On 17th May 2021, Shankaracharya Jayanti was observed which marked the 1233rd birth anniversary of Guru Adi Shankaracharya also known as JagatGuru Shankaracharya. Adi Shankaracharya Jayanti is observed on Panchami Tithi during the month of Shukla Paksha in Vaishakha. Adi Shankaracharya’s exact birth year is debatable as there are at least fourteen different biographies, but it is said to be around 788 C.E. He was known for the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. His name means शम् (sham) meaning “auspicious” and कर (kara) meaning “maker”.
He is said to be the reincarnation of Lord Shiva who came to the Earth when the spirituality in the people had greatly reduced. All the Gods and Rishis went to the Kailasha and pleaded with Lord Shiva to revive the world, upon which Lord Shiva agreed to be born in this world.
He was born to a humble Nambudri Brahmin couple named Sivaguru and his wife Aryambal. They were a childless couple who went to Trichur and performed pooja for several days praying to Lord Shiva. Upon seeing their devotion, Lord Shiva was pleased and promised that their child will be born to do good to this world, hence he was named Shankara. Shankaracharya at the age of three was taught to learn, write, and read. He, at a very small age of four, lost his father and by the time he was five, he was initiated in Brahmacharyam, where he was sent to Gurukul for learning scriptures.
At the age of eight, while Shankara was taking a bath, a crocodile took hold of his leg. His mother Aryambal came running to save her son. Shankara informed his mother that his life was nearing the end, but if he became a sanyasi, he could start a new life. His mother was against him becoming a sanyasi but then granted her consent.
After travelling to a lot of places in search of a Guru, he finally found the ashram of Govind Bhagwatapada. Shankaracharya became a disciple of Govind where he was taught about Vedas and the six Vedangas. His guru also taught him to preach the tenets of Advaita Vedanta, the principle that says that Brahma is the ultimate truth, and unchanging reality and everyone of us is a manifestation of God, while everything else we see is an illusion. Adi Shankaracharya has also written commentaries on Veda, Upanishads and Bhagwad Geeta. Moreover, he also propagated the concepts of Hinduism.
While travelling to different places, he came to Kashi (Varanasi), a city that was known for its knowledge and spirituality. There, he had a heated debate with Mandana Mishra, a scholar and a philosopher of Mimansa school of thought. During the debate, Mandana Mishra’s wife served as the umpire. This debate is one of the most interesting episodes, as it focused on the conflict between Shankaracharya who regarded that Brahma as the ultimate unchangeable entity whose knowledge is the only way to final release, while Mandana Mishra believed in Mimansa, where the emphasis was put on performing ordained duty and the Vedic rituals.
Adi Shankaracharya’s life history is made known to us through various biographies called Shankara Digvijaya. Most popular amongst them is the Madhaviya Shankara Digvijaya.
Adi Shankaracharya is believed to have died at a very young age of 32 at Kedarnath, Uttarakhand.
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