Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sringeri Shankracharya's Legacy


Who built the Vidyashankar temple of Sringeri ? is subject of great speculation. Many a historians credit the godfather of Vijaynagar empire Vidyaranya to have commissioned and completed the temple in 1356 AD. However the typical Hoysala star styled pedestal indicates that the temple was commissioned much earlier. My surmise is that Hoysala king Veera Ballal III commissioned the temple in 1325 AD but was unable to complete, due to constant war clouds, the edifice which was later modified and completed during the Vijaynagar emperors reign in 1356 AD. 

The temple is located on the banks of the river Tunga which flows with a crystal clear purity from the Agumbe ghat. The temple is dedicated to Vidyashshankara ( 1228- 13 AD ) the 11th pontiff of the Adi Shankaracharya lineage. After serving as the head of the Mutt for more than 100 years he attained Samadhi in an underground cellar. Being a yoga proponent he attained it through Lumbika Yoga almost akin to Sallekhana tradition of the Jains. He had forcasted that his body would be transformed into a full blown Shiv Linga which can be exhumed after 12 years. But his devotees hurried opened his Samadhi to find only a small Linga in formative stage. 


We began our trip from Karnad by car to Moodbidri and from there to karkala and entered the picturesque Kudremukh forest and first visited the Hornadu Annapoorneswari temple. After a detour to Horanadu we had to return to the main road to Sringeri via the forest and Kudremukh Iron ore plant route which was closed due ecological concerns, enroute we came across the Hanumangundi water falls which is run by the forest department, with a steep climb downwards in midst of a forest. After visiting the falls we quickly moved towards Sringeri and visited the Vidyashankar temple and Sringeri Mutt. We saw the safari too enroute from where the trekking trips are conducted. Enroute we witnessed the beautiful evergreen malnad hill ranges of chickmanglur and than proceeded towards Belur and returned to Bangalore.

Legacy : Adi Shankaracharya was impressed by an unusual sight of a cobra giving shelter to pregnant frog giving birth with its raised hood. This incident made him to realize that the place is sanctified and blessed with good vibrations where enemies to help each other in times of need. The surrounding hill ranges of western ghat with river tunga provided the ideal setting to establish the first mutt of advaita philosophy or followers of sanathana dharma. Adi Shankaracharya ( 788 –823 AD) stayed put for almost 12 years in the Sringeri Mutt. Adi Shankara later founded four mutts located at Badrinath, Dwarka and Puri across the four corners of the country. 

Mythical : Srigeri name is derived from sage Rishisrinhga who seemed to have bought rain to the drought stricken area during the Ramayan times. The nearby hills seems to have contained the hermit of the sage where he lived and meditated. 

Vidyashankar temple has 3 enterances on the east, south and north. There is idol of Brahma with saraswathi on the south, Lakshminarayana on the west, and Uma Maheswara towards the North. The fa├žade of the temple is finely sculpted with images representing the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. There are various forms of Shiva and Shakti too embedded on the outer wall of the temple. A miniature Gommateswara can also be witnessed on the wall. There are stone rings hanging from one corner of the temple. The Linga in the sanctum is named as Vidyashankara Linga dedicated to great pontiff of the Mutt. 

The gopuram or tower is three storyed finely sculpted to take on the vagaries of nature in terms of heavy rainfall and wind during monsoon. The peak of the tower contains the Khalasa which is made of copper which to an extent must be insulating the edifice from lightening. 


The Sringeri Mutt was a hub of activity during the reign of Vijaynagar empire. Hindu temples were vandalized by the raids of Malik Kafur. Vidyaranya ( 1268 – 1365 AD) quickly garnered the support of like minded people to revive the Hindu empire in establishing the Vijayanagar empire with the help of Harihara and Bucca brothers by breaking away from the Bahamani sultans in 1336 AD who were re-converted back to Hindusism from Islam by Vidyaranya. This heroic act of Vidyaranya can be compared to the Chankya type of reign. He wanted Hampi to be built like a capital and Srigeri to be lauded as a religious root for the empire.

The secular nature of the temple is highlighted by the patronage of Tipu Sultan. The temple was sponsored by intolerant bigot testifies only to the secular credential of the Mutt. In fact the temple has in its possession 23 letters written by Tipu Sultan who wished to visit the temple in 1795 AD but Anglo Mysore war kept him busy. Once he had written a letter to the Swamiji on occasion of loot of temple wealth by raiding Maratha army chief in 1791 AD. He had written to Shankaracharya stating thus “ 

People who do evil knowingly with a smile on their lips, will shed tears as a consequence by weeping. Those who sin against holy places and saints are certainly destined to suffer the consequences, their wealth and family will be ruined “


Sringeri can be reached videHassan, Belur, and Srigeri. The next route is from Mangalore, Mulki, Karkala, and Sringeri. Another route is from Tumkur, Tiptur, Arsikere, Birur and Sringeri

India Backpacker


Team G Square said...

Nice article on this wonderful temple

Deguide said...

Thanks Dhiraj for your compliment...i am sure you have visited this place.

Rajesh said...

Wonderful writeup. I have been to this place during the rains.

Sushma Harish said...

loved reading this post. Have visited this place many a times. Its enchanting place.


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