MahaPrabhu Shri Vallabhacharyaji was born in the sacred forest of Champaranya in Madhya Predesh, Central India. Born in to a very learned family of Brahmins from South India, he spent much of his early life in North India, in the holy city of Varanasi. Born with great innate abilities, Vallabhacharyaji mastered all the Vedas, Purans and Agamas at a tender age. By the age eleven he was already preaching and winning debates on principles which were later consolidated as Brahmavada.
Following in the footsteps of the great sages before him, he decided to circumbulate the motherland and visit all the sacred sites in India. In his life time, Shri Vallabhacharyaji completed three and a half such journeys around India.
Impressing learned pundits and scholars around India, Vallabhacharyaji came to the South Indian Empire of King Krishnadev-rai. The court at Vidyanagar was debating the merits of various Vedic philosophies. The heated debate seemed at a dead-lock and no-one seemed to have answers that would satisfy the king. Shri Vallabhacharyaji came late in to the debate but within seven days won the arguments for his philosophy of Shudhadviata.
Immensely impressed by the young mans intelligence and clarity of thought, the assembled pundits and the Krishnadev Rai announced him as an "Acharya" - a great teacher / intellect - and showered him with gold (kanakabhisheka). Ever mindful of the dangers of hoarding wealth, Shri Vallabhacharyaji gave away a bulk of the wealth to the assembled brahmins. A portion was sent to his uncle to settle the debts incurred by his father for numerous Soma Yagnas, a small portion was set aside to care for his ageing mother and out of the thousands offered to him, he only kept only seven coins for making jewellery for the icons in his home shrine.
Later, when in central India, Vallabhacharyaji had a vision of the Lord requesting him to come over towards the Vraj in western India. Vallabhacharyaji arrived in Vraj during the holy month of Shravan. The Lord revealed Himself to him on the 11th day of the bright fortnight of Shravan on the banks of the sacred Yamuna in the ancient village of Gokul. The Lord gave him a sacred mantra for initiating people in to "Pushti Marg", the Path of Grace. Later, Shri Vallahacharyaji went to the sacred mountain, "Govardhan" in the heart of Vraj, and the Lord revealed himself in a material / physical form on this mountain. In accordance with the Lords wishes, Shri Vallabh set up a small shrine for the Lord and requested his old teacher, Shri Madhevendra Yati, to carry out the worship whilst he carried on with his pilgrimage.
Shri Vallabh heard of how a muslim Kazi was forcefully converting Hindus at the Vishram Ghat in Mathura. It was the most important bathing ghat and any Hindu that came to bath there used to have his sacred thread taken away, his top knot removed and forced to grow a beard. Shri Vallabh went to Dehli and started to convert / re-convert muslims to Hinduism at its main gate. The pada-shah heard this and enquired as to why a Hindu guru was being so brave in his capital ! Shri Vallabh explained that if you have the right to convert, so have I ! Just as you don't like muslims to leave your fold, we dislike Hindus leaving ours. The king agreed and sent out a decree forbidding forced conversions. Hindus of Mathura rejoiced at this and thanked Shri Vallabh profusely for saving them from such conversion tactics.
Later text says the kazi set up a "Yantra - machine" to convert Hindus to muslims and Shri Vallbh developed a similar "machine" to convert muslims to Hinduism. "Yantra" set up by the Kazi may refer to an actual machine that chopped the hair and scared thread of the Hindus - thus rendering them "converts" in the eyes of those that saw them on the river front. Shri Vallabh's own yantra in Dehli may have shaved the bread of muslims and thus rendered them "converts" to those who saw them in the market.
While on his pillgrimage, Shri Vitthal-Nathji of Pandharpur in Maharastra, commanded Vallabhacharyaji to marry, so that a great spiritual lineage could be set up through him. Lord Vittal-Nathji also expressed a wish to be born in the family of the great Acharya. Vallabhacharyaji married Shrimati MahaLakshmiji and sired two great sons, Shri GopiNathji and Shri VitthalNathji (later known as Gusaiji). After his marriage, Vallabhacharyaji set up his household at two places - Adel, near the holy confluence of Ganges, Jamuna and the Sarasvati rivers - and at Charnat near Varanasi.
Vallabhacharyaji taught his disciples to develop a very intensely personal relationship with God. Be this in the form of parent - child, friends, lovers etc. These relationships should not be tainted by any selfish motives. Not even the motive to "see" what the God looks like in all His glory ! The Lord will do as He sees fit. IF he wants to show Himself, He will. Who are we to demand such a boon ? The main idea being, one should not ask anything of the Lord.
Just before the birth of his elder son, he had a vision that Balarama and Krshna (as
toddlers) coming to play with him on the banks of the river Yamuna. From than on, he
regarded Balarama and Krshna as his children and worshipped them accordingly. Though
housed at Adel, the increasing duties of the dynamic new sect,
Acharya-shri needed to
expand his activities and he now kept a permanent house at Vraj in addition to the house at Adel and Charnat.
Shri Mahaprabhuji recited the Shrimad Bhagvat Puran at 84 sacred sites around India. Spread out from the heights of the Himalaya, at KedarNath, to the Southern-most tip of India at Rameshwara. Of all the sacred sites He visited, Shri Vallabh was also a regular visitor to Vraj, Jaggannanth Puri, Dwarka and Dakor.
At the Lords request, the Vallabhacharyaji decided to construct a proper temple for the Shri Nathji on Mount Govardhan. Though he passed a plan for a modest, flat roofed temple, the Lord desired to have a traditional spire on top of His inner sanctum. The plan was revised three times, and each time the Lord changed the plan to include a spire. Eventually, accepting the Lord's wish, a spired temple was given the go-head and a new temple arose on top of mount Govardhana.
Soon, Shri Vallabhacharyaji had many talented disciples working in the new temple dedicated to "Indra Damanji / Deva Damanji". Some of his famous disciples include the great poet saint Surdasji, Kumbhandasji, Parmanandadasji, Krishnadas adhikari etc. The Lord at Mount Govardhan has since been refereed to as Govardhan-Nathji, Gopalji and later Shri Nathji.
The fame and respect for Shri Vallabhacharyaji grew with years. When his sons were old enough to manage the affair of the house and the sect, Acharya Shri renounced the world. Soon after, he immersed his earthly body in the holy waters of the Ganges at Hanuman ghat in Varanasi.
The sect flourished in the able hands of Shri Vallabhacharyajis sons.
Though GopiNathji was incharge for a very short time, he made significant contributions to the sect by creating new literary works (many are now lost or missing), bringing new disciples from the Sindha and Punjab and added to the treasury at Mount Govardhana.
After his untimely death, VitthalNathji, popularly known as Shri Gusaiji, became the leader of the sect. His achievements have lead the course for the sect. For nearly 500 years, his descendants have taken care of the spiritual well being of the vaishnavs in our sect.
Shri Gusaiji was a true connoisseur ! Apart from writing new treaties in Sanskrit, he also initiated four famous poet / singers to the divine court of Krshna. Now the temple at Mount Govardhan had eight excellent singers to entertain the Lord along with a large number of servants to manage the growing needs of the temple. He also changed the administration of the temple and handed-over the seva of the Lord to brahmins and Vraj-vasies of the Pushti sect rather than the Gaudia sect, as was done before.
Gusaijis political acumen and oratory won him admirers from far and wide. He had excellent connections at the Mogual court of Emperor Akber. Akbars chief wife was a disciple of Shri Gusaiji. The emperor was also a guest of the Gusaiji on several occasions. Many Imperial proclamations and decrees were made to honour the house of Shri Vallabhacharyaji. Several members of the Imperial court were members of the sect. The farsighted leader of this growing sect reciprocated by visiting the Imperial court on special occasions. One of the seven sons of Gusaiji became a permanent member of the Imperial retinue and the cordial relations between the sect and the court are recorded in several "farmans" that were issued at the time.
Gusaiji left a legacy of a very colourful sect. Mirroring the global mood of the "Enlightenment era", the divine court at Mount Govardhan adopted more exuberant lifestyle than in the days of Shri Vallabhacharyaji and Shri GopiNathji. Concerned about the future of the sect, Shri Gosaiji distributed the seven "svarupas" of the Lord to his seven sons and set up seven separate Havelies for them. Like the ocean (nidhi), these svarupas were THE source of position, power and authority for the Goswamies (Descendants to Shri Gusaiji). From this period onwards, these svarupas were referred to as "Nidhies" by the disciples of the Pushti Marg.
Since the establishment of the seven Nidhies, Pushti Marg followers have had the choice of nine different forms of the Lord they can worship and seven different "houses" of acharyas they can obtain initiation from. With the passage of time, the various Nidhies moved to various parts of India. Currently, they are variously based in the Vraj (Uttar Predesh), Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Shri Nathji, Lord lifting the Mount Govardhan. Currently in Nathadwara, Rajasthan.
Navnit Priyaji Baby Krshna with a ball of butter in his hand. Currently in Nathadwara, Rajasthan.
Mathuradhishji, Lord of Mathura, with four arms. Currently in Kota, Rajasthan.
Vitthal Nathji, Lord with arms on his hips, and accompanied by Swaminiji. Currently in Nathadwara, Rajasthan
Dwarikadhishji, Lord of Dwarka, with four arms. Currently at Kakaroli, Rajasthan.
Gokul Nathji, Lord of Gokul, the only Nidhi to still reside in the same Haveli that Shri Gosaiji originally built for him in Gokul, Vraj. The Lord has four arms and is playing flute to charm his devotees.
Gokul Chandramaji, Literally, the "Moon of Gokul", Currently in Kamavan, Vraj.
BalKrishanji, Another form of the baby Krshna with a butter ball in his hand. Currently in Surat, Gujarat.
Mandan Mohanji, Lord playing the flute during Rasa, accompanied by two gopies. Currently in Kamavan, Vraj.
Natvarlalji (Krushna dancing - South Indian style), Kalyanraiji (four armed Vishnu svarup) and Mukundraiji (dark icon of baby Krushna) are also divine svarups who are worshipped as semi-Nidhies.
The twin svarups of Shri Nathji and Navnit Priyaji were entrusted to the eldest son of Gusaiji as a result, these two svarupas are considered to be the most sacred and most important in pushti Marg. Since Gusaijis time, the Goswami in charge of worshipping these twin svarupas has been referred to as the Tilkayat - title originally given by the Moghul emperor. He is the first amongst his peers and is accorded deference and respect by all members of the Goswami family, regardless of his age. All descendants of Shri Vallabhacharyaji have the right to worship the Lord Shri Nathji and Shri Navnit Priyaji, but they will ask permission from the reigning Tilkayat as a matter of absolute courtesy.
Family portrait of the first three generations of the Vallabha Kula.