Vallabhacharya (1479–1531 CE), also known as Vallabha and Vishnuswami, or Vallabha Acharya, was an Indian philosopher who founded the Krishna-centered PushtiMarg sect of Vaishnavism in the Braj region of India,and the philosophy of Shuddha advaita (Pure Non-dualism).
Vallabha was born in a Telugu Tailang Brahmin family that had been living in Varanasi, who escaped to Champaran of Chhattisgarh state while expecting Vallabha, expecting a Muslim invasion, which ultimately didn’t happen, during the late 15th century. The name Vallabha means the beloved or lover, and is a name of Vishnu and Krishna.
Vallabha studied the Vedas and the Upanishads as a child, then travelled throughout the Indian subcontinent over 20 years. He became one of the important leaders of the devotional Bhakti movement. Vallabhacharya’s mother was Illamma who was the daughter of a family priest serving the rulers of the empire of Vijayanagara.
The hagiographies written by his followers, just like those for other Bhakti leaders, claim that he won many philosophical debates against the followers of Ramanuja, Madhvacharya and others, had visions and miracles.He is the Acharya and Guru of the Pushti sub-tradition, which he founded after his own interpretation of the Vedanta philosophy.
Vallabha rejected asceticism and monastic life, suggested that through loving devotion to God Krishna, any householder could achieve salvation – an idea that became influential all over India, proven by his 84 Baithakjis (Places of worship) in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Keral, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Goa and various other parts of India.
He is associated with Vishnuswami Sampraday, and is the prominent Acharya of Rudra Sampradaya out of the four traditional Vaishnava Sampradayas.
He authored many texts including the Anubhashya also colloquially called BrahmaSutrAnubhashya(a commentary on Brahm Sutra), Shodash Granth or sixteen ‘stotras’ (tracts) and several commentaries on the Bhagavata Purana. Vallabha’s writings and kirtan compositions focus on baby Krishna and his childhood pranks with Yashoda (unconditional motherly love), as well as a youthful Krishna’s protection of the good (divine grace) and his victory over demons and evils, all with allegory and symbolism.
His legacy is best preserved in the Braj region, and particularly at Nathdwara in Mewar region of India – an important Krishna pilgrimage center. He called himself an incarnation of Agni.