Birth and his ancestors
Śrīmad Vallabhāchārya was born on the 11th day of the dark half of the Caitra, 1535 Samvat (1479 A.D.), in the forest of Campā near Raipur. His father was Śrī Lakṣmaṇa Bhaṭṭa, and Yallammagāru was his mother. He was a Telugu Brāhmaṇa studying the Taittirīya śākhā of the Black Yajur-veda. Vallabha's birth is shrouded in the mysteries of the devotional beliefs of his followers, but one thing is certain that his followers believed that he was commissioned by God to inaugurate a great religious revival in India. From the writings of Vallabha which are available now, we can say that this belief was shared by himself also. It is not an uncommon phenomenon in India. Rāmānuja, Madhva, Nimbārka and several other great teachers did believe in their special messages to the world. Vallabha's ancestors were Dīkṣitas, and were devoted to Kṛṣṇa in the form of Gopāla. The svarūpa of Madana-mohanajī in the seventh Pīṭha is the one which came to him from his sixth ancestor Yajñanārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭa. It is possible that Vallabha's father Lakṣmaṇa Bhaṭṭa and his ancestors were the Upāsakas of Gopāla according to the cult of Viṣṇusvāmīn.
The early years of Vallabha were passed by him with his father at Benares, where he is said to have mastered all the Vedas, six darśanas, and all schools of āstika and Nāstika thinkers. He studied the śaiva and Vaiṣṇava āgama. When Vallabha was comparatively young, his father died. Vallabha wanted to study the Vaiṣṇava systems of Rāmānuja, Madhva, Nimbārka and others, and seeing that they were not prevalent there, in order to have direct knowledge, he is said to have proceeded to the south. Vallabha's desire to go to the south of India was very natural.
Grand Victory at Vijaya-nagara
During that time there was the powerful Hindu kingdom of Vijaya-nagara or Vidyā-nagara over which ruled the mighty monarch Kṛṣṇadevarāya, himself a great Vaiṣṇava. During his time, it seems a convention was held of the representatives of all the existing Saṃpradāyas. The session seems to have been going on when Vallabha visited Vijaya-nagara, The main dispute seems to have been between Vyāsatīrtha, the Mādhva, and some representatives of Māyāvādīns. lt seems also clear that the Dvaita philosophy of the Mādhvas could not hold its own against the attacks of śāṅkaras. At this juncture Va!labha seems to have baffled all by his great learning and powerful arguments. We see no reason to doubt this fact. The author of a recently discovered work Vyāsa-yoga-caritaṃ, from Vyāsa rāya maṭha, does chronicle the fact that Vallabhāchārya was honoured by the king Kṛṣṇadevarāya under the presidentship of the then famous Mādhva Svāmi Vyāsatīrtha. Vallabha's position was peculiar. He accepted Advaita pure and simple without the interference of the Māyāvāda of Sāṅkara; hence all the attacks advanced by Madhvas and others against Advaita lost their force as against him. His acceptance of 'advaita pūrvaka bhakti' disarmed the opposition of both Vaishnavas and Sankaras. The position taken up by Vallabha was not altogether singular. We believe that Nārāyaṇa Bhatta, the author of the famous drama Veṇīsaṃhāra, was the follower of a system of philosophy which combined in itself the pure Advaita of the Upaniṣadas and the Bhaktimārga. Whatever that may be, it is certain that Vallabha made a very great impression on king Kṛṣṇadevarāya, Vyāsatīrtha and others who were present there. Vyāsatīrtha, the Mādhva, actually requested him to be the head priest of his maṭha after him. Vyāsatīrtha with king Kṛṣṇadevarāya again approached Vallabha and presented him with a good many valuables. From these presents Vallabha is said to have prepared a golden mekhalā set with diamonds, rubies etc., and presented the same to śrī Vitṭhala in the Vitṭhala Svāmi temple at Vijaya-nagar. Ultimately, it appears Vallabha could not conscientiously accept the offer of Vyāsatīrtha, but from this time Vallabha came to be regarded as a great ācārya.
Refuting Māyāvāda and Establishing the Theory of Brahmavada - A true essence of Vedas
He seems to have met with great opposition from the Māyāvādi Pandits of Benares. In order to silence them for ever, Vallabha wrote out a pamphlet in mixed verse and prose and affixed the same to the doors of the Kāśī viśvanātha, with a challenge to Benares Pandits to refute the same, if they could. One Upendra was the leader of the opposition. It seems this discussion ended into threats of personal violence, as a consequence of which Vallabha left Benares and moved over to Adel on the opposite bank of the Gaṅgā. This work seems to have created a great stir in the world of scholars then living. One Ayyanna Dīkṣita actually mentions it by name in his Vyāsa-tātparya-nirṇaya. Ayyanna's seems to be a veiled attempt to belittle the achievement of Vallabhacarya by propounding a principle though novel, far from convincing, for finding out the true view of Vyāsa. lt would be rather hazardous to say that the true view of Vyasa can be determined from the statement of the opponents. Assuming however that it is so, the opponents mention both Pariṇāma and Vivarta as the view of Vyāsa. Hence from the statements of opponent Sāṃkhyas and Naiyāyikas it is impossible to come to the conclusion that Vyāsa teaches Vivarta alone in his Brahma-sutras.
Later life and Disappearance
The last portion of his life was passed at Adel, where he finished his works which were begun by him during his travels, and served Lord Kṛṣṇa with the love and devotion of Gopīs, and founded his system on it. At the age of 52 he left his parṇa śālā, joined the sanyāsa āśrama and came to Benares. For a month he observed fast, and for the last eight days he observed mauna-vrata, and on the 2nd day of the bright half of āṣāḍha saṃvata 1587, he left this world in the mid-day.
Vallabha married one Mahālakṣmī. By her he had two sons, Gopīnātha and Vitṭhaleśvara. Gopīnātha had one son named Puruṣottama, after whom his line became extinct. Vitṭhaleśvara lived over seventy years. He had seven sons. During his time the saṃpradāya flourished very considerably. Todarmal, Birbal, and Raya Puruṣottama seem to haye come under his influence. Akbar also presented him with Gokula and Jatipurā villages in Vraja. All the present Maharajas are direct agnate descendants of Vitṭhaleśvara.
While he was staying in the north of India, Vallabhāchārya came into contact with Keśava Kāśmirīn, the famous Nimbārka scholar, and Caitanya, the Bengal saint. They were both kṛṣṇopasakas, and it seems from sāmpradāyika gāthās that their relations were very cordiaI. Keśava presented his pupil Mādhava Bhaṭṭa Kaśmīrīn to Vallabha in Dakṣiṇā of bhāgavata kathā śravaṇa. He became his devout disciple, and during his whole life acted as the scribe of Śrīmad Vallabhāchārya. It seems that during Mādhava Bhaṭṭa's stay with him at Adel, Vallabha composed his numerous works. During that interval Vallabha wrote Pūrva mimāṃsā bhāṣya, Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣya , Tatvārtha-dīpa-nibandha with his own commentary, Sūkṣma ṭīkā and Subodhinī on śrīmad bhāgavata, and the sixteen prakaraṇa granthas giving in brief the essence of his views. It is really unfortunate that only a fragment of his Pūrva mimāṃsā bhāṣya is available now. Aṇubhāṣya, as we have it now, is not wholly written by him. The last adhyāya and a half of the Bhāṣya is finished by his son Vitṭhaleśvara. Sūkṣma ṭīkā is almost lost. Even Puṣṭi-pravāha-maryādā-bheda, one of the minor prakaraṇas, is not available as a whole. The Subodhinīi is available only on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 10th and a portion of 11th skandhas. lt is possible that Vallabha wrote on all the skandhas. The loss of these valuable works seems to have been due partly to the apathy of his descendants and followers.
Establishing the Temple of Srīnāthajī
During his visit to Vraja, Vallabha set up the shrine of śrīnāthajī on the holy hill Govardhana in a temple built for that purpose by one pūrṇa malla kṣatriya. There Vallabh5carya used to pass his cāturmāsa i.e. āṣāḍha śuklā eleventh to kārtika śuklā eleventh every year. Here he developed the aesthetic side of Vaiṣṇavism by refining and perfecting the mode of worship - Sevāmārga. During his stay in Vraja, on the midnight of 11th day of the bright half of śrāvaṇa he says he had holy communion with Lord Kṛṣṇa who commanded him to initiate jivas in his service. This initiation consists of two parts; one is the formula to be repeated by the aspirant before the deity by holding Tulasi-leaves in hand and afterwards placing the same at the feet of the deity through āchārya, and the other part is the effect of the same, on the devotee, by which he becomes the adhikārī in the Sevāmārga of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Origin and History of Tailaṃga Brāhmaṇa
Śrīmad Vallabhāchārya manifested in the Vellari (Vellanāḍu) cast of Tailaṃga Brāhmaṇa.
According to one epic story, there was a King of Jaimuni (part of Tailaṃga desh - current Andhra Pradesh in India) who was very spiritual and believed in Yoga śāstra. The King had a routine of taking bath in the river Gaṅgā in Kāśī. One day his wife(queen) expressed desire to take a bath in the river Gaṅgā in Kāśī as well. King took her with him. One day, the King and Queen were in Kāśī but due to some restrictions, they were not able to travel back to Jaimuni Desa (Empire). King came to know with his knowledge of Yoga that there was a riot due to an enemy attack on the Jaimuni Empire. He had to go back but could not travel with his wife due to religious and Vaidik restrictions. However, Brahmins in Kāśī gave him permission to take his wife despite religious restriction. King felt blessed and promised those brahmin to help in the future when they needed it. Once there was drought in Kāśī. Those Brāhmaṇas remembered the promise given by the King. They all went to Jaimuni desh where the King welcomed them all and made all arrangements for their accommodation. Looking at the respect given to this Uttari (Northern)Brāhmaṇa, Dakṣiṇī (Southern) Brahmin started debate on religious topics with Uttarī Brāhmaṇa. Dakṣiṇī Brāhmaṇa tried to win the debate by all means. Matter came to the king's attention. The King gave one challenge to both Brāhmaṇa groups. Uttarī Brāhmaṇa won the challenge and King’s heart as well. Since then these Uttarī Brāhmaṇas known as “Uttarīya Tailaṃga” Brahmins since they came from Northern part and settled down in Tailaṃga desa.
There is a history of 6 different divisions of Brahmin which is explained as below. There was a brahmin named Aileśvara Upādhyāya . His daughter got married to his student named Kalyanpant who pretended to be the Brahmin. After many years, Aileśvara Upādhyāya came to know that Kalyanpant was not Brahmin but a Soni (a Jeweler). Meaning Kalyanpant did not belong to his Caste. Aileśvara was deeply hurt. After discussing with his cast’s Brahmin community, Aileśvara decided to divide his Brahmin Caste. He said, those who did not belong to this country were named “Vellārī ” or “Vellanāḍu” (“Vel” means outsider and “nāḍu” means Country). Second, he said those who migrated here due to the destruction of their village for whatever reason, were called “vegināḍu” (Vegi means destroy, nāḍu means country). Third, He said those who migrated due to death of the leader or mismanagement of the country after the death of the leader, were called “Murkīnāḍu” (‘Murkī’ means death and ‘nāḍu’ means Country or leader of the county). Fourth, Those who came from three countries and very knowledgeable with ṛgveda, called “Karṇakarma” (those who have knowledge of Veda and Karma). Fifth, Those who belonged to Tailaṃga desa and had origin of his cast were called “Tailamgāni”. Sixth, He had named this group of Brahmin “Kasalanāḍu”. Thus, Aileśvara Upādhyāya made 6 divisions of Brahmin cast during that time.
Later on, there were two more division added to Tailaṃga Brahmin called “Anumkundlu” and “Kautakudal”. Later, more division were added called Dubalu, Aryalu, Upduriwaru, Kakul Pati waru, Badhmah, Aasvel Niyogi, Paknati Niyyogi, Pesalvai Niyogi, Nandvaryu Niyogi etc. These Brahmins were restricted to get married within their cast only. Sometimes, Paknati Niyogi and Aasvel Niyogi were getting married within each other’s cast and they were further divided.