Jagadguru Shrimad Vallbhacharyaji (Shri Mahaprabhuji)
Shri Mahaprabhuji is the initiator of Pushtimarg. He was born in the year 1478 A.D. in a small village situated in the state of Andhra Pradesh (India). His father was Shri Laxman Bhattji and mother was Shrimati Illamaji. From the very beginning, Shri Vallabh was very dear to everyone, that is why he was named ‘Vallabh’ which in Sanskrit means ‘The Loved One’.
The Birth of Shri Vallabh
There is a very interesting tale connected to the birth of Shri Vallabhacharyaji. His parents were on their way to their native village from Banaras (Varanasi) when Shri Illamaji experienced labour pains in the forest of Champa (Champaranya). There she gave birth to Shri Vallabh.But both Shri Laxman Bhattji and Illamaji thought that the child was born dead and so they put him under a tree and advanced on their journey. At might Shri Thakurji gave a dream to Shri Illamaji that he himself was born as her child.On hearing this Shri Illamaji and Shri Laxman Bhattji rushed to the tree where they had placed Shri Vallabh.There they saw that Shri Vallabh was playing happily while a ring of fire had encircled him to protect him.As Shri Illamaji neared Shri Vallabh the ring automatically disappeared and she took Shri Vallabh into her lap.
His Childhood & Education
In his childhood Shri Vallabh didn’t play with toys like the ordinary children but liked to play with idols of Shri Krishna or his father’s books. From a very small age he was very bright.He completed the study of all the four vedas,the upanishads and the six darshans (philosophies) at a tender of only five years. He completed his education at Banaras. He defeated many learned men at a very small age of only thirteen years.He decided to start a parikrama of India when he was only eleven years old.He completed three such parikramas during his lifetime. He used to wear only a dhoti and a uparana and he always remained barefoot during his life.
Construction of the Temple at Jatipura and starting of Sewa Pranalika
Shri Vallabh came to the Giriraj parvat at Jatipura during his parikrama. Here Shri Govardhannathji ordered Shri Vallabh to build a temple for him. Shriji had also given a dream to a vaishnav (Shri Puranmal Kshatri) in Punjab to come to Jatipura. He came to Jatipura and he became a sevak (devotee) of Shri Vallabh who later ordered him to construct a temple for Shriji at Govardhan parvat. In this temple Shri Vallabh started the sewa pranalika which to this day is carried on by the vaishnavas of Pushtimarg and thus our beautiful Pushtimarg was born.
Some interesting incidents
Once when Shri Vallabh went to Ujjain he stayed at the Ashram of sage Sandipani. The ashram was situated at a very barren area, there was not a single tree nearby. When Shri Vallabh was doing Sandhya-vandan a leaf from a peepal tree fell infront of him. Shri Vallabh inserted into the soil and poured some water and a miracle happened, instantly a large green peepal tree sprung from the ground! Shri Vallabh completed his Bhagvat parayan beneath this tree. Once when Shri Vallabh went to Bahulavan the local Vrajwasis complained to him that the Muslim commander did now let them worship the idol of the cow Bahula arguing that he would allow them to worship it only if the stone idol ate grass. Shri Vallabh called the Muslim commander and infornt of him kept a small bunch of grass near the tail of the idol Bahula. To the astonishment of the commander the idol turned it’s neck and ate the bunch!! On seeing this the commander apologised to Shri Vallabh and lifted the ban on the worship of the idol. There are many such incidents but only a couple have been shown here.
When Shri Vallabh was 52 years old Shriji ordered him to leave this world and come to Him.Before this Shriji had come twice infront of Shri Vallabh with this demand but had returned as Shri Vallabh insisted that some important work was still to be done. The time Shri Vallabh gave respect to Shriji’s wish and decided to do the Asur Vyamoha Leela (leave this world).He went to the Hanuman ghat in Varanasi and took a maun vrat for 17 days. At the completion of this period he called both his sons and wrote a stotra of 31/2 shlokas known as the Shiksha Shloki as the final message to them. After giving his final teaching to his children and all the vaishnava devotees he entered the river Ganges and a brilliant flame arose from the spot and he ascended to Gauloka (heaven of lord Vishnu).He did the Asur-Vyamoha Leela on the day of Rath Yatra (Ashadh Sud 2). During his life span he wrote 39 granthas and innumerable Kirtans.
The wife of Shri Vallabh as Shri Mahalaxmi Vahuji who is also known “Akkaji” in Pushtimarg. Shri Vallabh had two sons. Shri Gopinathji and Shri Vitthalnathji (Shri Gusainji).It was Shri Gusainji who, after the Asur-Vyamoha Leela of Shri Vallabh and the union of Shri Gopinathji with lord Jagannathji of Puri, spread the Sampradaya to all the different parts of the country.
Click here to read more about Immense Achievement of Shri Vallabh
Shri Yamuna Maharaniji
In Pushti Marg, Shri Yamunaji occupies the most important position as the “beloved of Shri Nathji”. She is the very embodiment of divine grace. Shrimada Vallabhacharyaji gained his first darshan of the Lord through Her grace.
When he first came to Vraj, AcharyaShri rested on the shores of the holy river – Yamunaji. The place where he first rested, was (at that time) just outside the small village of Gokul. There, the goddess appeared before him and through Her grace, Acharyaji was able to talk directly to the Lord Himself.
This place is now hallowed as the Thakurani Ghat – the bathing place of the Queen (ie Shri Yamunaji). It is here, that the Lord came to talk directly to Shri Acharyaji at midnight on the 11th day of the bright fortnight of the month of Shravan. At this time, the Lord gave Vallabhacharyaji the key to free souls from this wicked age of Kaliyuga.
As Shri Yamunaji was the intermediary for this first meeting, AcharyaShri expressed his gratitude to Her by writing his famous Yamunashtaka. Of his 16 main works, written for advising and guiding his devotees, this is probably the most important hymn.
Daughter of the Lord Surya (Sun) and sister of Lord Yama (God of death), the goddess is said to have come down from the heavens to bless the world. As she first came to rest on the peaks of the mountain Kalinda (in the Himalayas), She is also known as Kalindi. From Her Himalayan abode, She flows through the North-Indian Gangetic plains, passing through some beautiful scenery, flowing past many ancient and modern capitals of India (eg. Hastinapur, Delhi and Agra) before merging with the Ganges at Prayag. Also called “Triveni Sangam” (confluence of the three rivers), the three main rivers of India – Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati meet at a hallowed spot. Shri Mahaprabhuji was so impressed by the power of the place, he decided to have a house built near the area at Adel. There are many festivals and major religious celebrations celebrated on the banks of the confluence.
Shri Yamunaji did strict penance to attain the Lord as Her husband. When the Lord established Dwarka as His capital, He married Shri Yamunaji as “Kalindi”. Traditionally, she is one of the eight chief wives of Lord Shri Dwarikadhish.
In Indian philosophy, Ganges is the goddess of action, Sarasvati is the Goddess of knowledge and Yamunaji is the goddess of bhakti – devotion. Hence, it was only right that She should be chosen as the patron goddess of Pushti Marg which relies so heavily on divine grace and bhakti.
Shri Gusainji [Shri Vitthalnathji]
Gusainji was the younger son of Vallabhacharya. His real name was Vitthalnath. He was born in 1516 at Charnat near Varanasi. Gusainji as Vithalnathji is mentioned in Hindu scriptures as follows: In Agni Purana, in a chapter titled “Bhavishiyotar” (Future Avatar (birth)), God himself professed that: “In future I will come as son of Shree Vallabh and I will be known as Shree Vithal.”
Gusainji led the sect Pushtimarg, the sect founded by his father after the latter’s death. Based on the order of Shrinathji Krishna’s image currently residing in Nathadwara near Udaipur – Rajashtan – India), Gusainji included variation of Bhog (feasts & meals), Raag (music) and Shringaar (adorations) into the seva (day to day services) of Shrinathji
Once during the height of North Indian summer, Shri Gusaiji was travelling between Gokul and Jatipura by palanquin at mid-day. Suddenly, the retinue came to a stop and there were muffled sounds of an argument at the front. Impatient to be with Lord ShriNathji, Shri Gusaiji ordered the nearest servant to go and investigate the cause of the hold-up. The man soon returned and with due humility reported, “Maharaj, there is an old muslim woman sitting in the middle of the road and she refuses to move. She says she is very thirsty and too parched to move on.”
Instinctively, Shri Gusaiji said, “If the woman is thirsty, give her some water!!” With folded hands, the servant replied, “But we do not have any water in a separate disposable cask for her.” Being muslim, the high caste brahmin and vrajvasi servants of Shri Gusaiji felt they would be defiled if they helped her move bodily (touch of non-hindus and low caste people was considered to be impure) and, if they gave her one of their own water bottles/ casks, that item would be defiled too and could not than be reused by them.
Shri Gusaiji immediately picked up a jariji at hand and got out of the palanquin. He walked over to the old woman and gave her with his own hands. He spoke kindly to her and seeing that there was still some water left in the jariji, he left it with the woman so that she would not suffer from thirst till she got home.
Having sated her thirst, the woman moved on, but as the retinue passed her, she asked one of the servants who the kind person was that helped her. Upon finding out it was the great acharya from Gokul himself !, the woman said, “Ajatak Gopal sune thai. Aja dekhi hai.” (Till now I had heard of the Lord Gopal (Krshna as a cow-heard), today I have actually seen him.”
After reaching Jatipura, Shri Gusaiji first went to meet his beloved Shri Nathji and than set down to converse with the vaishnavs there. Puzzled by the earlier incidence, one of the servants asked, “My lord, please explain to me why you gave away the Lord’s own gold jariji, and that to a poor old muslim woman?”
With a smile, Shri Gusaiji replied, “You saw an “poor, old, muslim, woman.” I saw the Lord sitting in the middle of the road, and He was thirsty. Every soul is imbibed with the Lord’s spirit. Our Vishudhadvait philosophy teaches us that every particle of this universe is a part of the Lord. How can I than see the old woman in the road as anything other than the Lord Himself ?”
As the man mused over this, Shri Gusaiji continued, “The jariji is inconsequential in this. I did not even notice that it was made of gold. (It was the jariji of Shri Navnitpriyaji who was travelling with Shri Gusaiji in his palanquin.) My main concern was that a soul was suffering from thirst in the middle of the afternoon, and that too during the summer ! What is the cost of a life compared to the cost of a jari ?”
It was this boundless compassion, that was the trademark of our beloved Shri Gusaiji. His wit, common sense and intelligence were beyond compare.
Gusaiji was the younger son of Shri Vallabhacharyaji and Shri MahaLakshmi-mataji. Along with his elder brother Gopinathji, he grew up in the pious environment of his father’s new sect. There were a large number of very intelligent and very dedicated devotees who helped raise the two sons of Shri Vallabh. After his father and brother, Shri Gusaiji ascended to the guru gadi of Pushti Marg. He sired seven sons and two daughters. During his own lifetime, he decided to make Gokul his head-quarters and to make the matters of inheritance as smooth as possible, he gave each of his sons one of the sacred icons and established a separate haveli for each one of them in Gokul. Shri Nathji remained at Jatipura during Shri Gusaiji’s lifetime.
Shri Gusaiji was an exceptional person who managed to expand the popularity of the sect in a way very differently to his father and brother. He had a knack of explaining the most difficult philosophical point in very simple terms. Even the most ordinary people could understand and appreciate his teachings. His refined tastes and excellent abilities to explain philosophical matters helped him win some very powerful friends in the political circles of the times. Some of his devotees included members of the imperial family at Agra, members of the imperial court, and several important Hindu royal families of the times.
Gusaiji’s first meeting with the emperor Akber is highlighted to explain the some of the most profound philosophical ideas of the marg and helps explain how he managed to win so many disciples.
Once, Birbal’s daughter saw her father pacing up and down his mansion, looking very worried indeed. Hoping to lift his spirits, she asked, “Father, what could be worrying the great minister of emperor Akber so much that he is unable to eat and sleep tonight ?” Hoping to simply share his thoughts, he caressed her with a fatherly smile and said, “Daughter, the puzzle before me has no logical answer and it is a question that has been around since time immemorial.” “What question can there be that my father’s wit can not crack ?” asked his intelligent daughter.
Emperor Akber was an exceptionally curious man. He was forever grappling with the nature of God and divinity. Desirous of knowing more, he asked his most favoured minister, Birbal, “How can one get to see God ?” Birbal asked everyone he could think of. He spent a lot of time searching out the most well-known pundits and holy-men of the era to find a logical, understandable reason that was beyond sectarian philosophy. Even after a comprehensive search, Birbal was unable to find a satisfying answer.
Birbal’s daughter thought about it a while and than said, “I am unable to answer the question, but know a man who can. My guruji, Shri Gusaiji of Gokul, is an exceptional man and he will be able to help.”
Having absolute faith in his daughter’s judgement, when the emperor asked Bribal for an answer to his investigations, Birbal bowed low and answered, “The only way to answer this question is to go and speak in person to the great Gusaiji of Gokul.”
Akber was a great man and his desire for knowledge was sincere. He immediately organised a visit to Gokul and dressed in the guise of an ordinary person to avoid unnecessary fuss. Akber and his retinue came to Gokul at a time when Shri Gusaiji was performing his snan-sandhya (ritual bath and prayers, performed 3 times a day). The royal party waited patiently for him to finish. After finishing his rituals, Shri Gusaiji saw Akber was waiting for him, disguised though he was, Shri Gusaiji smiled, called him over and asked him “What brings the emperor of Agra to Gokul?”
Surprised, but unfazed, Akber approached Shri Gusaiji and with folded hands, said, “Dear sir, I would like to find out how I can meet the Lord.”
“It is as simple as this visit of yours to Gokul.” Seeing the emperor a little puzzled, Shri Gusaiji elaborated on the answer. “Just think how complicated the procedure is to arrange a meeting with the emperor ! I would have to speak to so many people and write many letters to arrange a single date. And, even after having arranged it all, if for what ever reason you cancel the date, I would have to go through the process afresh. Yet, if the emperor wishes to see a person, can anyone stand in his way ?” Pausing to let his first point sink in, Shri Gusaiji carried on, “Similarly, a soul can struggle to see God for several lifetimes, and yet may or may not achieve this goal. But, if the Lord God wishes to bestow His grace upon a soul, can anyone stop Him ? Lord’s grace is infinite and is totally at His disposal. If the Lord wishes to see a soul, He will Himself grace the soul and come before him / her as you have come to me !!”
Impressed by this very simple and practical answer to his question, Akber made gift of a magnificent diamond to mark the occasion. The two men met again on a number of occasions and at one point, Shri Gusaiji made a special arrangement for the non-hindu emperor to have a darshan of the Lord ShriNathji during Sharad Purnima.
Shri Gusaiji was invited to the court at Agra on a number of occasions. Clothes he wore on such visits have inspired the shringar that is still worn by ShriNathji on Shri Gusaiji’s birthday each year. The favourite food of the emperor, jalebi, also made an entry into the repertoire of the haveli and is offered as a special bhog on the day of the Shri Gusaiji-ka-uttsava. Several other features of the Mogul court have been integrated into the shringar and bhog of our sect. One of the most significant aspect is the “saharo” worn by the Lord during a “marriage” festival. This is of pure Mogul origin and resembles the crown once worn by Chinese and Mongol emperors. Now, the sahero is worn by muslim, Rajput and Sikh bridegrooms in North India during the wedding. Ever a practical man, Shri Gausaiji turned the downward “veil” of the saharo into in upward flurish so that the Thakorji’s face may not be obscured during the darshan.
The Taj-begum (Maharani Herakuvar bai – princess of Amber and chief queen of Akber) was an ardent disciple of Shri Gusaiji, as was Birbal, Raja Mansingh (brother of the empress), and Ajabkuvarbai (of Mewari royal family). The sect grew under the protection amd influence of such powerful patrons. Later, turbulent rule of Jahangir and during Auranzeb’s monstrous bigoted rule, it was the patronage of such powerful families that helped save the sacred icons of the sect. Most of the icons and the goswamies emigrated to Amer / Jaipur, Mewar and Marwad to escape the marauding armies of the new rulers of Delhi. The current haveli of Shri Nathji is reputed to stand on the very spot where Ajabkuvarbai’s palace used to stand.
Shri Gusaiji’s taste in life was far more luxurious than his father or his brother’s. This is reflected in the seva that has since been established in Pushti Marg. During his own time as the head of the sect, he added four more poet saints to the divine court of Shri Nathji and brought the final number of poet saints to eight. Several new havelies were added at this time and new festivals and rituals were added to the repertoire of the sect. As the sect was now sufficiently strong and populous enough, he even supplanted the temple servants at JatiPura from the Bengalis (vaishnavs of Chaitanya’s sect) to brahmins and vrajvasies who had converted to Pushti Marg. Some of the best known manoraths in our sect were also initiated during Shri Gusaiji’s tenure as Guruji of the sect.
Shri Gusaiji had many disciples around the country. His most celebrated disciples and their spiritual experiences are recorded in the 252 Vaishnav’s varta. Compiled by Shri Hariraiji, these vaishnavs are held up as the role models for all other vaishnavs to follow.
Param Pujya Vaishnavacharya Goswami SHRI VRAJESHKUMARJI MAHARAJSHRI (Kadi – Amdavad)
Founder / Adhyaksh
Vaishnavacharya Goswami Shri Dwarkeshlalji Mahodaya (Amdavad – Kadi)