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Sri Sharada Parameshwari

 

On the northen banks of river Tunga in Sringeri, Srimadacharya constructed the Srichakra on a salagrama stone and established a sandalwood idol of Sri Sharadamba. This original idol may be still seen in the Vidya Shankara temple of Sringeri. Acharya, who was the knower of all tantras and agamas, prescribed Srividya Upasana as the most suitable means of attaining Chitta Shuddhi leading to Nirguna Brahma Vidya. Though initially Shakta Tantra in India was in its pristine pure form, it later was corrupted due to the influence of the Buddhishts and the Mlecchas. Pancha Makaras became a reason for people to indulge in sensory pleasures. The Varna and Ashrama rules were forgotten in the name of Kaula. Acharya rejected the Vama Marga, which was unsuitable for most and prescribed Dakshinachara as the means to realize Brahman. He initiated the most qualified of his disciples into Samayachara Srividya Upasana. He established Srichakra in Mookambika Sannidhi in Kodachadri, in Sringeri and worshipped the Srichakra established in the shrine of Sri Kamakshi by Bhagavan Durvasa in Kanchipuram. In Sringeri, he established Sri Sharada Parameshwari on Srichakra as the very form of Brahma Vidya.

India has been the center of Shakti worship from time immemorial. The Srichakra represents the four Shakti Pithas: Oddyana Peetha in Kanchi, Purna Giri Peetha in Badari, Jaalandhara Peetha in Punjab and Kamarupa Peetha in Assam. Shakta Acharas have been very popular in Kashmir, Kerala and Kamakhya in Assam. Samayachara was advocated through Kashmirachara, Dakshinachara through Keralachara and Vamachara/Kaulachara through Kamarupachara. Srimadacharya devised a method of Upasana which involved Keralachara in the initial stages, leading gradually towards Kashmirachara in the sopAna krama. Sri Sharada at Sringeri represents the core of Srividya Upasana taught by Adi Guru Dakshinamurti and Bhagavatpada Shankara.

The Sarada temple built during Adi Acharya was a small stone construction. It was later renovated once by the Vijayanagara emperors and once again by the rulers of Keladi. H H Sri Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati Mahaswamigal initiated the third reconstruction of the temple. A grand temple was built during the pIThAdhipatya of H H Sri Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal. And the Kumbhabhishekam of the shrine took place in 1916. During the time of H H Sri Sri Abhinava Vidya Tirtha Swamigal, a beautiful Gopuram was constructed. H H Sri Sri Bharati Tirtha Swamigal, the present Jagadguru Shankaracharya Mahaswamigal of Sringeri, has dedicated a golden chariot and golden doors to Saradambal's temple.

Sri Sharada temple has been constructed on the lines of Dravida style of architecture. The temple has the main entrance in the east, two entrances in the south and one to the north. One finds platforms on either side while entering the temple from the eastern entrance. In the Navaranga Mantapa outside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, there are four pillars on either side. Beautiful sculptures of eight-handed Durga or Chamunda, Rajarajeshwari and other deities adorn these pillars.

The sanctum sanctorum of Sri Sharada Parameshwari has splendid idols of Dwarapalikas on either side. Outside the sanctum sanctorum, there are platforms all round. The southern platform has a silver Mantapa, which houses the idol of Sri Bhuvaneshwari. This Mantapa is called Vyakhyana Peetham and there is a Srichakra installed on it. The younger Acharya of the Peetham, seated on this Peetham, receives Diksha from the senior Acharya. The coronation of the new Acharya of the Peetham is also performed on this Vyakhyana Simhasana Peetham.

The platform in the southwestern corner of the temple has the Sannidhi of Sri Shakti Ganesha. In the southeastern corner, one may see the silver chariot of Sri Sharadamba. The new golden chariot of Sharadamba may be seen in the northeastern corner of the temple. Outside the temple, there is a single-stone pillar, which is over thirty feet in height.

It may be recalled that Sri Bhaskararaya, the celebrated Shakta of South India, had visited Sringeri and had the Darshan of Sri Sharada Parameshwari and Sri guru. The then Guru, Sri Purushottama Bharati Mahaswamigal had blessed him with a gem-studded white umbrella and had named him as the agent of Sringeri Mutt in the country. This incident of Bhaskaracharya's visit to Sringeri is well documented in the great Shakta's biography.