Surdas - A 16th Century Greatest Devotional Bhakti Saint of India

Surdas had a significant impact on the cultural traditions of India. He was a multi-talented man, possessing skills in poetry, sainthood and music, and he was able to execute each of these roles with the same level of finesse and expertise. As there is not much reliable documentation on the life of Surdas, the account of his life is a mixture of facts and fiction. The five books written by the renowned Hindi poet, Surdasji, are now a major part of Hindi literature.

A renowned Hindu devotional poet and singer, Surdas was blind but still managed to create beautiful works. He is renowned for his musical compositions that honor and praise the Hindu deity, Krishna. The majority of these texts are normally composed in Braj language, one of the established forms of Hindi. Surdas stands out among all the other poets who have devotedly sung of Krishna bhakti.

In the realm of Hindi literature, Mahatma Surdas stands out for his worship of Lord Krishna and his mastery of Braz language, thus earning him the title of the "Sun" of Hindi literature. His poetry, particularly his Krishna-Bhakti verse, places him as one of the greats in the Bhakti era of Hindi literature.


Surdas - A 16th Century Greatest Devotional Bhakti Saint of India

Surdas - A 16th Century Greatest Devotional Bhakti Saint of India

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There are a few different dates that people have suggested as to when Surdas was born and there is still much disagreement on the exact date. He was brought into this world in the year 1478, in a small village by the name of Ranukta, or Ranuka. This village is situated along the route of Mathura-Agra road. Some academics have suggested that he came from a family of Saraswat Brahmins from a small village known as Sihi who were not well off.

There is some dispute among scholars regarding Sur's exact birthplace, some suggest that he was born in Ranukta village, which is situated along the road from Agra to Mathura, whereas others argue that he originated from a village called Sihi that is close to Delhi. On the 5th day of the Hindu month of Vaishakh, Surdas Jayanti is celebrated in the Vaishnav calendar in honour of Surdas' birth anniversary. Surdas' father, Ramdas Saraswat, was a talented singer.

There is no clear consensus as to whether or not Surdas was born blind or with vision. Where he lived in the early days of his life was Gaughat, a place situated in close proximity to Agra. There he encountered Shri Vallabha Acharya and was so inspired by him that he chose to become his disciple. On the year 1580, Surdas sadly passed away in the village of Parasauli, which is close to Govardhan.

According to the tale of Vallabha, Sur had been blind from birth and his family had no interest in him, so Surdas was forced out of his home at the age of six and he settled down on the banks of the river Yamuna. On his way to Vrindavan for a pilgrimage, it is said that he encountered Shri Hithi Harivansh Chandra Mahaprabhu, the bhakti poet-sadhu of the Brahmin language and founder of the Radhavallabh community, and then became his disciple.



Surdas encountered Shri Vallabha Acharya at the Gaughat location. He eventually chose to become his student and follow his teachings. With an initiation of embarking on the path of confirmation, Sri Vallabha Acharya began to walk towards Krishna Bhakti. With the support and guidance of Vallabha Acharya, Surdas made a remarkable effort to learn the Shrimad Bhagavata, went through the Hindu scriptures, and delivered lectures on religious and philosophical topics.

After being far from his family, Surdasji wrote and sang the verses of his poetry. Upon hearing the song of Bhakti from Surdas’s mouth, Shri Vallabha Acharya chose to make him his disciple. Following this, he began to recall the life of Lord Krishna and narrate his stories. In addition, he was also participating in a Bhajan kirtan with Acharya Vallabha at Srinath temple in Mathura, situated in Gaughat. The illustrious poet Surdas was counted among the most esteemed disciples of Vallabha Acharya.

The relationship between Surdas and his guru Vallabha Acharya was quite extraordinary as the age gap between them was only 10 days. On the Vikram Samvat of 1534 the Boishakh Krishna Ekadashi marked the birth of Vallabha Acharya. It was in 1534 that Surdas was born, and he is thought to have been born on Boishakh Shukla Panchami, making him a figure of great significance, to the point of being considered to have the same importance as that day. He made the decision to remain unmarried and abstain from sexual relations for his entire life.


Krishna Bhakti

He has been so deeply inspired by Vallabha Acharya that he is now devoted to Krishna entirely. He composed his devotional work in the Braj language. Surdas is fondly remembered as the great poet of Braj language due to all his work being written in that very language. Braj language, which is a dialect of Hindi literature, was spoken by the Brahmin shastra during the bhakti period of time. Surdas, Rahim, Raskhan, Keshav, Ghanananda, and Bihari are all renowned figures in Hindi literature who have made immense contributions to the language through their compositions.


Bhakti Andolan

Being a part of the Bhakti Movement, Surdas had an influence on the Indian subcontinent. This movement provided a sense of spiritual liberation and freedom to the people. In the seventh century, spiritual movements that were similar in nature began to take place among the people in the south of India, and eventually spread to the north of India during the centuries of the 14th through the 17th.


Braj Bhasha

Surdasji’s poem was written in a dialect of Hindi, which at the time was seen as a less-regarded language compared to the more popular literary languages of Persian and Sanskrit. Through his hard work and dedication, the Braj language was elevated from a crude language to a language of literature. The renowned poet Surdasji achieved unparalleled greatness for his remarkable works exclusively written in the Braj language.



Surdas is best known for a monumental work, Sursagar, which is often referred to as the 'Sursagar'. Although some of the poems in the book seem to have been written by authors in a later period who put Sur's name to the work. In the 16th century, Surdasji wrote many works that depicted Krishna and Radha as lovers. This version of the Sursagar literary work is centered around the detailed descriptions of Krishna and his time as a beloved child in Gokul and Vraj, all written in the viewpoint of the gopi.

Of the twelve chapters written by Surdas, only the tenth chapter has been found in its entirety, with the remaining eleven found in an abbreviated form. Bhakti is the main focus here. The tenth section is separated into two distinct parts. Every single copy of the Sursagar that is known to exist was discovered between the years 1656 and the 19th centuries. The first known specimen of this manuscript was discovered at the Saraswati Bhandar in Rajasthan.


Sur saravali

The total number of verses in Surdas' Sursaravali is one thousand one hundred and seven. At the age of 67, he wrote this book with great care and attention. The book is composed of the song "Brahad Holi" from beginning to end.



Sahityalahari is an abbreviated collection of 118 verses written by Surdas. The last stanza of this book is particularly special, as it gives insight into Surdas's family history and reveals that his true name is Surajdas and he is a descendant of Chandbaradai.  The renowned poet, Chandbardai, is the one who wrote “Prithviraj Raso”. Sahitya-Lahari is celebrated for its metaphors.



He crafted a unique and abstract piece of art entitled 'Sursagar'. In his book he depicted Lord Krishna and Radha as favourites and elucidated the beauty of Lord Krishna with the Gopis all at the same time.

In a similar fashion, Sur composed both the Saravali and Sahityalahari. An incredible amount of work was put in to create these two masterpieces, generating approximately one lakh blocks. His artwork for Holi celebrations was full of vivid colors and intricate detail. The verses about Lord Krishna demonstrate his unparalleled skill at playing the game of breaking the pot and portray the concept of existence.

Through the verses of his poetry, we can hear the remarkable stories of both Ramayana and Mahabharata. His poems are a beautiful portrayal of the various avatars of Lord Vishnu.


Poetic features

Surdasji is widely renowned and is highly regarded as the greatest poet of Hindi poetry. Dr Hazari Prasad Dwivedi has praised the poetic works of Surdas, noting that when Surdas begins to describe his beloved topic, it is like a deluge of metaphors. Surdas creates an easy to understand and lively representation of the childhood of Lord Krishna. The poem of Surdasji is a vivid reminder of the stunning beauty of nature. His poetry and the captivating portrayal of Krishna Bhakti stand out from the work of other poets and is not to be found anywhere else.



In the year 1580 AD, the renowned poet Krishnapremi Surdas passed away in the village of Parsauli, close to the city of Govardhan, during the reign of the Sambat Empire. The village of Parsauli was the place where Lord Krishna was known to make his rasli.  The Surshyam Temple, otherwise known as the Surshyam Kuti, has been established today in honor of Surdas, who devoted his life to it.



Surdas was an Indian poet and saint from the fifteenth century who is renowned for his devotional poetry which celebrates the glory of Lord Krishna. His poetic works have been thought to be some of the most exquisite and emotionally evocative examples of religious writing in the Hindi language. Despite his visual impairment, Surdas was an exceptional figure who achieved great success and recognition as one of the most admired poets of his era.

His written works, which continue to be read and studied to this day, include the Sur Sagar, Sur Saravali, and Sahitya Lahari. Surdas's poetry was renowned for its straightforward writing, its captivating beauty, and its profound spiritual realizations. His works often highlighted the value of dedication, compassion, and surrender to the sacred, and his philosophies have had a major effect on the Bhakti movement, which aimed to spread a unified sense of religiousness and affection.

Despite the difficult and tumultuous social and religious circumstances of the time, Surdas's poetry was able to reach and transcend the boundaries of caste and religion, and his thoughts and ideas have continued to provide inspiration to people from all backgrounds and walks of life. His words of love and devotion for the divine have been shared for centuries, inspiring a countless number of people through his poetic verses that have filled their hearts with emotion.

To sum it up, Surdas was an extraordinary poet and saint whose life and achievements are still revered and celebrated today. His poetic works, renowned for their beauty, simplicity, and profound spiritual messages, have been incredibly influential in the Bhakti movement and Indian culture in general. Even today, Surdas' messages of love and devotion for the divine remain just as relevant as when he wrote them centuries ago, and his works continue to encourage individuals from all corners of the globe to explore the spiritual aspects of life.

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