Updated: Jun 21
Sant Hariram Vyas
It was our first trip to Vrindavan. Each and everything about that trip was just out of the world and is still as vivid in my memory as it was for what feels like a lifetime ago. I was studying in class 8. Every evening after school our group of girls would meet at our home to practice the new dance drama ‘Madhur Milan’. As soon as Dussehera vacation rolled up, almost forty people, including our family, friends, instructors, make up sir, the participants and their families boarded the Utkal Express to Mathura. Arriving in Mathura, we all hired tongas drawn by horses to take us to our destination. What an exciting ride that was! Arriving in Vrindavan, we followed our elders and smeared the dust of the holy soil on our foreheads.
"Kishoree tere charanan kee raj paoon,
Baithee rahoon kunjan ke kone, shyaam raadhika gaoon,
Jo raj shiv sanakaadik lochan, so raj sheesh chadhaoon,
Vyaas svaaminee kee chhavi nirakhat, vimal vimal jas gaoon"
In the lines above, Rasik saint Shri Hariram Vyas has beautifully explained the importance of Vrindavan Raj (Dust of Vrindavan) and prayed to Radharani to achieve the dust of her feet- “Sitting in on one corner of a bower, I will keep chanting the glories of Radha-Krishna, the divine dust from the foot of Radharani which even Lord Shiva and the Sanata Kumaras (Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanat-kumara and Sanandana) long for. Holding this dust on my head, I will be lost in divine love and keep contemplating on her divine form”.
When we arrived in Vrindavan, we stayed at the compound of RadhaRaman temple and we were informed our first show would be on the very next day. The following evening, we got dressed up and arrived at ‘Kishor Van’ for our first Raasleela performance in the holy land of Vrindavan. It was a dream come true!
Kishor Van or Shri Yugal Kishor is situated in Vyas Ghera near Sewa Kunj. The bhajan kutir and samadhi mandir of Rasik saint Shri Hariram Vyas is located here. Shri Hariram Vyas, a 16th-17th century spiritual poet, classical musician and saint belonging to the RadhaVallabh Sampradaya is considered to be an incarnation of Vishakha Sakhi, one of the foremost sakhis of Radharani. Hariram Vyas, along with Hith Harivansh Mahaprabhu and Swami Haridas, together are known as Haritraya (Trinity of Hari).
Hariram Vyas Ji was born in the year 1512 in a Sanadhya brahmin family in Orchha, Bundelkhand. His father Shri Sumokhan Shukl was a follower of Madhva tradition, highly respected in his community, and Rajguru (royal priest) of the Orchha royal family. Hariram ji showed a keen interest in Sanskrit from an early age and achieved great mastery of Vedas and Holy Scriptures at a young age. He was soon appointed as the Rajguru(Royal priest) to King Madhukar Shah of Orchha. Apart from being a renowned pandit and an intellectual he was also famous for his debating skills. In his early years he was obsessed with debating with other scholars and had defeated many famous Pandits. But, this phase of his life didn't last very long. Once while he was engaged in debating in Kashi, he realised that the fruit of attainment of the highest knowledge is wisdom which guided him to seek the truth. Soon, he gave up engaging in meaningless debates, shallow arguments and was completely devoted to the bhakti-marg. Impressed with him, the scholars of Kashi conferred on him the title ‘Vyas’ and he came to be known as Hariram Vyas. He soon renounced his home, family, wealth, and his position as the Rajguru of the king of Orchha and left for Vrindavan. There he lived his life wandering in the bowers and spent time in satsang with saints like Hith Harivansh Mahaprabhu and Swami Haridas.
An epitome of humility, he had specifically named, appreciated and expressed his gratitude towards many contemporary and earlier saints and devotees for helping him remove his own ignorance and doubts through their works and poems. He held them in high regard and considered them his Gurus. Vyas Ji had attained such an extreme state of devotion where he had transcended his ego and attained his true self. With this realisation he had called each devotee and saint his guru:
Aadi Ant Aru Madha Mein, Yah Rasikan Ki Reeti,
Sant Sabe Gurudev Hain, Vyasahi Yah Parteeti.
- Vyas Vani
(All Rasik saints are one and they are our spiritual masters only. There is no question of greater or smaller between them.)
Vyas ji has dedicated many dohas to express his reverence for Hith Harivansh Mahaprabhu.
Hith Harivansh Kripa vina, Nimisha nahin kahu thonr
Vyas daas ki swamini, pragati saba shir mo
- Vyas Vani
(I don’t have any refuge other than the mercy of Hith Harivansh Mahaprabhu. By his grace, the crest jewel of all Swamini Shrimati Radharani appeared before me in all attractive sweetest form.)
Hariram Ji's poems, couplets and dohas were largely composed in Vrij bhasa. However, he has composed and written in Sanskrit as well. His complete life and works have also been documented by Vasudev Goswami in his book Bhakt Kavi Vyas Ji. Vyas Ji's main text is Vyas-Vani. It is a collection of 654 poems, 14 couplets, and 30 verses. The work is Shringar-Rasa dominant in which Nikunj Leela and Vrij Leela of Radha-Krishna are beautifully captured. He has also composed the Ragamala, a classical treatise on music which has 407 couplets confirming that Vyas Ji was a scholar of music and a great Dhrupad singer of his time. He has also written a book called Navaratna in Sanskrit reiterating his faith in the nine theorems accepted by Shri Madhvacharya.
Vyas Ji continued to stay in Vrindavan all his life and remained immersed in Radha Krishna bhakti. During his stay he also established Yugal Kishore temple. Once Vyas ji had a dream of Thakurji where he was instructed by Shri Krishna to take Him out of the well in Kishor Van and establish Him in the temple. In that dream, Vyas Ji asked Thakurji, “Are you alone or with Radha Rani? If you are with Radha Rani, then only will I take you out from the well.” Thakurji instantly replied, “Yes, I am with Radha Rani. Please take me out from this well and enshrine Us.” A temple was built for the deities with the help of Orchha king Madhukar Shah.The deities remained in the temple for many years but in order to protect the idols from a Mughal invasion, devotees shifted the idols to Panna. These idols are still placed in Old Yugal Kishore temple in Panna which is now in Madhya Pradesh.
Once the king of Orchha sent his officers to bring Vyas ji back but he refused to return. They went to Shri Hit-Harivansh Ji and requested him to instruct Shri Vyas Ji to return to Orchha. Shri Hit Harivansh Ji agreed to the request and on hearing that Shri Vyas Ji was heartbroken. The officers arranged to take him back forcibly. At last, Shri Vyas ji requested those officers to at least allow him to meet his family and relatives before leaving Vrindavan. He got down from the palanquin and kept embracing each tree for hours and shedding floods of tears singing this verse:
"Vrindavan Ke Rookh Humaaro Mata Pita Guru Bandho"
The love of Shri Vyas Ji for Vrindavan, its trees, its soil, its people, its river, its temples is rare!
He ran from there to the temple of Shri RadhaVallabh Ji. On the way, he heard that the Rajbhog Aarti was over and the darshan was closed. That upset him because every day he used to take prasad after witnessing the Rajbhog Aarti. But there, at the doorstep, he saw a sweeper woman standing with a leaf plate of prasad from RadhaVallabha. When Vyas ji saw her and the prasad, he immediately begged for some, and she reluctantly gave some of her touched food to the Brahmin. The officers from Orchha were waiting for Vyas Ji to finish his prayers but when they saw him taking food from an outcaste woman, they concluded that he had lost his caste, and returned without him
Shri Hariram Vyas was very happy and thanked the woman saying: “Mother, This is the grace of Mahaprasad. Mahaprasad did what no one could do.
“ek pakodi sab jag chhinnyo”
“This Mahaprasad in the form of ‘Kadi Ki Pakodi’ has given me the right to live in Vrindavan permanently”.
He expressed his conviction in his writings that to think of caste, colour, and untouchability in relation to Mahaprasad is a crime and condemned those who did not believe so.
A Siddha Rasik Saint, he often used to witness the divine leelas of Yugal Sarkar Radharani and Krishna, and once it so happened that Radharani’s anklet broke during the Raas dance. Absorbed in relishing the Leela, Vyas ji mended the anklet with his sacred thread. Some people later on complained that this behaviour of removing the sacred thread was not proper. But Vyas ji, not repenting for his action, stunned everyone when he replied that what could be the purpose of this sacred thread if not to be used in the service of Radharani.
He lived a carefree life by surrendering completely at the lotus feet of Shrimati Radharani.
Kahu ke bal bhajan kou, kahu ke achaar
Vyas bharose kuwanri ke, sowata paon pasaar
- Vyas Vani
(Some consider their devotional strength lies in their mode of worship, some rely on their excellent behaviour for redemption. But Vyas depends exclusively on the grace of Shrimati Radharani as he sleeps fearlessly with his legs stretched out.)
Shri Yugal Kishore, Kishor Van, Vrindavan
Image courtesy: Sadhvi Vishnupriya (Didi)