Kanakadasa was contemporary to Purandaradasa and both have dedicated many of their compositions to Dasa Sahitya. He was disciple of Sri Vyasarajaru of Dvaita tradition. He was a Kuruba Gowda (warrior community) by birth, well trained and proficient in war fare. Once he lost a war even after fight courageously but miraculously escaped being killed in the war. That incident made him disillusioned with the worldly matters. From then on he caught the path of spirituality and started adoring Lord Adi Kesava and requesting Him for wisdom and enlightenment. He went to Sri Vyasarajaru and requested him to accept him as hid disciple.
Once his guru Vyasarajaru advised him to perform a pilgrimage to the famous Udupi temple which enshrined Lord Krishna in the form of a small kid, holding the butter milk churning stick. Udupi is the Karma Bhoomi of Sriman Madhva, the chief proponent of the Dvaita philosophy. According to legend, Sriman Madhva rescued a ship in distress near the coast of Udupi. He signaled the ship to safety by waving a lamp. Convinced that it was through the grace of Sriman Madhva that the ship was saved, the captain wished to offer him a gift and requested Sriman Madhva to take whatever he needed from the ship. Madhva chose a clay (gopi-chandana) lump from the lot that is used for the ship’s ballast. Upon washing the clay, Sriman Madhva discovered a beautiful Idol of Sri Krishna, which He personally carried to Udupi and consecrated it in a temple and began worshipping.
Kanakadasa on the advice of his guru came to Udupi, a few casteist Brahmin priests and attendants did not allow him to enter the main temple, and turned him back. Dejected and sad that he could not have the darshana of Lord; Kanakadasa sat behind the temple and started singing songs in praise of the Lord Sri Krishna. He was completely lost singing the glory of Lord and pleading Him to shower His mercy and bless him with a vision of His beautiful face. He did not ask for any material or worldly pleasures, all he wanted was just to have darshana of the Lord.
Suddenly the earth trembled and the western outer wall crumbled and the slabs of stone in the inner wall of the sanctum sanctorum cracked open. The idol of Sri Krishna which was originally facing east turned around and faced Kanakadasa, who was sitting behind the temple. Tears tumbled down the eyes of Kanakadasa as he beheld the idol of his Lord Sri Krishna, seemingly beaming at him. The casteist Brahmin priests and attendants who had denied entry to this great soul came and fell at his feet and asked for his forgiveness. Lord Krishna did not speak even a word, but yet demonstrated through this event that devotion alone is supreme than caste and creed.
Even today, the idol in the sanctum faces west. The crack that appeared on the wall of the sanctum sanctorum has been replaced with a window which is called “Kanakana Kindi” and every devotee who visits the temple; behold the beautiful idol through this window. In the place where Kanakadasa sat and sang his beautiful songs in praise of the Lord now stands a towering Gopura called “Kanaka Gopura” and offers a direct view of the Lord's idol inside the sanctum. Devotees visit this place in memory of this great saint and witness the icon of the Sri Krishna, who had turned around away from the priests blinded by distinctions of caste. His beautiful image is visible to all His dear devotees who have nothing but pure unadulterated love and devotion for Him.
Today on Kartika Masa Krishna Paksha, Trutiya is the appearance day of the great soul, Kanakadasa.