Unfortunately, not much is known about the life of Hit Dhruvdas, despite his importance historically for the Radha Vallabha sampradaya. The only biographical information comes from Bhagavant Mudita, who was his junior contemporary. Bhagavant Mudita wrote a small book glorifying all the disciples and followers of Hit Harivansh Goswami called Rasika Ananya Mal.
It is interesting because we know from Priya Das’s commentary to the Bhakta Maal that Mudita was initiated by Haridas Goswami, the Mahant of Govinda Devji temple at the time. In the first verse to Rasika Ananya Maal (“A Garland of Exclusive Rasika Devotees”) he bows first to Chaitanya and Nityananda, but then turns to Harivansh and his followers. We only have one other book by Bhagavant Mudita, which is a translations of the Vṛndāvana-śataka, or the 17th śataka of Prabodhananda’s Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta, which is dated 1650.
Dhruvdasji was born in a well-to-do Kayastha family in Deoband, which is now in northwestern Uttar Pradesh. Deoband or Devavan is also the hometown of Harivansh himself, who left his hometown to stay permanently in Vrindavan in 1534. He already had a following in Deoband, since his father and grandfather were disciples of Hit Harivansh. Dhruvdas himself was a disciple of Harivansha’s third son Gopinath. Of Dhruvadasji’s writings which are dated, we know that he flourished between 1591 and 1640.
When he was ten years old he left home to live in Vrindavan, where he came to stay by the Raas Mandal, which is near the Yamuna at Yugal Ghat not far from the Radha Damodar temple. Being naturally attracted to the rasika mode of life, he became absorbed in thinking of Radha and Krishna and indeed quickly attained the stage of rasa-siddha. All of Radha and Krishna’s lilas manifested to him directly. He developed a desire to start writing, but felt incapable. ura āvai mukha teṁ nahiṁ kaḍhe “What was in his heart could not manifest on his tongue.”
His desire to glorify the lilas in poetic form became so strong that he gave up all food and drink and simple remained there in the Raas Mandal, praying for Radharani’s mercy. For three days he remained in this state, when in the middle of the third night, the entire area filled with light; he heard the jingling of anklebells and Srimati Radharani appeared to him. She said,
वानी भ जु चाहत कियौ। उठि सो वर सब तोकौं दियौ॥
vānī bhaī ju cāhata kiyau | uṭhi so vara saba tokauṁ diyau ||
The desire you have to write your Vani, I now give you my blessing, arise and do that.
On receiving Radharani’s grace, Dhruvdas began to write. He composed 42 small books, which taken together go by the name Bayālīsa-līlā. of which Vṛndāvana Sata Līlā is one.
There is a small memorial, his footprints under a tamal tree at the Sri Hit Raas Mandal.
The Raas Mandal is one of the more prominent holy spots belonging to the Radha Vallabha sampradaya in Vrindavan. There is a legend that from the Radha Vallabha temple, Hit Harivansh was given a bow and told that he could have all the land covered by the flight of the arrow. The Raas Mandal was thus the other extremity of his domain. There are also memorials there to Naravahan and Damodar Das “Sewakji,” both important figures in the development of the Radha Vallabhi parampara.
वृन्दावन का स्वरूप वर्णन
vṛndāvana kā svarūpa varṇana
A description of the form of Vrindavan
देवी वृन्दाविपिन की वृन्दा सखी सरूप ।
जिहिं विधि रुचि होइ दुहुँनि की तिहिं विधि करति अनूप ॥२१॥
devī vṛndāvipina kī vṛndā sakhī sarūpa |
jihiṁ vidhi ruci hoi duhuɱni kī tihiṁ vidhi karati anūpa ||21||
The presiding deity of Vrindavan is Vrinda Devi, who acts like a girlfriend
Whatever pleases the Divine Couple is what she arranges incomparably.
छिन छिन वन की छबि नई नवल जुगल के हेत ।
समुझि बात सब जीय की सखि वृन्दा सुख देत ॥२२॥
china china vana kī chabi naī navala jugala ke heta |
samujhi bāta saba jīya kī sakhi vṛndā sukha deta ||22||
At every moment she makes the forest scene new and fresh for the Divine Couple,
Understanding what is in their mind, Vrinda Sakhi seeks to please them.
गावत वृन्दा विपिन गुन नवल लाढ़िली लाल ।
सुखद लता फल फूल द्रुम अद्भुत परम रसाल ॥२३॥
gāvata vṛndā vipina guna navala lāḏilī lāla |
sukhada latā phala phūla druma adbhuta parama rasāla ||23||
The Divine Youth and Beauty sing the glories of Vrinda’s forest,
whose pleasure-giving vines, fruits, flowers and trees, are amazingly delightful
उपमा वृन्दाविपिन की कहि धौं दीजै काहि ।
अति अभूत अद्भुत सरस श्री मुख बरनत ताहि ॥२४॥
upamā vṛndāvipina kī kahi dhauṁ dījai kāhi |
ati abhūta adbhuta sarasa śrī mukha baranata tāhi ||24||
What can be compared to Vrindavan, pray tell, when the Divine Pair themselves
glorify this incomparable, amazing, lovely manifestation?
आदि अन्त जाकौ नहीं नित्त सुखद बन आहि ।
माया त्रिगुन प्रपंच की पवन न परसत ताहि ॥२५॥
ādi anta jākau nahīṁ nitta sukhada bana āhi |
māyā triguna prapaṁca kī pavana na parasata tāhi ||25||
This forest is without beginning or end, eternal and blissful,
the breath of Maya’s creation of the three guna never touches it.
वृन्दा विपिन सुहावनौं रहत एक रस नित्त ।
प्रेम सुरंग रँगे तहाँ एक प्रान द्वै मित्त ॥२६॥
vṛndā vipina suhāvanauṁ rahata eka rasa nitta |
prema suraṁga raɱge tahāɱ eka prāna dvai mitta ||26||
Opulent Vrindavan is the eternal creation of prema rasa,
Where one soul in two bodies dally, absorbed in the beauty of love.
अति सरूप सुकुँवार तन नव किसोर सुखरासि ।
हरत प्रान सब सखिन के करत मंद मृदु हासि ॥२७॥
ati sarūpa sukuɱvāra tana nava kisora sukha rāsi |
harata prāna saba sakhina ke karata maṁda mṛdu hāsi ||27||
The Divine Youthful Pair full of beauty and bliss
steal the hearts of all the sakhis with their gentle, warm laughter.
न्यारौ है सब लोक तें वृन्दावन निज गेह ।
खेलत लाढ़िली लाल जहँ भींजे सरस सनेह ॥२८॥
nyārau hai saba loka teṁ vṛndāvana nija geha |
khelata lāḏilī lāla jahaɱ bhīṁje sarasa saneha ||28||
Radha and Krishna’s own home, this Vrindavan, is unique in the creation,
Where Lover and Beloved are drenched in loving affection.
गौर स्याम तन मन रँगे प्रेम स्वाद रस सार ।
निकसत नहिं तिहिं ऐंन तें अटके सरस विहार ॥२९॥
gaura syāma tana mana raɱge prema svāda rasa sāra |
nikasata nahiṁ tihiṁ aiṁna teṁ aṭake sarasa vihāra ||29||
The Fair and Dark Couple relish the essence of the flavors of love, body and mind;
They never leave this Dham, but remain absorbed in their loving enjoyments.
वन है बाग सुहाग कौ राख्यौ रस में पागि ।
रूप रंग के फूल दोउ प्रीति लता रहे लागि ॥३०॥
vana hai bāga suhāga kau rākhyau rasa meṁ pāgi |
rūpa raṁga ke phūla dou prīti latā rahe lāgi ||30||
This forest is a garden of love that keeps them absorbed in prema rasa,
They are like two flowers of beauty and dalliance, dangling from the vine of love.
मदन सुधा के रस भरे फूलि रहे दिन रैंन ।
चहुँदिसि भ्रमत न तजत छिन भृंग सखिन के नैंन ॥३१॥
madana sudhā ke rasa bhare phūli rahe dina raiṁna |
cahuɱdisi bhramata na tajata china bhṛṁga sakhina ke naiṁna ||31||
Filled with the taste of erotic ambrosia, they expand day and night,
Wandering in ever direction, and the sakhis’ eyes, like bees, never leave them.
कानन में रहे झलकि कै आनन विवि विधु काँति ।
सहज चकोरी सखिनि की अखियौं निरखि सिराँति ॥३२॥
kānana meṁ rahe jhalaki kai ānana vivi vidhu kāɱti |
sahaja cakorī sakhini kī akhiyauṁ nirakhi sirāɱti ||32||
The beauty of the Divine Couple’s moon faces light up the entire forest,
The eyes of the gopis are like moon-beam drinking chakoras, cooled by their sight.
ऐसे रस में दिन मगन नहिं जानत निसि भोर ।
वृन्दावन में प्रेम की नदी बहै चहुँ ओर ॥३३॥
aise rasa meṁ dina magana nahiṁ jānata nisi bhora |
vṛndāvana meṁ prema kī nadī bahai cahuɱ ora ||33||
Vrindavan is so submerged in this ras, that none know whether it is day or night;
the river of love flows there in every direction.
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