Vrindavan, 2011.09.29 (VT): The Nimbarka sampradaya is celebrating the Patotsava of Shri Bhatta, whom they call the ādi-vāṇī-kāra, meaning that he is the first author in the Nimbarka line to have written a compilation of poems in Brajbhasha that give its teachings about Radha and Krishna’s madhura-rasa.
Prior to Shri Bhatta, the long Nimbarki tradition consisted mainly of South Indian brahmins who wrote in Sanskrit. Shri Bhatta’s family originated in the village of Hisar, which today is in Hariyana, but his parents relocated to Mathura before he was born, living in Dhruva Tila.
Not often mentioned in the accounts of this place is the fact that the great Nimbarki scholar Keshava Kashmiri came to live there after an incident where he protected the Brajbasis from the oppression of a Muslim qazi.
This Dhruva Tila should not be confused with the spot in Madhuvan or Mahauli, about 7 kilometers southwest of Mathura city, where Dhruva Maharaja performed his austerities. Here is where he
It was here that Shri Bhatta met Keshava Kashmiri and became his disciple when still very young. After his guru left the world, he became his successor, since his qualities of renunciation and wisdom made him most qualified.
From many of his songs in Yugala-śataka, it also appears that he spent much time doing bhajan on the banks of the Yamuna in Vamshi Bat in Vrindavan. I heard from some members of the Nimbarka line that he walked every day to Vamshi Bat to do his bhajan and then would return to Dhruva Tila at night.
He is also reputed to have been an artist who is believed to have painted the Pichvai that shows the Ras lila and now hangs in the small mandir at Vamshi Bat.
But it is also said that he lived at Narada Tila near Dhruv Ghat or Dhruv Tirth. This is where his samadhi can be found, along with those of his guru Keshava Kashmiri and his chief disciple, Harivyas Devacharya, the author of Mahā-vāṇī. Dhruva Ghat is on the Yamuna about ¾ km south of Vishram Ghat, located between the road and railway bridges.
The date of his taking the position of acharya is Shukla dvitiya of Ashwin month, which is today. His birth tithi is Agahan shukla dvadasi, but this is the main day on which Shri Bhatta’s life and contributions are celebrated, especially at Nagaji ka kunj in Vihar Ghat.
Shri Bhatta’s dates are in some dispute due to a single manuscript of Yugala-śataka that appears to give its year of authorship as Vikram 1352 (= 1296 CE). This date is now accepted by most people in the Nimbarka sampradaya though not by academics. The reasons are many, but primarily because this would make Shri Bhatta earlier than his guru and more than 250 years before his principal disciple, Harivyasa. Besides, as Prabhu Dayal Mittal points out, the language and themes of Shri Bhatta’s work is sophisticated and well-developed Brajbhasha, which makes it clearly fit the period of literary and devotional ferment in the 16th century.
Nevertheless, whatever Shri Bhatta’s dates, he had a revolutionary effect on the Nimbarka sampradaya, which since his day has become reoriented into a rasika sampradaya rather than one oriented primarily to Vedanta philosophy and Pancharatrika temple worship.
Shri Bhatta is known as Hita Sakhi to his disciple Harivyasa Devacharya, who offers him obeisances in the Mahā-vāṇī with the following words:
śrī-śrīhitāṁ santatam ānato’smi
I bow down constantly to Shri Hita Sakhi, whose rose-colored lotus feet are taken by all the gods, from Brahma and Shiva to Saraswati, upon their heads.
Nabhaji in his Bhakta-māla (17th century) glorifies Shri Bhatta with the following verses:
madhura bhāva saṁmilita lalita līlā suvalita cavi |
nirakhata harakhata hṛdai prema barasata sukalita kavi ||
bhava nistārana heta deta dṛḍha bhakti sabani nita |
jāsu sujasa sasi udai harata ati tama bhrama srama cita ||
ānaṁda kaṁda śrī naṁdasuta śrī bṛṣabhānu sutā bhajana |
śrī bhaṭa subhaga pragaṭyau aghaṭa rasa rasikana manamoda ghana ||
Getting the ecstatic vision of the graceful pastimes in the sweet mood, he put this image into words and rained down the nectar of divine love in his poetry. He constantly preached devotion to everyone with great determination in order to save them from material suffering, and just like the cooling moon takes away darkness on rising, his fame takes away illusion and fatigue from the mind. Always worshiping the son of Nanda and the daughter of Vrishabhanu, the root of all joy, Shri Bhatta revealed the unstoppable flow of divine nectar, giving intense joy to the rasika devotees.
The 100 songs of Shri Bhatta have been divided into six sections and all editions of the work are published in these divisions, though there is some doubt about whether he made this division himself. The six sections are called:
- siddhānta-sukha – “the joys of the doctrine”; Most of the songs in this section are prayers or songs of self-surrender, determination to do bhajan and statements of the goal to serve Radha and Krishna in body, mind and speech. It is said that they explain the sÄdhya, the sÄdhana and the sÄdhaka. (10 songs)
- braja-lÄ«lā-sukha – “the joys of the Braja pastimes”; this section is mostly about Radha and Krishna’s pastimes, especially the Rasa Lila. This is the longest section with 26 songs.
- sevā-sukha – “the joys of service”; describes the eight periods of the day from morning to night and the different kinds of service performed by the sakhis. This section contains 16 songs, but many of them are much longer.
- sahaja-sukha – “the joys of the natural mood”; this contains 17 songs, mostly describing the beauty of Radha and Krishna and their loving mood; this is meant to show the true form of the Supreme Soul and his shakti
- surata-sukha – “the joy of the Divine Couple’s love”; descriptions of lilas in the kunja. 12 songs.
- utsava-sukha – “the joy of festivals”; this contains 19 songs related to different seasons of the year and particular events like the spring pastimes, Holi, Jhulan, Radhashtami, etc.
Besides these, there are a few other songs that are attributed to Shri Bhatta and are added on as an appendix to most editions of Yugala-śataka.
Just to give an example of one or two songs, which are closely follow the rules of metrical composition in Braj poetry. Every song is preceded by a dohā or couplet that is used as a refrain or summary of the song itself. Most of the songs are short, only four or six lines. Here is a song from the siddhānta-sukha section goes as follows:
mana suḍhāla meṁ ḍharau aru jiyaju parau jasa jāla |
ālasa upajau āna soṁ lālasa pada juga lāla ||
nisi dina lagiya rahau yaha lālasa |
syāmā-syāma carana kī sevā binā āna soṁ upajau ālasa ||
kahata sunāya su mana baca krama kari urajhi rahau jiya juga-juga jālasa |
jai śribhaṭṭa aghaṭa ghaṭanā meṁ ḍharau sadā mana more suḍhālasa ||8||
May my mind be cast on the beauty of the Divine Couple, and may it live in captivity in the net of their glories. May I become lazy about everything, and only have craving for their lovely lotus feet.
May I crave this through day and night — service to the lotus feet of Shyam and Shyama, and may I be lazy and indifferent to everything else but this.
Oh heart! I am telling you, please listen: get entangled in the net of the Divine Couple’s glories with your thoughts, words and actions. Sri Bhatta prays that the Divine Couple, who make the impossible possible, will fix my mind in their beauty forever.
Shri Bhatta’s Radha and Krishna are never separated from one another; they cannot bear even a moment’s absence. The verse is seen as a description of one sakhi to another as they observe the Divine Couple:
darapana meṁ pratibiṁba jyauṁ naina ju nainana māhiṁ |
yoṁ pyārī piya palakahū nyāre nahiṁ darasāhiṁ ||
pada (titāla rāga-kedārau)
pyārī tana syāma syāmā tana pyārau |
pratibiṁbita tana arasa parasa dou eka palaka dikhiyata nahiṁ nyārau ||
jyauṁ darapana meṁ naina naina meṁ naina sahita darapana dikhavārau |
śrībhaṭa joṭa kī ati cabi ūpara tana mana dhana nyaucāvari ḍārau ||60||
Just as when one’s eyes gaze upon one’s own reflection in a mirror, they merge into one continuous inseparable flow, so the Lover and the Beloved gaze into each other’s eyes, unblinking, not separated for a moment.
The black beloved is reflected in Shyama’s body, and Shyama is reflected in his. As they langorously touch each other, it appears that they are not distinct from one another, even for a moment.
Just as when one looks in the mirror, one’s eyes are joined with their reflection and they become so connected they merge into one, so are this Lover and Beloved. Shri Bhatta has offered up his body, mind and possessions to this image of the Divine Couple.
Most of Shri Bhatta’s songs show unequivocal love for not only the Divine Couple, but the land of Vrindavan as well. Jai Shri Radhe!
I was in Mathura to visit the FRO and I thought, why don’t I try to find Dhruva Tila, which is the place where Shri Bhatta is supposed to have lived.
So I headed down to Vishram Ghat with the intention of following the Yamuna to Dhruva Ghat. On my way I discover that I don’t have my camera. I have the batteries this time, but no camera. Then I meed a Dutch couple by the Ghat. I talk them into coming with me to help find it. It took a long time to find it, believe me. I wish I had had my own camera, but they were good sports and took lots of pictures.
Hopefully we will get some of them.
[I used Prem Narayan Shrivastav’s edition of Yugala-śataka (Vrindavan, Sarveshwar Press, 1973)]