We are extremely happy to have visited the Sringeri Sharada Peetham at Sringeri and all the temples in the complex on 4th April 2018 and are feeling blessed. Sringeri Sharada Peetham is the southern Advaita Vedanta matha or monastery established by Sri Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD. The matha is on the banks of the Tunga River in Chikkamagalur district, Karnataka State. It is 80 km from Manipal where we were camping, visiting my Alma mater Manipal Institute of Technology and Manipal Town, my place of residence for five years from 1970 to 1975.
Traditionally, Sri Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya (788-820 AD) is regarded as the greatest teacher and reformer of the Smarta. According to Alf Hiltebeitel, Adi Shankaracharya established the Advaita (nondualist) interpretation of the Upanishads as the touchstone of a revived Smarta tradition. The Sringeri Sharada monastery founded by Sri Shankaracharya in Karnataka is still the centre of Smarta tradition.
Sri Adi Shankaracharya is believed to have envisioned this place as the holy site for his matha/peetham because he found a Cobra snake here with its hood spread like an umbrella to protect a frog in labour pain, from the hot sun. According to tradition, it is one of the four major temples/mathas/peethams established by Sri Shankaracharya.
As per Hindu legend, the place is associated with sage Rishyasringa, son of Vibhandankamuni. He did severe penance at this place, leading to the name Sringeri. The Sringeri Sri Sharadamba temple was renovated during the regime of Vijayanagara Empire during the 14-16th centuries and later during 1916.
Sureshwaracharya, who was Maṇḍana Miśra in his purvashrama, was installed as the successor of Sri Shankaracharya before the latter resumed his tour to found his three Peethams in other three corners of the country at Puri, Dwaraka and Badrinath to safeguard and propagate the Vedas. The head of each of these four mathas is a Jagadguru meaning “Teacher of the world”. The Sringeri math holds one of the four Mahavakyas, Aham-Bramhasmi. The math has a very great lineage of Jagadgurus, stretching back straight to Sri Adi Shankaracharya himself. The present and 36th Jagadguru acharya of this peetham is Anantha Vibhushitha Sri Bharathi teertha Mahaswami. His guru was Sri Abhinava Vidhyateertha Mahaswami. The Successor-designate was appointed in 2015, and given the Yogapatta (spiritual name) Sri Vidhusekhara Bharati Swamai.
The historical and most revered temples we visited at Sri Sharada Peetham are as follows:
Sri Sharadamba Temple – It is believed that Goddess Sharadamba is the incarnation of Goddess Saraswati, who came to Earth as Ubhaya Bharathi. It is a common faith that by worshiping her, one can receive blessings of Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu along with Parvati, Lakshmi, and Saraswati! The idol of the Goddess is made of gold. In the 8th century, Sri Shankaracharya installed a sandalwood statue of Sri Sharadamba in a standing posture but in the 14th century the Vijayanagara rulers and Sri Vidyaranya (12th Jagadguru) replaced it with a seated gold statue of Sri Sharadamba. The temple is built of granite stones. The Mahamandapam also has huge stone pillars with carvings of deities like Durga, Raja Rajeshwari, Dwarapalakas and Devis according to the Shilpa Sastras. The door of the temple has Gold covering and is unique because it has 8 panels with figures of Ashtalakshmi inscribed on them.
Sri Torana Ganapati Temple – This unique shrine has a simple silver door with an idol of Ganapati at the top. It is customary for devotees to first have darshan of Torana Ganapati and then proceed to visit Sri Sharadamba.
Sri Vidyashankara Temple – The Vidyashankara temple was built in commemoration of the pontiff Vidyashankara, around 1357-58 C.E. It was built by Vidyaranya, patron-saint of Harihara and Bukka, the brothers who founded the Vijayanagara Empire. It has Chalukyan and Dravidian style of architecture. The Garbhagraha is on the west side with Vidya Ganapati and Durga as the main deities. Also, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva govern the other three sides.
Sri Janardhana Temple – The temple exists since the 9th century. The temple is for Lord Vishnu as Janardhana. The idol of Lord Janardhana has Sridevi and Bhudevi on both sides. Priests cover the idol with Sandal paste throughout the year.
Sri Adi Shankaracharya Temple – The idol of Sri Adi Shankaracharya is present in a pose of a Yogasana with four disciples and a Shiva Lingam in front.
Sri Kodandaramaswami Temple – A small temple dedicated to Lord Rama, Sita Devi and Lakshmana is present on the right of the Sri Sharadamba temple.
Feeling extremely happy to have visited the almighty Sri Sharadamba Temple and other temples at this ancient and holy place, and to have sought the blessings of so many Gods and Jagadgurus.