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History of Sringeri Peetham

Jagadguru Sri Adi Shankara Bhagavatpada established the first of the four Amnaya
Peethams1 at Sringeri more than twelve centuries ago to foster the sacred tradi
tion of Sanatana Dharma.
Hallowed for all times by Sage Rishyashringa who stayed and performed Tapas here
, Sringeri attracted the great Acharya with a remarkable sight.
Sringeri
A contemporary painting of Sringeri
Tradition has it that after the Acharya had dispersed all the non-Vedic creeds p
revailing in the country, He was on the look-out for a convenient and holy place
where he could establish an institution to spread the truths of Advaita Vedanta
. When the Acharya came to Sringeri, he saw an unusual sight on the banks of the
Tunga. A cobra was seen spreading out its hood over a frog in labour pains, to
give it shadow from the scorching mid-day sun. Struck with the sanctity of the p
lace, which could infuse love between natural adversaries, the Acharya chose thi
s very location to establish His first Math.
Sri Kappe Shankara A Shrine on the banks of the Holy Tunga river in memory to th
e
glorious sight witnessed by Sri Adi Shankaracharya; A serpent giving shade from
the
scorching sun to a pregnant frog in labour pains
The Madhaviya Shankara Digvijayam describes that the Acharya came across many vi
rtuous people at Sringeri and taught them the doctrine of Advaita. He then invok
ed the Divinity of Knowledge, Goddess Sharada and consecrated an icon of the God
dess. Thus the Peetham He founded at Sringeri in South India for fostering the V
edas and the sacred tradition of Sanatana Dharma came to be known as the Dakshin
amnaya Sri Sharada Peetham.
The Acharya appointed his prime disciple, Sri Sureshwaracharya as the first Acha
rya of the Peetham. Since then, the Peetham has been blessed with an unbroken Gu
ru Parampara, a garland of spiritual masters and Jivanmuktas representing Sri Ad
i Shankaracharya. The succeeding Acharyas have led a life of such austere penanc
e that it has led disciples to adore in them the radiance of Sri Adi Shankara Hi
mself.
Besides being a centre of spiritual power, Sringeri also came to be known as a g
reat place of traditional learning owing to the presence of Goddess Sharada and
the erudition of the Acharyas of the Peetham. The Acharyas were instrumental in
bringing forth commentaries on the Vedas and in further expounding the Bhashyas
of Sri Adi Shankaracharya. The Acharyas also wrote a number of independent works
related to Advaita besides producing a number of hymns underlining their ardent
devotion to the non-dual Supreme worshipped in multifarious forms. The Peetham
thus came to be regarded as the Vyakhyana Simhasana, The Throne of Transcendenta
l Wisdom. Consequently, the Birudavali hails the Acharya as the occupier of this
throne. Many regard Goddess Sharada Herself to be moving in the form of the pre
siding Acharya of the Peetham.
In the 14th century, royal patronage to the Peetham began with the founding of t
he famous Vijayanagar empire under the divine guidance of the 12th Acharya, Jaga
dguru Sri Vidyaranya. The austerity of the Acharya influenced the rulers to such
an extent that they began ruling in the name of the Acharya and granted the Pee
tham the rights over secular administration of the land. At the rulers request, t
he Acharya began conducting a Durbar during the Navaratri festival an occasion d
eemed by the rulers to honour their Guru. Subsequently, the Acharya came to be k
nown as the Karnataka Simhasana Prathisthapanacharya and the Peetham became a mi
ghty institution a Samsthanam and is known to this day as the Jagadguru Shankara
charya Mahasamsthanam, Dakshinamnaya Sri Sharada Peetham at Sringeri. Over the s
ucceeding centuries, a number of empires and rulers including the Mysore Maharaj
ahs Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Peshwas and the Kelad

i rulers and Travancore Rajas were drawn towards the Peetham and respected the A
charya as their Guru.
Sri Vidyaranya Mahaswami being accorded royal honour in the Adda-Pallaki by the
Vijayanagara Emperors, Harihara and Bukkaraya. A 17th century painting based on
the
mural at Virupaksha temple at Hampi. This tradition has continued
since then and is followed even today.
In the recent past, the Sharada Peetham has shone through the lives of the Achar
yas Jagadguru Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati Mahaswamigal, the
re-discoverer of Sri Adi Shankaras birthplace at Kalady and the founder of the fa
mous Pathashala at Sringeri; followed by the renowned Jivanmukta, Jagadguru Sri
Chandrasekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal; succeeded by the crest jewel of Yogis, Jaga
dguru Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha Mahaswamigal. They have all left indelible impres
sions in the hearts of the disciples.
With such a rich history associated with Sri Adi Shankaracharyas first and foremo
st Peetham, many wonder at the aptness of the Acharyas choice of locating the Pee
tham at Sringeri, a spot replete with a hoary past, and bountiful with natural s
plendour and serenity.
Today, the Sringeri Sharada Peetham bedecked with an unbroken chain of Acharyas
continues to uphold the principles of Sanatana Dharma with the 36th Acharya Jaga
dguru Shankaracharya Sri Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamiji acting as a treasure of
spiritual wisdom and peace for all seekers.
Jagadguru Sri Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamiji worshipping Lord Chandramoulishwara
Glossary
1. Amnaya Peetham
AmnayaThe Veda; PeethamThrone. Lit. throne of the Veda. Seat of learning establish
ed for the preservation and propogation of the Veda. Jagadguru Shankaracharya es
tablished four centres in the four corners of the country for the safeguard and
propogation of the four Vedas and appointed each of his prime ascetic disciples
as the heads of each centre respectively.
2. Sanatana Dharma
Hoary / Universal Dharma. Lit. Universal law that is binding on all creation sin
ce time immemorial.
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Sage Rishyashringa
A sculpture of Sage Sri Rishyashringa in the temple at Kigga
Sringeri is hallowed for all times by the ancient legend of the sage Sri Rishyas
ringa. Sage Vibhandaka, by a curious combination of circumstances, became the fa
ther of a child, with a horn in the forehead, born of a deer. He found himself r
esponsible for the proper upbringing of the child, whom he named as Rishyasringa
. He thought that the easiest way to keep his son innocent of the worldly ways w
as to keep him in forest isolation. He succeeded to such an extent that when the
boy matured into manhood, he had never set eyes on any human being other than h
is own father. He was even unaware of sexual distinction.
[Click to enlarge]
A Mural at Sringeri depicting the penance of Sage Vibhandaka
It so chanced that a neighbouring kingdom, which was then ruled by a king named
Romapada, suffered from a severe drought. The king was advised by his ministers
that there would be rains if sage Rishyasringa, blessed his kingdom with the tou

ch of his holy feet. Romapada sent a number of fair damsels to the forest to bri
ng the sage. They were however afraid of sage Vibhandaka, and so approached the
hermitage when he was absent.
King Romapada, learning that the boy-sage had started from his hermitage, waited
to receive him at the frontiers of his kingdom. The instant the holy sage stepp
ed on the soil, the heavens opened up and poured-down life giving showers. The k
ing, thankful for the favour conferred on him, showed his gratitude by offering
the hand of his daughter, Santha, in marriage to the sage. Rishyasringa accepted
her as his wife and remained in the kings palace as an honoured guest for someti
me.
Doll arrangement depicting the performance of Putrakameshti Yaga by
King Dasharatha officiated by Sage Rishyashringa
It was during this period that Dasaratha, King of Ayodhya, invited him to offici
ate in the yaga named Putrakameshti, by which he was blessed with four sons, Sri
Rama and others. Sage Rishyasringa felt that his married life was not without i
ts merits. It gave him an opportunity to usher into this world Sri Rama, the per
sonification of Dharma.
The Linga
Yet he felt himself called back to his native forest with its holy atmosphere. H
e retired to the forest to spend the remainder of his life in divine contemplati
on. When he shuffled off his mortal coil, a lightning issued forth from his body
and disappeared into the Linga he was worshipping as a symbol of formless Absol
ute.
The Shiva-Linga of Sage Rishyashringa at Kigga
This Linga can be seen even now in the temple at Kigga, a village about 7 Km fro
m Sringeri. Unlike others, this Linga is invested with a horn on its head, to co
mmemorate the merger of the sage Rishyasringa.
The Linga that was worshipped by the sage Vibhandaka and into which he himself d
isappeared in the end is on the summit of a hillock. This is situated in the cen
tre of Sringeri. The Linga is known as Malahanikareshwara (destroyer of the impu
rities of the Jiva) and is worshipped even today.
Sculpture at the temple of Sri Malahanikareswhwara at Sringeri
depicting Sage Vibhandaka worshipping a Shiva Linga
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