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SRI SHANKARACHARYA
AND HIS CONNECTION WITH KANCHIPURAM

Adi Shankaracharya
CHAPTER 4

Sarvajnapitharohana

A significant event in the life story of Sri Sankaracarya is the Sarvajnapitharohana i.e. Sankara’s occupying the Throne of Omniscience.
Among the biographical works giving, in full, the history of the Acarya, Cidvilasa’s Sankaravijayavilasa, the Sankaracarya Caritam, and Rajacudamani Diksita’s Sankarabhyudaya, state that this event took place at Kanci.  Implied references are found in some other works also about Sankara’s ascending the Sarvajna Pitha at Kanci.


Sixteen verses of the 25th chapter of Cidvilasa’s biography (Quoted below) describe the Great Acarya’s occupying the seat of Omniscience at Kanci.  The verses relate how an air noise informed the Acarya, that it will be proper for him to ascend the Pitha after winning in debate all scholars assembled there.  Sankara thought for a while.  Scholars from the Tamraparni valley gathered there and put some questions to Sankara on his abhedavada, the theory of illusion, devabheda, murtibheda etc.  In reply, Sankara explained to them the eternal nature of Brahman, the Brahman being the one reality, the non-existence of a second other than Brahman and also imparted them the means of attaining deliverance.  Fully convinced , the scholars bowed before the Great Preceptor.  Thereafter, Sankara ascended the Sarvanja Pitha amidst the sounding of musical instruments and tumultuous shouts of joy made by the spectators.  Showers of flowers rained and fragrant breeze blew.  The verses are given below:-

 

Sloka

Sloka

Sloka

The Sankaracarya Caritam of Govindanatha relates Sankara’s wish to ascend the Sarvajna Pitha at Kanci in verses 3 and 16 of Canto IX as:

Sloka

Sankara’s  occupying the seat is mentioned in the Acarya Astaka at the end of the work, as:-

Sloka

Rajacudamani Diksita’s Sankarabhyudaya narrates this important event in seven verses in canto seven (verses 64 to 70), Verse NO.66 runs thus:-

Sloka

Since Verses 45 to 63 of Canto 7 (Verses 61 and 62 found partly torn in the original manuscript) indicate the Bhagavatpada’s arrival at Kanci, his praise of the Mango-tree in the temple of Ekamranatha, extolling of Devi Kamaksi etc., and verses 71 to 86 of the same canto are pieces adoring Sri Kamaksi, it is perfectly clear that the above quoted verse (NO.66) points to Sankara’s ascending the Bhadrasana, or the Sarvajna Pitha at Kanci.

                A great ascetic, by name Jnanottama, has written a commentary, entitled ‘Candrika’, on Suresvaracarya’s ‘Naiskarmyasiddhi’.  Suresvara’s work, along with the commentary ‘Candrika’, has been edited by Professor Hiriyanna of the Maharaja’s College, Mysore, and published as No.33 of the Bombay Sanskrit and Prakrit Series in 1955 A.D.  In the preface to this edition (page 33), Professor Hiriyanna observes:- “The second sloka (at the end of the commentary) alludes to the author of the Candrika as the glory of the Sarvajanasrama, probably, the successor of Suresvara), by which term we have, probably, to understand the Sarvajna Pitha or the Pontifical Seat at the Advaita Matha in Conjeevaram.  ‘These remarks of the learned professor corroborate Sankara’s occupying the Sarvajna Pitha at Kanci* , as described in the biographies noted above.

                Though Anandagiri’s Sankara vijaya does not note the Acarya’s occupying the seat of Omniscience at Kanci clearly, mention is made of a pontifical seat of Sankara at Kanci, as established by him for his residence, and his ordaining Suresvaracarya to be in charge of that institution.  This seat is mentioned in the work as Kamakoti Pitha(vide prakarana 65):-

Sloka

The Sarvajana Pitha or Sarvajna Asrama or the Kamakoti Pitha all signifying decidedly the matha where Sankara shone in the evening of his life – has been cited as a Sankarite institution of importance not only in biographies of the Acarya but also in various works of modern thinkers and scholars.

                * (The Sankaravijaya, attributed to Madhava, and the Guruvamsa Kavya (Sringeri) mention Kashmir as the place where Sankara ascended the Sarvajna Pitha.)

Book Index Page Sankara Next:CHAPTER 5 Kanci Sankaracaryas Last Resort

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