Sri Adi Shankaracharya & His connection with Kanchipuram

By Sri A. Kuppuswami, B.A., B.T.

Adi Shankaracharya

Sri Sankara's Digvijaya Yatra

Sankaracarya at Varanasi

As regards Kasi, the celebrated mokshapuri on the bank of the sacred Ganga, it is stated in all biographies that Sankaracarya stayed in that holy city for a considerably long period in his teen years. It was during his long stay there that the commentaries on Vyasa's Brahmasutras and on the Upanishads and on the Bhagavat Gita were produced. The historic meeting of Sankara and Vyasa, and Sanandana becoming a disciple of the Acarya are some of the other notable events of the stay at Varanasi.

Select passages from some of the Sankaravijaya works regarding the Acarya's visit to Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India and his stay there will be of interest.

a. Madhava's Sankaravijaya

b. Chidvilasa's Biography

c. Anandagiri's Sankaravijaya


a.  Madhava’s Sankaravijaya:-


(The great tapasvin (Sankara) reached Kasi, with jungles of Kadamba trees near by and on the bank of the river Ganga and resplendent with sacarificial pillars of gold).


(The residents of Kasi, whose minds were filled with great wonder on beholding the superhuman brilliance of the boy ascetic, (Sankara), praised him thus).


(Having been pleased by the wonderful self-control and skill of Sankara, Lord Siva manifested himself before him and persuaded him to write commentari on the Brahmasutras).


(The above verse records the words of Sage Vyasa at the end of a heated debate between the sage and Sankara’s commentary on the Vedantasutras.  Vyasa expresses his great satisfaction and appreciation of the commentary and suggests that Sankara may produce commentaries on (uncoverd) Upanishads.  Then the sage states that he will be going away according to his own desire).

b. Chidvilasa’s Biography:

This work devotes four chapters for the stay of Sankara at Varanasi and the happenings during the period.  The first stanza of the 12th Chapter of the work relates Sankara’s arrival at the sacred city along with his disciples.  Some subsequent verses narrate his residing at the Manikarnika ghat, the daily bath in the Ganga and worship of Visvanatha, the great rejoicing of the people who chanted to see the great young ascetic, the respect shown by the ruler of Kasi and the devotion of Sanandana (padmapada), to Sankara.  In the next chapter, (13) the disciple Totaka is introduced.  The 14th and 15th chapters deal with the production of the famous bhashyas, Vyasa’s meeting Sankara, (the former in the disguise of an old Brahmin), the protracted on Vyasa’s sutras, Vyasa revealing at last his true self and expressing his great satisfaction and appreciation of Sankara’s gloss and his blessings etc.; after Sankara’s having gone round Vyasa and bowed to him.

The Verses, the purport of which has been given in brief above, read as follows;-



c. In Anandagiri’s Sankaravijaya the 52th prakarana with the heading ‘Vyasa-darsanam’ commences with the following passage:-


(At noon, one day, when the great Guru (Sankara) was sitting in deep meditation at the Manikarnika ghat in Varanasi.  Vyasa came there in the disguise of an old man, Vyasa saw the young Sankara surrounded by six thousand disciples and looking like Siva in the midst of pramathaganas, as Indra in the centre of celestials and like Brahma seated in the middle of sages.  Vyasa asked the disciples who the young man was).  Thereupon they told the disguised man in reply:-



(“Oh old man! This is Sankara the preceptor steeped in bliss.  Having annihilated heretic sects in places like Ramesvaram, having produced a commentary, with decided meanings, of the Brahmasutras and having trained wise and discerning students for expounding the Advaita discipline, he shines as Rudra on the bank of the Ganga.”)

Then ensues a long debate between the aged man and Sankara on the meaning of some of the Brahmasutras.  Learning from his disciple, Padmaada, that the old man was Vyasa in disguise, sankara pays obeisance to Vyasa.  Vyasa having been satisfied with Sankara’s exposition of the sutra blesses Sankara and departs along with Brahma who has come there to grant an extension of life to Sankara.

These details are narrated in the major part of the 52nd  prakarana and in the next two prakaranas of Anandagiri’s work.

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