Preceptors of Advaita
I am fortunate in belonging to the parampara of Upanishad Brahma, commentator of the Hundred and eight Upanishads (published in seven volumes by the Adyar Library, Madras). I had also an opportunity of going through Ratnaprabha of Ramanandiya which is regarded as one of the best commentaries on Sri Sankara’s Brahma-sutra-bhashya and which is the one most consulted by students of Advaita philosophy. The author in the beginning of the work refers to Kamakshi as having blessed his Parameshthiguru with prasada in which milk and ghee were found in abundance and which was cherished by the celestials.
I had also an opportunity of going through Muka-panchasati, a hymn in five hundred verses in praise of Devi Kamakshi or Kamakoti by Sri Mukakavi, the dumb poet.
kamadugha bhava kamale kamakale kamakoti kamakshi.
Therein I came across the verse
aisvaryam indumauleh aikatmyaprakritikanchimadhyagatam,
aindavakisorasekharam aidamparyam chakastinigamanam.
Here it is said that Sri Kamakshi in Kanchi is the Treasure of Chandramaulisvara, the Essence of the Vedas and the Root of the realization of Advaita. From this it occurred to me that Sri Mukakavi while writing this verse had before him the inseparable connection between Sri Kamakshi and the Advaita philosophy of Sri Sankara which is the quintessence of the Vedas, i.e. Vedanta.
The Kamakshi temple at Kanchi contains a life-size stone image of Sri Sankara with his disciples, four of whom are ekadanda-sannyasis. Besides this there are also sculptures of Sri Sankara in various postures in the Utsava-Kamakshi and Bangaru-Kamakshi sannidhies in the temple.
There is a sculpture in the hundred and eight pillared mandapa at Sri Varadarajasvami temple at Kanchi which depicts a defiant and arrogant brahmin pandit with sikha and yajnopavita and a young sannyasi with ekadanda in front of him, the latter in a rather calm mood. The Sankaravijayas say that after Sri Sankara wrote his bhashya on the Brahma-sutra Sri Vyasa, in order to proclaim the correctness of the bhashya on these sutras, came in the guise of a brahmin controversialist and challenged Sri Sankara on his interpretation of the Brahma-sutras, in the course of which he (Vyasa) resorted to arguments, not straight-forward and honest. Seeing that the controversy was becoming hot, Sri Padmapadacharya through his jnanadrishti realized that the arrogant brahmin was Sri Vyasa himself who staged this scene so that learned contemporaries might become conscious of Sri Sankara’s calm and correct replies to his unwholesome criticisms. Sri Padmapada then exclaimed:
sankarah sankarassakshat vyaso narayanah svayam,
tayoh vivade samprapte kimkarah kim karomyaham.
Sri Sankara is Siva incarnate and Sri Vyasa is Sri Narayana. 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 sannyasi in front of him, I surmise, depicts the above incident.
On hearing Sri Padmapada’s words, Sri Sankara at once prostrated before Sri Vyasa, requesting him to reveal his real form and bless him. Sri Vyasa then appeared in his real form, blessed Sri Sankara, saying that his bhashya which proclaimed and established the ultimate truth, ‘ekameva advitiyam brahma’ (Brahma is one without a second) is the only correct interpretation of the sutras. He also doubled Sri Sankara’s life-tenure for the sake of digvijaya and the establishment of the Advaita philosophy.
In the Varadarajasvami temple itself there is another sculpture on a pillar in the mandapa to the north of the Tayar Sannidhi, showing an aged rishi with jata, rudraksha and yajnopavita in the sitting posture, showing one finger and an ekadanda sannyasi in the posture of performing dandavandanam. This sculpture probably depicts the latter part of the incident after Sri Vyasa revealed himself before Sri Sankara and blessed him, confirming by the show of one finger the ultimate truth, ‘ekameva advitiyam brahma’ as against his earlier dualist argument in the disguise of a Brahmin pandit. This raising of one finger in the image of the rishi is very significant as against the raising of two fingers in the image of the dualist teachers. The figure with jata, etc. mentioned above fits in with the dhyanasloka of Sri Vyasa, ‘pinga jata baddha kalapah’.
There is a Siva temple in Kanchi called Vyasa Srantasraya. According to the kanchi-mahatmya, Sri Vyasa 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 puranic aspects in connection with that temple. There is similarity between Sri Vyasamurti in this shrine and the one in the Varadaraja temple.
There is yet another temple in Kanchi called Airavatisvara temple belonging to the Pallava period wherein we find in a niche in a wall Sri Vyasa. Near it is an ekadanda-sannyasi-murti with a shaven head. The figure represents early boyhood. Although the head of the sannyasi-murti is shaven, the sprouts of hair as seen in this sculpture depict 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 sannyasi in his early teens and we may take it for granted that it is the figure of Sri Sankara, the bhashyakara, seated near Sri Vyasa, the sutrakara of Vedanta. If the date of Sri Sankara according to recent writer, i.e. the eighth century A.D may be accepted, this sculpture should belong to the actual life-time of Sri Sankara, the later Pallava period. Sri C. Sivaramamoorti, Director, National Museum, New Delhi, who personally discovered this sculpture is of this opinion.
There are many other temples, both Vaishnavite and Saivite, in Kanchi which contain on their walls and pillars sculptures of ekadanda sannyasis in various postures, like yoga, samadhi, tapas, puja, etc., a rare occurrence in other places noted for sculptures.
After reading the verse in the Muka-panchasati connecting Advaita philosophy with Kamakshi and also seeing these sculptures, I was at a loss to know why there was no reference to the name, Kamakshi, in Sri Sankara’s well-known life sketches.
Sri T.K. Balasubramania Iyer of Sri Vani Vilas Press, Srirangam, brought out a Memorial Edition of the complete works of Sri Sankara. This press also published a small booklet containing the Jagadguru-paramparastotra and the Mathamnaya. Neither of these contained any reference to Sri Kamakshi. I then looked into Madhaviya-sankaravijaya which is regarded by most people as a correct biography of Sri Sankara. There is no reference to the name of Sri Kamakshi in that work either. But there are two verses in sarga 15 of that work from which we may infer a reference to Sri Kamakshi. Verses Nos. 4 and 5 therein state that Sri Sankara reached Kanchi, had a temple built there on the pattern of ‘Para-vidya-charana’, removed the tantrika form of worship that was prevailing there and introduced the vaidika form of worship.
dravidamscha tato jagama kanchinagarim hastigireh
suradhama cha tatra karayitva paravidyacharana (sarana) –
apavarya cha tamtrikanatanit bhagavatyah srutisammatam
Here ‘paravidyacharananusarichitram’ means ‘according to the charana of Para-vidya’. The verse in Saundaryalahari––
chaturbhih srikanthaih sivayuvatibhih panchabhirapi
prabhinnabhih sambhornavabhirapi mulaprakritibhih,
trirekhabhih sardham tava saranakonah parinatah.
––says ‘tava-sarana-konah parinatah’. Here the reference is to the konahs (angles) of Sri Chakra which is said to be the seat of Para-vidya. As Sri Sankara consecrated Sri Chakra in the temple of Sri Kamakshi, the reference to Sri-vidya-charana in verse No.5 of Madhaviya-sankaravijaya may be taken to refer to Sri Kamakshi, the ‘Bhagavati’ in Kanchi.
I then came across a small booklet Yati-sandhya in Devanagari script published by the Dvaraka-pitha in the year 1957 (Vikrama Saka, 2013). I also fortunately had access to some other books, namely (1) Sankaracharya-jagadguru-mathamnaya, published by Pandit Yogendra Ashtavadhana Sarma and printed by B. Mishra at the Balabhadra Press, Puri, in 1930, (2) Un-published Upanishads, printed and published by the Adyar Library in the year 1937 and (3) Sankara-granthavali in Bengali script published by Rajendranath Ghosh. I also came across manuscript copies of Mathamnaya obtained from the Oriental Institute, Mysore and the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, No. 1517 and 1891-95.
These Amnayas give information about the various Sankaraite institutions for the Western, Northern, Eastern, Southern and other super-regions (Urdhvamnaya), etc., of India. A study of the Amnayas contained in the works mentioned above as well as those found in other libraries reveals certain features which arrest attention. The Amnaya for each region deals among others with the kshetra, devata, devi (sakti) and acharya of each Amnaya. The devi (sakti) of the Southern region (Amnaya) is mentioned as Kamakshi in all the Mathamnaya editions and manuscripts mentioned above; but in the Amnaya published in the Vani Vilas Press, Srirangam, the sakti of Sringeri is mentioned as Sarada. The murtis worshipped in the Sankaraite institutions on the banks of the Tungabhadra are referred to as ‘Sarada-Chandramaulisvara’. It may be mentioned here that Sarada is the sakti of Brahma and the sister of Siva (cf. brahmajayayai namah and sivanujayai namah in Sarasvati Ashtottaram). Chandramaulisvara-Kamakshi is the sakti (Sivasakti) of Paramesvara. In the Lalita-sahasranama and the Lalita-trisati, Para-sakti is described as Kamakshi and Kamakotika (Sahasranama) and Kamakotinilaya (Trisati). In the Lalita-ashtottara she is described as Kamakoti-mahapadma-pithastha. A perusal of the Lalita-sahasranama and the Lalita-trisati will show that Sarada is completely different from Kamakshi or Kamakoti.
A doubt arose in my mind as to why there is difference between the sakti of Sringeri as it is described in the Vani Vilas Edition and the sakti for the Southern region mentioned as ‘Kamakshi’ in the Dvaraka, Puri (Jagannath) and other Amnaya texts mentioned above.
The revised and enlarged edition of the book, The Greatness of Sringeri, says that Sri Sankara established the four mathas in the four directions and the book ,Kumbakona Mutt also says that Sri Sankara established in the four corners of India four mathas of apostolic succession. Further, the work entitled Throne of Transcendental Wisdom says that Sri Sankara established four mathas 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 corners of India. The institution for the Southern region should have been at Ramesvaram or Kanyakumari which is the corner or cardinal point in the South. But according to the work, The Greatness of Sringeri, mentioned already, the institution in the South is at Sringeri, which, in fact, is situated in the North-West portion of South India. As regards this point, Sri Mahadeva Rajaram Bodas, Bombay, in his Sankaracharya in Maratti 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 Sringeri nor the one at Kanchi is at a dham (corner). They are in the centre of the country. The institution should have been either at Ramesvaram or Kanyakumari.’
char disam na vachar mukhya dhamam che tikanim char mathsthapan kele asem mhanavem tar adya srimgeri kimva kanchimath tase nahintah te marutbhumim tamadhyavarti atet dakshinamath ramesvar kimva kanyakumari yethe pahi je hotam.
I then found that in all the Amnayas mentioned above, the Amnayasthanas (kshetra) are unanimously described as being in the four corners (chardhams), Dvaraka in the West, Badari in the North, Puri (Jagannath) in the East and Ramesvaram in the South. It then occurred to me that Sri Bhagavatpada might have originally intended to establish the Amnaya institutions in the four directions in the four places generally known as chardhams, i.e. Dvarakanath in the West, Badrinath in the North, Jagannath in the East and Ramanath (Ramesvaram) in the South. But now we see that there is a Sankaraite institution on the banks of the Tungabhadra (Sringeri) in the North-West of the Southern region. There is also a Sankaraite institution further south in Kanchi. The pithasakti of the institution on the banks of the Tungabhadra in Sarada, whereas the sakti of the institution at Kanchi is Kamakshi or Kamakoti.
How is it that there are two Sankaraite institutions in Southern India, one in the North-Western portion and the other further south at Kanchi?
Another doubt also confronted me on an additional point. In all the mathas in the Ceded Districts and in Mysore bearing the names of Sringeri, like the Virupaksha, Pushpagiri, Amani, Sivaganga, etc., the preambles to the Srimukhas included the epithet, Tungabhadra-tiravasi. But the present popular Sringeri also bearing the same epithet is not on the banks of the Tungabhadra but is on the banks of the Tunga. How to account for this discrepancy?
Enquiries made from the people of Mysore revealed the existence of a tradition that Sri Sarada (Sarasavani) after the defeat of Mandanamisra decided to ascend to Brahmaloka when Sri Sankara bound her by Vanadurga-mantra and beseeched her to follow him till he installed her sakti 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 Tunga and the Bhadra, the sounds of Sri Sarada’s anklets were not heard by Sri Sankara as her feet were imbedded in the sands of the river. Not hearing the sound of the anklets, Sri Sankara looked back. Sri Sarada 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. Sri Sankara agreed and installed the sakti 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 Sankaraite institution in the North-West portion of Karnataka and for the inclusion of the epithet ‘Tungabhadra-tiravasi’ in the preambles to the Srimukhas 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 Tungabhadra with the sannidhya of Sarasvani as Sarada, a fifth name apart from the four saktis, Bhadrakali, Purnagiri, Vimala and Kamakshi as enumerated in the Dvaraka Puri and other Amnaya texts. The Kanchi institution is in Kanchipuram, the seat of Sri Kamakshi and the Southern-most mokshapuri. Among the many details in the Amnaya relating to the institution of Sri Sankara, the kshetra and the devi-pitha i.e. the sakti are the most important. For instance, in the Uttaramnaya the kshetra is mentioned as Badrinath and the devi as Purnagiri. Tirthanka, the 1957 Annual number of Kalyan of Gorakhpur, at page 53 gives the information that the hill Purnagiri is revered as the devi in her splendor and is situated on the banks of the river Sarada near the borders of Nepal. The devi, Purnagiri, in the form of a hill and the kshetra, Badrinath, make one Amnaya institution. In the same way, the kshetra, Ramesvaram (one of the chardhams) and the devi, Kamakshi at Kanchi, the mokshapuri make one Amnaya institution. Kanchi is not only the centre of Dakshinamnaya by being the seat of Sri Kamakshi, the Amnaya-sakti, it is also the central point of the earth according to the works, Kanchi- mahatmya, Kamakshivilasa and Merutantra.
Besides the variations as regards the kshetra and sakti of the Southern region, there are also some other variations between the Vani Vilas edition of the Mathamnaya and the other Mathamnayas mentioned already. In the Vani Vilas edition the name of the acharya is given as Suresvara; but in the Dvaraka, Puri and other Mathamnayas, Prithvidhara is mentioned as the acharya of the institution on the banks of the Tungabhadra. Sri Suresvara (Mandanamisra) being the husband of Sarada (Sarasavani) in his purvasrama, it would not have been proper to appoint Suresvara in that institution for the worship of Sarada (Sarasavani), his wife in his purvasrama. It was but apt that Prithvidhara was placed in charge of the institution of that place as mentioned in the Dvaraka, Puri and other Mathamnayas.
This seems to be the reason for the difference in the names of the sakti and the acharya in the Southern region.
As already mentioned, there is a Sankaraite institution at Kanchi, the seat of Kamakshi, the sakti of the Southern region. How did it come into existence? Besides the sakti, the kshetra, and the acharya, each region has its own devata. The devata of the Northern and the Eastern regions are respectively Badrinath and Jagannath and that of the Western region is Siddhesvara. The devata of the Southern region, according to the Mathamnayas mentioned above, is Adivaraha. It may be noted here that Adivaraha is the Perumal of Tirukkalvanur, one of the hundred and eight divya-desas of the Vaishnavites, sung by the Vaishnavite Alvars. About Tirukkalvanur, the Tirthanka says at page 92: is divya des’ke aradhyadev adivarah-bhagavan anjilaivalli lakshmi samet vaman viman mem paschimabhimukh khade hue kamakshidevi ke mandir mem ek or darsan de rahe haim inka sakshatkar asvatthanarayan ne aur mangalasasan samt parakal ne kiya hai; yah divyades aur iski nitya-pushkarini ab lupt haim’. Kalvan means thief. There is at present a figure of Vishnu hiding himself in a niche of Sri Kamakshi temple outside the southern wall of the sanctum sanctorum. The Kanchimahatmya and the Kamakshivilasa give in full detail the story of this hiding of Vishnu.
As originally intended, Sri Acharya stayed at Kanchi, one of the seven mokshapuris of Bharatavarsha and also the seat of Kamakshi and Adivaraha, the sakti and devata of the Southern region. Kanchi became more important because Sri Sankaracharya himself stayed there. The Kanchimahatmya and the Kamakshivilasa already mentioned, refer to Kanchi as the nabhi (navel) or kanchi(girdle) of Mother Earth.
tavassthanam bilam sukshmam paramam vyoma tatsmritam,
adhibhautikamamhoghnam nabhisthanam bhuvah param,
kanchimahatmye, 31, 70;
kamakshivilase, 11, 6.
jagatkamakalakaram nabhisthanam bhuvah param,
prithivyah gosvarupayah yatkinchitsthanatam gatam.
kamakshivilase, 1, 56.
atha kshiteradbhutakanchimaikshata. samkarabhyudaye 1, 56.
aikaro’bhut kamakotau nabhistatra tu te’patat,
tatra sarve’pi siddhyanti kamamantrah na samsayah, merutantre.
Thus we see that Kanchi is not only the seat of the sakti and devata of the Southern region but also is the centre of Mother Earth. Sri Acharya, therefore, adopted the Kamakoti-pitha at Kanchi as his pitha and asked Suresvara to occupy the pitha after him. Sri Sankara stayed at Kanchi and attained siddhi there itself. The Guruparampara of the bharatiya-sampradaya of the institution on the banks of the Tungabhadra 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 Sri Sankara installed Kamakshi at Kanchi and attained eternal bliss there.
agachchhatsvechchhaya kanchim paryatan prithvitale,
tatra samsthapya kamakshim jagama paramam padam,
visvarupayatim sthapya svasramasya pracharane.
svayam kanchimagatturnam sriprithvidharabharati,
tadvrittantam samakarnya tapasah siddhaye tada.
The Guruparampara of Kudali (Sringeri) matha, printed at Seshadri Press, Mysore, under authority of the said matha, also says the same thing with a very slight modification.
svechchhaya paryatan bhumau yayau kanchipurim guruh,
tatra samsthapya kamakshim devi paramagatpadam.
prithvidharayatih pithe brahmavidyapracharane,
visvarupam pratishthapya kamchyam brahmatvamaptavan.
The Patanjalicharita, printed and published by the Nirnayasagar Press, Bombay, as No. 51 in the Kavyamala Series, says in verse 71 of its last chapter that Sri Sankara spent his last days at Kanchi.
tasmin sthite nijamahimni videhamuktya,
kanchipure sthitimavapa sa samkararyah patanjalicharite, 8,71.
Another work, Sankarabhyudaya, by Raja Chudamani Dikshita also says that Sri Sankara spent his last days at Kanchi worshipping Kamakshi. A work, Sivarahasya, an Itihasa comprising more than fifty thousand verses published in Kannada script with Kannada translation as Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Granthamala Series, Volume 21, No. 32, 1950, refers at page 200 in the 16th Adhyaya of its 9th Amsa, to Sri Sankara’s siddhi at Kanchi.
lingarchanat praptajayah svakasramam,
tan vai vijitya tarasa’kshatasastravadaih
misran sa kamchyamathasiddhimapa.
The same verse appears in the copy of Sivarahasya obtained from some other libraries as well as in the commentary to verse 103 of the last Chapter of Madhaviya-Sankaravijaya. It is mentioned therein that Sri Sankara worshipped five sphatikalingas given to him by Sri Siva, but it is not stated where those lingas were installed.
Sri Rajesvara Sastri of Vallabha Rama Saligrama Sanga Veda Vidyalaya, Varanasi, has published a Sankara-puja-krama. In that Puja-krama it is said that a copy of the Anandagiri-Sankaravijaya in the Ramataraka Mutt, Varanasi, said to have been copied in Saka 1737, i.e. about a hundred and fifty years ago was referred to while preparing the Puja-krama and the Puja-krama contains extracts from the said copy of the Sankaravijaya. In that book the various places where the lingas were installed are mentioned.
In the manuscripts of Anandagiri-Sankaravijaya, found in the various libraries in the country, as well as in the printed edition of the same it is said that Sri Sankara attained siddhi at Kanchi after consecrating Kamakshi there. Dr. S.K. Belvalkar in his Gopal Basu Mallick lectures on Vedanta philosophy, Poona, 1929, says at page 240, ‘According to one set of traditions, Kanchi in the South of India is given as the place where the Acharyas breathed his last. According to other sources, he died at Badarikasrama disappearing in a cave in the Himalayas. The weight of probability belongs to the first view.’ Some old manuscripts of Anandagiri-Sankaravijaya found in the Mysore Oriental Institute, the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras and the Ramataraka Mutt, Varanasi (as given in the Sankaracharya-puja-krama mentioned above) give some further details of Sri Acharya as follows.
tatraiva. . . . . . bhoganamakam lingam. . . . . .nikshipya
anandagirisankaravijaye, prakaranam 63.
nilakanthesvaram natva. . . . varanamakam lingam pratishthapya
anandagirisankaravijaye, prakaranam 55.
kedarakshetre muktilingaranyam pratishthapya
anandagirisankaravijaye, prakaranam 55.
tatra nijasiddhantapaddhatim prakasayitum antevasinam suresvara-
-mahuya yoganamakam lingam pujaya iti tasmai datva tvamatra kamakotipithamadhivasa anandagirisankaravijaye, prakaranam 65.
Sri Sankara himself stayed at Kanchi and attained siddhi there.
svalokam gantumichchhuh kanchinagare muktisthale kadachi- dupavisya sthulasariram sukshme antardhaya sadrupo bhutva sukshmam karane vilinam kritva chinmatro bhutva angushtha- purushah tadupari purnamakhandamandalakaramanandami- svarasannidhau prapya sarvajagadvyapakam chaitanyamabhavat. sarvavyapakachaitanyarupenadyapi tishthati.
anandagirisankaravijaye, prakaranam 55.
Professor Wilson says about the Anandagiri-Sankaravijaya that ‘it bears internal and undisputed evidence of the composition of a period not far removed from that at which he (Sankaracharya) 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 Anandagiri-Sankaravijaya says that it is a biography of Sri Sankara recording his controversial victories over numerous heretics. In the Madhaviya-Sankaravijaya, Kedara is mentioned as the place of Sri Sankara’s siddhi. Why this difference?
In this connection I may state that Sri Sampoornanand, the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, states in a letter dated 6-7-1958 addressed to Sri T.N. Ramachandran, Retired Joint Director of Archaeology, as follows: ‘There is nothing new to prove that Sri Sankaracharya died at this spot. All that tradition says is that he came to Kedarnath and in the modern phraseology disappeared thereafter. So what is called a Samadhi is not a Samadhi but a memorial’. In a letter published in ‘The Hindu’ dated 19-6-1959 one Svami Sahajananda of Guruvayur writes from Badrinath as follows: ‘On enquiry from the Joshi mutt they say that it is only a sankalpa samadhi and that the actual samadhi is not on the spot’.
I then went through the Guruvamsa-kavya, the Chidvilasiya-Sankaravijaya and the Madhaviya-Sankaravijaya, all dealing with Sri Sankara’s life. I then found that the place of Sri Sankara’s siddhi had been gradually changed from Kanchi to Kedara. How it was changed is explained below.
The Guruvamsa-kavya is a work dealing with the Sringeri matha’s guruparampara. In the colophon to each chapter of the work it is stated that it has been written at the direction (nirmapita) of Sri Sachchidananda Bharati, the head of that matha (1705-1741). (Vide The Annual Report of the Archaeological Department of Mysore for the year 1928, page 15). Nirmapita 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 Sri Sankaracharya, The Great. The author of the work says that he follows the path laid down (by) Kavindraih: aryanam kulamupadarsitam kavindraih (Chapter 1, verse 6). The author’s commentary on this is as follows.
aryanamiti. kavindraih anandagiriyatindradibhih. upadarsitam–– prakatikritam. aryanam––srimadacharyanam kulaparamparam.
Here he explains the word ‘kavindraih’ as ‘by Anandagiri-yatindra and others’. It is clear from the above that the then head of the matha, Sri Sachchidananda Bharati, when directing the composition of the work, had in his mind that Anandagiri was the important authority on the life and institutions (parampara) of Sri Sankaracharya. But later when dealing with the place of Sri Sankaracharya’s final disappearance, the Guruvamsa-kavya goes against the tradition recorded in all the versions of Anandagiri’s Sankaravijaya.
As already stated, Monier Williams, in his Sanskrit-English Dictionary (1899), referring to Anandagiri’s Sankaravijaya says that it is a biography of Sri Sankaracharya recording his controversial victories as a Vedantin over numerous heretics. But when referring to Madhaviya-Sankaravijaya, he says that it is a fanciful account of the controversial exploits of Sri Sankaracharya.
Prof. Wilson in his Sketch of the Religious sects of the Hindus, though criticizing Anandagiri’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 Guruvamsa-kavya, while referring to the last days of Sri Sankaracharya says:
aukam samastanyapi pustakani sishyansamastanapi tanamuncham,
astamimau dandakamandalu chetyalochya tatyaja sa tau cha yogi
dando drurupena saparyanamsittirthatmana
mahatmano hastaparigrahena jadau cha tau sarthatanu abhutam.
dattatreyam bhuvanavinutam vikshya natva nyagadid
vrittam sviyam sakalamapi tanpreshitan dikshusishyan.
so’pi srutva munipatiradadasisho visvarupa-
charyadibhyah sukhamavasatam tatra tau bhashamanau.
sargah, 3; slokah, 68-70.
Sri Sankaracharya towards the close of his life went from Siddhesvar in Nepal to Dattatreya Asrama, abandoned his danda and kamandalu, which became a tree and a tank (tirtha) respectively and stayed at Dattatreya Asrama at Mahuripuri in Mahratvada (about thirty miles from Kinvat station on the Adilabad ––Hyderabad section) conversing with Sri Dattatreya. The commentary says at the end of the chapter:
so’pi––dattatreyo’pi munipatirvisvarupacharyadibhyah asishah adat –– dattavan. tatra –– mahuripure, bhashamanau –– samla – pantau, tau –– dattatreyasankaracharyau, chiram –– bahukalam, avasatam ––– ushitavantau.
The Tirthanka, the 1957 Annual member of Kalyan of Gorakhpur, refers at page 239 to Mahuripuri as Mahuragadha and as containing the shrine of Dattatreya.
madhya-relve ki bhusaval-nagpur lain par murtijapur stesan hai. vahan se ek lain yavatmal tak jati hai. yavatmal se mahurkshetr samip hai, mahurkshetr mem anasuya-dattaparvat parmaharshi jamadagni ki samadhi hai, renukadevi ka mandir hai aur parasuramkund hai. kaha jata hai bhagavan dattatrey ka asram yahim tha. dattatreyji jamadagnirishi ke guru the. guru ki ajna se maharshi jamadagni apni patni renukadevi ke sath yahan aye aur yahin unhomne tatha renukaji ne samadhi li. kile ke bhitar mahakali ka mandir tatha sarovar hai.
There are two devatas at Mahur (1) Jagadamba and (2) Dattatreya. The temples of these two gods are at a distance of three and four miles respectively from Mahur town situated on two different mountains.
‘At the temple of Dattatreya there is a mahant who looks after the puja and temple management. The devotees assemble for puja of Jagadamba and Dattatreya on Margasirsha-suddha-paurnami and also for puja of Jagadamba on Chaitra-suddha-paurnami. At both the temples pujas and archanas can be performed every day.’ (Extract from a letter from Manick Rao Patwari, Assistant Engineer, P.W.D)
It is not clear why, after naming in the beginning of the work Anandagiri as the foremost of the earlier authors, the Guruvamsa-kavya mentions some other place as the last resort of Sri Sankaracharya. Nor does it follow in this respect the Madhaviya-Sankaravijaya (nowadays regarded by the matha on the banks of the Tunga as the sole authority on Sri Sankaracharya’s life), which says that the Acharya ended his bodily career in Kedarnath. Nor does the Guruvamsa-kavya follow the Chidvilasiya-Sankaravijaya, which mentions Dattatreya-guha in Badari, many miles distant from Kedarnath, as the last resort of Sri Sankaracharya.
The only conclusion that can be drawn from what is stated above is either that the two Sankaravijayas, Madhaviya and Chidvilasiya, did not exist at the time of the composition of the Guruvamsa-kavya, or that the authorities of the matha on the banks of the Tunga were not aware of the existence of the above two works, while directing the composition of the Guruvamsa-kavya.
The only answer to the question why the Guruvamsa-kavya gives as the place of Sri Sankaracharya’s last resort, a place in Mahratvada is that in the opinion of the authorities of the matha on the banks of the Tunga the mention of Kanchi as the place of Sri Sankaracharya’s last resort would enhance the importance of the Sankaraite institution in Kanchi. This new alteration as regards the place of Sri Sankara’s last resort, namely that it was at Mahuripuri, noted for its shrine of Dattatreya, gave a handle to Chidvilasa, who probably composed his Sankaravijaya later than the Guruvamsa-kavya, to further alter the place of Sri Acharya’s last resort to a cave in the popular Badari regarded as the abode of Dattatreya.
vitanvan badarim prapa tapodhanakritasrayam,
dinani katichittatra svachchhandamavasatsukhi.
avalambya karagrena dattatreyassa tapasah.
pravivesa guhadvaram datva’’jnam janasantateh,
kramat jagama kailasam pramathaih pariveshtitam.
The Madhaviya-Sankaravijaya in its turn completely discarded the importance of Dattatreya’s sannidhya for the place of Sri Sankara’s last resort, but felt the necessity of the Acharya’s place of last resort being in a Sivakshetra, as Sri Sankara was an avatara of Lord Siva.
papadavanalatapasamharakam yogibrindadhipah prapa
kedarakam. 16, 100.
iti kritasurakaryam netumajagmurenam
suranikaravarenyah sarshisamghah sasiddhah. 16,103.
divyairabhyarchyamanah sarasiruhabhuva dattahastavalambah,
srinvannalikasabdam sumuditamrishibhirdhamanaijam pratasthai.
Had the people of the eighteenth century regarded the Madhaviya Sankaravijaya as the sole authority for Sri Sankaracharya’s life, the then Acharya of the matha while directing the composition of the Guruvamsa-kavya would have caused Kedarnath and not Dattatreyasrama in Mahuripuri, to be mentioned as the place of Sri Sankaracharya’s last resort.
This Guruvamsa-kavya was, as already stated, directed to be written by Sri Sachchidananda Bharati who was the pontiff at the beginning of the eighteenth century in the matha on the banks of the Tunga river in the Shimoga District of Mysore State.
Thus the reference to Anandagiri as the main authority on Sri Sankara’s life in the Guruvamsa-kavya and the reference to Kanchi as the place of Sri Sankara’s last resort in the Guruparampara of the Tungabhadra (Kudali) Sringeri matha go to establish that all Sringeri institutions till the end of the latter part of the eighteenth century held the view that Kanchi was the place of Sri Sankaracharya’s last resort and that it was only after that period that the place of Sri Sankaracharya’s last resort was changed from place to place, namely Mahuripuri, Badari and Kedara. (The latest alteration is to Kashmir in a work on the life of Sri Sankaracharya in Sanskrit verse published under the auspices of the Dvaraka matha by one Srinivasa 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 Sri Sankaracharya, he declares in the preface to his work that he follows the Madhaviya-Sankaravijaya, which on the other hand mentions Kedarnath as the place of final resort).
The Bengali Encyclopaedia or Visvakosh (1892) gives under the heading Kanchi the following information regarding Sri Sankaracharya’s last days.
‘kamchipur ek prachin mahatirth hai. . . . . . . keval tirth hi nahim, kanchi mahapithsthan hai. . . . . . . . . sivakamchisthit ekamranath namak mahadev ka adiling, bhagavati kamakshidevi ki murti, bhagavan sankarachary ki pratima evam samadhisthal. . . . . kamakshidevi ka mandir kuchh chhota hai. isi ke prangan mem bhagavan sankarachary ki samadhi hai. isi samadhi par unki prastaramayi murti pratishthit hai.’
Kanchi is one of the seven mokshapuris. According to these Guruparamparas, not only Sri Sankaracharya chose Kanchi as the place of his last resort but also Prithvidhara, the first pontiff of Sringeri matha on hearing of Sri Sankaracharya’s leaving his mortal coil at Kanchi hurried to Kanchi and attained siddhi there. Vidyaranya too, according to the Pushpagiri-mathamnaya quoted by Kokkandrum Venkataratnam Pantulu in his Sankara-matha-tattva-prakasikartha-sangraha, a work in favour of the matha on the banks of the Tunga (printed in the year 1877 at Sanjivini-mudraksharasala, Peddanaickenpet, Madras), went to Hampi from Kanchi and after his immortal life work there returned to Kanchi in his last moments and attained Kailas there.
tatah param gajadrindurupake sakavatsare,
vidyaranyaguruh kanchinagaryam sa babhau mahan,
pampakshetre vasanmauni bhaktarakshanatatparah,
* * * * *
visrijya kanchinagaram sahaisvaryam savahanam,
Sri Sankaracharya, Sri Prithvidharacharya and Sri Vidyaranya, all these immortal sages have chosen Kanchi, the Southern-most mokshapuri as their last resort. This was the traditional belief of all the followers of Sri Sankara including those of the Sringeri matha upto the eighteenth century.
On account of Sri Sankaracharya’s presence during his last days in Kanchi Kamakshi or Kamakoti pitha, the spiritual centre of the earth, that centre should have become the object of reverence to the then astika world from Siberia to Java and from Thailand to Gandhara, wherever the Vedas and Sastras flourished and the name of Sri Sankaracharya was known. In addition to Kanchi 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 astika world mentioned above. Sri Sankaracharya seems to have graced Kanchipuri at the end of his career on the earth, not only on account of its being consecrated as the seat of the devi of Dakshinamnaya but also on account of its being the centre of the earth itself for the spiritual regeneration of which he incarnated.
The institution on the banks of the Tungabhadra established for the worship of Sarada should also be considered as a seat of Bhagavatpada. 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.
Preceptors of Advaita - Other Parts:
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