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Shrinathji (at center) with Ashtasakhis

Pushtimarg (lit. 'the Path of Nourishing, Flourishing'), also known as Vallabha Sampradaya, is a subtradition of the Rudra Sampradaya - Vaishnavism. It was founded in the early 16th century by Vallabhacharya (1479–1531) and was later expanded by his descendants, particularly Vitthalanatha.[1][2] Pushtimarg either worship Krishna alone in his prominent forms of Srinathji, Madan Mohan, Vithala and Dwarkadhish, or with his consort and divine energy Radha, also called Swaminiji.[3][4][5] The tradition follows universal-love-themed devotional practices of youthful Krishna which are found in the Bhagavata Purana and those related to pastimes of Govardhana Hill.[1][6][7]

The Pushtimarg subtradition subscribes to the Shuddhadvaita Vedantic teachings of Vallabhacharya, one that shares certain ideas with Advaita Vedanta, Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita Vedanta.[8] According to this philosophy, Krishna is considered to be the supreme being, the source of everything that exists and the human soul is imbued with Krishna's divine light and spiritual liberation results from Krishna's grace.[9] Ashtachap – eight Bhakti Movement poets, including the blind devotee-poet Surdas has major contribution in the growth of Pushtimarg.[9][10]

The followers of this tradition are called Pushtimargis[2] or Pushtimargiya Vaishnavas.[11] It has significant following in Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, as well as its regional diaspora around the world.[1][12] The Shrinathji Temple in Nathdwara is the main shrine of Pushtimarg, which traces its origin back to 1669.[13][12]

Founder and History[edit]

Vallabhacharya discovers Sri Nathji, at Mount Govardhan

Vallabhacharya was born into a Telugu Brahmin family in South India. His maternal grandfather was a priest in the royal court of the Vijayanagara Empire.[14] Vallabha's family fled Varanasi after they learnt about an imminent Islamic attack on the city, then spent the early years with baby Vallabha hiding in the forests of Chhattisgarh.[14]

As part of his education, Vallabha studied Vedic literature and other Hindu texts. He worked in the temples of the Vijayanagara court, and then embarked on a years-long pilgrimage to the major sacred sites of Hinduism on the Indian subcontinent.[14] He met scholars of Advaita Vedanta, Vishishtadvaita, Dvaita Vedanta, as well as his contemporary, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. His visit to Vrindavan in the north persuaded him to accept and dedicate himself to the bhakti of Krishna and writing his philosophical premises in Sanskrit and a few in the Braj language. His devotional mantra "Sri Krishna Sharanam Mam" (Shri Krishna is my refuge) became the initiatory mantra of Pushtimargis.[14] The term pushti to Vallabha implied "spiritual nourishment", a metaphor for Krishna's grace.[14][15]

Vallabhacharya has been a major scholar of the Bhakti tradition of Hinduism, as a devotional movement that emphasizes love and grace of God as an end in itself. Vallabhacharya initiated his first disciple Damodardas Harsani with a mantra along with the principles of Pushtimarga.[12]

When he died in 1531, Vallabacharya delivered the leadership of his movement to his elder son, Gopinatha. At Gopinatha's death in 1543, he was succeeded by his younger brother Vitthalanatha, a key figure in the development of the Pushtimarg. He codified the doctrine of the movement and died in 1586. At his death, the eight primary icons of Krishna of the Pushtimarg were distributed among his seven sons, plus one adopted son.[16] Some fragmentation followed, as each son of Vitthalanatha was able to confer initiations and start his own independent lineage, although the different branches remained unified by the doctrine. Among the descendants of Vitthalanatha, some acquired prestige as scholars, including Gokulanatha (1552-1641), Harirayaji Mahaprabhu (1591-1711), and Purusottamalalji (1668-1725). .[17]

In the 20th century, the Pushtimarg prospered thanks to the acquired affluence of some of its members, primarily Gujarati merchants. The Gujarati diaspora led to the foundation of important Pushtimarg centers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.[18]

Key Tenets[edit]


Vallabha formulated the philosophy of Śuddhādvaita in response to the Advaita Vedānta of Śaṅkara, which he called Maryādā Mārga or Path of Limitations. Vallabha rejected the concept of Māyā, stating that the world was a manifestation of the Supreme Absolute and could not be tainted, nor could it change.[19] According to Vallabha, Brahman consists of existence (sat), consciousness (chit), and bliss (ananda), and manifests completely as Kr̥ṣṇa himself.[7]


The purpose of this tradition is to perform sevā (selfless service) out of love for Kr̥ṣṇa. According to Vallabhacharya, through single minded religiosity, a devotee would achieve awareness that there is nothing in the word that is not Kr̥ṣṇa.[20]

Religious Praxis[edit]

Vallabha stated that religious disciplines that focused on Vedic sacrifices, temple rituals, puja, meditation, and yoga had limited value. The school rejects ascetic lifestyle and cherishes householder lifestyle, wherein the followers see themselves as participants and companions of Krishna, and their daily life as an ongoing raslila.[9]




The formal initiation into Pushtimarg is called Brahmasambandha. The absolute and exclusive rights to grant "Brahmasambandha" in the path of grace, in order to transform an ordinary jiva (soul) into a Pushti "Jeev" lie only with the descendants of Vallabhacharya, known as Goswami Balaks of Vallabh kul. ("Goswami" literally means one who has control over all the senses.) Vallabh Vaishnavas respectfully and lovingly refer to them as: "Goswami", "Bawa" or "Jai Jai". They are the actual and direct descendants of Vallabhacharya Mahaprabhu. Goswamis are responsible for the "pushti" (literally means spiritual nourishment) of all the disciples initiated by them.

Brahmasambandha is a process, where after fasting for one full day (consuming fruits and milk only) one is given the Krishna "Gadhya Mantra" in front of a Deity "Swaroop" by a Vallabhkul Goswami after which tulsi leaves (Indian Basil) are offered to the lotus feet of the Lord. The Adhikaar (right) to perform daily "seva" comes only after one is initiated into Pushtimarg by means of formally granting brahmsambandh by a Goswami Balak. Without brahmsambandh one does not hold the right to perform seva of a Pusht Swaroop (Deity) (the swaroop which showers grace just like it did on the gopis).[12]

Seven Swaroops Worshipped In Pushtimarg[edit]

Krishna is the chief deity of the sect. Yamunaji is worshiped as his fourth consort(Chaturth Patrani) and is the goddess who ordered Vallabhacharya to recite Shrimad Bhagwat (Shrimad Bhagwat Parayan) near her banks. It is for Yamunaji, Vallabhacharyaji composed Yamunashtakam.

Several forms/icons of Krishna are worshiped in the sect. Here are the main forms, their description and where they currently reside.

  1. Pradhan Peeth: Shrinathji :- Govardhannathji (seven-year-old Krishna) with the Govardhan parvat lifted in his left hand. Some Vaishnavs also say that the left hand of Srinath ji is holding the pains, grief and other problems of his devotees. This swaroop of Lord Krishna is as the Nikunj Nayak. (Nathadwara - Rajasthan - India) Navnit Priyaji :- Baby Krishna, with a butter ball (Makhan) in his right hand and a small loti a spherical vessel in his left hand which touches the ground. This swaroops Mukharvind (face) is Dark hued Megha-shyam while body is gaur Fair in color. (Nathadwara - Rajasthan - India)
  2. Pratham Peeth: Mathuradheeshji :- Lord of Madhuryata - The lord of Sweetness in Nature. Mathuradheeshji has a four armed image.This swaroop has a round Pithika Stele. (Kota - Rajasthan - India) Natavarlalji & Shyamlalji :- Dancing Krishna. It is the swaroop of Lord Krishna doing the Kaliya-Mardan. Natvarlalji shares his Haveli with Shyamlalji. Natvarlalji is the Nidhi-swarup Of Mathuradheeshji. (Ahmedabad -Gujarat)
  3. Dwitiya Peeth: Vitthalnathji :- Lord, waiting with His hands on waist, after "Cheer Haran Lila". (Nathdwara - Rajasthan - India)
  4. Trutiya Peeth: Dwarikadheeshji :- Lord of Dwarika - four armed image of the Lord. This swaroop has a square Pithika Stele. It is different from Dwarkadhish in Dwarka, Gujarat. (Kankroli- Rajasthan)
  5. Chaturth Peeth: Gokul Nathji :- Lord of Gokul - four armed image of the Lord, lifting the mountain and playing his flute. He is accompanied by two Swaminiji -Shri Radha and Chandrawali on either side of him. (Gokul - UP - India)
  6. Pancham Peeth: Gokul Chandramaji :- The "moon" of Gokul - dark image of the Lord playing a flute. He has a Tribhangi posture i.e. bent from three sides - the neck, waist and legs. This swaroop is of the Maharaas utsav during Sharad purnima. (Kamvan -Rajasthan)
  7. Sashtha Peeth: Bala Krishnalalji :- Baby Krishna, with a butter ball in his right hand. This swaroop is quite similar to Navneetpriyaji, but is particularly different. (Surat-Gujarat) Kalyanraiji :- Krishna with 4 arms and having triangle pitika stele. Kalyanraiji is the Nidhi-swarup Of Balkrishnalalji. (Vadodara-Gujarat) Mukundraiji :- Baby Krishna crawling with butter. Mukendraiji is also the Nidhi-swarup Of Balkrishnalalji. (Vadodara-Gujarat), (Varanasi-UP)
  8. Saptam Peeth: Madan Mohanlalji :- This swaroop is also accompanied by two Swaminiji - Radha and Chandrawali. (Kamvan - Rajasthan)

Pushtimarg Seva Prakar (devotional worship in Pushtimarg)[edit]

Seva is a key element of worship in Pushti Marg. All followers are expected to do seva to their personal icon of Krishna. In Pushti Marg, where the descendants of shrimad Vallabhcharyaji reside and perform Seva of their own idol of Shri krishna is called a "haveli" - literally a "mansion". Here the seva of thakurji(Shri Krishna) is performed with the bhaav of the Nandalaya. There is a daily routine of allowing the laity to have "darshan" (adore) the divine icon 8 times a day. The Vallabhkul adorn the icon in keeping with Pushti traditions and follow a colourful calendar of festivals.

Some of the important aspects of Pushtimarg Seva are:

  1. Raag (playing and hearing traditional Haveli music)
  2. Bhog (offering pure vegetarian saatvik food that does not contain any meat or such vegetables as onion, garlic, cabbage, carrots, and a few others)
  3. Vastra and Shringar (decorating the deity with beautiful clothes and adorning the deity with jewellery)

All of the above three are included in the daily seva (devotional service) which all followers of Pushtimarg offer to their Thakurji (personal Krishna deity), and all of them have been traditionally prescribed by Goswami Shri Vitthalnathji almost five hundred years ago. Shri Vitthalnathji is also called Gusainji (Vallabhacharya's second son). The raag, bhog, and vastra and shringar offerings vary daily according to the season, the date, and time of day, and this is the main reason why this path is so colourful and alive.

Seva is the most important way to attain Pushti in Pushtimarg and has been prescribed by Vallabhacharya as the fundamental tenet. All principles and tenets of Shuddhadvaita Vaishnavism stem out from here.


Birthplace of Vallabhacharya, Prakatya Baithak, Champaran

Baithak or Bethak, literally "seat", is the site considered sacred by the followers of the Pushtimarg for performing devotional rituals. These sites are spread across India and are chiefly concentrated in Braj region in Uttar Pradesh and in western state of Gujarat. Total 142 Baithaks are considered sacred; 84 of Vallabhacharya, 28 of his son Viththalanath Gusainji and 30 of his seven grandsons. They mark public events in their lives. Some of them are restricted or foreboding.[21]


Gouache painting on paper from Nathdwara representing the autumn Annakuta Festival. This annual festival is observed by donating a mountain of food, usually rice, to the temple to symbolise the moment Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan to protect his villagers. In Nathdwara the food is then given to the Bhils, the tribal peoples living in Mewar. The left arm of the god Srinathji, a form of Krishna, is raised and the murti (idol) is positioned in front of a picchvai decorated with a stylised floral pattern. Two priests attend the god, positioned on either side of the offering.

Pushti Marg followers celebrate several festivals. Icons are dressed and bejeweled to suit the season and the mood of the festival. All festivals are accompanied by a vegetarian feast which is offered to the deity and later distributed to the laity. Most festivals mark the important events in the life of Krishna, the birth of one of Vishnu's major avatars (Ram Navami, Nrushi Jayanti, Janmashtami (Krishna), Vaman Dwadashi), the festivals marking the change of seasons, the day of installation of an icon at the temple and the birthdays of sect's leaders and their descendants.


Haveli Sangeet or Kirtans are devotional hymns written by the asht sakhas for and about Shrinathji. The instruments played during Kirtan include zanz, manjira, dholak, pakhavaj/mrudang, daff, tampura, veena, harmonium, tabla, etc.


Template:Or-section The works of Vallabhacharya are central to Pushtimarg. He wrote commentaries on Sanskrit scriptures, the Brahma-Sutras (Anubhasya[22]), and Shreemad Bhagwatam (Shree Subodhini ji, Tattvarth Dip Nibandh).

Shodash Granthas[edit]

Also, in order to help devotees on this path of devotion, he wrote 16 pieces in verse which we know as the Shodasha Granthas. These came about as answers to devotees. The verses define the practical theology of Pushtimarga.

The Shodash Granthas(doctrines) serve as a lighthouse for devotees. They speak about increasing love for Shri Krishna through Seva (service) and Smarana (remembering). These doctrines are Mahaprabhu's way of encouraging and inspiring devotees on this path of grace. The central message of the Shodasha Granthas is, total surrender to the Lord. A Goswami can initiate an eager soul to this path of Shri Krishna's loving devotion and service. The verses explain the types of devotees, the way to surrender and the reward for Seva, as well as other practical instructions. The devotee is nurtured by the Lord's grace.

  1. Shree Yamunastakam: An ode to Shree Yamuna Maharani
  2. Baala Bodhah: A guide for beginners on the path of devotion
  3. Siddhant-Muktavali: A string of pearls consisting of the principles/fundamentals of Pushtimarg
  4. Pusti-Pravaha-Maryadabhedah: The different characteristics of the different types of souls (Receptivity of the Lord’s grace)
  5. Siddhant-Rahasya: The Secret behind the Principles
  6. Navratna : Nine jewels of instructions (Priceless instructions for a devotee)
  7. Antah-Karan-Prabodhah: Consoling one's Heart (Request to one’s own heart)
  8. Vivek-Dhairy-Aashray: Of discretion, patience and surrender
  9. Shree Krushna Aashray: Taking Shree Krushna’s shelter
  10. Chatuhshloki: A Four Verses (Verser) illustrating the four principles of life; Dharma, Arth, Kaam, Moksh
  11. Bhakti-Vardhini: Increase of devotion
  12. Jal-Bhed: 21 types of Orators (Vakta).
  13. Pancha-Padyaani: 3 types of Listeners (Shrota)
  14. Sannyasa-Nirnayah: Decision on taking Renunciation
  15. Nirodh-Lakshanam: Identifying characteristics of detachment
  16. Seva-Phalam: The reward of performing seva (worship) of the Lord

Apart from Shodash Granths Shri Vallabhacharya wrote following Granths " Books :

  • Anubhashya on 5 Brhamasutra(Incomplete)
  • Bhashya on 6 Jaimini Sutra (Incomplete)
  • Bhashya on Gayatri
  • Purvamimamsa-Bhashya-Karika
  • 'Subodhini' a commentary on Bhagavat Purana (Incomplete)
  • 'Sukshmatika' a commentary on Bhagavat Purana (Incomplete)
  • Bhagavat Dashama-skandha Anukramanika
  • Patravalambanam
  • Shiksha-shlokah
  • TATVARTHADIPNIBANDHA 1.Shastrartha-prakaranam 2.Sarvanirnaya-prakaranam 3.Bhagavatartha-prakaranam
  • STOTRA: -Madhurashtakam -Parivrdhashtakam, -Shri Krishnashtakam, -SriGirirajadharyashtam, -Premamrtam -Shri Gopijanavallabhashtakam etc. -Shri Purushottama-nama-sahasrm (One thousand names of Shri Krishna from Bhagavat Purana) -Trividhalila-namavali


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Vallabhacharya, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Matt Stefon and Wendy Doniger (2015)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kim, Hanna H. (2016), "In service of God and Geography: Tracing Five Centuries of the Vallabhacharya Sampradaya. Book review: Seeing Krishna in America: The Hindu Bhakti Tradition of Vallabhacharya in India and its Movement to the West, by E. Allen Richardson", Anthropology Faculty Publications 29, Adelphi University
  3. E. Allen Richardson (2014). Seeing Krishna in America: The Hindu Bhakti Tradition of Vallabhacharya in India and Its Movement to the West. McFarland. pp. 5–6. ISBN 978-1-4766-1596-7.
  4. Bangha, Imre (2006). "Courtly and Religious communities as Centres of Literary Activity in Eighteenth-Century India" (PDF). Indologia Orient: 12.
  5. Vemsani, Lavanya (2016-06-13). Krishna in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Hindu Lord of Many Names: An Encyclopedia of the Hindu Lord of Many Names. ABC-CLIO. pp. 222–223. ISBN 978-1-61069-211-3.
  6. E. Allen Richardson (2014). Seeing Krishna in America: The Hindu Bhakti Tradition of Vallabhacharya in India and Its Movement to the West. McFarland. pp. 12–21. ISBN 978-1-4766-1596-7.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Edwin F. Bryant (2007). Krishna: A Sourcebook. Oxford University Press. pp. 477–484. ISBN 978-0-19-972431-4.
  8. E. Allen Richardson (2014). Seeing Krishna in America: The Hindu Bhakti Tradition of Vallabhacharya in India and Its Movement to the West. McFarland. pp. 20–23, 189–195. ISBN 978-1-4766-1596-7.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Lochtefeld, James G (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: N-Z. Rosen Publishing. pp. 539-540. ISBN 978-0823931804.
  10. Richard Keith Barz (1976). The Bhakti Sect of Vallabhācārya. Thomson Press. pp. 1–5. ISBN 978-8-1215-05765.
  11. Harirāya (1972). 41 [i.e. Ikatālīsa] baṛe śikshāpatra: mūḷa śloka, ślokārtha, evaṃ vyākhyā sahita (in हिन्दी). Śrī Vaishṇava Mitra Maṇḍala. p. 297.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Jindel, Rajendra (1976). Culture of a Sacred Town: A Sociological Study of Nathdwara. Popular Prakashan. pp. 21–22, 34, 37. ISBN 978-8-17154-0402.
  13. Wendy Doniger (1999). Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Merriam-Webster. p. 781. ISBN 978-0-87779-044-0.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 Constance Jones; James D. Ryan (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase. pp. 475–477. ISBN 978-0-8160-7564-5.
  15. E. Allen Richardson (2014). Seeing Krishna in America: The Hindu Bhakti Tradition of Vallabhacharya in India and Its Movement to the West. McFarland. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-4766-1596-7.
  16. Richard Keith Barz (1976). The Bhakti Sect of Vallabhācārya. Thomson Press. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-8-1215-05765.
  17. Richard Keith Barz (1976). The Bhakti Sect of Vallabhācāryaji. Thomson Press. pp. 42–43. ISBN 978-8-1215-05765.
  18. E. Allen Richardson (2014). Seeing Krishna in America: The Hindu Bhakti Tradition of Vallabhacharyaji in India and Its Movement to the West. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-1596-7.
  19. Saha, Shandip (2004). "Tracing the History of the Puṣṭi Mārga (1493-1670)". Creating a Community of Grace: A History of the Puṣṭi Mārga in Northern and Western India (1493-1905) (Thesis). University of Ottowa. p. 98-106.
  20. Saha 2004, p. 98-106.
  21. E. Allen Richardson (8 August 2014). Seeing Krishna in America: The Hindu Bhakti Tradition of Vallabhacharya in India and Its Movement to the West. McFarland. pp. 31–33. ISBN 978-1-4766-1596-7. Archived from the original on 24 August 2017.
  22. "ANU BHASHYA". May 13, 1921 – via Internet Archive.

Further reading[edit]

  • E. Allen Richardson. Seeing Krishna in America: The Hindu Bhakti Tradition of Vallabhacharya in India and Its Movement to the West. Jefferson: McFarland, 2014. 240 pp. ISBN 978-0-7864-5973-5.
  • The Path of Grace: Social Organization and Temple Worship in a Vaishnava Sect. By Peter Bennett. Delhi: Hindustan Publishing Corporation, 1993. xi, 230 pp.

External links[edit]

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