Bhagavatpadabhyudaya by Lakshmana Suri (study)

by Lathika M. P. | 2018 | 67,386 words

This page relates ‘Mathas founded by Shankara’ of the study on the Bhagavatpadabhyudaya by Lakshmana Suri: a renowned Sanskrit Scholar from the 19th century. The Bhagavatpada-abhyudaya is a Mahakavya (epic poem) narrating the life of Shankara-Acharya, a prominent teacher of Advaita Vedanta philosophy. This essay investigates the socio-spiritual conditions of 8th century AD in ancient India as reflected in Lakshmanasuri’s work.

Maṭhas founded by Śaṅkara

It is believed that the four maṭhās were founded by Śaṅkara. They are in the four regions of India-at Śriṃgeri in South under Sureśvara, at Dwāraka in the West under Hastāmalaka, at Badari in the North under Toṭaka, and Puri in the East under Padmapada. Maṭha theory has been produced first in Chidvilāsa’s Śaṅkara Vijaya which along with some other Śaṅkaravijayās.[1]

According to T.S Nārāyaṇa Śāstri, Cidvilāsa’s Śaṅkaravijaya and some other Śaṅkaravijayās are recent productions and not authoritative. These books find no support in other Śaṅkaravijayās and even in the more ancient Śaṅkara vijayās. This view of T.S Narayana Sastri cannot be verified, because most of the ancient books of Śaṅkaravijayās are not available now. We leave aside the unavailable Śaṅkaravijaya and most available vijayās including Mādhava, Anantānandagiri, Vyāsacāla and Govindanātha etc do not hold any such restricted view like the ‘four math’ theory. It admits the existence of many other centers. These all maṭhās with resident Saṃnyāsin is nobody’s guess Ānantānadagiri as also text like ‘Śivarahasya’ mention Kāñci is one of the center he founded. Infact as the Maṭh where he finally settled down and passed away. In that circumstance how the theory of four maṭhās came to have such popularity has to be explained. It can not be mentiond in Cidvilāsa’s Śaṅkaravijaya. On the other context, this text must have merely recorded the popular notion existing at the time. But the orders of Daśanāmi Saṃnyāsin’s recognise and accept affiliation with the four maṭhās known as Puri, Badari and Sarasvathi’s with Śṛṃgeri maṭh, Giris, Āranyas and Vanās with Jyothi Maṭh, Āśramas and Tīrthās with Dwāraka math and Parvatās and Sagarās with Puri maṭh. But no other maṭha is recognised by them. But a question arises that if there were more Maṭhās of Śaṅkara, why have Daśanāmi Saṃnyāsin limited their affiliation to these four Maṭhās only?[2]

None of the protogonists of different Śaṅkara Maṭhās have answered this question. The affiliation of Maṭha is only a nominal one and these Saṃnyāsin neither take Saṃnyāsa from these Maṭhās nor follow any direction or control emanating from them. There is another question is how they came to be thus affiliated has to been answered. The advocates of more than four Maṭhās have given no explanation. But they have not at all taken in to account the evidence of Daśanāmi Saṃnyāsin. They have played a more active role in propagating the insruction of Saṃnyāsa and the Advaita philosophy than the Śaṅkara Maṭhās from that time, it was from the time of Śaṅkaracārya himself or in later time–the Daśanāmis came in to existence. That cannot be ascertained now. Even assuming they came later, and also that Śaṅkara started more than four Maṭhās, their affiliation with these four Maths above mentioned establishes atleast that, at the time these Saṃnyāsin orders took shape, only these four maths were functioning effectively. The functioning of Maṭhās as also their popularity must have depended largely on the eminence of the Heads at particular times.[3]

But this does not preclude the possibility of other genuine Maṭhās unnoticed and unrecognised and Saṃnyāsin, functioning among non–Saṃnyāsin communities. Nothing more precise then this can be said about the question as to be which are the Maṭhās originally founded by Śaṅkara or even whether he founded any Maṭha at all. Different sectaries and so many traditions continue to stick to their claims with a lot of justification.

Footnotes and references:


Mādhava Vidhyāraṇya, Śaṅkaradigvijaya, Tr., Swami Tapasyananda, Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 2002, p. XXIV


Ibid p. XXV



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