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Vallabhacharya is one of the six main Acharyas of the Bhakti tradition of Hinduism. (The other five being Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhavacharya, Shri Nimbarkacharya and Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.) He propagated the philosophy of Shuddhadvaita which forms the basis of Pushtimarg devotional practice. These acharyas have made significant contribution to the bhakti movement and led to the medieval rise in popularity of the Hindu Religion. The devotional movement is based on the idea that love of God should be seen as an end in itself, not as a means to something else.
Vallabhacharya was born into a Telugu Brahmin family in South India, now in Andhra Pradesh. His ancestors had a religious background and includes scholars like Yagnanarayan Bhatt and Ganapati Bhatt. They wrote several books on religion and devotion. Vallabhacharya was the second son of Lakshman Bhatt and Yallammagaru. Their ancestors had performed several Soma-yagnas and Shri Lakshman Bhatt completed 100 Somyagnas. Yagnanarayan was blessed by Lord Vishnu, that on completion of 100 Soma-yagnas, God himself would incarnate in his family.
Thus when 100 Soma-yagnas were complete, Lakshman Bhatt went to Kashi to accomplish his vow of feeding 125,000 Brahmins. He could not complete this task as there were political disturbances in Kashi. He took his pregnant wife Yallammagaru and on his way southwards he halted at a place called Champaranya. There, his wife gave birth to a still baby which they kept under a tree and proceeded ahead. On the same night Lakshman Bhatt heard a celestial voice ordering him to go back to the baby and pick it up as it was misunderstood to be a still born. On reaching the spot where they had kept the baby, they found the baby encircled by a divine fire as a protecting spirit.
Vallabh was a brilliant child. He finished studying Vedas and prominent scriptures at a very early age. At the age of 11 he started his all India pilgrimage. During this tour he came to Vijaynagar where he came to know about a sensational debate that was being conducted in the court of King Krishnadevraya. The debate was between the different Acharyas over the question whether the relationship between the world and God is dualistic or non-dualistic. Vallabh entered the court and with his unopposed arguments proved that God is pure and non-dualistic i.e. Shuddhadwait. His philosophy thenceforth came to be known as Shuddhadwait Brahmvaad. These philosophy is later incorporated in "Vallabh Digvijay"
During the second pilgrimage, Lord Krishna appeared in the form of Lord Shrinathji in front of him and ordered him to reestablish Pushti Marg and propagate the pushti kind of devotion among the chosen ones and bring them back to their original state in God's own domain. i.e. Vaikuntha or Golok-dham . But the question in Shri Vallabh's mind was that the divine souls in this world too are highly influenced by the materialistic world and their souls and body have lost the kind of purity that is needed for their reunion with the Supreme entity i.e. Lord Krishna.
Lord Shrinathji assured him that with "brahamasambandha", (relationship with God) whichever soul is admitted into the Pushti marg, all its impurities will refrain from obstructing the soul's relation with Himself and the soul will be eligible to pursue His bhakti. That was the night of Pavitra Ekadashi (Four days before the new moon day) of the auspicious month of Shravana. Lord Shrinathji taught him the Brahamasambandha mantra and asked him to bring back the divine souls back to him.
The formal initiation into Pushtimarg is called Brahmasambandha. The absolute and exclusive rights to grant "Brahmsambandh" in the path of grace, in order to transform an Ordinary jiva (soul) into a Pushti "Jeev" lie only with the descendants of Vallabhacharya, known as Goswami Balaks - Vallabhkul (The word "Goswami" literally means - the one who has control over all the senses), who Vallabh Vaishnavas respectfully and lovingly refer to as: "Goswami","Bawa" or "Jai Jai". They are the actual and direct descendants of Vallabhacharya Mahaprabhu. Goswamis are responsible for the "pushti"(literally means spiritual nourishment) of all the disciples initiated by them.
Brahmsabandha is a process, where after fasting for one full day(consuming fruits and milk only) one is given the Krishna "Gadhya Mantra" in front of a Deity "Swaroop" by a Vallabhkul Goswami after which tulsi leaves (Indian Basil) are offered to the lotus feet of the Lord. The Adhikaar(right) to perform daily "seva" comes only after one is initiated into Pushtimarg by means of formally granting Brahmsambandh by a Goswami Balak. Without brahmsambandh one does not hold the right to perform seva of a Pusht Swaroop (Deity) (the swaroop which showers grace just like it did on the gopis).
Krishna is the chief deity of the sect. Shri Yamunaji is worshiped as his fourth consort(chaturth Patrani) and is the goddess who ordered Shri Vallabhacharya to recite Shrimad Bhagwat (Shrimad Bhagwat Parayan) near her banks. It is for Shri Yamunaji, Shri Vallabhacharyaji composed Shri Yamunashtakam.
Several forms/icons of Shri Krishna are worshiped in the sect. Here are the main forms, their description and where they currently reside.
Seva is a key element of worship in Pushti Marg. All followers are expected to do seva to their personal icon of Krishna. In Pushti Marg, where the descendants of shrimad Vallabhcharyaji reside and perform Seva of their own idol of Shri krishna is called a "haveli" - literally a "mansion". Here the seva of thakurji(Shri Krishna) is performed with the bhaav of the Nandalaya. There is a daily routine of allowing the laity to have "darshan" (adore) the divine icon 8 times a day. The Vallabhkul adorn the icon in keeping with Pushti traditions and follow a colourful calendar of festivals.
Some of the important aspects of Pushtimarg Seva are:
All of the above three are included in the daily seva (devotional service) which all followers of Pushtimarg offer to their Thakurji (personal Krishna deity), and all of them have been traditionally prescribed by Goswami Shri Vitthalnathji almost five hundred years ago. Shri Vitthalnathji is also called Gusainji (Vallabhacharya's second son). The raag, bhog, and vastra and shringar offerings vary daily according to the season, the date, and time of day, and this is the main reason why this path is so colourful and alive.
Seva is the most important way to attain Pushti in Pushtimarg and has been prescribed by Vallabhacharya as the fundamental tenet. All principles and tenets of Shuddhadvaita Vaishnavism stem out from here.
Baithak or Bethak, literally "seat", is the site considered sacred by the followers of the Pushtimarg for performing devotional rituals. These sites are spread across India and are chiefly concentrated in Braj region in Uttar Pradesh and in western state of Gujarat. Total 142 Baithaks are considered sacred; 84 of Vallabhacharya, 28 of his son Viththalanath Gusainji and 30 of his seven grandsons.
Pushti Marg is famous for its innumerable colourful festivals. Icons (mentioned above) are wonderfully dressed and bejeweled to suite the season and the mood of the festival. All festivals are accompanied by a wonderful vegetarian feast which is offered to the deity and later distributed to the laity. Most festivals mark
Major doctrine consist of works of Vallabhacharya.
He wrote elaborate commentaries on Sanskrit scriptures, the Brahma-Sutras (Anubhasya), and Shreemad Bhagwatam (Shree Subodhini ji, Tattvarth Dip Nibandh).
Also, in order to help devotees on this path of devotion, he wrote 16 pieces in verse which we know as the Shodasha Granthas. These came about as answers to devotees. The verses define the practical theology of Pushtimarga.
The Shodash Granthas(doctrines) serve as a lighthouse for devotees. They speak about increasing love for Shri Krishna through Seva (service) and Smarana (remembering). These doctrines are Mahaprabhu’s way of encouraging and inspiring devotees on this path of grace. The central message of the Shodasha Granthas is, total surrender to the Lord. A Goswami can initiate an eager soul to this path of Shri Krishna’s loving devotion and service. The verses explain the types of devotees, the way to surrender and the reward for Seva, as well as other practical instructions. The devotee is nurtured by the Lord’s grace.
Apart from Shodash Granths Shri Vallabhacharya wrote following Granths " Books :
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