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Freeindia > Biographies > Great Devotees > Suradasa
Surdas (1479-1584 AD)/(1478-1581)

Extant in Kaliyuga's 47th century ( i.e. 16th century A.D. ) Surdas has been the most excellent Krishna - devotee poet of the devotional period ( Bhakti-Kala ) in Indian poetic literature. He had been one of the eight high ranking poets creating Krishna devotion poetry ( Asta-chapa Kavi ). He has given a graphic-description charged with the full force of the emotion of devotion of the Lila ( Fun and frolicful sports ) - especially of the Bala Lila ( childhood sports ) and Prema Lila ( sports of divine love ) of Sri Krishna. He has been the disciple of Vallabhacharya and used to sing a newly created song ( pada ) of his before the statue of Srinath ji everyday in the temple of Vrindavana. Even though he had been blind he has given extremely subtle and psychological account of the Lilas of his adored Bhagavan Sri Krishna in his poems. That is why it is generally believed that he must not have been blind by birth but became so later on. A big collection of his Padas in Vrajabhasa ( language of Vraj area ) is known as SuraSagara.

Shut out for him was the world of light, colour and form yet with his inner vision's aid he portrayed in exquisite poetry the life of Krishna, especially child Krishna, in such vivid detail that "he has not been equalled by any saint or poet, not even Kalidasa, in describing childhood."

Scanty are the details about the life of Sant Surdas, the medieval poet-singer of Braj, who has left behind for posterity his masterpiece of Vaishnava poetry, Sur Sagar, "Ocean of Melody," which originally contained a lakh of songs and of which some 8,000 are extant today.

Born blind to poor parents, Surdas was not only denied the warmth of parental love but had to undergo neglect and ill-treatment of his family members. His parents probably died when he was still a child.

All the love that was denied him as a child he vicariously enjoyed recreating, by means of his songs, the love that was showered on Bala Gopala in Braj by Yashoda, Nandagopa, the Gopis and the Gopas. Freeindia > Biographies > Great Devotees > Suradasa
Living in a lowly hut and meeting his meagre wants by alms that came to him unsought, Surdas who had, aided by a good memory, already learnt by heart most of Srimad Bhagavata and other sacred hymns in Sanskrit, delighted himself in composing songs on Sri Krishna in Braj Bhasha.

It is one of the marvels in the realms of literature how a blind poet could portray in such meticulous and colourful detail the childhood of Krishna, stage by stage. Krishna's cutting his first tooth, his uttering of the first word, his taking the first step unaided, are all occasions for Surdas to compose inspired songs which are sung even to this day, in hundreds of homes, by mothers who see child Krishna in their own children.

The greatest blessing of Surdas's life came when Sri Vallabhacharya, the celebrated exponent of the Shuddhadvaita. also known as Pushti Marga, accepted him as his disciple and gave him mantra deeksha.

Sri Vallabhacharya imparted to his worthy disciple, who was on the threshold of his own youth, the esoteric knowledge symbolised by Radha Krishna Lila.

Surdas who never entertained any idea of marriages saw in Sri Krishna the eternal lover and he portrayed the love between Radha and Krishna as ethereal love-the irresistible attraction the individual soul has for the Oversoul or of the Jivatma for the Paramatma.

The singer of the "Ocean of Melody" identifies himself with Radharani and sings:

"Sakhi! See Shyama, a veritable sea of beauty.

Yes, a sea, which, with all our intellect and learning, we cannot cross.

A Bhakta like Surdas longed only for that Krishna who could be loved and adored and not for any philosophical abstraction.

Taking the Bhagavata episode of Uddhava's visit to Braj where he was sent as a messenger by Krishna. Freeindia > Biographies > Great Devotees > Suradasa
Surdas sings:

"Uddhava! repeat not the painful `yoga' message again, Remain silent if you desire us to live a little. You revel in joy, while we suffer tortures when you ask us to devote ourselves to the Formless Lord. Better we give up our life than our Faith in the worship of Shyama of the beautiful Form.

Remembering our past love He sent you as a messenger, and you come to fan in us the smouldering fire of separation!"

Many a mystic poet-Vidyapati, Chandidas, Narsi Mehta, Mirabai - has sung in this vein exalting divine love.

The fame of Surdas spread far and wide though he never moved out of the bounds of Braj. Emperor Akbar, with his court poet and singer Tansen, and many other temporal and spiritual heads pass him the homage that was due to a saint extraordinary.

It was acclaimed by all that Krishna's vision was constantly before his inner eye and his face shone with a divine lustre. He lived to a ripe age of 105 before becoming one with Krishna.

(Source: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan)

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Published on: 2003-02-01 (8124 reads)

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Surdas (1479-1584 AD)/(1478-1581)
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