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Ashtasakha (The Eight Divine Poets)

In the Pushtibhaktimarg, the word Ashtasakha means a group of eight selected (krupapatra) parambhagvadiya poets. The group included four disciples (sevaks) of Shree Mahaprabhuji namely: Surdasji, Parmananddasji, Kumbhandasji and Krishnadasji and four disciples (sevaks) of Shree Gusaiji namely: Chaturbhujdasji, Nandadasji, Chhitaswamiji and Govindswamiji. They used to praise Shree Thakorji by their kirtans (devotional songs) during the ashtayam darshans. Their kirtans were not the imaginative poetries but the narration of the lilas of Shree Thakorji, whose darshan was enabled gracefully by Shree Thakorji.

Each poet expresses Thakorji’s lila from his playtime with friends, grazing the cows in forests until loving play with gopis. Each Poet has a special spot and his padhs are an inspiration from the lila they experienced. the paadhs sang by the poets are sung in different melodies or raags which vary according to the season, time of the day and festive calendar. The Ashta sakhas did not go home to ruminate poems which they should sing the next day but they sang through what they saw and felt in Thakorji’s presence. Such an example was Govindswamiji.

Once Govindswamiji was singing and he stopped in the middle. His guru, Shree Gusaiji questioned him the reason for this. He replied he could not sing anymore as Shree Krishna has dashed away and his heart and mind too went with him. Therefore since Thakorji has gone away how can there be any more play or kirtan as he was not able to experience Shreeji’s Lila. Govindswamiji had not been imagining this but experienced it with true Bhav.

The gopis ( the divine form cow maids), who used to play with Shree Krishna in the intimate kunj of Vrundavan actually have two forms: During the day, they play with Shree Krishna as his male cow lad friends (sakhas) and they play as gopis (sakhi) during the night in the nikunj lila.

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  1. Krishnadasji
  •  Shree Krishnadasji was born in a Kanbi Patel family of Chilotra village situated near Ahmedabad in Gujarat. His family priest (kulguru) forecasted at the time of his birth that the child will be a Krishna Bhakta.
  • Shree Krishnadasji had to leave his father’s house due to declaration before the local king that his father had hidden the money of an outsider. He than came to Jatipura via Mathura
  • Krishnadasji accepted the refuge of Shree Mahaprubhuji and performed the best of his services (seva).
  • He was installed as the first administrator of the Shree Nathji’s Temple by Shree Mahaprabhuji. After Shree Ramdasji’s lilapravesh, the Goudiyas were given the right of services to Shree Nathji. But they mismanaged the seva prakar, hence their removal from the seva was essential. Krishnadsji expressed an unwavering courage by ousting the Godiyas. He took right decisions, implemented a right action at a right time in order to achieve the right end.
  • When Shree Nathji performed Rasalila (Divine dance) at Parasoli,Chandrasarovar, Krishnadasaji recited a kirtan and Shreeji was so happy that Shreeji threw the garland of jasmine flowers from his neck on to Shree Krishnadasajis! This was revealation of Grace from the Lord Himself. This is an example of the grace of Purna Purshottam in the path of grace.. Shree Krishnadasji loved to recite the kirtans of mukut-Shringar.
  • His nityalila swaroop is Lalita sakhi and his Sakha swaroop is Rishabha.
  • Krishnadasji had a strong affection (aasakti), in the swaroop of Shree Madan Mohanji and he was given the seva of kirtans at the time of Shayan Darshan
  • He used to sing the kirtans of Raas Lila.
  • He resided at Bilchu kund (Gopalpur) under the shelter of shyam tamal vruksh. He is the chief (mukhiya) of gateway in to Shree Girirajji.

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……………Shree Krishnadasji                           Shree Madan Mohanji

 

1. Varta Prasang

 

One Day, Surdasji told Krishnadasji, ”All of the poems you have composed are but shadows of my own”. ”Now I will create a poem that does not resemble any of yours,”retorted Krishnadasji. Krishnadasji sat for three hours, lost in thought, but found that Surdasji had already composed a poem about every single lila which came to his mind. Eventually Krishnadasji became discouraged , set his pen and paper down and went to take his meals. Meanwhile Shree Nathji arrived and wrote down the following line on Krishnadasji’s paper:

Krishna is coming back from the forest,
Accompanied by His cowlads.
His curly locks are covered
With the dust of Nachuki cows.

The nachuki cows which shreeji mentioned in this poem are cows which have given birth for the first time. Surdasji had never described such an improbable scene. When he heard the poem, Surdasji replied, ” It is true that I never sung about nachuki cows, but Shree Nathji gave you the first line of that poem. I challenge you in a poetry contest and not Shreeji.

Shitkal Khandita ke padh ( Raag Maalkaunsh) Tumso bolveki nahi ||
Gharghar gaman karat giridhar piya, chit nahi eek thahi ||1||
Kaha kahou shawaldhan tumso, samaj dekh manmahi ||
Krushnadas prabhu pyari ke vachan sun, rhuday maaj muskai ||2||

 

2. Shree Surdasji

  • Shree Surdasji was born on the 5th day of bright half of Vaishakh month in the year 1479 (some say 1478) A.D in a saraswat brahmin family. He was a sightless saint. He lived in a village called Siri (or Sinhi). Being blind he was neglected by the family.
  • Once, the parents of Shree Surdasji were upset due to loss of two gold coins, which were gifted by a wealthy man. Shree Surdasji questioned them, why are you worrying about the worldly matters? His parents replied, they had a blind son and they are suffering since his birth. Surdasji replied, “If you promise not to keep me here, I shall tell you about where the two gold coins are.”After the gold coins were found, Shree Surdasji left the house and started living near the lake.
  • Because of his knowledge and command over the music he became famous Sant Surdas.
  • Upon meeting with Shreemad Vallabhacharyaji at Gau Ghat of the banks of Shree Yamunaji in his teens transformed Surdasji’s life. He accepted the refuge of Shree Mahaprabhuji. Shree Vallabhacharyaji taught him philosophy of shuddhadvait brahmavad. Shree Mahaprabhuji spoke the index (anukramanika) of dasamskandh of Shreemad Bhagvat and commanded him to recite the kirtans of “bhagvad lila”.
  • With the grace of Shree Mahaprabhuji he was able to compose and sing kirtans of Thakorjis lilas. Shree Surdasji with the grace of Shree Vallabh was able to have the divine sight of the darshan of Shree Thakorji.
  • Surdasji loved to singing kirtans of pagh.
  • Surdasji is Champaklata Sakhi in night sport and Krishnasakha during the day sport.
  • He had a strong affinity (aasakti) in the form (swaroop) of Shree Mathureshji.
  • He was commanded to recite the kirtans during the utthapan darshan. He used to recite the melodious kirtans of Maan Lila.
  • He was famously known as Sursagar and also became famous as Surdas, Surajdas and
    Surshyam.
  • Surdasji resided at Chandra Sarovar (Parasoli) and is considered as the chief of the gateway into Shree Girirajji at chadrasarovar.
  • He enjoyed the full life till the age of 120 years.

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 ………………Surdasji                                                          Mathuranathji

 

Varta Prasang

A motivating Episode

  • The Moghul Emperor, Akbar used to reward people bringing the paadhs (poems) of Shree Surdasji. Fake people also used to come. Once a poet came to Akbar with poem claiming the verse as a deed of Surdasji. A doubt was raised by Akbar. He asked the servants to put the original poem of Surdasji and the suspected fake poem dropped in water. The fake poem sank deep into the water while the Surdasji’s poem floated on the surface.
  • Once Shree Surdasji was very thirsty. He called his sevak Gopal to come and give him water to drink. Gopal was away but the relation of Shree Surdasjis with Shree Thakorji was unique and strong. Shree Thakorji himself appeared there and gave him water to drink from his golden Jhariji.

Once Surdasji was walking through a track when he came across a group of men playing Chopat (board game). They were so deeply engrossed that they would not notice anyone passing by. Surdasji recognized their deep involvement and decided to explain rules of the game. Surdasji recited a kirtan. Vaishnavs accompanying Surdasji prayed to explain the poem. Surdasji explained, three things are necessary for a game-

1.Understanding, 2. Thought and 3. Consideration of the same.

Surdasji as explains:

First, it is important to understand the rules of a game before playing likewise one should understand the Lord before worshiping. Secondly, one thinks before playing likewise one should think of about the likes and dislikes of Shree Thakorji. Thirdly, one considers about the moves in the game likewise one should consider about whether his act is good or bad.

Shree Yamunaji nu pad (Raag Ramkali) Tiharo daras mohi bhave Shree yamunaji |
Shree Gokul ke nikat bahat hey lahran ki chabi aave || 1||
Sukh deni dukh harni Shree yamunaj,. Jo jan prath uthi nahave |
Madanmohan juki khari piyari , patrani ju kahave ||2||
Vrundavan me raas rachyo he, mohan murli bajave |
Surdas prabhu tihare Milan ko, Ved vimal jas gave ||3||

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3. Parmananddasji

  • Parmananddasji was born in vikram samvat 1550 (1493 A. D.) in a brahmin family of Kanoj. On the day of his birth his father received vast wealth, so gave the name Parmanand to the child. The name Parmanand means a supreme bliss. Parmanandasji was full of musical talent and his fame spread very far and wide. Later he was referred to as “swami”.
  • His swaroop was that of Chandrabhaga sakhi during the night sport and Tok sakha
    during the day sport.
  • He was allotted the kirtan seva at the mangla darshan by Shree Gusaiji. He used the nick name like parmanand, parmananddas and dasparmanand.
  • Shree Parmananddasji had a strong affinity (aasakti) in the form (swaroop) of Shree
    Navneetpriyaji.
  • He sings Kirtan during Mangla. He had composed about 2000 kirtans.
  • He lived for 91 years and he loved singing kirtans of gwal pagh.
  • He is considered to be the chief of the gateway for entry in to Shree Girirajji below shyam tamal tree at Surbhi kund.

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………..Shree Parmananddasji                                 Shree Navneetpriyaji

Varta Prasang

  • Shree Navneetpriyaji used to come with Kapoor Kshatriya to listen to the kirtans of Parmananddasji. Parmananddasji met Shree Mahaprabhuji at prayag and accepted his refuge. Shree Mahaprabhuji asked him to sing the kirtans of Krishna lila but Parmananddasji used to sing the kirtans related to the viprayog (agony of separation from Shreenathji). Shree Mahaprabhuji commanded him to sing the songs of bal lila.

However, Parmananddasji most humbly expressed his ignorance about this. So, Shree Mahaprabhuji spoke the index (anukramanika) of dasamskandh of Shreemad Bhagwad. Later on Shree Parmananddasji had the darshan of Shree Navneetpriyaji with a large heap of butter (makkhan = navneet) in one of his hands in his dream. He developed a distinct affinity for the childhood sport (bal lila) of Shree Thakorji and hence he composed more kirtans of bal lila.

Nand mahotsav nu pad (Raag Sarang)

Aaj nandray ke anand bhayo /
Nachat gopi karat kulahal mangalchar thayo||1||
Raati piri choli pehre nautan zhumaksari /
Chova chandan ang lagaye sindur mang sanvari||2||
Makhan dudh dahyo bhari bhajan sakal gwal leyaye /
Bajat benu pakhawaj mahuvari gavati git suhaye ||3||
Harad dudh akshat dadhi kumkum aangan badhi kich /
Hasat paraspar prem mudit man laglag bhuj bich ||4||
Chahu ved dhvani karat mahamuni panch shabd Dham dhol /
Parmanand badayo gokul me anand rhudey kalol ||5||

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4. Shree Kumbhandasji

  • Shree Kumbhandasji was born in jamnavata village near Parasoli in a Gorva kshatriya (name of the caste) family. The episode behind this name is very interesting. Once the father of Shree Kumbhandasji had been to the kumbh mela ( gathering of so many individuals for bath in a river). One saint arrived there and blessed that there will be the birth of a son very soon and this is how he was named.
  • After taking the refuge of Shree Mahaprabhuji he started getting the darshan of Shree
    Govardhannathji (Shree Nathji).
  • He had a very strong affinity for nikunj lila and he composed the kirtans for the divine couple (yugalswaroop).
  • He was commanded by Shree Gusaiji to recite the kirtans at the time of Rajbhog Darshan and had composed about 400 kirtans.
  • He loved singing Kirtans of kuleh.
  • kumbhandasji is the Sevak of Shree Mahaprabhuji and loves to sing kirtans of nikunj lila.
  • His swaroop was that of Vishakha sakhi during the night sport and Arjun sakha during the day sport.

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…………….Shree Kumbhandasji                             Shree Govardhannathji

 

Varta Prasang

Once Raja Mansinh noticed that Kumbhandasji had a U mark which he applied using a bowl of leaves filled with water. Raja Mansinh sent Kumbhandasji a golden framed mirror but Kumbhandasji returned it mentioning to him that if a thief ever came to his house he would kill them as they lived in a house made thatched of grass but possessed a golden mirror. Raja mansinh offered him more wealth but Kumbhandasji declined it. The raja respected Kumbhandasji for he was detached from wealth and worldy matters.

Hilag nu pad (Raag Aashavari)

Mai mere Shyam lagyo sang dole mai mere || Jit
jau tit aadori aave  bina bulahye bole ||1||
Kahari karu in naina lobhi Bas kinhe bin mole ||
Kumbhandas prabhu govardhandhar Hans hans ghunghat khole ||2||

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5. Shree Chaturbhujdasji

  • Shree Chaturbhujdasji was the son of Shree Kumbhandasji and was the youngest among the ashtachhap bhagvadiya poets. Being the son of Shree Kumbhandasji, he had a very strong influence of pushtimarg.
  • He had strong affinity in Govardhan lila and annakut lila.
  • Chaturbhujdasji was commanded by Shree Gusaiji to recite the kirtans at the darshan time of Bhog darshan. He had strong affinity (aasakti) in the swaroop of Shree Gokulnathji.
  • He loved singing kirtans of dumala and had composed about 200 kirtans.
  • His impression in the kirtan was Chaturbhujdasji, Chaturbhuj and Chatrabhujdas.
  • His swaroop was that of Vimala sakhi during the night sport and Vishal sakha during the day sport.
  • Chatrabhujdasji is considered as the chief of gateway into Shree Girirajji at Rudra kund
    (Jatipura) under the aamli vruksha.
  • He had composed khat rutu varta.

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……….Shree Chaturbhujdasji              Shree Gokulnathji

 

  • An episode of Grace of Shree Nathji over Chaturbhujdasji:

Once Chaturbhujdasji went with ShreeNathji for grazing the cows after Shree Nathji’s Rajbhog Aarti. When Shree Kumbhandasji did not see his son at the temple, he was worried and started asking everyone about his whereabouts. After being informed by Shree Gusaiji he headed straight to shyamadhak, ShreeNathji and his sakhas were seated peacefully surrounded by cows. Shree Kumbhandasji was very delighted and bowed in to the Shreecharan of Shree Thakorji and prayed,”I am very happy and lucky that you have showered your grace upon my son Chaturbhujdas.”

14th  pad from 41 pad of Shree Yamunaji

Pranpati viharat Shree Yamuna kule / lubdh makarand ke bhramar jya baseh //1//
dekhi ravi uday mano kamal fule /
Savaro Karata gunjaar murli jule //2//
sunata Brijvadu tan sudi ju bhule /
Chaturbujdas Shree Yamune premsindumein lal Giridharanvar ab harki jule. //3//

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