The origins of South Indian music are traced to prehistoric times. Musical instruments form a favorite subject for sculptors, painters and the authors of ancient Tamil and Sanskrit texts.
Purandara Dasa, who belonged to a sect of Vishnu worshippers called the Haridasas (also referred to as Dasa Kootas), is referred to as the Pitamaha (Grandsire) of Carnatic music. It was he who codified the beginners’ lessons and also gave the art a concrete syllabus for learning that is followed till date with very minor variations. Purandara was a prolific composer, but unfortunately in the chaos that prevailed in the years after his death owing to the break up of the Vijayanagar empire, the tunes of most of his works were lost though the lyrics of many songs have survived. These are now sung in various tunes by present day musicians.
A senior contemporary of Purandara Dasa was Talapaka Annamacharya (1408/1424-1503) who composed entirely on the deities of the Tirumala temple. Several of his songs were discovered engraved on copper plates in a sealed chamber in the Tirumala temple at the turn of the last century. Though some of the plates mention the ragas in which the songs were originally set, the absence of any notation meant that the music of Annamacharya is now lost. His songs were tuned by several contemporary scholars and composers. Annamacharya is referred to as the Pada Kavita Pitamaha, or the Grandsire of the Pada, which is a form of song. Certainly, it is in his works that one comes across for the first time the use of a pallavi (beginning line) and several charanams (verses). Annamacharya was among the earliest composers whose works adhered to alliteration and prosody.