The Life of Vallabhacharya

Vallabhacharya, the main exponent of shuddhadvaita philosophy was born in Bihar in the village of Champaranya to a Vellanateeya Telugu Brahmin family. The precise year of his birth accepted by western academics and the tradition alike designate 1479 A.D. as Vallabha’s birth date.

According to traditional narrations within the sect, Vallabha, an incarnation of Agni, the fire God, was born to Lakshman and Illamagaru Bhatta as a divine blessing in appreciation for their lineage completing 100 soma-yagyas.

Unfortunately the birth of Vallabha came at a time of considerable strife for the residence of Varanasi. Due to the fear of invasion by Muslims, Lakshman and his wife decided to migrate back to their native city of Kakarwad. On their travels, Illamagaru gave birth to Vallabha in Champaranya.

Regarding the birth of Vallabha there are numerous versions of the telling, some sources claim that during the birth of the baby, a palace of gold appeared and divine beings from celestial worlds showered flowers and sang and praised the divine child. Embarrassed of this event the parents disowned the baby under a tree and continued their travels.

A less polemical narration affirms that Vallabha was sadly a still born child. Disheartened by the circumstance the parents placed the child under a tree and heavy heartedly continued their journey.

In a dream one night, tradition narrates, Sri Krsna appeared before Lakshman and Illamagaru and instructed them to go back and collect the baby. Following Sri Krsna’s instruction they retraced their steps and found the deserted child alive around a ring of fire, ecstatic to see her child alive, Illamagaru rushed to collect her new born.

Learning that peace had returned to Banares, Lakshman with his family decided to return back home, on their way they stopped ato Chaudanagar to perform the ritualistic rites for the new born child, here they named the child ‘Vallabha’.

Vallabha, at a young age showed great intelligence and interest in spirituality. Between the ages of six and eight, he was initiated with the sacred thread and left to study the ancient texts under the tutelage of Narayana Bhatt. A text, Nijavarta written by Sri Gokulnathji[1] asserts that young Vallabha mastered all Vedic scriptures within four months. Unfortunately in Vallabha’s eleventh year he lost his father and after a short while and with the reluctant agreement of his mother he left for pilgrimage.

During his travels he gained much popularity, many followers and defeated many individuals varying in their respective school of thought. Vallabha was conferred the title of ‘Acharya’, the supreme teacher and 7,000 gold coins[2] during a grand debate amongst various schools where he came out victorious in the court of King Krsnadeva Rai.

He founded the most notable and central to his belief system the image of Sri Krsna in the form of Srinathji hidden within Govardhan Hill. Tradition narrates that Vallabha instructed by Sri Krsna, constructed a temple and installed the deity therein.

Furthermore, after installing the deity it is suggested that Sri Krsna commanded Vallabha to propagate the correct way of worshipping his images and disseminate the true purport of all scriptures and gain the grace of God, through the path of Pushti Marg, the past of Grace, using the process of Brahma sambandh, initiation into having a relationship with God.

Around the time of construction and installation of the Srinathji deity, Vallabha, unlike previous acharyas who took the path of renunciation, married at the age of 32 to Mahalakshmi who bore two sons, Gopinathji (1510) and Vithalnathji (1515). Vithalnathji later became known as the great establisher of various services and refiner of the Pusti practice.

Altogether Vallabha had travelled the length of India three times whilst simultaneously establishing 84 baithaks across India[3], where Vallabha would preach his doctrine and elucidate on the scriptures.

In his final years Vallabhacharya spent his time arguably exclusively at Banares with his family and close disciples whilst composing the fundamental works of his philosophy and practice. Altogether there are eighty four works, regrettably some of which have now been lost in time.

Pushti literature narrates that at the age of fifty two, Vallabha on the behest of Sri Krsna and satisfied with accomplishing his mission gave one final instruction and then submerged himself into the river Ganges from Hanuman ghat whilst reciting gopi geet verses from the Srimad Bhagavatam. A bright light was then seen by numerous spectators ascending to heaven from the waters and then finally absorbed in the sky.

[1] The fourth grandson of Sri Vallabhacharya
[2] Majority of which he used to clear family debt, provide for his family, and the rest donated to priests and mytics, with leaving himself enough to live just on.
[3] translated loosely as seats of preaching

The copyright of the article The Life of Vallabhacharya is owned by the Jigyasa Team. Permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

Author: Makwana

A student of Sanatan Vedic Dharma

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