is one of the incarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu).
According to popular belief, he was led to devote himself to musical composition by a miraculous incident which made the heretofore greedy and miserly merchant realize the worthlessness of his attachment to worldly possessions. At 30 years of age, he gave away all his wealth to charity and together with his family left his house to lead the life of a wandering minstrel to proselytise religion. In his very first song composition, he laments his wasted life of indulgence. It begins with the words 'Ana lae kara' in the Shuddha Savaeri raga, set to Triputa tala. In the course of his wandering he met the holy sage Vyasatirtha, guru of Krishnadevaraya, the emperor of Vijayanagara kingdom.
Purandara Dasa traveled extensively through the length and breadth of the Vijayanagara empire in Karnataka, Tirupati, Pandharapura composing and rendering soul stirring songs in praise of god. He spent his last years in Hampi and also sang in Krishnadevaraya's durbar. The mantapa (mandap) in which he stayed is known as Purandara Dasa Mantapa (mandap) in Hampi. There are around 4.75 lakh kirtanas attributed to him.
Purandara Dasa systematized the method of teaching Carnatic music which is followed to the present day. He introduced the raga Mayamalavagowla as the basic scale for music instruction and fashioned series of graded lessons such as swaravalis, janta swaras, alankaras, lakshana geetas, prabandhas, ugabhogas, daatu varase, geeta, sooladis and kritis. Another of his important contributions was the fusion of bhava, raga, and laya in his compositions. Purandara Dasa was the first composer to include comments on ordinary daily life in song compositions. He used elements of colloquial language for his lyrics. He introduced folk ragas into the mainstream, setting his lyrics to tunes/ragas of his day so that even a common man could learn and sing them. He also composed a large number of lakshya and lakshana geetas, many of which are sung to this day. His sooladis are musical masterpieces and are the standard for raga lakshana. Scholars attribute the standardization of varna mettus entirely to Purandara Dasa.
Purandara Dasa was a vaggeyakara (performer), a lakshanakara (musicologist), and the founder of musical pedagogy. For all these reasons and the enormous influence that he had on Carnatic music, musicologists call him the "Sangeeta Pitamaha" (grandfather) of Carnatic music.
Purandara Dasa had great influence on Hindustani music. He explained the essence of Upanishads, Vedas, in simple Kannada. His Keerthanas have simple lessons on leading a noble life.Purandara Dasa was aware of the social evils of the period: decline of moral standards and deterioration of the culture of the people and the havoc played by casteism. People were going after several gods one after other for selfish reasons, valued woman, gold and land more than the human life, immersed in blind beliefs. Purandara Dasa traveled extensively for fighting these evils by awakening spirituality, moulding the culture and bringing about social reformation through his literature and compositions. It is said that saint Thyagaraja was greatly inspired byPurandara Dasa.