1478 - 1581
There is scanty information about the life of Sant Surdas, (The dates of his date and birth are not really very clear), the medieval poet-singer of Braj the land associated with Lord Krishna. His compositions are in Braj Bhasha a dialect of Hindi that was considered crude at the time. Surdas' works are some of those credited with raising this dialect to a literary status.
Surdas was born blind to poor parents and because of this he was a victim of neglect and abuse. He left home at the tender age of 6.
The greatest blessing of Surdas's life came when Sri Vallabhacharya, the celebrated exponent of the Shuddhadvaita. also known as Pushti Marga, accepted him as his disciple. From his teacher he received knowledge of hindu philosophy.
He memorized the Srimad Bhagavata and other hymns in Sanskrit.
He portrayed in exquisite poetry the life of Krishna, especially child Krishna, in such vivid detail that he has not been equalled by any saint or poet, not even Kalidasa, in describing childhood.
It is one of the marvels in the realms of literature how a blind poet could portray in such meticulous and colourful detail the childhood of Krishna, stage by stage. Krishna's cutting his first tooth, his uttering of the first word, his taking the first step unaided, are all occasions for Surdas to compose inspired songs which are sung even to this day, in hundreds of homes, by mothers who see child Krishna in their own children.
The love that had been denied to him as a child flows by means of his songs on, the love that was showered on Bala Gopala in Braj by Yashoda, Nandagopa, the Gopis and the Gopas.
Surdas never entertained any idea of marriage but saw in Sri Krishna the eternal lover and he portrayed the love between Radha and Krishna as ethereal love-the irresistible attraction the individual soul has for the Oversoul or of the Jivatma for the Paramatma.
His work consists primarily of three major compilations, the Sur-Saravali, the Sahitya-Lahiri and the Sur-Sagar. The Saravali is supposed to have
originally one hundred thousand verses but many have been lost forever. It is based on the analogy of the Holi festival, by far the most popular of the festivals of the time, and always associated with Krishna as part of his Divine Play. Apart from being great narrative poetry they are also significant sources of information about the past.
The Sahitya-Lahiri is supposedly a treatise of various forms of poetical composition, dealing primarily with Bhakti.
The Sur-Sagar is his masterpiece, the ‘Oceanic work’ as its name indicates and remains the most influential and important of all his works. It deals with the life of Krishna in detail.
His fame was wide spread though he never left his native land, even the Mughal emperor Akbar paid homage to him.