The 1st Shankara or Adi Shankaracharya also pronounced as आदि शङ्कराआचार्य in Sanskrit was an Indian theologian and philosopher who restored the Advaita Vedanta and Vedic Dharma to its perfect purity & splendor.
Adi Shankaracharya had a profound influence on the growth of Hinduism at the time when disorder, fallacy, & racism was extensive. His remarkable work is profound in Upanishads, Vedas and many other hindu scriptures.
Origin and History
Shri Adi Shankaracharya was born in the 14th year of the rule of the king “Vikram Aditya”, says ancient Sringeri records.
He was born in a village called Kaladi in a Brahmin family.
The village is now in the South Indian coastal state of Kerala along the banks of the river Purna which is now called the Periyar river.
His father was Sivaguru and mother was Aryamba.
Since he was born after a long time to his parents, his birth was nothing less than an occasion and blessing of God on the couple.
Many Hindu scripts say that Lord Shiva came to the dreams of Aryamba and promised her that he would reincarnate as her 1st child.
Adi Shankaracharya was hailed as ‘Eka-Sruti-Dara’, which means the one can remember anything that has just been read once.
He was an extraordinary personality that mastered all the Hindu Vedas and the 6 Vedangas.
He had the complete knowledge of all the epics and Puranas which he learned from the local gurukul and practiced them extensively.
Shankara was a storehouse of knowledge who studied deeply about the beliefs of various sections of the society.
The 1st Shankara always focused on worshiping by the guidelines of Vedas & therefore modernized various forms of indiscriminate sacred rituals and rites into acceptable norms and policies.
His focus was always on the core philosophy of Vedanta i.e. Advaita meaning the non-dualism of humans.
Thus, he was successful in uniting & formulating the key principles of Hinduism.
Adi Shankara – Beliefs, Philosophies and Teachings
Adi Shankaracharya with his Digvijaya spread the teachings and beliefs of Advaita Vedanta, the ultimate philosophy of monism, all the 4 corners of India.
Advaita Vedanta or Non-dualism works on the epitome to repeat the truth of the realism of one’s vital divine self and to scrap one’s belief of being a fixed human with a name and form subject to earthly changes.
The I of “Who Am I” is the true self or the divine creator which if often referred to a Brahman, says Advaita maxim.
The Advaita Vedanta believes that although there are multiple human bodies on earth, yet all of them have 1 god or divine in them.
The core or the crux of the Advaita is that the Brahman is the ultimate reality and rest of the universe is just an illusion created by God.
It said that the world of humans & non-humans is not separate from Brahman.
Therefore, all of them will one day lead themselves towards the Brahman that is the true reality.
The ideas of ego, self-esteem & duality can be eradicated easily be the practice of the concepts of Advaita.
The complete philosophy of Shankara is unique for the fact that philosophies of Advaita include both worldly and mystical practice.
While Shankaracharya focused on the sole reality of Brahman, but he never challenged the theories of ancient books and scripts about multiple gods and the cosmic world.
His teachings were based on 3 different levels of reality that are explained in detail below i.e.
|Vyavaharika Satta||The empirical world of beings and non-beings|
Shankara believed that Avidya or Spiritual ignorance can be developed when someone sees self when in truth there is no such thing & therefore such rite should be abolished.
One should realize that Brahman is the true form of everything and therefore make a clear distinction between Avidya and Vaidya or Gyaan.
He imparted the guidelines of prayers, bhakti, yoga, and karma to educate the mind and cleanse the heart as Advaita is the mindfulness of the ‘Divine’.
Adi Shankaracharya created these theories based on the common findings of various Hindu scriptures for the combined benefit of mankind on earth.
He believed that the ancient saints and priest have already taught these things much before in history.
He spent most of his time in creating interpretations and gaining meaningful insights from 3 main categories namely the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads and the Brahmasutras.
Adi Shankaracharya’s Pivotal Works
Shankaracharya spent his entire time reading & interpreting various ancient Hindu texts and books like the Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads & Brahmasutras.
His observations of Brahmasutras i.e. the Brahmasutra Bhashya is considered to be the guiding principle behind the perspective of the Advaita.
Another great work that Adi Shankara did was creating the Bhaja Govindam which a Sanskrit devotional poem was written in praise of Lord Krishna also known as Govinda.
All these finding and teachings of Shankaracharya created a pivotal work in building the basis of Bhakti and spiritual environment in the country in addition to the strengthening of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy.
Philosophical tour and Mathas
Shri Adi Shankaracharya established 4 monastic centers also called as Mathas in different parts of the country.
He then established each center by assigning his 4 main disciples, the responsibility of each of the Mathas.
All these monastic centers were focused to fulfill the spiritual and aesthetic needs of the community via the Vedantic traditions and guidelines.
To combine the mystical strengths of the wandering mendicants, he formulated 10 main groups.
Each of the Mathas is assigned one Veda that follows the teachings and beliefs of the ancient book and spread it to the nearby areas.
|Name of the Mathas||Location in India||Assigned Veda|
|Jyothir Mutt||Badrinath in northern India||Atharva Veda|
|Sarada Mutt||Sringeri in southern India||Yajur Veda|
|Govardhan Mutt||Jagannath Puri in eastern India||Rig Veda|
|Kalika Mutt||Dwarka in western India||Sama Veda|
Adi Shankaracharya is believed to have died at the age of 32, in Uttarakhand at Kedarnath.
Believers say that his last tour was to the Kedarnath temple that is a Hindu pilgrimage site located in the Himalayas.
However, there are still others that say that he has also been seen in areas of Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu) and somewhere in the state of Kerala, from where he disappeared unknowingly.
Folklore and Legends of Shri Shankaracharya
The history has seen many folklore’s and legends and one such person that has made his name in the history is Shri Shankaracharya that has a lot of folklore’s associated with him and his work for the humans.
1. Altering the progression of the Purna River
History says that Shankaracharya loved his mother & one day when he found that his mother was lying unconscious near the banks of river Purana, he got furious.
His mother used to go along the banks of river Purna for taking bath & when Shankara found that she got exhausted due to the walk.
He pled to Lord & next day the movement of the river reversed, which started flowing by the side of his house.
2. The Gold Shower Legends
The young Shankaracharya at the age of 8 went to a house begging food as a young Bal Brahmachari & he found that the owner of the house was extremely poor and needy.
Still, the lady gave a small amalaka fruit to Shankara and this deeply touched his heart and soul.
Thus, to help the poor lady, he invoked Goddess Lakshmi i.e. the Goddess of wealth and prosperity on earth.
The folklore says that Shankara sang the Kanakadhara Stotra and Goddess Lakshmi showered golden amalaka fruits into the house.
3. Folklore of Guru Govindapada
During the time of the rainy season, the levels of Narmada river became extremely uncontrollable as there were very high tides.
Guru Govindapada was in his Samadhi and his disciples feared to disturb him as this would make him furious.
When Adi Shankaracharya came to know about this, he immediately placed a water pot outside the entrance of the cave and the entire water got absorbed inside the Kamandalu or the pot.
This impressed Guru Govindapada who gave his blessing to Shankara by saying the following lines;
“Just as you contained the floodwaters in your Kamandalu, you should write commentaries containing the essence of the Vedantic scriptures.
By this work, you will gain eternal glory.”
4. The Legends of the crocodile
Shankaracharya’s mother was reluctant towards him taking Sannyasa as the way of life as the path had many hardships and difficulties.
Although Shankara wanted his mother’s permission before he could go on his path.
So one day when he accompanied his mother to take a bath along the river bank, a crocodile caught his leg and he started crying in pain.
In this fury and hurry, Shankara convinced his mother to permit him to follow Sannyasa as the way of life.
As soon as she got convinced, the magical crocodile disappeared and then Shankaracharya promised her that he would come back to her to perform her final rites.
5. Shankaracharya’s Mother’s Final Rites
It is believed that when Shankaracharya came to know about his mother’s death he far away in the northern Himalayas.
By using his divine powers, he flew the distance and came to perform her final rites.
Also, he was opposed by other relatives that as a Sanyasi is he not allowed to perform the cremation and usually such process involves the presence of other people.
So Shankara made a funeral pyre out of plantain stalks and after placing her mother’s body on the pyre, he read out few mantras and sprinkled mystical water on it.
This made the pyre catch fire and this way he successfully fulfilled the promise given to his mother of performing her last rites.
Shri Adi Shankaracharya was the true champion of Advaita philosophy which was one of his valuable contribution towards the reordering and reshaping of ancient Sannyasa order in the Hinduism.
His teachings and way of life are still being preached by many followers in the 21st century. Let us know in the comments, your views about him!
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Who is Adi Shankaracharya?
The 1st Shankara or the Adi Shankaracharya also pronounced as आदि शङ्कराआचार्य in Sanskrit was an Indian theologian and philosopher who restored the Advaita Vedanta and Vedic Dharma to its perfect purity and glory.
When and where was Adi Shankaracharya born?
Shri Adi Shankaracharya was born in the 14th year of the rule of the king “Vikram Aditya”, says ancient Sringeri records. He was born in a village called Kaladi in a Brahman family.
When and where did Adi Shankaracharya die?
Adi Shankaracharya is believed to have died at the age of 32, in Uttarakhand at Kedarnath. It was his last tour was to the Kedarnath temple that is a Hindu pilgrimage site located in the Himalayas.