Blind bard of devotion
Surdas Jayanti commemorates the birthday of saint Surdas who is believed to be blind. There is difference of opinion among laureates and literatures about his birth year. An Indian postal department released a postage stamp on the great poet which indicates that Surdas was born in 1479 AD and his soul departed in 1586. The 479th birth anniversary of Saint Surdas will be observed on 4 May.
Saint Surdas, the poet, attributes his contributions to Vatsalya Ras. He was a devoted saint who followed Krishna and used to sing songs that are spiced up the childhood adventures of Lord Krishna. Surdas composed bhajans (religious verses) in simple ‘Braj’ language. These bhajans explains philosophical teachings and moral lessons by short episodes from the life of Krishna. His important literary works include the collection of his poetry as Sur Sagar, Sur-Saravali and Sahitya-Lahiri. The literary works by him helped in spreading the Bhakti movement in North India. Surdas is said to have written and composed a hundred thousand songs in his magnum opus the ‘Sur Sagar’ (Ocean of Melody), out of which only about 8,000 are extant. He is considered a saint and so also known as Sant Surdas, a name which literally means the ‘slave of melody’. His most famous work is Charan kamal bando hari rai.
Some historians recite an interesting legend about him that once Surdas saw Lord Krishna in his dreams and Krishna asked him to go to Vrindavan and he found Guru Vallabhacharya, an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna there. Surdas gained knowledge of Hindu scriptures from him and since then Surdas dedicated his entire life to Krishna. He remained bachelor all through his life. He began to sing devotional songs dedicated to Lord Krishna in Vrindavan. His fame soon reached Mughal courts and made Mughal emperor Akbar his patron.
These days Bhajan Mandali with its full orchestra team that consist mainly blind artists, stage bhakthi gyan sudha, which fills the air with reverberating devotional ecstasy.
Surdas was born in 1479 in village Sihi, Faridabad, Haryana. While some say it is Runkta near Agra. He started praising Lord Krishna since he was young. As per the limited authentic life history of Surdas, it is said that he lived in Braj (or Bhraj), near Mathura. Surdas was born blind and because of this, he was neglected by his family. As a result, he left his home at tender age of six.
Surdas’ lilting music and fine poetry attracted many laurels. As his fame spread far and wide, the Mughal emperor Akbar (1542–1605) became his patron. Surdas spent the last years of his life in Braj, the place of his birth and lived on the donations, which he received in return of his bhajan singing and lecturing on religious topics, until he died in 1586.
Surdas also attained fame for his purity of devotion towards Lord Krishna. In one incident, Surdas falls into a well and is rescued by Lord Krishna when he calls him for help. Radha asks Krishna why he helped Surdas for which Krishna says it’s for his devotion. Krishna also warns Radha not to go near him. She however goes near him but Surdas, recognising the divine sounds, pulls her anklets. Radha tells him who she is but Surdas refuses to return her anklets stating that he cannot believe her as he is blind. Krishna gives Surdas vision and allows him to ask for a boon. Surdas returns the anklets says he has already got what he wanted (the blessings of Krishna) and asks Krishna to make him blind again as he does not want to see anything else in the world after seeing Krishna. Radha is moved by his devotion and Krishna grants his wish by making him blind again thus giving him everlasting fame.
Although Surdas is known for his greatest work — the Sur Sagar, he also sung Sur-Saravali, which is based on the theory of genesis and the festival of Holi, and Sahitya-Lahiri, devotional lyrics dedicated to the supreme absolute. As if Surdas attained a mystical union with Lord Krishna, which enabled him to compose the verse about Krishna's romance with Radha almost as he was an eyewitness. Surdas' verse is also credited as one that lifted the literary value of the Hindi language, transforming it from a crude to a pleasing tongue.
Due to the training he received from his guru Vallabhacharya, Surdas was a proponent of the Shuddhadvaita school of Vaishnavism (also known as Pushti Marg). This philosophy is based upon the spiritual metaphor of the Radha-Krishna Rasleela.