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Adi Shankaracharya

  • Category
    History & Culture
  • Published
    8th Nov, 2021


Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a 12-foot statue of Adi Shankaracharya at Kedarnath, where the acharya is believed to have attained samadhi at the age of 32 in the ninth century.

Who was Adi Shankaracharya?

  • Adi Shankaracharya is generally considered an eighth-century religious teacher. But there are differences of opinion about this actual birthday.
    • According to a commonly held view, Adi Shankaracharya was born in 788 AD.
  • Adi Shankara, as he is popularly known among his followers, was born in Kalady village -now a small town in the Ernakulam district - situated on the bank of a river of the same name in Kerala.
  • He was an exceptional child as Adi Shankara had become fluent in Sanskrit by the age of two. By four, he was comfortably reciting scriptures including Vedas.
  • The burning quest for attaining superior knowledge from an early age pushed Adi Shankara to leave his home and set on the search for a guru.
  • His quest ended with Govind Bhagvatpad at Omkareshwar (Madhya Pradesh) on the bank of the Narmada river.
  • Adi Shankara excelled under the tutelage of Govind Bhagvatpad, who instructed him to write commentaries on scriptures on completion of his learning. Adi Shankara was just 12 at the time.
  • Following his guru's command, Adi Shankara wrote commentaries explaining the subtle meanings hidden in scriptures. He finished the task by the age of sixteen, after which Adi Shankaracharya is said to have stopped writing as he had completed writing all the major treatises on religion and philosophy.
  • To his ardent followers, Adi Shankaracharya was an incarnation of Lord Shiva, who came to the earth for 32 years.

What was his mantra?

  • Adi Shankaracharya championed the Advait branch of philosophy that declared that god and humans were not two. He then set out to spread the message of his guru.
  • From the age of 16 to 32, Adi Shankaracharya traveled across the length and breadth of India with the message of Vedas.
  • He pronounced that 'Brahman or pure consciousness is the absolute reality that is attainable by human beings and that the material world is an illusion.
  • He established his supremacy in religion and philosophy in debating duels with experts and chief of ashram after ashram from north to south and east to west.
  • The defeat would end up hitherto expert philosophers accepting young Adi Shankara as their guru ad accepting his interpretation of the scriptures.

Important Literary work

  • Adi Shankaracharya wrote 18 commentaries on the scriptures including the Brahma Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, and 12 major Upanishads.
  • He wrote about two dozen books elucidating the fundamentals of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Some of these books are Viveka Chudamani, Atma Bodha, Vaakya Vritti, and Upadesa Sahasri.
  • Adi Shankaracharya is credited to have composed 72 devotional and meditative hymns such as Soundarya Lahari, Sivananda Lahari, Nirvana Shalkam, Maneesha Panchakam.

Important Ashram founded by Adi Shankaracharya

  • Having established his superiority among all exponents of religion and philosophy of the time, Adi Shankaracharya founded four ashrams in the four corners of the country–
    • Badrinath for Atharva Veda.
    • Puri for Rig Veda
    • Dwaraka for Sama Veda
    • Sringeri for Yajur Veda
  • These were the centres to elucidate the essence of Advaita philosophy.

What is the Kedarnath Connection?

  • It is believed Adi Shankaracharya took samadhi at Kedarnath.
  • It is said he was seen last by his disciples walking into the Himalayan woods at Kedarnath. He was not seen thereafter.
  • It was in the memory of Adi Shankaracharya, who is also addressed as Jagatguru (the universal teacher), PM Modi inaugurated a statue in Kedarnath.

About the statue

  • The statue weighs around 35 tonnes.
  • Its construction had begun in 2019 under the guidance of architect Arun Yogiraj from Mysuru.
  • The statue is made using chlorite schist – a rock popular for withstanding rain, sunshine, and harsh weather.

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