Surdas was a late 15th-century blind saint, poet and musician, known for his devotional songs dedicated to Lord Krishna. Surdas is said to have written and composed a hundred thousand songs in his magnum opus the 'Sur Sagar' (Ocean of Melody), out of which only about 8,000 are extant. He is considered a saguna bhakti poet and so also known as Sant Surdas, a name which literally means the "servant of melody". His most famous work was charan kamal bando hari rai
There is some disagreement regarding the exact birth date of Surdas, some scholars believing it to be 1478 AD, with others claiming it to be 1479 AD. It is the same in the case of the year of his death; it is considered to be either 1581 AD or 1584 AD. According to the limited authentic life history of Surdas, it is said that he was born in 1478/79 in the village of Runakta,Mathura although some say it was Runkta near Agra. He started praising Lord Krishna when he was young. Surdas was born blind and because of this, he was neglected by his family. As a result, he left his home at the age of six. He lived in Braj (or Bhraj), near Mathura.
Surdas' lilting music and fine poetry attracted much praise. As his fame spread far and wide, the Mughal emperor Akbar (1542–1605) became his patron. Surdas spent the last years of his life in Braj, and lived on the donations which he received in return for his bhajan singing and lecturing on religious topics, until he died in CE 1584.
Surdas also attained fame for his purity of devotion towards Lord Krishna. In one incident, Surdas falls into a well and is rescued by Lord Krishna when he calls him for help. Radha asks Krishna why he helped Surdas, to which Krishna replies it is for Surdas' devotion. Krishna also warns Radha not to go near him. She, however, does go near him, but Surdas, recognizing the divine sounds, pulls her anklets off. Radha tells him who she is but Surdas refuses to return her anklets stating that he cannot believe her as he is blind. Krishna gives Surdas vision and allows him to ask for a boon. Surdas returns the anklets saying he has already got what he wanted (the blessings of Krishna) and asks Krishna to make him blind again as he does not want to see anything else in the world after seeing Krishna. Radha is moved by his devotion and Krishna grants his wish by making him blind again thus giving him everlasting fame.
Surdas was called the sun in the sky of Hindi literature. He is best known for his composition 'Sursagar'. This famous collection is said to have originally contained 100,000 songs; however, only 8,000 remain today. These songs present a vivid description of the childhood of Krishna.
Although Surdas is known for his greatest work — the Sur Sagar — he also composed Sur-Saravali (which is based on the theory of genesis and the festival of Holi), and Sahitya-Lahiri, devotional lyrics dedicated to the Supreme Absolute. It is as if Surdas attained a mystical union with Lord Krishna, which enabled him to compose the verse about Krishna's romance with Radha almost like an eyewitness. Surdas' verse is also credited with lifting the literary value of the Hindi language, transforming it from a crude to a pleasing tongue.
The philosophy of Surdas is a reflection of the times. He was very much immersed in the Bhakti movement that was sweeping North India. This movement represented a grass roots spiritual empowerment of the masses. The corresponding spiritual movement of the masses happened in South India in the seventh century A.D., and also in central and northern India in the 14th-17th centuries.
Surdas' poetry was a dialect of Hindi language, Brij Bhasha, until then considered to be a very plebeian language, as the prevalent literary languages were either Persian or Sanskrit. The works of Surdas immediately raised the status of Brij Bhasha from a crude language to that of a literary language of great repute.
Surdas being disciple of guru Vallabhacharya was a proponent of the Shuddhadvaita school of Vaishnavism (also known as Pushti Marg). This philosophy is based upon the spiritual metaphor of the Radha-Krishna Rasleela (The celestial dance between Radha and Lord Krishna). It propagates the path of Grace of God through spirit of pure love and service, rather than of merging in Him as Brahma.