Sri Adi Shankaracharya & the connection between Sringeri, Travancore and Kalady
— Padmanabha Dasa Sri Uthradom Tirunal Marthanda Varma,
The Maharaja of the erstwhile state of Travancore.
This year is filled with the auspicious, heart-warming, and mind enchanting occasion of the 100th year of the consecration at Kalady, the Janmabhoomi Kshetram of Sri Adi Shankaracharya. It marks a spiritual awakening of the memory of coming to earth of Sahasra-jyoti like splendor. It was at Kalady that the birth of Sri Shankaracharya took place. It was the great Acharya who arrested and paved the path for the resurgence of the country’s Dharma and restored it to its resplendent glory.
Sri Adi Shankaracharya and Sringeri
During the course of Adi Shankaracharya’s marvelous Vijaya Yatra over all of India, he decided to establish a Peetham at Sringeri having seen there an unusual and soul-stirring sight – that of a manduka(frog) sitting on the banks of the river Tunga at midday and a cobra sheltering this frog from the scorching sun by spreading its hood over the frog like an umbrella. A glance at the great epics will tell us that Sringeri was the abode of the Sage Rishyashringa. On being invited by Dasharatha, Sage Rishyashringa performed for Dasharatha the Putrakameshti Yaga. It was the performance of this Yaga that brought about the descent of the Lord in the form of Dasharatha’s son, Sri Rama. Sri Adi Shankaracharya chose such a hallowed place as Sringeri that has been in existence from the time of Lord Sri Rama, for establishing his first Peetham – the Dakshinamnaya Sri Sharada Peetham. As is well known, he appointed Sureshwaracharya to head the Peetham. The marvel is that Sureshwaracharya was formally a householder (named Vishwaroopa and having a honorific title Mandana Mishra) and was defeated in a debate by Adi Shankaracharya, and out of conviction and admiration for the great Acharya, became his disciple. We know that Adi Shankaracharya through his travels and teachings integrated India as a single cultural and religious entity. Sri Adi Shankaracharya established his four Amnaya Peethams and appointed its heads. He placed Sureshwaracharya (hailing from the north) at the Dakshinamnaya Sri Sharada Peetham at Sringeri (in the south), Hastamalakacharya (hailing from the south) at the Poorvamnaya Sri Govardhana Peetham at Puri (in the east), Totakacharya (hailing from the south) at the Uttaramnaya Sri Jyotish Peetham at Badrinath (in the north) and Padmapadacharya (hailing from the southern Chola region) at the Paschimamnaya Sri Kalika Peetham at Dwaraka (in the west).
Sringeri and Travancore
It is most enthralling that the Travancore Royal State including the Travancore Dasas and Maharajas have from time immemorial revered Sri Adi Shankaracharya and the Sringeri GuruParampara. The family has had the fortune of having the successive Mahasannidhanams of Sringeri as their Guru. A number of historical records illustrate this. In the family, anything that happens in the house is informed to the Peetham. When a child is born, namakaranam, anna prashanam, vidyarambham, upanayanam, vivaham, shashtiabdapoorti, shata Abhishekam and the final leaving – all this is informed to the Peetham. Such a contact or bandham is very hard to find.
The experiences we have had with the Mahasannidhanams are indeed unique and personal. The first time I had an idea of anybody in the dress, the garb of a Sannyasi was when I was about 4 years old. I have a vague remembrance of seeing a Kashaya Vesha, A great person. It was Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati Mahaswamiji (who had come to Thiruvanantapuram in 1927). Something must have happened to me. I do not know whether it was a vibration or input of some energy. But from that time onwards, as I grew up, my involvement with ritual, faith and Puja has been something which has been unending, never changed.
About 60 years back, I knew in my heart that my Kula deivam, Para deivam is Sri Padmanabha. Ever since, I have been worshipping the Lord. I have begun this particular point because it has been my fortune that the present-day’s Holiness (Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswami) and the previous Holiness (Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha Mahaswami) have both come to my prayer room, have been kind to offer atleast one flower, and take the Puja Vigraham in their hands. And the fact that both Their Holinesses have kept this humble person’s Puja Vigraham in their Holy Hands is something which is unforgettable.
Once when Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha Swami came here, He asked me – Do you read the Vishnu Sahasranamam? I said – ‘Only when time permits’. He said ‘No. Read it every day’. So whether I am in Thiruvanantapuram or I travel, I have been reading Vishnu Sahasranamam daily for the last 35 years”. Such has been the compassion, kindness and affection with which the Parampara has been guiding us.
Travancore, Sringeri & Kalady
Kalady has a very important place in our bandham (relationship) with Sringeri. Sri Moolam Tirunal (who reigned from 1885-1924) the then Maharaja was a pious and noble-hearted ruler and greatly devoted to Indian culture and tradition. In 1905, when officials from Sringeri visited the Maharaja in relation to Kalady, the Maharaja silently worked to secure lands in Kalady relating to Sri Adi Shankaracharya and submitted them respectfully to the Peetham. The then Mahasannidhanam, Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Narasimha Bharati Mahaswami, who brought about the renaissance of Kalady, also graced the Maharaja in December 1909 just before the Kumbhabhishekam at Kalady.
Later, under the direction of Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha Mahaswami, a painting of the Maharaja was commissioned and kept in Kalady in which the Maharaja is depicted in traditional attire and as a devotee.
So the bandham has been going on and on. It is something which we look back with tremendous joy. We are being propelled to such a good path by a great force and that is none other than our Guru Sthanam. And the fact that our belief, our full Shraddha on the Lord is only because the Guru is there to guide us, tell us the right thing at the right time. It is a matter of joy that the Parampara goes on unbroken and without any change. It is a marvellous thing that whenever we go to Sringeri, we are so satisfied and happy.
On the occasion of the 100th year of the consecration at Adi Shankaracharya Janmabhoomi Kshetram at Kalady, the entire Travancore family in all humility and joy prostrate to the Acharya His Holiness Mahasannidhanam Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamigal.