Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 60


BY: SUN STAFF - 12.11 2021

Vidyashankara Temple at Sringeri

A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.


Today we return to Karnataka state, which is home to the original matha of Sri Shankaracarya. During His southern pada-yatra, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited Srngavera-puri-matha, as described in the summary of Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya lila 9:

Madhya Lila 9 Summary

"The Lord then met the Bhattatharis at Mallara-desa and saved Kala Krsnadasa from their clutches. The Lord also collected the Brahma-samhita, Fifth Chapter, on the banks of the Payasvini River. He then visited Payasvini, Srngavera-puri-matha and Matsya-tirtha."

Later in Madhya lila, we find a great deal of information about Srngavera-puri:

Madhya 9.244

srngeri-mathe aila sankaracarya-sthane
matsya-tirtha dekhi' kaila tungabhadraya snane

"Then He saw the monastery known as Srngeri-matha, the abode of Acarya Sankara. He then visited Matsya-tirtha, a place of pilgrimage, and took a bath in the river Tungabhadra.

The monastery known as Srngeri-matha is situated in the state of Karnataka, in the district of Chikmagalur. This monastery is located at the confluence of the rivers Tunga and Bhadra, seven miles south of Harihara-pura. The real name of this place is Srnga-giri or Srngavera-puri, and it is the headquarters of Sankaracarya.

Sankaracarya had four principal disciples, and he established four centers under their management. In North India at Badarikasrama, the monastery named Jyotir-matha was established. At Purusottama, the Bhogavardhana or Govardhana monastery was established. In Dvaraka, the Sarada monastery was established. And the fourth monastery, established in South India, is known as Srngeri-matha.

In the Srngeri-matha, the sannyasis assume the designations Sarasvati, Bharati and Puri. They are all ekadandi-sannyasis, distinguished from the Vaisnava sannyasis, who are known as tridandi-sannyasis. The Srngeri-matha is situated in South India in a portion of the country known as Andhra, Dravida, Karnata and Kerala. The community is called Bhurivara, and the dynasty is called Bhur-bhuvah. The place is called Ramesvara, and the slogan is aham brahmasmi. The Deity is Lord Varaha, and the energetic power is Kamaksi. The acarya is Hastamalaka, and the brahmacari assistants of the sannyasis are known as Caitanya. The place of pilgrimage is called Tungabhadra, and the subject for Vedic study is the Yajur Veda."

Srngavera-puri-matha, Karnataka

Srila Prabhupada continues his lengthy purport to Madhya 9.244 by including a list of the disciplic succession from Sankaracarya, and more biographical details of Sankaracarya's life and his movement's history.

Srila Prabhupada ends his purport by introducing a note of question as to the location of Lord Caitanya's next stop, at Malabar:

"As far as Matsya-tirtha is concerned, it was supposedly situated beside the ocean in the district of Malabar."

Malabar is a term sometimes used to describe the region of southern Karnataka lying between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, but the name is also used in reference to the northern half of Karnataka.

In the following verse, Madhya 9.245, we read that Lord Caitanya's next stop was at Udupi, Karnataka. The city of Kozhikode (Calicut), often considered the primary city in Malabar region, is situated well north along the Karnataka coast. Even so, the distance from there to Udupi is nearly 340 kilometers.

The acaryas of the Madhva-sampradaya had established their chief center at Udupi, and the monastery there was known as Uttararadhi-matha. Madhya 9.245 and purport offers a detailed description of Sri Madhvacarya and his Tattvavadi followers, including a list of Madhva's different centers and the disciplic succession of the Madhvacarya-sampradaya. We do find a few references to Srngeri-matha in the purport to Madhya 9.245, describing Madhvacarya's pastimes:

"After traveling all over India, he finally discussed scriptures with Vidyasankara, the exalted leader of Srngeri-matha. Vidyasankara was actually diminished in the presence of Madhvacarya."

Srila Prabhupada goes on to describe the mood of conflict that arose between the members of Sankaracarya's camp and Madhvacarya:

"Madhvacarya's devotion to the Lord and his erudite scholarship became known throughout India. Consequently the owners of the Srngeri-matha, established by Sankaracarya, became a little perturbed. At that time the followers of Sankaracarya were afraid of Madhvacarya's rising power, and they began to tease Madhvacarya's disciples in many ways. There was even an attempt to prove that the disciplic succession of Madhvacarya was not in line with Vedic principles. A person named Pundarika Puri, a follower of the Mayavada philosophy of Sankaracarya, came before Madhvacarya to discuss the sastras. It is said that all of Madhvacarya's books were taken away, but later they were found with the help of King Jayasimha, ruler of Kumla. In discussion, Pundarika Puri was defeated by Madhvacarya."

It's interesting to note that in his purport to Madhya 9.244, Srila Prabhupada provided a detailed list of the disciplic succession from Sankaracarya, and in the next verse, Madhya 9.245, he provides similar information on the Madhvacarya line. Madhya 9.245 to 9.278 presents the detailed narration of Lord Caitanya's defeat of the Tattvavadis at Udupi.

So we can see that Srila Prabhupada has provided many essential details as to Shankaracarya and his Mayavada line, and the Madhva Tattvavadis, laying the foundation for the presentation of Lord Caitanya's defeat of the latter group. In this debate -- following on the heels of Madhvacarya's debate with the Mayavadi, Vidyasankara of Srngavera-matha -- the Lord established the fine points of siddhantic distinction between the Mayavadis, the Tattvavadis, and the Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya. The fact that this all-important information is provided in the context of Madhya Lila 9's narration of Lord Caitanya's pada-yatra pastimes makes it all the more interesting.


Sringeri, Karnataka is located approximately 100 kilometers northeast of Mangalore, inland and about 17 km west of the Bhadra Forest. Shankaracarya's matha there is commonly known as Sringeri Sharada Peetham, named after the Goddess Sharadamba, the presiding deity of Sringeri.

Goddess Sri Sharadamba at Sringeri

Once a simple thatched roof abode, the ancient temple of Sri Sharada was eventually replaced with a modern Dravidian structure having a tiled roof and gopuram at the entrance. The original deity of Sharadamba Devi was a sandalwood murti installed by Shankaracarya over a Sri Chakra he had carved into a rock. When the new temple was constructed, a golden deity of Devi was installed in the sanctum, sitting on a golden throne. The original deity of Sharadamba is now housed nearby, in the temple of Sri Vidyashankara at Sringeri.

Original Sharadamba deity of sandalwood

Sharada Devi is said to be Guru Rupini –the form of the guru, who dispenses her grace through the person of the Jagadguru. In his Prapancasara, Sankaracarya describes Goddess Sarada as Brahmavidya, transcending the three qualified conceptions, or trimurtis, and their corresponding Saktis known as Saraswati, Laksmi and Iswari. Sharada Devi is believed to encompass all these, thus she alone resides at Sringeri. She is worshipped there as Durga, Laksmi and Sarasvati.

Inside the Sringeri temple of Saradamba is the Vyakhyana Simhasanam, which represents the sarvajna-pitha, or throne of transcendental wisdom. The Acaryas ascend this simhasanam when they are first initiated into sannyasa, when they take charge at the matha, or on special occasions like the Navaratri festival.

The recorded history of Sringeri-puri-matha dates back to the 8th Century. The origin of the matha is described in various literature, including the Sankara Vijaya of Sri Madhvacarya.

Sankaracarya sees the cobra protecting the frog

According to temple history, Sankara and four disciples, accompanied by Bharati Devi (an incarnation of Sarasvati) reached Sringeri on an extremely hot afternoon. As they headed towards the Tunga River to take bath, they saw a frog struggling in the blazing sun to deliver its spawn. A cobra, the natural enemy of frogs, had raised its hood to provide the frog with shelter and protection from the ravages of the sun. Sankara was greatly moved by this sight, and chose the spot for his founding matha. He went on to establish three additional mathas at Puri, Dwaraka, and Badrinath.

The origin of the temple is also related to a debate between Shankaracharya and Bharati, who was then the wife of Mandana Misra. When Shankaracharya answered all the questions she put to him, she gave him a boon that She would continually reside at Sringeri.