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c 806-838 AD = 32 yrs
Shankaraachaarya's name appears in Bhavishya Puraan, 3/24;     Prophecy about Shankar
Rain of Golden Gooseberry;   Aatm Shatakam;  Kanakdhaaraa Stotra;   Maneesh Panchakam;   Nirvaan Shatakam;  Kaupeen Panchakam;   Saundarya Laharee;   Bhaj Govindam;
Shankar and Mandan Mishra Shankar and Chaandaal;   Shankar and a Woman;  

Shankaraachaarya was the great teacher of Vedaant philosophy. He was a native of Kerala and died at the age of 32. It defies belief that he produced so much quality and quantity in the area of scriptures within so few adult years granted to him. His translations and commentaries of Bhagvad Geetaa and some of the Upanishad have remained standards all through 1,300 years after his death. His works include "Aanand Laharee" - a book in praise of Paarvatee and "Vivek Choodaamani" - a book on how a person should raise himself to the highest spiritual level. He was the greatest exponent of the A-Dwait view of Vedaant claiming that his exposition of Vedaant on Vedaant Sootra was based on Upanishadik philosophy.

During his lifetime, he established four Math (spiritual centers) in the four corners of India - Jagannaath Puree in East, Badareenaath in North, Dwaarakaa in West, and Shringeree in South. The Headquarter of these Math was located at Kaancheepuram in Tamil Naadu. To the present, his seat is continued and its men are given the title "Shankaraachaarya". People do not have to agree with his philosophy. His philosophy may be summarized as "Brahm Satyam, Jaganmithyaa, Jeevo Brahmaiv Naaparaah" - means only "Brahm is real, the Universe is real and the individual soul is nothing but God. Because of the ignorance people consider this world real.
[Aangiras, p 354-355]

About Shankar's Birth
Some say that he existed in the 7th century AD. According to Wikipedia, he established four Math - at Josheemath, near Badareenaath in North; Govardhan Math at Puree in East; Shringeree Shaaradaa Peeth at Shringeree in South; and Dwaarakaa Peeth at Dwaarakaa in West. Shree Raghottam Peeth, known as Raamchandrapur Math, is the oldest among the Peeth established by him, established in Karnaatak. Otherwise there are more than 100 such Math in India today.

[From US Brahmin Group, May 1, 2013, by B Shridhar]
In fact there has been lots of controversy whether Aadi Shankar was born in 780 AD or 509 BC with various historical evidence being exchanged both for and against each of the dates. A striking scientific proof in favor of the BC theory was provided by the 68th pontiff Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati (affectionately called as the Paramachaarya) himself.

One day a very reputed Geologist happened to visit Kaancheepuram to have Darshan of the Paramachaarya. After enquiring about his family, the Paramacharya requested him arrange for a diver to dive and take out sand from two different locations of the River Poornaa. One location should be when the River Poornaa (presently called River Periyaar) enters Kerala, before it diverts into entering Kalaadi and the other location to be at Kalaadi itself. Later Paramaachaarya asked him to use the technique of carbon dating to find out the age of the sand from these two locations. The geologist performed the exercise as instructed by the Paramaachaarya and provided the results which was, that the sand from the first location yielded an age of being more than 100,000 years old whereas the age of the sand from the second location in Kalaadi was close to about 2500 years. History says that as Shankar's mother was finding difficulty to go the the River Poornaa to take bath, so Shankar requested the River Poornaa to divert and follow his footsteps (Kal-adi) to flow near his ancestral house to enable his mother to take bath without any difficulty and then later join again to the main course of the river. The Age of the River sand at Kalaadi confirmed that Aadi Shankar was indeed born more than 2500 years back which is 509 BC as per all the Shankaraachaarya Math.

Another Note on Shankar's Birth
Taken from "Adi Sankara" written by Sithamalli Balasubramanian in US Brahmins Group on April 23, 2011.
The date of birth of Adi Sankara is now well founded. Sringeri Math seems to have some reticence to accept this. It is said this is because that this Math was not functioning for a period of about 800 years. The following details are from a thesis by Mahdevan submitted to Bharathi Dasan University, Trichy and was awarded MPhil Degree a couple of years back.

Sri Chitsukhacharya's (Sankara's boyhood friend) wrote Sankara Vijaya of which some pages are available with Kanchi Math. It says that Adi Sankara was born in 2593 Nandan year (3102-2593 = 509) 509 BCE, fifth day of bright Moon (Shukla Panchamee) under the star Punarvasu, the year being Vishaakhaa. It has been said that King Hala of Andhra Dynasty had Darshan of Adi Sankara in 494 BC (ref: Indian chronology by Dr TS Triveda).

According to Sri Triveda's chronology we have the following table.
Year Established by:
Dwaarakaa Math                   490 BC - Vishwaroop brother of Sureswaraachaarya
Bhadrinath Jyothir Math     485 BC - Thotakacharya
Puri Govardhan Math           484 BC - Parmapadacharya
Sarada Peeta Sringeri          483 BC - Hasthakamalacharya
Kaamkoti Kaanchee Math    481 BC - Aadi Shankar Bhagavatpadal
Unbroken record of Kaanchee Math exists from 477 BC to date.

Shankar's Early Life
There lived a couple in a town named Kalaadi, in Kerala. Their names were Shivaguru and Aryambaa. They were childless so they went to Trichoor Vadakunnaathan, a Shiv temple and performed a 48-day worship to get a child. They got a son and they named him Shankar (one who gives prosperity). Shankar desired to take Sanyaas (ascetic life). But his mother refused to grant the permission, as he was her only hold in life. But, one morning when the child was bathing in the river, a crocodile caught the childís legs. The mother writhed in pain seeing the child being pulled to death. The young Shankar then said to his mother, "Mother, Grant me the permission to embrace Sanyaas Aashram for it is equivalent to giving up this life and taking another birth." The mother gave her consent immediately with the only thought of saving her child's life, even if he were to become an ascetic. She felt that she would at least be able to see her son. Shankar at once took the vow of Sanyaas after uttering the prescribed Mantra. The crocodile left its hold and the child was saved from the clutches of death.

Having embraced Sanyaas Aashram Shankar did not return home. The mother wept seeing her only child and holds in this life leave her like this. She wondered who would perform her last rites. He consoled the weeping mother, "Mother, Do not grieve. I have been born not just for you but for the whole world. Wherever I will be at that moment, you think of me and I will come to your side. I will be with you in your last moment and perform the duties of a son." And Shankar left home to work for the benefit of the world. He is also known as Shanmat Sthaapakaachaarya (who established the worship of six Deities - Shiv, Vishnu, Shakti, Ganesh, Soorya and Skand).

Shankar, in his wanderings in search of a Guru who would bestow on him the formal initiation of Sanyaas Aashram reached the banks of the Narmadaa River. Here he met his Guru Govind Bhagavatpaad. From his Guru, Shankar learnt the A-Dwait philosophy and as per his advice he went to Vaaraanasee, a great place of learning. It was here that Shankar wrote commentaries on the Upanishad, the Geetaa, the Brahm Sootra.

Discipleship of Shankar
(1) It is in Vaaraanasee, that his disciple Sanandan walked across the river Ganges without a second thought as he was beckoned by his Master from the other bank. At each step a lotus was produced and thus he earned the name of Padmapaad (Padma-Lotus; Paad-Feet).

(2) During his wanderings Shankar met Kumaaril Bhatt and later his (Kumaaril Bhatt's) disciple Mandan Mishra, a great Vaidik scholar like his Guru. He defeated Mandan Mishra in a debate and Mandan became his disciple. (read Shankar Defeated Mandan Mishra here) He was then named Sureshwaraachaarya.

There is something discrepancy in this - Kumaaril Bhatt lived in 6th century BC, Mandan Mishra lived in 8th and 9th century AD - how then Mandan Mishra can be Kumaaril Bhatt's disciple? Besides if Shankar met this Mandan Mishra who must have lived in 9th century AD then this Mandan Mishra cannot be Kumaaril Bhatt's disciple? Shankar can also not meet Kumaaril Bhatt also. It seems that there were two Mandan Mishra. OR Shankar was in 6th century BC, not in the 9th century AD.

Shankar traveled the length and breadth of the country. As has already been said it was an age when innumerable evil faiths had sprung up. A religious sect called the Kaapaalik who believed in human sacrifice caught hold of Shankar. Shankar readily consented to offer his body (that of a Sanyaasee) to please their god. However, his disciple Padmapaadís intense prayer to Lord Narasinh was answered and Shankar was saved. It was then that Shankar composed a hymn in praise of Lord Narasinh in which he asked Lord Narasinh, "why did you save this body?"

(3) During his travel in Karnaatak, Shankar met a Braahman couple who had a son who was dumb. The parents lamented that he showed no sign of any kind of response to anything around. Shankar asked the boy, "Who are you?" and for the first time the boy spoke showing indications of being a highly spiritually evolved person. Shankar then said to the parents that he would be of no use to them and advised them to send the boy with him. Shankar named him Hastamalak.

(4) It was during his time spent in Shringeree, that Shankar was met and served by a deeply devoted disciple named Giri who later became Totakaachaarya, showing to the world what devotion to the Guru can do. That dull headed Giri loved his Guru Shankar very deeply. He served him with deep love. One day Giri was late in returning from washing his Guruís clothes. Though it was time for the class to begin and all the students had already arrived, but Shankar waited for this lovable disciple of his. When the disciples wondered and questioned about the delay in beginning the class, Shankar said, "Giri has not yet come." The whole class burst out laughing. The compassionate heart of the Guru melted with deep warmth as the others laughed at his lovable disciple and the Grace sprung forth from him and engulfed Giri who was still on the banks of the river. The class of scholars was wonderstruck when in a few minutes time that dull head Giri came into the hall clapping and singing the praises of his Guru in eight stanzas in Totak meter. No amount of intellect or genius can help as does Guru's Grace. Guru's Grace can bestow knowledge on a person in no time. Since that day Giri came to be known as Totakaachaarya as the hymn was composed in Totak meter.

It is believed that he had some Grihasth people also as his disciples.

As promised to his mother, Shankar reached Kalaadi to be by her side in her last moments. As the Scriptures forbid a Sanyaasee to perform last rites none cooperated with him in conducting the last rites to his mother. However, Shankar using his Yaugik power performed the cremation of his mother in the compound of his house, single handedly. Later, Shankar traveled all over the country winning people to the Vaidik religion.

Aadi Shankaraachaarya's Guru Gaudaapaadaachaarya was the first person to teach and write on A-Dwait. It was Gaudaapaadaachaarya, who taught A-Dwait before Aadi Shankaraachaarya. Even his disciple Govind Bhagavatpaad was also A-Dwait.

Besides, although there is no denying that Aadi Shankaraachaarya was a great personality and nobody can belittle him in any way, but the terms Vyavahaarik and Paramaarthik were used even before Aadi Shankaraachaarya.

Works of Shankar
In his short span of 32 years of life, Shankar wrote Shlok on all the deities of all the holy places, wrote commentaries on all the Holy texts, met the heads of innumerable new faiths and won them over to the Vaidik religion. Even 2500 to 3000 years after Shankarís lifetime his teachings of A-Dwait philosophy still form the base for everything. Such is the glory of this "Avataar Purush"! Some of the famous Shlok composed by Shankar are :----

Aatm Shatakam / Nirvaan Shatakam
Bhaja Govindam
Bilva Ashtak - importance of offering Bilva leaves to Shiv
Dakshinamoorti Ashtakam
Ganesh Panch-ratnam
Guru Ashtakam
Kanakdhaaraa Stotram - read the story of Rain of Gold Gooseberry
Kaupeen Panchakam
Maneesh Panchakam
Nirvaan Shatakam / Aatm Shatakam
Saundarya Laharee
Subrahamanya Bhujangam
Shatapadee Stotram

It is interesting to note that the beat of the chanting of Ganesh Panch-ratnam is like the swaying of the elephantís ears. And in the case of Subrahmanya Bhujangam the wriggling movement of a snake is envisioned.

Shree Shankar founded the principal Math in four quarters of India for the spread of A-Dwait philosophy and appointed four of his main disciples to head them. Thus, Padmapaad was the first head of the Math in Puree (East), Sureshwaraachaarya of the Math in Sringeree (South), Hastamalak of the Math in Dwaarakaa (West) and Totakaachaarya of the Math in Badaree Naath (North).

The four Math established by Aadi Shankar have Mahaavaakya one each as their own. They are called Chaturaamnaaya Peeth.
(1) Aham Brahmasmi is the Vaakya for the first ever Math established by him at Sringeree. (Shaaradaa Peeth) in South - from Yajur Ved.
(2) Pragyaanaam Brahm for Govardhan Peeth at Puree in East - from Rig Ved ,
(3) Tat Twam Asi for Kaalikaa Peeth at Dwaarakaa in West - from Saam Ved .
(4) Ayamaatmaa Brahm for Jyotir Peeth at Badaree Naath in North from Atharv Ved .

Shankar in Other Countries
In Canada, a museum is created on his name by one temple.

Aadi Shankar himself was a great philosopher, a child prodigy who had mastered the Ved at the age of eight, was an expert in all branches of knowledge by the age of twelve and had written commentaries on Vedaant by the age of sixteen. In his short life of thirty-two years, he had propounded the A-Dwait philosophy. He is believed to have been born to a Kerala Namboodaree couple by the Grace of God in Kalaadi. Shiv Guru and Aryambaa, though devout and well-to-do, were childless. Finally, they went to Thrissur and prayed to the presiding deity there. Pleased with their devotion, God offered them a choice of one son who may be short lived, but will be a great teacher, or many dull witted children. The couple opted for the former, and they were blessed with Shankar.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 06/27/13