Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Times Group Publishes Realistic History of Hindu Mutt

The Times of India on September 4th, 2009 released a book entitled “The Holy Sankara Mutt” detailing the history of the Kanchi Mutt from Adi Sankara to its present Sankaracharya’s Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamiji and Sri Vijayendra Saraswati Swamiji.

A writer Malarthamil posted an article “Times group publishes distorted history of Hindu Mutt” stating that Adi Sankara’s advent was in the 8th Century AD and that he did not establish the Kanchi Mutt.
This is in response to the article by Malarthamil.

Sundarar (Sundararmurthy Nayanar - 8th Century AD) lost his eyesight during a pilgrimage in his lifetime. He made his way with difficulty and entered the Ekambranatha Shrine at Kanchipuram and sang “What shall this wretch say in Your presence?” and begged the Lord to restore his eyesight. Ekambranatha is supposed to have blessed him with the power of vision in the left eye. This is the glorious setting for 8th Century South India. Sundarar was actually returning from a meeting with a Cera King Perumaahhothaiyaar, the latter’s capital was in Kodungallur, Kerala not far from Kaladi, the birth place of Adi Sankara [Ref.1]

The Cera King was highly devoted to Lord Shiva. Such was his bhakti that during a ceremonial street procession, he fell at the feet of a man with body covered by what he mistook to be sacred ash. The latter, shocked told the King that he was the washerman and his body was covered with white clay. The Cera King replied that he was the devoted servant of the washerman and bade him peace [Ref. 1]. This was the extent of Shivabhakti from Kaladi to Kanchipuram and the canvas into which the author Malarthamil wishes to portray Adi Saankara in the 8th Century AD. What an irony?

Adi Sankara was supposed to have come in when Budhism was well entrenched in India, Hindu ritual practices had strayed from the scriptures and when atheistic and hedonistic cults had begun to take root. Adi Sankara was responsible for reclaiming Hinduism from other religious movements and rejuvenating it from perverse/agnostic practices that had crept in. If one examines the 8th Century India, there seems to be no need for the advent of Sankara. Between the 5th and 10th Centuries, Saivaite Nayanmars were rapidly spreading Siva Bhakti through the Tirumurai hymns. Likewise, Vaishnavaite Alwars were extolling Lord Vishnu by the Divya Prabandham hymns between 6th to 9th Century AD. If Sankara is indeed placed in the 8th Century, he would be after the time of Tirugnana Sambhandar and Appar. Most likely, he would then have been a contemporary of Sundarar! By Sundarar’s time, worship of Siva and Vishnu (and Hinduism) was well established. So, Sankara cannot be placed in the 8th Century AD for his mission was already complete by then. Adi Sankara must have been several centuries earlier and laid the foundation for the Bhakti movements to come later.

There is ample sculptural and epigraphic evidence to show Adi Sankara’s connection to Kanchipuram, and its temples and that Adi Sankara established the Kanchi Mutt. Ancient sculptures of Sankara can be found in the Ekambarnatha, Kailasanatha, Kumrakoshtam, Varadaraja Perumal, Kamakshi Amman and many other temples in Kanchipuram. One of the most stunning ancient sculptures is within the precincts of the Kanchi Mutt. Inscriptions in Ambikapuram village temple wall near Kanchi and copper plate inscriptions on land grands to Kanchi Mutt indicates the antiquity of the Kanchi Mutt.

The concept of four Peethas established by Adi Sankara itself is questionable. There are 5 Sankara mutts around Sringeri itself, viz, Kudali, Avani, Pushpagiri, Virupksha and Sankeshwar. Likewise, there are other Sankara Mutts in Karnataka such as Mulbagal. In Maharashtra there is the Karaveer Peetam at Kolhapur. The concept of four Muttas in four directions is a questionable hypothesis, which has been long discarded.

The Karnataka (or Carnatik) wars referred to the incessant fighting directly between French and the British or through their proxies (Indian Rulers) in the period 1745 onward. The players included the Nawab of Arcot, the French and the British. These wars continued until 1763 and even after hostilities continued in the region between the British, the Nawab and other rulers. It was to avoid this instability that the 62nd Kanchi Acharya (Also, Sri. Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi – 1746-1783 AD) moved the Mutt HQ temporarily to Kumbakonam under the safety of the Marathas of Tanjore. In fact, the Utsava Murthy’s of Varadaraj Perumal, Kamakshi and Ekambranather left for Udayarpalayam near Trichi where the 62nd Acharya camped for a long time enroute to Kumbakonam. Mandapams for these Utsava Moorthy’s still exist at Udayarpalayam as proof of this journey. In 1761, Dabir Pant, Minister in the Tanjore Maratha Kingdom built a branch of the Kanchi Mutt in Kumbakonam to house the 62nd Acharya and his entourage. By 1799, Tipu sultan of Mysore had been defeated and killed by the British. No active wars between the Marathas and Mysore Kings took place after 1821 as alluded to by Malarthamil. The question of cessation of Kanchi from Sringeri is moot, because a subsidiary relationship never existed.

Sarada Peetam or Matham is commonly used by Dwaraka, Sringeri and Kanchi Mutt. Sureshwaracharya is claimed by many Sankara Mutts as their first pontiff due to his age, scholarship, seniority possibly because he lived longer than the Adi Sankara’s 32 years (as Regent). So, these are irrelevant facts.

Kanchipuram is one of the well known Shakti Peetam’s in India. The word “Kanchi” is synonymous for the hip ornament, and is associated with Shakti/Devi/Ambal from time immemorial and there is ample scriptural and puranic evidence to prove this (Mooka Panchasath; Devi Bhagwata Purana, Durvasa’s Aryadvishati). The Shakti Peetam within Kanchipuram is undoubtedly the Kamakoshtam better know as Kamakshi Amma Temple. All temples in Kanchi face the Kamakshi Temple. During festivals deities of all temples are taken around the Kamakshi temple in procession.

The Pallavas, Cholas and other dynasties continuously renovated or rebuilt all the temples over centuries in Kanchipuram and continuously ensured that the above importance of Kamakoshtam spiritual center was never altered or diluted. It is therefore unclear how Malarthamil reaches conclusions on the 8th Century origin of Kamakshi Temple.

Manimekalai –the Epic Poem about a Buddist nun is accepted to be written around 2nd Century AD. The timing of this great and magnificent epic though has no bearing on Adi Sankara, irrespective of whether you place him BC or 8th Century AD.

Note that several great Pontiffs bearing the name Sankara have adorned the illustrious Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Kripa Sankara (28-69 AD), Ujwala Sankara (329-367 AD) Muka Sankara (398-437 AD) and Abhinava Sankara (788-840 AD). Abhinava Sankara was one of the most scholarly and erudite acharyas, debated scholars, conducted spiritual rejuvenation across the nation and spent some time in Kashmir before attaining mukti in the Himalayas. He is often confused with Adi Sankara and also in the cause of the 8th Century date of Adi Sankara’s birth.
While rivalry certainly might have existed between faiths in the 6th to 8th Century AD, and one can attempt to coincide it with the reign of Abhinava Sankara, there is no way one can inject Adi Sankara into the 8th Century AD. Clearly Adi Sankara existed well before the advent of the Bhakti movements in South India.

The author Malarthamil relies on dated sources and magazines to support his tenuous claims regarding Adi Sankara’s date and the origin of the Kanchi Mutt. It is crystal clear that Adi Sankara’s advent was centuries before 8th Century AD and he founded the Kanchi Mutt. Recent publications abound, written by Indologists/historians and the author would be well advised to update himself to the plethora of evidence that has emerged to substantiate the claims of the Kanchi Mutt regarding the 482 BC origin.

External Links:
1. Periya Puranam, G. Vanmikanathan, Sri Ramakrishna Mutt, 2004
2. Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt: A Myth or Reality, W.R. Antarkar, Bhandarkar Oriental and Research Institute 2001
3. Sanksepa-Sankara-Jaya of Madhavacarya or Sankara-Digvijaya of Vidyaranya Muni, W.R. Antarkar, Bhandarkar Oriental and Research Institute 2004
4. History of India , Roshen Dalal, Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 2002


Malarthamil’s Reply:

According to your own realistic history Adi Sankara was supposed to have come in when Budhism was well entrenched in India,
Your version of history says Adi Sankara was born in 509BC and the peetham was established in the year 482 BC.
According to recorded history, Budhdha was born in 563 BC and died in 483 BC.
You claim means Adi Sankara was born just 54 years after the birth of Buddha and you believe that Kanchi mutt was established just one year after the death of Budhdha.
Everyone knows that Budhdhism as a religion was evolved only after Centuries later to the death of Budhdha. His teachings were collected as Dhammapatham only after few centuries from the period of life of Budhdha.
I accept that Adi Sankara came many centuries later to the period of Buddha when Buddhism was well entrenched in India.

Thyagarajan S Response:

Simple deductions will not answer the complex question posed. Therefore, regarding the date, my note specifically suggested referring to the recent systematic treatises of Indologists/historians.
Many Western Orientalists fell into a classic trap in determining the Chronology of Indian History. The new age Western Historians are openly accepting the blunders of their predecessors. The following references are the least of the substantive ones in print, but prove beyond doubt Budhas age:

I repeat the minimal literature on Sankara/Kanchi Mutt here, lot more is available:
1. Sankara Vijayas, W.R. Antarkar, PhD Thesis, Bhandarkar Oriental and Research Institute 1961
2. Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt: A Myth or Reality, W.R. Antarkar, Bhandarkar Oriental and Research Institute 2001
3. Sanksepa-Sankara-Jaya of Madhavacarya or Sankara-Digvijaya of Vidyaranya Muni, W.R. Antarkar, Bhandarkar Oriental and Research Institute 2004
A National Seminar of experts was held Jan 2003 in Mumbai on the age of Sankara and Kanchi Mutt that proves the date of 509 and 482 BC respectively. The print volume was given srimukham by Dwaraka, Jyotir Mutt, Puri and Kanchi Mutts which hopefully lends some authenticity to the dates. This print volume can be procured from:

The Age of Sankara Seminar 2003, Publishers VSPR Sabha,
301 Angan, T.V. Chidambaram Marg, Sion (East), Mumbai 400 022.

There are several methods to approach the age of Sankara. A somewhat simplistic view has been taken by David Reigle, which traditional Indian Historians may not fully subscribe to, but yields the 509 BC date..

Lastly, request you to kindly give the publisher and source from which the following books can be obtained:
1. Ananthanayinar ( 1932) titled ”Thirukkural aaraaychchiyum jaina samayasithaantha vilakkamum”,
2. Mylai Seeni Venkatasamy “ Bouthamum Thamizhum”