Sringeri Sharada Peetham

Sringeri Sharada Peetham is one of the important Advaita mathas located in Sringeri and is one of the first of the four original mathas said to have been established by Adi Shankara. Adi Shankara (788 CE - 820 CE), also known as Sa?kara Bhagavatpadacarya and Adi Sakaracarya, was an Indian philosopher who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta, the most influential sub-school of Vedanta. His teachings are based on the unity of the soul and Brahman, in which Brahman is viewed as without attributes. He hailed from Kalady of present day Kerala. Sringeri Sharada Peetham is in the temple town of Sringeri (also spelled Shringeri), on the banks of river Tunga, in the Chikmagalur district of the Karnataka state, India. It is about 105 kilometres from Mangalore.

History of Sringeri Sharada Peetham

The origin of the matha is described in various traditional sources, including the Sankara Vijaya of Madhava. Sankara is said to have lived here for twelve out of his short life-span of thirty-two years.

According to legends, Sankara and his four disciples, accompanied by Bharati, an incarnation of Goddess Sarasvati reached Sringeri on an exceptionally hot noon, and as they proceeded to the river Tunga for their ablutions, they saw a frog struggling in the blazing sun to be delivered of its spawn. A cobra, a natural enemy of frogs, had raised its hood to provide the frog with shelter and protection from the ravages of the tropical sun. Sankara was greatly moved by the sight. If there was paradise on earth, here it was, where the lion and the lamb, the tiger and the cow, the cobra and the frog lived in mutual amity and peace. He turned round when, as she had already stipulated, Bharati, known also as Sharada, decided to stay for good at Sringeri on the banks of the sacred river Tunga.

Vishwarupa, assuming the name of Suresvaracharya, was installed here as the successor of Sankaracarya before the latter resumed his tour to found his three pithas at Puri, Dwaraka and Badrinath. Thus the matha traces its lineage from Suresvaracharya.

The Sringeri matha records its tradition from the 8th century onwards. The history of the Sringeri Matha since the period of Sri Bharathi Tirtha (I) and Sri Vidyaranya (14th century) onwards has been extensively documented. Most of the names from the Sringeri lineage up to Vidyaranya are also found in the Sri Guru Charitra, a 15th-century Marathi work by Gangadhara Saraswathi. Sringeri matha sources report that Sankara was born in the fourteenth year of the reign of Vikramaditya. Some believe this Vikramaditya to be the Vikramaditya II of the Western Chalukya Dynasty, which ruled from Badami in Karnataka. Others believe him to the Vikramaditya of the 1st century BCE.

The matha continues to flourish to this day, and governs many institutions.

Philosophy And Traditions of the Matha

The matha gurus follow the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. Following the tradition initiated by Sankara, the matha is in charge of the Yajur Veda (the Krishna (Black) Yajurveda is more prevalent in South India, over which the matha has authority in the Smarta tradition). The gurus of the matha teach that all the demigods (devas), described in the Vedas and the Puranas, are mundane manifestations of the same one cosmic spirit, called Brahman. Moreover, the innermost self of the human being is also not different from Brahman. They subscribe to the Vedic phrase "Aham Brahma Asmi", which means: "I am the Universal spirit". The gurus wear ochre robes, smear their forehead with sacred ashes or vibhuti, and worship God for many hours every day. They practice intense penance and meditation, which they believe helps in the control of the mind. They sustain themselves on an optimum diet and minimal sleep. They meditate/chant on the Rudraksha and Tulasi beads and worship both the Linga (Shiva) and Saligrama(Lord Vishnu) every day. To an Advaitin, the heart of Shiva is Vishnu and the heart of Vishnu is Shiva. Both are one and the same. The Sringeri gurus advocate that an individual must not merely revere a guru and listen to his teachings, but imbibe the good habits of the guru in their own life. Some of the things advocated by the gurus are:

  1. Satvic habits which include vegetarianism, cleanliness, discipline, etc.
  2. Regular worship of God and development of bhakti.
  3. Giving importance to learning and knowledge.
  4. Good conduct, honesty, generosity, and adherence to scriptures.
  5. Austerity and simplicity.
  6. Love, respect, and responsibility towards one's family or community.
  7. Destruction of pride and ego.

The material world is considered as maya, or temporary, like a dream, so they believe that one should be involved in the material world only in order to fulfill one's responsibility. Although they adhere to the teachings of Sankara, they read other secular and religious works. Within the recorded history of the last two centuries, every one of the gurus at Sringeri has been a polyglot and a scholar with knowledge of a wide range of subjects. They do not advocate religious conversion, and believe that individuals must follow the religion of their own birth properly and correctly.

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There are a number of prominent Hindu centers of pilgrimage near Shringeri. Some of the major ones include, Horanadu Annapoorneshari Temple, Hariharapura,Kigga (Rishyashringa Temple), Agumbe (Venugopalaswami Temple and Sunset Spot), Kalasa (Kalaseshwara Temple), Balehonnur - Rambapuri Matha, Koppa (Veerebhdra swamy and Chittemakki Mallikarjuna Swamy temple). Udupi famous for Krishna matha is three hour journey by road.

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