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SRI SHANKARACHARYA
AND HIS CONNECTION WITH KANCHIPURAM

Adi Shankaracharya
CHAPTER 3

Sri Shankaracharya at Kanchi

The biographies giving purely the life story of Sankaracarya are not uniform in details as already observed.  As regards the places that the Acarya visited during his digvijaya tours, the order of the places given in the biographies is variant from one another.  But, not only the biographical skestches but even some other works having incidental references to Sankara’s stay at Kanchi, though there are discrepancies regarding the events during the stay. A study of the information contained in each of the biographical treatises and other works regarding the Acarya’s arrival at Kanci, his stay in the city and connected events will be found useful and interesting.

Sankara’s arrival at Kanchi

Kanchi City Remodelled

Consecration of Sricakra and Devi Kamakshi


 

Sankara’s arrival at Kanchi

Among the biographies, the one ascribed to Madhava alone gives scanty details about Sankara’s stay at the sacred city.  In the fourth verse of the 15th canto of this work, Sankara is said to have reached Kanci after his worshipping at Sri Ramanatha at Ramesvaram:-

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The Dindima commentary on the fourth line of the verse says-

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From this it is to be understood that Sankara reached the city of Kanci surrounding the rock named ‘Hastigiri’ (the rock on which the shrine of Varadaraja stands), like a girdle round the rock’s waist.

                Cidvilasa’s Sankaravijaya says that, after leaving the valley of the Tungabhadra, reached Kanci, the capital of Sri Varadaraja:-

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This line suggests that the Acarya might have reached Vishnu Kanci initially.

Anantanandagiri’s work relates Sankara’s arrival at Kanci as follows:-

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The above passage purports to say that, after worshipping Sri Nrsimha at Ahobilam and Sri Venkatesa at the Tirupati hill, and Sankara entered  the city of Kanci.

Sankaracarya Caritam by Govindanatha has–

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(Having worshipped Sri Ramanatha at Ramesvaram with abhiseka of Ganga water and bowing before Ramanatha, the all knowing great ascetic (Sankara) reached Kanci)

                Sankarabhyudaya of Rajacudamani Diksita notes Sankara’s reaching Kanci from Arunachalaksetra(Tiruvannamalai in Tamilnadu).  The 45th verse of the seventh canto of the Kavya states that the Acarya reached Satyavrataksetra i.e., Kanchipuram (Vishnu Kanci).  The four verses, after the 45th, describe Sankara’s visit to the temple of Punyakotisvara and his worship of Sri Varadaraja and Mahadevei at Hastigiri.

                The list of Bharati Gurus of the Tungabhadra region: published by Dr. Hultzch(“Search fro Sanskrit Manuscripts in South India”) says that Sankara came to Kanci of his own desire at the end of his wanderings begun after a long stay on the bank of the Tungabhadra.  This piece of information is confirmed by a verse in the ‘Giriparampara – Namamala’(list of successive preceptors of the Sankarite Institution), at the confluence of the rivers, the Tunga and the Bhadra, in the Karnataka region.  According to tradition, the Acarya entered Kanci and stayed for a short time at the Muktimandapa on the banks of the Sarvaatirtham Tank, in Kanci.

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Kanchi City Remodelled

Sankara reached Siva-Kanci, worshipped Sri Ekamranatha and Devi Kamaksi and thought of remodellling the city and the three important temples of Sri Ekamranatha, of Varadaraja and Devi Kamaksi.

                Chidvilasa’s narrivate describes in detail, the remodeling of the city of Kanci by King Rajasena of Kanci, at the bidding of Sankaracarya, and also the construction of the temples.  The following verses of the 25th chapter narrate how King Rajasena quickly acted in accordance with Sankara’s desire, and how the city presented a new and beautiful appearance to the great satisfaction of the Great Acarya.

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In Anantanandagiri’s Sankaravijaya, the following passage in the 63rd Prakarana, under the caption ‘Kancinagaranirmanam’, speaks of Kanci having been remodeled and of the consecration of the temples of Ekamranatha and Varadaraja and arrangements for worship at the two temples.

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The first two lines of verse 35, Canto III of the Guruvamsakavya (Sringeri) state that Sankara got the twin cities Siva Kanci and Visnu Kanci constructed (probably remodeled).  The lines read thus:

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Madhaviya Sankaravijaya mentions Sankara’s having been instrumental for building the temple of Kamaksi according to the rules of Paravidya (Srividya and replaced the tantic mode of  worship by the Vedic mode.  Though the name ‘Kamaksi’ is not expressed in the pertinent verse(quoted below), the word ‘Bhagavatyah’ found in the verse clearl indicates Kamaksi Devi.

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Consecration of Sricakra and Devi Kamakshi

The verse in the Madhaviya Sankaravijaya (quoted above) hints at the consecration of Sricakra by Sankara in the Suradhama (temple) of Bhagavati (Kamaksi).  ‘Paravidya’ and ‘carananusari’ (words used in the verse) indicates the konas of the Sricakra.

                In the Cidvilasa Sankaravijaya, eleven verses(35 to 45) of the 25th chapter of the work relate the drawing of the Sricakra before Kamaksi and the arrangements made for the proper worshiup of the Devi ‘Sri Ekamranatha and Sri Varadaraja.

                Sankarabhyudaya narrates Sankara’s having darshan of Ekamranatha under the mango tree, describes the Kampasaras, relates his entering the temple of Kamaksi, and the prayers to Kamakshi, in the 7th canto.  The eight canto of the work is almost entirely devoted to the details of Sricakra, the angles, the bindu etc., and the Sakti’s residing in them.  Evidently, the references are to the Sricakara consecrated by Sankara before Devi Kamaksi in the temple at Kanci.

                Guruvamsa Kavya refers to Sankara’s consecration of Kamaksi very briefly thus:

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The Sankaravijaya of Anantanandagiri states that Bhagavatpada Sankara consecrated Devi Zamasi, who is described by the author as Cidrupini; Brahmavidya and Rudrasakti. The work refers to the etheric aspect of the Devi residing in a bila (cave under the ground) and Kamaksi being Para Devata (the supreme Goddess).

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The establishment of the Sricakra by Sankara, and the component angles etc., of the Cakra are described in parakarana 65.  It is also said therein that the Acarya consecrated the Sricakra there (before the Devi) with the view that by the mere darshan of it, the fruits of moksa (deliverance from earthly bondage) can be had by all.

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The consecration of Kamaksi is also spoken about in the Guruparampara (list of Preceptors) of the Bharati order of the Tungabhadra region, published by Dr. Hultzch and the Kudaliguruparamparanamamala.

Manimanjaribhedini (Canto IV verse 32) notes Sankaras consecration of the Sricakra at Kanci:-

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Sankarabhyudaya of Raja Cudamani Dikshita, written in the middle of the 19th century hints at the consecration of Sri Kamaksi at Kanci by Sankara:-

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“Yatiman pravarodhigatya Kancipuramasmin Subhamalayam Mrdanyah Virachayya…(vi-5)

Bhagavatpadabyudaya, written by Mahamahopadhyaya Lakshmana Suri, published by Vani Vilasa Press, Srirangam, refers to the Acarya consecration of Sircakra in front of Devi Kamaksi.

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