Mohini Ekadasi marks the appearance day of one of the famous rasika saints from the Vaishnava traditions of Sri Vrindavan, Sri Hit Harivansh Mahaprabhu. In the famous medieval work ‘Bhaktamaal’, Nabhadasa sings the glories of hundreds of saints of various traditions. When it comes to Sri Hit Harivansh, he rightly says:
(srī harishansh gosāī bhajan kī rīti sukrit kou jānihai)
srī rādhā charan pradhān hrdai ati sudridh upāsī
kunjkeli dampati tahā kī karat khavāsī
sarvasu mahāprasād prasidh tāke adhikārī
vidhi nishedh nahī dās ananya utkat bratadhārī
vyās suvan path anusarai soī bhalai pahachānihai
srī harivansh gosāī bhajan kī rīti sukrit kou jānihai
“Few will understand the pious mode of worship of Sri Harivansh Goswami. The feet of Sri Radha are foremost in his heart and he is a most staunch worshipper [of them]. He performs attendance of the divine couple [Sri Shyama-Shyam] in their lovesports in the kunjas [forest groves]. The mahaprasad, of which he is a well-known claimant, is his entire property. Not [concerned with] orthodox precepts and prohibitions, he is a single-minded servant and dedicated devotee. He who follows the path of Vyasa’s son (Sri Harivansh’s father’s name is Vyasa Mishra), he alone will comprehend it fully; few will understand the pious mode of worship of Sri Harivansh Goswami.”
Hit Harivansh Goswami was born around 1500 in a family of Gaur Brahmins – Yajurvedis of the Madhyamdini branch, members of the Kasyapa gotra. He was a disciple of Gopala Bhatta Goswami and is the founder of the Radhe-Ballabha-line. Harivansh Goswami is known for his emotional poetry about Radha and Krishna. He was born in Braja Mandal in the village of Baad, about 10 km from Mathura, on the Agra-Mathura Road.
His father, Vyasa Misra, was a wealthy and renowned astrologer whose fame had reached the king. Vyasa Misra was summoned to court, where he was given great wealth and received the king’s favour in full measure. After sometime at court, he returned home laden with wealth , yet unhappy because of his childlessness. Soon, the Lord appeared to Vyasa’s brother Narsinghsrama in a dream and announced His intention of becoming incarnate as the joint form of Hari and Vansa (vansi, flute).
Vyasa’s wife, Tara Rani, was soon with child; Vyasa was overjoyed and resumed his position at court. On Monday, the 11th day of the bright half of the month of Vaisakha, in the year v.s. 1559 (A.D. 1502), in the village of Baad near Gokula, Harivansh became manifest as the crown-jewel of rasikas. He was to be a refuter of the paths of karma and jnana and a proponent of the way of prema bhakti.
At an early age, Harivansh was thrilled to hear the name of Sri Radha. At the age of seven, his yajnopavita ceremony was performed, and later he married a girl named Rukmani. He began to teach bhakti in such a way that each person’s devotion to a particular deity increased.
Sri Radha appeared to Harivansh in a dream and told him that the yugala mantra was written on the topmost leaf of a papal tree near his door, and that he was to make it known in the world. Sri Radha further ordered him to look in the well in his father’s garden, where he would find a two-armed image (of Krishna) in the flute-holding pose.
Harivansh followed these commands, and established the deity in a temple in Devana which he then served for some time. On the death of his father, Vyasa Misra, Harivansh was summoned to court in his father’s place; but he refused the summons, rejecting the worldly status that the royal post entailed. He fathered three sons and a daughter, all of whom married. They were all initiated by him as his disciples. On receiving a further command from Sri Radha, Harivansh left home and set out for Vrindavan, leaving his family behind.
Again Sri Radha appeared to him in a dream and told him that, in the village of Cadathavali (understood to be Charthawal, near Muzaffarnagar, U.P.) he would encounter a wealthy Brahmin who would offer Harivansh his two daughters in a marriage; Harivansh was to accept them, as colleagues in devotional life. He was also to take from the Brahmin an image of Krishna, which he was to take to Vrindavan and worship there.
Accordingly, Harivansh went with his two new brides, Krishnadasi and Manohari, to Vrindavan where he was delighted by the transcendental beauty of the natural surroundings. He went to a high spot by the bank of the Yamuna, where there was a throng of Brajwasis who were thrilled to realize that he had come to live there.
They put a bow and arrow into his hands, and offered him as much land as he covered in a bow-shot; he fired the arrow, which flew ‘from the old building’ (purani bhavana tai) as far as Cheeraghat. He built a beautiful temple and consecrated the image of Radhavallabha there on the 13th day of the bright half of the month of Kartik, v.s. 1592 (A.D. 1535). He established the service of the deity with seven food-offerings (bhoga) through the eight periods of the day (yama), according to the season.
He rejected orthodox precepts and prohibitions in favour of pure devotion, and renounced fast-days because they denied him the consumption of prasada. He ignored the ten rights of passage (sanskara) and defeated ceremonialists, saiwas, saktas and the followers of other doctrines. He thus founded the popular Radhavallabha temple in Vrindavan where many people take darshana every day.
rādhaiveṣṭaṁ sampradāyaika-kartā- cāryo mantra-daḥ sad-guruś ca |
mantro rādhā yasya sarvātmanainaṁ vande rādhā-pāda-padma-pradhānam ||
“I bow down with all my being to him whose worshipable deity is Sri Radha, the founder acharya of whose Sampradaya is Sri Radha, whose mantra-guru and teacher is Sri Radha, and whose mantra is Radha’s name. He [Hit Harivansh] places Sri Radha’s lotus feet above all else.”