Vallabha

(A. D. 1473-1531)

Vallabha or Vallabhācārya was one of the more prominent teachers of Vaiṣṇa-vism who contributed considerably to the cult of Kṛṣṇabhakti or devotion to Kṛṣna.

Vallabhācārya
Vallabhācārya

He was born at Campāraṇya (near the modern Raipur in the Chattisgarh State) to the couple Lakṣmaṇabhaṭṭa and Yellamma who were originally from the Telugu country (Andhra Pradesh).

Since Lakṣmaṇabhaṭṭa had settled down at Kāśī (the modern Banaras), Vallabha got the opportunity for very good education. Trained by Viṣṇucitta, he proved to be a child prodigy by mastering the Vedas, the Vedāṅgas and the six systems of philosophy as also other scriptures like the Bhagavadgītā, and the Bhāgavata.

He lost his father at the age of eleven. This led to the break-up of the home at Banaras. From this time—even though he was quite young—he undertook a pilgrimage of the whole of India three times, lasting for about twenty years. During his sojourn to South India, he came to Vijayanagar when the famous king Kṛṣṇa-devarāya (A. D. 1488-1529) had just taken over as the king.

Though a boy of twelve years Vallabha soon established his mastery over the scriptures and philosophies by defeating many a scholar in debates. He was honoured by the king with the rite of kanakābhiṣeka (showering with gold coins).

Other places he visited included some of the well-known places of pilgrimage. They were: Śrīśaila, Tirupati, Kāñcīpuram, Madurai, Rāmeśvaram, Uḍupi, Gokarṇa (all in South India); Paṇḍharāpur, Nāsik and Tryambakeśvar (in Maharashtra); Dvārakā (in Gujarat); Mathurā and Vṛndāban (in western Uttar Pradesh); Himālayan centres such as Badarī, Kedār and Gaṅgotri; Gaṅgāsāgar and Purī in eastern India.

After the second pilgrimage he married Mahālakṣmī, daughter of a pious brāhmaṇa Devadatta.

During one of his pilgrimages, Vallabha had a wonderful divine experience. He received the command as to his mission of life from a divine sage who was a disciple of Śāṇḍilya, the great teacher of bhakti.

He now started his own sampradāya or spiritual tradition—a new faith or a sect—at Gokula (in the Mathurā-Vṛndāban region). He received an image of Govardhananātha (Boy Kṛṣṇa in the act of lifting the Govardhana hill)—which emerged mysteriously out of a cave—from a saint Mādhavendra-purī, built a small temple for it and started its worship. Later on, a much bigger temple was built. Due to the Muslim invasions, the image was later—after Vallabha’s time—shifted to Nāthdvāra near Udaipur (in Rajasthan). The temple there is now quite famous and the image is called Śrīnāthjī.

Vallabha considered Kṛṣṇa as the highest God. He advocated his worship, especially as Bālakṛṣṇa (Boy-Kṛṣṇa). Redemption can come only through his grace. The mantra he gave to one and all was Śrikṛṣṇaḥ śaraṇaṁ mama.

His philosophy is known as Śuddhādvaita and the religious path as Puṣṭimārga (See BRAHMASŪTRAS and PUṢṬIMĀRGA).

Vallabha wrote several philosophical and devotional works. Among them the Aṇubhāṣya on the Brahmasūtras and Subodhinī on the Bhāgavata are famous. Unfortunately both are incomplete.

He took saṁnyāsa during his last days from Mādhavendrapurī and gave up his body in the Gaṅgā at Hanumānghāṭ in Vārāṇasī (Banaras).

His second son Viṭṭhalanātha became the leader of the sect after Vallabha.