Hita Harivamsa

 One of the most unique of the various “alternative Krishna” subdivisions is the Rādhāvallabha Sampradāya (RVS). This medieval sampradāya flourished in northern India from the early 16th Century CE, and remains a potent force of Vaishnava devotion today in Braj, especially at its home town of Vrindaban.  The sacred image of Krishna is central to this sect, but within the theology of RVS, Krishna is approached, not as the consummate Godhead, but as the penultimate step toward the supreme Deity which is not Krishna alone but primarily Rādhā, his spouse and only female companion.

The name “Rādhā-vallabha” refers to Krishna as "the dearest of Rādhā," yet Krishna is subservient to Rādhā, who stands supreme in the theological hierarchy.  The poetry of this tradition deals almost exclusively with the intimate and erotic relationship between Rādhā and Krishna.  This "alternative" Krishnology, while not totally without precedent in Vaishnava literature, is firmly located within the literature and tradition of the RVS, beginning with the works of the founder.

The Rādhāvallabha Sampradāya was founded in about 1535 CE byŚrī Hita Harivaṃśa (1502-1552 CE) in Vrindaban (cf. Vṛndāvana), near Mathurā, where according to pious tradition, Krishna was born miraculously in roughly 3000 BCE.  Śrī Hita Harivaṃśa assisted in the medieval revival of the town of Vrindaban as a major pilgrimage center for Hindus.  Along with Caitanya and the Six Goswamis of the Gauḍīya tradition, Śrī Vallabha and the Aṣṭachāp poets, Śrī Bhaṭṭa and Śrī Harivyāsadeva from the Nimbārka Sampradāya, and Svāmī Haridāsa of the Haridāsī Sampradāya, he is recognized by historians as a pioneer in developing Vrindaban.  Śrī Hita Harivaṃśa established four important shrines there, each closely related to one of Krishna's pastimes.  Sevā Kuñja is the alleged location of the original Rāsa-līlā), or circle dance, in which Krishna multiplied himself in order to dance with each of the townswomen simultaneously.  Rāsa Maṇḍala is the site where the Rāsa-līlā plays are staged; Vaṃśīvaṭa is the tree where Krishna played his flute and inaugurated the Rāsa-līlā); and Mānasarovara is the pond where the cow-tending girls, the Gopīs, rested after Rāsa-līlā)
dance.

Śrī Hita Harivaṃśa's extraordinary life has been briefly summarized by Braj scholar Rupert Snell (1991), from the account of Uttamadāsa, an 18th century disciple of the Rādhāvallabha tradition.  Hita Harivaṃśa's family was from the town of Deoband in Uttar Pradesh.  His father, Vyāsa Miśra, was a wealthy Brahmin astrologer who served at the royal court but was at first unable to conceive a child.  However, Vyāsa rejoiced at his brother's dream of a son who would soon be born to Vyāsa's wife as a joint incarnation of Hari (Krishna) and vaṃśa (Krishna's flute).  Since the Miśra family was often in transit, Harivaṃśa took birth in the small village of Bada near Mathura, Krishna's own birthplace.  From an early age the child was obsessed with the name and form of the Goddess Rādhā, often receiving communication from her in dreams.  Rādhā had told him to make known a special mantra of her name to the world, and to rescue a Krishna image from a well in his father's garden.  Harivaṃśa took these commands seriously by establishing this deity in a temple in his hometown.  After marrying and raising three children, Harivaṃśa was further ordered by Rādhā to leave his family behind and proceed to Vrindaban, but only after going to another village and accepting two daughters in marriage from a Brahmin as well as another image of Krishna to be installed there.  This image was known as “Rādhāvallabha,” and was installed in a new temple in Vrindaban in the year 1535 C.E. 

 

(From the Introduction of Vaishnava Temple Music in Vrindaban)