Preceptors of Advaita

by T. M. P. Mahadevan | 1968 | 179,170 words | ISBN-13: 9788185208510

The Advaita tradition traces its inspiration to God Himself — as Śrīman-Nārāyaṇa or as Sadā-Śiva. The supreme Lord revealed the wisdom of Advaita to Brahma, the Creator, who in turn imparted it to Vasiṣṭha....

(i) Kāmākṣī

The Āmnāya-śakti



Swami Anantanandendra Sarasvati

I am fortunate in belonging to the paraṃparā of Upaniṣad Brahma, commentator of the Hundred and eight Upaniṣads (published in seven volumes by the Adyar Library, Madras). I had also an opportunity of going through Ratnaprabhā of Rāmānandīya which is regarded as one of the best commentaries on Śrī Śaṅkara’s Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣya and which is the one most consulted by students of Advaita philosophy. The author in the beginning of the work refers to Kāmākṣī as having blessed his Parameṣṭhī-guru with prasāda in which milk and ghee were found in abundance and which was cherished by the celestials.


I had also an opportunity of going through Mūka-pañchaśatī, a hymn in five hundred verses in praise of Devī Kāmākṣī or Kāmakoṭi by Śrī Mūkakavi, the dumb poet.

kāmadughā bhava kamale kāmakale kāmakoṭi kāmākṣi.

Therein I came accross the verse

aiśvaryam indumauleh aikātmyaprakṛtikāñchimadhyagatam,
aindavakiśoraśekhoram aidamparyaṃ chakāstinigamānām.

Here it is said that Śrī Kāmākṣī in Kāñchī is the Treasure of Chandramaulīśvara, the Essence of the Vedas, and the Root of the realization of Advaita. From this it occurred to me that Śrī Mūkakavi while writing this verse had before him the inseparable connection between Śrī Kāmākṣī and the Advaita philosophy of Śrī Śaṅkara which is the quintessence of the Vedas, i.e. Vedānta.

The Kāmākṣī temple at Kāñchī contains a life-size stone image of Śrī Śaṅkara with his disciples, four of whom are ekadaṇḍa-sannyāsis. Besides this there are also sculptures of Śrī Śaṅkara in various postures in the Utsava-Kāmākṣī and Baṅgāru-Kāmākṣī sannidhies in the temple.

There is a sculpture in the hundred and eight pillared maṇḍapa at Śrī Varadarājasvāmi temple at Kāñchī which depicts a defiant and arrogant brahmin pandit with śikha and yajñopavīta and a young sannyāsi with ekadaṇḍa in front of him, the latter in a rather calm mood. The Śaṅkaravijayas say that after Ś rī Śaṅkara wrote his bhāṣya on the Brahma-sūtra Śrī Vyāsa, in order to proclaim the correctness of the bhāṣya on these sūtras, came in the guise of a brahmin controversialist and challenged Śrī Śaṅkara on his interpretation of the Brahma-sūtras, in the course of which he (Vyāsa) resorted to arguments, not straightforward and honest. Seeing that the controversy was becoming hot, Śrī Padmapādāchārya through his jñānadṛṣṭi realized that the arrogant brahmin was Śrī Vyāsa himself who staged this scene so that learned contemporaries might become conscious of Śrī Śaṅkara’s calm and correct replies to his unwholesome criticisms. Śrī Padmapāda then exclaimed:

śaṅkaraḥ śaṅkarassākṣāt vyāso nārāyaṇaḥ svayam,
tayoḥ vivāde saṃprāpte kiṃkaraḥ kiṃ karomyaham.

“Śrī Śaṅkara is Śiva incarnate and Śrī Vyāsa is Śrī Nārāyaṇa.
When these two are engaged in disputation, what can I a servant do?”

The sculpture mentioned above of an arrogant brahmin pandit with a young sannyāsi in front of him, I surmise, depicts the above incident.

On hearing Śrī Padmapāda’s words, Śrī Śaṅkara at once prostrated before Śrī Vyāsa, requesting him to reveal his real form and bless him. Śrī Vyāsa then appeared in his real form, blessed Śrī Śaṅkara, saying that his bhāṣya, which proclaimed and established the ultimate truth, ‘ekameva advitīyam brahma’ (Brahma is one without a second) is the only correct interpretation of the sūtras. He also doubled Śrī Śaṅkara’s life-tenure for the sake of digvijaya and the establishment of the Advaita philosophy.

In the Varadarājasvāmi temple itself there is another sculpture on a pillar in the maṇḍapa to the north of the Tāyār Sannidhi, showing an aged ṛṣi with jaṭā, rudrākṣa, and yajñopavīta in the sitting posture, showing one finger, and an ekadaṇḍa sannyāsi in the posture of performing daṇḍavandanam. This sculpture probably depicts the latter part of the incident after Śrī Vyāsa revealed himself before Śrī Śaṅkara and blessed him, confirming by the show of one finger the ultimate truth, ‘ekameva advitīyam brahma ’ as against his earlier dualist argument in the disguise of a Brahmin pandit. This raising of one finger in the image of the ṛṣi is very significant as against the raising of two fingers in the image of the dualist teachers. The figure with jaṭā, etc. mentioned above fits in with the dhyānaśloka of Śrī Vyāsa, ‘piṅga jaṭā baddha kalāpaḥ’.

There is a Śiva temple in Kāñchī called Vyāsa Śrāntāśraya. According to the Kāñchī-māhātmya, Śrī Vyāsa is said to have performed special worship at this temple. On the upper structure of the main shrine of this temple there are two stucco figures, one standing and the other sitting, depicting some relevant purāṇic aspects in connection with that temple. There is similarity between Śrī Vyāsamūrti in this shrine and the one in the Varadarāja temple.

There is yet another temple in Kāñchī called Airāvatīśvara temple belonging to the Pallava period wherein we find in a niche in a wall Śrī Vyāsa. Near it is an ekadaṇḍa-sannyāsi-mūrti with a shaven head. The figure represents early boyhood. Although the head of the sannyāsi-mūrti is shaven, the sprouts of hair as seen in this sculpture depicts the stage of an elapse of about a month after the actual shaving. But there are no hair sprouts on the chin. This difference is probably intended to show that the figure is that of a sannyāsi in his early teens, and we may take it for granted that it is the figure of Śrī Śaṅkara, the bhāṣyakāra, seated near Śrī Vyāsa, the sūtrakāra of Vedanta. If the date of Śrī Śaṅkara according to recent writers, i.e. the eighth century A.D. may be accepted, this sculpture should belong to the actual life-time of Śrī Śaṅkara, the later Pallava period. Śrī C. Sivaramamoorti, Director, National Museum, New Delhi, who personally discovered this sculpture is of this opinion.

There are many other temples, both Vaiṣṇavite and Śaivite, in Kāñchī which contain on their walls and pillars sculptures of ekadaṇḍa sannyāsis in various postures, like yoga, samādhi, tapas , pījā, etc., a rare occurrence in other places noted for sculptures.

Advaita 21

A photograph of ADI SANKARA FROM THE AIRAVATISVARA TEMPLE in Kancheepuram. The central panel shows Dhakṣinamurti, the Lord of Wisdom and on either side there are two great rishis, Vyasa and Jaimini. To the left of Vyasa is Sankara as a boy of sixteen with the Danda in his hand and with his hair cut but grown into curls and with no beard on his chin as he is so young. The one sage represents Vedanta and the other Mimamsa. There are Rudrakṣa beads on the neck of Sankara.

After reading the verse in the Mūka-pañchaśatī connecting Advaita philosophy with Kāmākṣī and also seeing these sculptures, I was at a loss to know why there was no reference to the name, Kāmākṣī, in Śrī Śaṅkara’s well-known life sketches.

Sri T. K. Balasubramania Iyer of Śrī Vāṇi Vilās Press, Śrīraṅgam, brought out a Memorial Edition of the complete works of Śrī Śaṅkara. This press also published a small booklet containing the Jagadguru-paraṃparāstotra and the Maṭhāmnāya. Neither of these contained any reference to Śrī Kāmākṣī. I then looked into Mādhavīya-saṅkaravijaya which is regarded by most people as a correct biography of Śrī Śaṅkara. There is no reference to the name of Śrī Kāmākṣī in that work either. But there are two verses in sarga 15 of that work from which we may infer a reference to Śrī Kāmākṣī. Verses Nos. 4 and 5 therein state that Śrī Śaṅkara reached Kāñchī, had a temple built there on the pattern of ‘Para-vidyā-charaṇa,’ removed the tāntrika form of worship that was prevailing there and introduced the vaidika form of worship.

draviḍāmścha tato jagāma kāñchīnagarīṃ hastigireḥ nitambakāñchīm,
suradhāma cha tatra kārayitvā paravidyācharaṇā (śaranā)-nusāreichitram.
apavārya cha taṃtrikānatanīt bhagavatyāḥ śrutisammatāṃ saparyām.

Here ‘paravidyācharaṇānusārichitram’ means ‘according to the charaṇa of Para-vidyā. The verse in Saundaryalaharī

chaturbhiḥ śrīkaṇṭhaiḥ śivayuvatibhiḥ pañchabhirapi prabhinnābhiḥ saṃbhornavabhirapi mūlaprakṛtibhiḥ, chatuśchatvāriṃśadvasudalakalaścha trivalaya-trirekhābhiḥ sārdhaṃ tava śaraṇakoṇāḥ pariṇatāḥ.

—says ‘tava-śaraṇa-koṇāḥ paṛṇatāḥ’. Here the reference is to the koṇāḥs (angles) of Śrī Chakra which is said to be the seat of Para-vidyā. As Śrī Śaṅkara consecrated Śrī Chakra in the temple of Śrī Kāmākṣī, the reference to Śrī-vidyā-charaṇa in verse No. 5 of Mādhavīya-śaṅkaravijaya may be taken to refer to Śrī Kāmākṣī, the ‘Bbagavati’ in Kāñchī.

I then came across a small booklet Yati-sandhyā in Devanāgarī script published by the Dvārakā-pīṭha in the year 1957 (Vikrama Śaka, 2013). I also fortunately had access to some other books, namely

  1. Śaṅkarāchārya-jagadguru-maṭhāmnāya, published by Pandit Yogendra Aṣṭāvadhāna Śarma and printed by B. Mishra at the Balabhadra Press, Puri, in 1930,
  2. Unpublished Upaniṣads, printed and published by the Adyar Library in the year 1937,
  3. and Śaṅkara-granthāvalī in Bengali script published by Rajendranath Ghosh.

I also came across manuscript copies of Mathāmnāya obtained from the Oriental Institute, Mysore, and the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, No. 1517 of 1891-95.

These Āmnāyas give information about the various Sankaraite institutions for the Western, Northern, Eastern, Southern, and other super-regions (Ūrdhvāmnāya), etc., of India. A study of the Āmnāyas contained in the works mentioned above as well as those found in other libraries reveals certain features which arrest attention. The Āmnāya for each region deals among others with the kṣetra, devatā, devī (śakti), and āchārya, of each Āmnāya. The devī (śakti) of the Southern region (Āmnāya) is mentioned as Kāmākṣī in all the Maṭhāmnāya editions and manuscripts mentioned above; but in the Āmnāya published in the Vāṇi Vilās Press, Śrīraṅgam, the śakti of Śṛṅgeri is mentioned as Śāradā. The mūrtis worshipped in the Śaṅkaraite institutions on the banks of the Tuṅgabhadrā are referred to as ‘Śāradā-Chandramaulīśvara’. It may be mentioned here that Śāradā is the śakti of Brahmā and the sister of Śiva (cf. brahma-jāyāyai namaḥ and śivānujāyai namaḥ in Sarasvatī Aṣṭottaram). Chandramaulīśvara-Kāmākṣī is the ‘śakti (Śivaśakti) of Parameśvara. In the Lalitā-sahasranāma and the Lalitā-triśatī, Parāśakti is described as Kāmākṣī and Kāmakoṭikā (Sahasranāma) and Kāmakoṭimlayā (Triśati). In the Lalitā-aṣṭottara she is described as Kāmakoṭi-mahāpadma-pīṭhasthā. A perusal of the Lalitā-sahasranāma and the Lalitā-triśati will show that Śāradā is completely different from Kāmākṣī or Kāmakoṭi.

A doubt arose in my mind as to why there is difference between the śakti of Śṛṅgeri as it is described in the Vāṇi Vilās Edition and the śakti for the Southern region mentioned as ‘Kāmākṣī’ in the Dvārakā, Purī (Jagannāth) and other Āmnāya texts mentioned above.

The revised and enlarged edition of the book, The Greatness of Śṛṅgeri, says that Śrī Śaṅkara established the four maṭhas in the four directions, and the book, Kumbakona Mutt , also says that Śrī Śaṅkara established in the four comers of India four maṭhas of apostolic succession. Further, the work entitled Throne of Transcendental Wisdom says that Śrī Śaṅkara established four maṭhas in the cardinal points of the country.

But as a matter of fact we find that only the institutions for the Northern, Western, and the Eastern regions are situated in the respective comers of India. The institution for the Southern region should have been at Rāmeśvaram or Kanyākumārī which is the comer or cardinal point in the South. But according to the work, The Greatness of Śṛṅgeri, mentioned already, the institution in the South is at Śṛṅgeri, which, in fact, is situated in the North-West portion of South India. As regards this point. Śrī Mahādeva Rājārām Bodas, Bombay, in his Śaṅkarāchārya in Marāthi (?) printed by the Jagat-Hitechu Press, Poona, in the year 1923 says at page 49:

‘we can say that the four mutts were established at the four “dhams”; but we see that neither the institution at Śṛṅgeri nor the one at Kāñchī is at a dham (comer). They are in the centre of the country. The institution should have been either at Rāmeśvaram or Kanyākumārī.’

chār diśām nā vachār mukhya dhāmāṃ che tikāṇīṃ chār maṭh sthāpan kele aseṃ mhaṇāveṃ tar ādya śṛṃgerī kiṃvā kāñchīmath tase nāhīntaḥ te marutbhumīṃ tamadhyavartī aṭet dakṣiṇamath rāmeśvar kiṃvā kanyākumārī, yethe pāhi je hotāṃ.

I then found that in all the Āmnāyas mentioned above, the Āmnāyasthānas (kṣetras) are unanimously described as being in the four comers (chārdhāms), Dvārakā in the West, Badari in the North, Puri (Jagannāth) in the East and Rāmeśvaram in the South. It then occurred to me that Śrī Bhagavatpāda might have originally intended to establish the Āmnāya institutions in the four directions in the four places generally known as chārdhāms, i.e. Dvārakānāth in the West, Badrināth in the North, Jagannāth in the East, and Rāmanāth (Rāmeśvaram) in the South. But now we see that there is a Śaṅkaraite institution on the banks of the Tuṅgabhadrā (Śṛṅgeri) in the North-West of the Southern region. There is also a Śaṅkaraite institution further south in Kāñchī. The pīṭhaśakti of the institution on the banks of the Tuṅgabhadrā is Śāradā, whereas the śakti of the institution at Kāñchī is Kāmākṣi or Kāmakoṭi.

How is it that there are two Śaṅkaraite institutions in Southern India, one in the North-Western portion and the other further south at Kāñchī?

Another doubt also confronted me on an additional point. In all the maṭhas in the Ceded Districts and in Mysore bearing the names of Śṛṅgeri, like the Virūpākṣa, Puṣpagiri, Āmani, Śivagaṅga, etc., the preambles to the Śrīmukhas included the epithet, Tuṅgabhadrā-tīravāsī . But the present popular Śṛṅgeri also bearing the same epithet is not on the banks of the Tuṅgabhadrā but is on the banks of the Tuṅgā. How to account for this discrepancy?

Enquiries made from the people of Mysore revealed the existence of a tradition that Śrī Śāradā (Sarasavāni) after the defeat of Manḍanamiśra decided to ascend to Brahmaloka when Śrī Śaṅkara bound her by Vanadurgā-mantra and beseeched her to follow him till he installed her śakti in this loka itself for bestowing her grace on aspirants for knowledge. She agreed to follow him on condition that he did not look back while she was following him. While they were crossing the confluence of the Tuṅgā and the Bhadra, the sounds of Śrī Śāradā’s anklets were not heard by Śrī Śaṅkara as her feet were imbedded in the sands of the river. Not hearing the sound of the anklets, Śrī Śaṅkara looked back. Śrī Śāradā then reminded him of his promise not to look back and said that she would not proceed any further and would stay at that place itself. Śrī Śaṅkara agreed and installed the śakti there itself, consecrating the same in the temple, and made arrangements for an institution there with a line of succession for her worship. This accounts for the springing up of an accidental Śaṅkaraite institution in the North-West portion of Karṇāṭaka and for the inclusion of the epithet ‘Tuṅgabhadrā-tīravāsī in the preambles to the Śrīmukhas of that institution and its sub-divisions. This tradition is also mentioned in some form or other by many authors in their works.

Thus an accidental event led to the establishment of an institution on the banks of the Tuṅgabhadrā with the sānnidhya of Sarasavāṇi as Śāradā, a fifth name apart from the four śaktis Bhadrakāḷī, Pūrṇagiri, Vimalā, and Kāmākṣī as enumerated in the Dvārakā, Puri, and other Āmnāya texts. The Kāñchī institution is in Kāñchīpuram, the seat of Śrī Kāmākṣī and the Southern-most mokṣapuri. Among the many details in the Āmnāya relating to the institutions of Śrī Śaṅkara, the kṣetra and the devī-pītha , i.e. the śakti are the most important For instance, in the Uttarāmnāya the kṣetra is mentioned as Badrināth and the devī as Pūrṇagiri. Tīrthaṅka, the 1957 Annual number of Kalvāṇ of Gorakhpur, at page 53 gives the information that the hill Pūrṇagiri is revered as the devī in her splendour and is situated on the banks of the river Śāradā near the borders of Nepal. The devī, Pūrṇagiri. in the form of a hill and the kṣetra, Badrināth, make one Āmnāya institution. In the same way, the kṣetra, Rāmeśvaram, (one of the chārdhāms) and the dew. Kāmākṣī, at Kāñchī, the mokṣapuri, make one Amnāya institution. Kāñchī is not only the centre of Dakṣiṇāmnāya by being the peat of Śrī Kāmākṣī. the Āmnāya-śakti, it is also the central point of the earth according to the works, Kāñchī-māhātmya, Kāmākṣīvilāsa, and Merutantra.

Besides the variations as regards the kṣetra and śakti of the Southern region, there are also some other variations between the Vāni Vilās edition of the Maṭhāmnāya and the other Maṭhāmnāyas mentioned already. In the Vāni Vilās edition the name of the āchārya is given as Sureśvara; but in the Dvārakā, Puri, and other Maṭhāmnāyas, Pṛthvīdhara is mentioned as the āchārya of the institution on the banks of the Tuṅgabhadrā. Śrī Sureśvara (Mandanamiśra) being the husband of Śāradā (Sarasavāni) in his pūrvāśrama , it would not have been proper to appoint Sureśvara in that institution for the worship of Śāradā (Sarasavāṇi), his wife in his pūrvāśrama. It was but apt that Pṛthvīdhara was placed in charge of the institution of that place as mentioned in the Dvārakā, Puri, and other Maṭhāmnāyas.

This seems to be the reason for the difference in the names of the śakti and the āchārya in the Southern region.

As already mentioned, there is a Śaṅkaraite institution at Kāñchī, the seat of Kāmākṣī, the śakti of the Southern region. How did it come into existence? Besides the śakti , the kṣetra, and the āchārya, each region has its own devatā. The devatā of the Northern and the Eastern regions are respectively Badrināth and Jagannāth, and that of the Western region is Siddheśvara. The devatā of the Southern region, according to the Maṭhāmnāyas mentioned above, is Ādivarāha. It may be noted here that Ādivarāha is the Perumal of Tirukkalvanūr, one of the hundred and eight divya-deśas of the Vaiṣṇavites, sung by the Vaiṣṇavite Āḻvārs. About Tirukkalvanūr, the Tīrthaṅka says at page 92:

is divya deś ke ārādhyadev(?) ādivarāh-bhagavān añjilaivallī lakṣmī samet vāman vimān meṃ paśchimābhimukh khade hue kāmākṣīdevī kē mandir meṃ ek or darśan de rahe haim. inkā sākṣātkār aśvatthanārāyaṇ ne aur maṅgalāśāsan saṃt parakāl ne kiyā hai, yah divyadeś aur iskī nitya-puṣkariṇī ab lupt haiṃ.’

Kalvan means thief. There is at present a figure of Viṣṇu hiding himself in a niche of Śrī Kāmākṣī temple outside the southern wall of the sanctum sanctorum. The Kāñchīmāhātmya and the Kāmākṣīvilāsa give in full detail the story of this hiding of Viṣṇu.

As originally intended, Śrī Āchārya stayed at Kāñchī, one of the seven mokṣapuris of Bhāratavarṣa and also the seat of Kāmākṣī and Ādivarāha, the śakti and devatā of the Southern region. Kāñchī became more important because Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya himself stayed there. The Kāñchīmāhātmya and the Kāmākṣīvilāsa, already mentioned, refer to Kāñchī as che nābhi (navel) or kāñchī (girdle) of Mother Earth.

tapassthānaṃ bilaṃ sūkṣmaṃ paramaṃ vyoma tatsmṛtam,
ādhibhautikamaṃhoghnaṃ nābhisthānaṃ bhuvaḥ param.
31, 70;)
(kāmākṣīvilāse, 11, 6.)

jagatkāmakalākāraṃ nābhisthānaṃ bhuvaḥ param.
13, 73.)

pṛthivyāḥ gosvarūpāyāḥ yatkiñchitsthānatāṃ gatam.
1, 56.)

atha kṣiteradbhutakāñchimaikṣata.
l, 56.)

aikāro’bhūt kāmakoṭau nābhistatra tu te’patat,
tatra sarve’pi siddhyanti kāmamantrāḥ na saṃśayaḥ.

Thus we see that Kāñchī is not only the seat of the śakti and devata of the Southern region but also is the centre of Mother Earth. Śrī Āchārya, therefore, adopted the Kāmakoṭi-pīṭha at Kāñchī as his pīṭha and asked Sureśvara to occupy the pīṭha after him. Śrī Śaṅkara stayed at Kāñchī and attained siddha there itself. The Guruparaṃparā of the bhāratīya-sampradāya a t the institution on the banks of the Tuṅgabhadrā included as No. 2146 in part III of Dr Hultzch's The Search for Sanskrit Manuscripts in Southern India, printed and published by the Government Press, Madras, in 1905, says that Śrī Śaṅkara installed Kāmākṣī at Kāñchī and attained eternal bliss there.

āgachchhatsvechchhayā kāñchīṃ paryaṭan pṛthv tate(?),
tatra saṃsthāpya kāmākṣīṃ jagāma paramaṃ pada...(?),
viśvarūpayatim sthāpya svāśramasya prachāraṇe.
svayaṃ kāñchīmagāttūrṇaṃ śrīpṛthvīdharabhāratī,
tadvṛtāntaṃ samākarṇya tapasaḥ siddhaye tadā.

The Guruparaṃparā of Kūḍali (Śṛṅgeri) maṭha, printed at Seṣādri Press, Mysore, under the authority of the said maṭha, also says the same thing with a very slight modification.

svechchhayā paryaṭan bhūmau yayau kāñchīpurīṃ guruḥ,
tatra saṃsthāpya kāmākṣīṃ devī paramagātpadam.
pṛthvīdharayatiḥ pīṭhe brahmavidyāprachāraṇe,
viśvarūpaṃ pratiṣṭhāpya kāṃchyāṃ brahmatvamāptavān.

The Patañjalicharita, printed and published by the Nirṇaya-sāgar Press, Bombay, as No. 51 in the Kāvyamālā Series, says in verse 71 of its last chapter that Śrī Śaṅkara spent his last days at Kāñchī.

tasmin sthite nijamahimni videhamuktyā,
advaitabhāvyamupakalpya diśovijitya
kāñchīpure sthitimavāpa sa śaṃkarāryaḥ.
8, 71.

Another work, Śaṅkarābhyudaya, by Rājā Chūḍāmaṇi Dīkṣita also says that Śrī Śaṅkara spent his last days at Kāñchī worshipping Kāmākṣī. A work, Śīvarahasya, an Itihāsa comprising more than fifty thousand verses, published in Kannada script with Kannada translation as Mahārājā Jayachāmarājendra Granthamālā Series, Volume 21, No. 32, 1950, refers at page 200 in the 16th Adhyāya of its 9th Aṃśa, to Śrī Śaṅkara’s siddhi at Kāñchī .

liṅgārchanāt prāptajayaḥ svakāśramam,
tān vai vijitya tarasā’kṣataśāstravādaih
miśrān sa kāṃchyāmathasiddhimāpa.

The same verse appears in the copy of Śivarahasya obtained from some other libraries as well as in the commentary to verse 103 of the last Chapter of Mādhavīya-Śaṅkaravijaya. It is mentioned therein that Śrī Śaṅkara worshipped five sphaṭikaliṅgas given to him by Śrī Śiva, but it is not stated where those liṅgas were installed.

Śrī Rājeśvara Śāstri of Vallabha Rāma Sāligrāma Sāṅga Veda Vidyālaya, Vārāṇasī, has published a Śaṅkara-pūjā-krama. In that Pūjā-krama it is said that a copy of the Ānandagiri-Śaṅkaravijaya in the Rāmatārakā, Mutt, Vārāṇasī, said to have been copied in Śaka 1737, i.e. about a hundred and fifty years ago was referred to while preparing the Pūjā-krama, and the Pūjā-krama contains extracts from the said copy of the Śaṅkaravijaya. In that book the various places where the liṅgas were installed are mentioned.

In the manuscripts of Ānandagiri-Śaṅkaravijaya, found in the various libraries in the country, as well as in the printed edition of the same it is said that Śrī Śaṅkara attained siddhi at Kāñchī after consecrating Kāmākṣī there. Dr S. K. Belvalkar in his Gopal Basu Malliek lectures on Vedānta philosophy, Poona, 1929, says at page 240,

‘According to one set of traditions, Kāñchī in the South of India is given as the place where the Āchārya breathed his last. According to other sources, he died at Badarikāśrama disappearing in a cave in the Himālayas. The weight of probability belongs to the first view.’

Some old manuscripts of Ānandagiri-Śaṅkaravijaya found in the Mysore Oriental Institute, the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras, and the Rāmatārakā Mutt, Vārāṇasī (as given in the Śaṅkarāchārya-pūjā-krama mentioned above) give some further details of Śrī Āchārya as follows.

tatraiva...... bhoganāmakaṃ liṅgaṃ...... nikṣipya
(ānandagiriśaṅkaravijaye, prakaraṇaṃ

nīlakaṇṭheśvaram natvā.... varanāmakaṃ liṅgaṃ pratiṣṭhāpya
(ānandagiriśaṅkaravijaye, prakaraṇaṃ 55.)

kedārakṣetre muktiliṅgāranyaṃ pratiṣṭhāpya
(ānandagiriśaṅkaravijaye, prakaraṇaṃ

tatra nijasiddhāntapaddhatiṃ prakāśayituṃ antevāsinaṃ sureśvaramāhūya yoganāmakaṃ liṅgaṃ pūjaya iti tasmai datvā tvamatra kāmakoṭipīṭhamadhivasa.
(ānandagiriśaṅkaravijaye, prakaraṇaṃ,

Śrī Śaṅkara himself stayed at Kāñchī and attained siddhi there.

svalokaṃ gantumichchhuḥ kāñchīnagare muktisthale kadāchi-dupaviśya sthūlaśarīraṃ sūkṣme antardhāya sadrāpo bhūtvā sūkṣmaṃ kāraṇe vilīnaṃ kṛtvā chinmātro bhūtvā aṅguṣṭha-puruṣaḥ tadupari pūrṇamakhaṇḍamaṇḍalākāramānandamī-svarasannidhau prāpya sarvajagadvyāpakaṃ chaitanyama-bhavat. sarvavyāpakachaitanyarūpeṇādyāpi tiṣṭhati.
(ānandagiriśaṅkaravijaye, prakaraṇaṃ,

Professor Wilson says about the Ānandagiri-Śaṅkaravijaya that

‘it bears internal and undisputed evidence of the composition of a period not far removed from that at which he (Śaṅkarāchārya) may be supposed to have flourished. We may, therefore, follow it as a safe guide.’

Monier Williams in his Sanskrit-English Dictionary referring to the Ānandagiri-Śaṅkaravijaya says that it is a biography of Śrī Śaṅkara recording his controversial victories over numerous heretics. In the Mādhavīya-Śaṅkaravijaya, Kedāra is mentioned as the place of Śrī Śaṅkara’s siddhi. Why this difference?

In this connection I may state that Śrī Sampoorṇānand, the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, states in a letter dated 6-7-1958 addressed to Śrī T. N. Ramachandran, Retired Joint Director of Archaeology, as follows:

‘There is nothing new to prove that Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya died at this spot. All that tradition says is that he came to Kedārnāth and in the modem phraseology disappeared thereafter. So what is called a samādhi is not a samādhi but a memorial.’

In a letter published in ‘The Hindu’ dated 19-6-1959 one Svāmi Sahajānanda of Guruvāyūr writes from Badrināth as follows:

‘On enquiry from the Joshi mutt they say that it is only a saṅkalpa samādhi and that the actual samādhi is not on the spot,’

I then went through the Guruvamśa-kāvya, the Chidvilāsīya-Śaṅkaravijaya, and the Mādhavīya-Śaṅkaravijaya, all dealing with Śrī Śaṅkara’s life. I then found that the place of Śrī Śaṅkara’s siddhi had been gradually changed from Kāñchī to Kedāra. How it was changed is explained below.

The Guruvamśa-kāvya is a work dealing with the Śṛṅgeri maṭha’s guruparaṃparā. In the colophon to each chapter of the work it is stated that it has been written at the direction (nirmā-pita) of Śrī Sachchidānanda Bhāratī, the head of that maṭha (1705-1741). (Vide The Annual Report of the Archaeological Department of Mysore for the year 1928, page 15). Nirmāpita means ‘caused to be written.’ The author of the work has himself written a commentary on the same.

The first three chapters of the work deal with the life and work of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya, The Great. The author of the work says that he follows the path laid down (by) Kavīndraiḥ: āryāṇām kulamupodarśitaṃ kavīndraiḥ (Chapter 1, verse 6). The author’s commentary on this is as follows:

āryāṇāmiti. kavīndrāiḥ ānandagiṛyatīndrādibhiḥ. upadarśitaṃ—
prakaṭīkṛtam. āryāṇāṃ—śrīmadāchāryāṇāṃ kulaparamparām

Here he explains the word ‘kavīndraiḥ’ as ‘by Ānandagiri-yatīndra and others’. It is dear from the above that the then head of the maṭha, Śrī Sachchidānanda Bhāratī, when directing the composition of the work, had in his mind that Ānandagiri was the important authority on the life and institutions (paraṃparā) of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya. But later when dealing with the place of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya’s final disappearance, the Guruvamśa-kāvya goes against the tradition recorded in all the versions of Ānandagiri’s Śaṅkaravijaya.

As already stated, Monier Williams, in his Sanskrit-English Dictionary (1899), referring to Ānandagiri’s Śaṅkaravijaya says that it is a biography of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya recording his controversial victories as a Vedāntin over numerous heretics. But when referring to Mādhavīya-Śaṅkaravijaya, he says that it is a fanciful account of the controversial exploits of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya.

Prof. Wilson in his Sketch of the Religious sects of the Hindus, though criticizing Ānandagiri’s work for its narration of miracles, finally remarks, as stated already,

‘we may therefore follow it as a very safe guide’ (Indian Antiquary, Vol. V, p. 587).

The Guruvamśa-kāvya, while referring to the last days of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya says:

aukaṃ samastānyapi pustakāni śiṣyānsamastānapi tāmmuncham,
āstāmimau daṇḍakamaṇḍalū chetyālochya tatyāja sa tau cha yogi
daṇḍo drurūpeṇa saparyaṇaṃsīttīrthātmanā chāmbukamaṇḍalustham,
mahātmano hastaparigraheṇa jaḍau cha tau sārthatanū abhutām.
dattātreyaṃ bhuvanavinutaṃ vīkṣya natvā nyagādīd
vṛttaṃ svīyaṃ sdkalamapi tānpreṣitān dikṣuśiṣyān(?).
so’pi śrutvā munipatiradādāśiṣo viśvarūpā-
chāryādibhyaḥ sukhamavasatāṃ tatra tau bhāṣamāṇau.
3; ślokaḥ, 68-70.)

Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya towards the close of his life went from Siddheśvar in Nepal to Dattātreya Āśrama, abandoned his daṇḍa and kamaṇḍalu, which became a tree and a tank (tīrtha) respectively, and stayed at Dattātreya Āśrama at Māhurīpuri in Mahrātvāḍa (about thirty miles from Kinvat station on the Adilabad— Hyderabad section) conversing with Śrī Dattātreya.

The commentary says at the end of the chapter:

so’pidattātreyo’pi munipatirviśvarūpāchāryādibhyaḥ āśiṣaḥ adātdattavān. tatramāhurīpure, bhāṣamāṇausaṃlapantau, taudattātreyaśaṅkarāchāryau, chiraṃbahukālaṃ, avasatāṃuṣitavantau.

The Tirthaṅka, the 1957 Annual number of Kalyān of Gorakhpur, refers at page 239 to Māhurīpuri as Māhuragaḍha and as containing the shrine of Dattātreya.

madhya-relve kī bhusāval-nagpur lāin par murtijāpur steśan hai. vahāṅ se ek lāin yavatmāl tak jātī hai. yavatmāl se māhur-kṣetr samīp hai, māhurkṣetr meṃ anasūyā-dattaparvat par maharṣi jamadagni kī samādhi hai, reṇukādevī kī mandir hai aur paraśurāmkuṇḍ hai. kahā jātā hai bhagavān dattātrey kā āśram yahīṃ thā. dattātreyji jamadagniṛṣi ke guru the.

guru kī ājñā se maharṣi jamadagni apnī patnī reṇukādevī ke sāth yahāṅ āye aur yahīṅ unhoṃne tathā reṇukājī ne samādhi lī. kile ke bhītar mahākāli kā mandir tathā sarovar hai.

There are two devatās at Māhur (1) Jagadambā and (2) Dattātreya. The temples of these two gods are at a distance of three and four miles respectively from Māhur town situated on two different mountains.

‘At the temple of Dattātreya there is a m ahant who looks after the pūjā and temple management. The devotees assemble for pūjā of Jagadambā and Dattātreya on Mārgaśīrṣa-śuddha-paurṇami and also for pūjā of Jagadambā on Chaitra-śuddha-paurṇami. At both the temples pūjās and archanas can be performed every day.’

(Extract from a letter from Manick Rao Patwāri, Assistant Engineer, P.W.D.)

It is not clear why, after naming in the beginning of the work Ānandagiri as the foremost of the earlier authors, the Guruvamśa-kāvya mentions some other place as the last resort of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya. Nor does it follow in this respect the Mādhavīya-Śaṅkara-vijaya (nowadays regarded by the maṭha on the banks of the Tuṅgā as the sole authority on Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya’s life), which says that the Āchārya ended his bodily career in Kedārṇāth. Nor does the Guruvamśa-kāvya follow the Chidvilāsīya-Śaṅkaravijaya, which mentions Dattātreya-guha in Badari, many miles distant from Kedārnāth, as the last resort of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from what is stated above is either that the two Śaṅkaravijayas, Mādhavīya and Chidvilāsīya, did not exist at the time of the composition of the Guruvamśa-kāvya, or that the authorities of the maṭha on the banks of the Tuṅgā were not aware of the existence of the above two works, while directing the composition of the Guruvamśa-kāvya.

The only answer to the question why the Guruvamśa-kāvya gives as the place of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya’s last resort, a place in Mahrātvāḍa is that in the opinion of the authorities of the maṭha on the banks of the Tuṅgā the mention of Kāñchī as the place of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya’s last resort would enhance the importance of the Śaṅkaraite institution in Kāñchī. This new alteration as regards the place of Śrī Śaṅkara’s last resort, namely that it was at Māhurīpuri, noted for its shrine of Dattātreya, gave a handle to Chidvilāsa, who probably composed his Śaṅkaravijaya later than the Guruvamśa-kāvya, to further alter the place of Śrī Āchārya’s last resort to a cave in the popular Badari regarded as the abode of Dattātreya.

vitanvan badarīṃ prāpa tapodhanakṛtāśrayām,
dināni katichittatra svachchhandamavasatsukhī.
31, 25.

ityuktvā śaṃkarāchāryakarapallavamādarāt,
avalambya karāgreṇa dattātreyassa tāpasaḥ.
praviveśa guhādvāraṃ datvā’jñāṃ jamsantateh,
kramāt jagāma kailāsaṃ pramathaiḥ pariveṣṭitam.
48, 49.

The Mādhavīya-Śaṅkaravijaya in its turn completely discarded the importance of Dattātreya’s sānnidhya for the place of Ś rī Śaṅkara’s last resort, but felt the necessity of the Āchārya’s place of last resort being in a Śivakṣetra, as Śrī Śaṅkara was an avatāra of Lord Śiva.

pārikāṅkṣiśvaro’pyāpaduddhārakaṃ sevamānātulasvastivistārakam,
pāpadāvānalātāpasaṃhārakaṃ yogibṛndādhipaḥ prāpa kedārakam.
16, 100.

iti kṛtasurakāryaṃ netumājagmurenaṃ
rajataśikhariśṛṅgaṃ tuṅgamīśāvatāram
suranikaravareṇyāḥ sarṣisaṃghāḥ sasiddhāh.
16, 103.

indropendrapradhānaistridaśaparivṛdhaih stūyamānaprasūnair-
divyairabhyarchyamānaḥ sarasiruhabhuvā dattahastāvalambah,
āruhyokṣāṇamagṛyaṃ prakaṭitasujatājūtachandrāvataṃsaḥ (?)
sṛṇvannālīkaśabdaṃ sumuditamṛṣibhirdhāmanaijaṃ pratasthai.
16, 106.

Had the people of the eighteenth century regarded the Mādhavīya - Śaṅkaravijaya as the sole authority for Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya’s life, the then Āchārya of the maṭha while directing the composition of the Guruvamśa-kāvya would have caused Kedārnāth and not Dattātreyāśrama in Māhurīpuri, to be mentioned as the place of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya’s last resort.

This Guruvamśa-kāvya was, as already stated, directed to be written by Śrī Sachchidānanda Bhāratī who was the pontiff at the beginning of the eighteenth century in the maṭha on the banks of the Tuṅgā river in the Shimoga District of Mysore State.

Thus the reference to Ānandagiri as the main authority on Śrī Śaṅkara’s life in the Guruvamśa-kāvya and the reference to Kāñchī as the place of Śrī Śaṅkara’s last resort in the Guruparaṃparā of the Tuṅgabhadrā (Kūḍali) Śṛṅgeri maṭha go to establish that all Śṛṅgeri institutions till the end of the latter part of the eighteenth century held the view that Kāñchī was the plate of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya’s last resort, and that it was only after that period that the place of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya’s last resort was changed from place to place, namely Māhurīpuri, Badari, and Kedāra. (The latest alteration is to Kashmir in a work on the life of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya in Sanskrit verse published under the auspices of the Dvārakā maṭha by one Śrīnivāsa Alaya of South Canara, in whose opinion alterations in the details of any hero’s life are not wrong, provided they do not lower the dignity of the hero. Although he mentions Kashmir as the place of final resort of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya, he declares in the preface to his work that he follows the Mādhavīya-Śaṅkaravijaya, which on the other hand mentions Kedārnāth as the place of final resort.)

The Bengali Encyclopaedia or Viśvakosh (1892) gives under the heading Kāñchī the following information regarding Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya’s last days.

‘kāṃchīpur ek prāchīn mahātīrth hai....... keval tīrth hī nahīṃ, kañchī mahāpiṭhsthān hai....... śivakāṃchīsthit ekāmranāth nāmak mahādev kā ādiliṅg, bhagavatī kāmākṣī-devī kī mūrti, bhagavān śaṅkarāckāry kī pratimā evaṃ samā-dhisthal... kāmākṣīdevī kā mandir kuchh chhoṭā hai. isī ke prāṅgaṇ meṃ bhagavān śaṅkarāchāry kī samādhi hai. isī samādhi par unkī prastaramayī mūrti pratiṣṭhit hai.’

Kāñchī is one of the seven mokṣapuris. According to these Guruparaṃparās, not only Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya chose Kāñchī as the place of his last resort but also Pṛthvīdhara, the first pontiff of Śṛṅgeri maṭha on hearing of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya’s leaving his mortal coil at Kāñchī hurried to Kāñchī and attained siddhi there. Vidyāraṇya too, according to the Puṣpagiri-maṭhāmnāya quoted by Kokkandrum Venkataratnam Pantulu in his Śaṅkara-maṭha-tattva-prakāsikārtha-saṅgraha, a work in favour of the maṭha on the banks of the Tuṅgā (printed in the year 1877 at Sanjivini(?)-mudrākṣaraśālā, Peddanaickenpe(?) Madras(?) went to Hampi from Kāñchī and after his immortal life work there returned to Kāñchī in his last moments and attained Kailas there.

tataḥ paraṃ gajādrīndurupake śakavatsare,
vidyāraṇyaguruḥ kāñchīnagaryāṃ sa babhau mahīn(?),
paṃpākṣetre vasanmaunī bhaktarakṣaṇatatparaḥ(?),
                     *       *       *       *
visṛjya kāñchīnagaraṃ sahaiśvaryaṃ savāhanam,
vidyāraṇyagurusvāmī kailāsālayamāviśat,

Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya, Śrī Pṛthvīdharāchārya, and Śrī Vidyāraṇya, all these immortal sages have chosen Kāñchī, the Southern-most mokṣapuri as their last resort. This was the traditional belief of all the followers of Śrī Śaṅkara including those of the Śṛṅgeri maṭha upto the eighteenth century.

On account of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya’s presence during his last days in Kāñchī Kāmākṣī or Kāmakoṭi pīṭha, the spiritual centre of the earth, that centre should have become the object of reverence to the then āstika world from Siberia to Java and from Thailand to Gāndhāra, wherever the Vedas and Śāstras flourished and the name of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya was known. In addition to Kāñchī being referred to as the spiritual centre of the world in different holy texts, it may also be deemed to be the geographical centre of the āstika world mentioned above. Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya seems to have graced Kāñchīpuri at the end of his career on the earth, not only on account of its being consecrated as the seat of the devī of Dakṣiṇāmnāya but also on account of its being the centre of the earth itself tor the spiritual regeneration of which he incarnated.

The institution on the banks of the Tuṅgabhadrā established for the worship of Śāradā should also be considered as a seat of Bhagavatpāda. That is why people pay homage to both these institutions, and would, by the grace of the all-pervading Mother, continue to do so.

I have put in some of the thoughts that occurred to me on the perusal of the various works read by me. It is requested that scholars who happen to read this may excuse me for any lapses and help me with their suggestions, if any.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: