Shankaracharya is perhaps the greatest religious philosophers propounding theories that India has ever produced. He was the greatest exponent of the philosophy of the advaita Vedanta or non-dualism in Hindu religion.
He appeared in the religious scene on India when various sects and clans were fast disintegrating the religious thread of the country. Shakaracharya brought out the Sanatan Dharma or the original religion from the various traps of ornamental rituals, and is thus known as Adiguru.
Shakaracharya jayanti is observed to celebrate the birth anniversary of this brilliant mind. His birth anniversary falls on the shukla paksha, panchami tithi during the month of Vaisakha according to traditional Hindu calendar. It is generally observed on the months of April May. In the year 2016, this event will be commemorated on the 11th of May, Wednesday.
Birth and legend regarding Shankaracharya
Adi Shankaracharya was born in the panchami tithi of shukla paksha of the month of Vaisakha, to the Nambudri Brahmin couple, Shivaguru and Aryamba in the small village of Kaladi, in Kerala. He is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The couple had long been childless and had kept praying to Lord Shiva, who is believed to have appeared in their dream. Shiva told them that he will be arriving as their son, who would be brilliant but would be shortlived. Shankara was born and upon attaining an age started looking for a worthy Guru or mentor, who would initiate him into sanyas and take his knowledge further.
He came across Govinda Bhagavathpada, whom the incarnated Lord Shiva recognized as Patanjali from earlier life. Goudapada, an extremely knowledgeable mentor had trained Govinda Bhagavathpada. Thus Shankara was accepted by Govinda Bhagavathpada and was trained and initiated to an extremely high kind of renunciation of the materialistic world. He initiated Shankara in to the Advaita tenent which basically said that every being in this world is but a manifestation of God in some form or the other and that God and Atma are but the same thing. He then suggested that Shankara should propagate this theory across the country and Shankaracharya did just that.
While Shankaracharya was travelling through Badrinath, Lord Vishnu appeared in his dreams and asked him to take out his idol from the Alakananda River and be kept in a newly built temple. The temple that was built is amongst one of the important temples now, and is known as the Badrinarayan Temple.
Shankaracharya’s sermons on religion
When he was only 12 years old, Shankaracharya wrote his most in depth analysis of Vyasa’s Vedanta Sutra. He wrote didactic analysis on Gita, Upanishads and Brahma Sutras. Shankara’s theories were put to test by the most prominent religious gurus. Vyasa kept encouraging the Shankaracharya to keep discussing his views and also to keep on being engaged in the various debates and discourses on religion.
Shankaracharya’s main disciples were namely Sureshwara, Padmapada, Hastamalaka, and Ananda Giri. Shankaracharya established pure seats of learning on all four corners of India, north west east and south. In north he assigned Totaka to look after Badrinath, in East he assigned Hastamalaka to look after the prestigious and historical Puri. In south Sureshwara looked after Sringeri and in west Padmapada was assigned to oversee Dwaraka. Shankaracharya assigned one of each Vedas out of the four of- Sama, Yajur, Atharva and Rig Vedas to every center. He did this so that each center could have deep studies on the same and propagate the same. Puri had Rig Veda, Dwaraka had Sama Veda, Badrinath had Atharvana Veda and Sringeri had Yajur Veda .all the heads of these four Mathas in India now hold tremendous power.
Sankaracharya ascended the Sarvagnya Peetham at Kashmir after winning numerous debates and dissertations and upholding the triumph of Advaita Vedanta. He also composed beautiful hymns on Shiva, Vishnu, Subrahmanya, Ganesha, Lakshmi, Sharada, Saraswathi, Narasimha, etc. he was the first philosopher who in very simple language elucidated the concepts of Aatma or the soul, Paramathma or the divine soul, Vairagya or renunciation of everything and Moksha which means salvation. Shanakaracharya adopted many principles of Buddhism and considered Buddha to be an Avatar.
Shakaracharya was only 32 when he left this physical world.
Celebration of Shankaracharya Jayanti
Shankaracharya Jayanti is celebrated with great devotion and fervor in all the Shakara Math or monasteries. A large number of devotees flock to the Shringeri Sharada Peetham in Karnataka, Kalady Shankara Temple situated in Kerala, the Shankara Math or monastery in Hyderabad, the Kanchi Kamkoti Peetham, the Puri Mandir are some of the places which boasts of devotional celebration of the Shakaracharya Birth anniversary. The day is spent in fasting, meditating and in discussing the great volumes of work left behind Shankaracharya. Prasad is given to all the devotees and charitable donations are given to the needy on this day.
He will be forever remembered, as it is Shankaracharya who taught advaita Vedanta and saved the true religion of Hinduism, which was on the verge of being ravaged by sects and various meaningless rituals.