The exact beginnings of the haridasa movement in the Kannada-speaking region have been disputed. Belur Keshavadasa, a noted Harikatha scholar, claimed in his book Karnataka Bhaktavijaya that the movement was inspired by saint Achalananda Dasa of Turvekere (in the modern Tumkur district) in the 9th century. However, neither the language used in Achalananda Dasa's compositions nor the discovery of a composition with the pen name "Achalanada Vitthala", which mentions the 13th-century philosopher Madhvacharya, lends support to the 9th-century theory. Naraharitirtha (1281), one of earliest disciples of Madhvacharya, is therefore considered the earliest haridasa to write Vaishnava compositions in Kannada. Secular topics were popular and included treatises on poetry (Sringararatnakara) and writings on natural sciences (Rattasutra), mathematics (Vyavaharaganita), fiction (Lilavati), grammar (Shabdamanidarpana), rhetoric (Udayadityalankara) and others.
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