Sringeri is a geographically small but spiritually lofty place in the regions of Sahyadri Mountains.This place got its name from Sage Rishyashringa who practiced severe penance in this region. Rishyashringa was the son of the great sage Vibhandaka. Sage Vibhandaka was originally from the region now known as the modern Bihar. He had kept his son totally away from the company of women. Having undergone ill treatment at the hands of his wife and sister-in-law, he had developed a kind of aversion towards the women. His father trained Rishyashringa in Veda, Shastra and penance. In no time, he mastered all branches of learning and became famous as a great sage. In those days, there was a severe drought in Bihar. The royal priest advised Romapada, the king of Anga, that bringing Sage Rishyashringa to his kingdom would bring rains to his kingdom. Shanta, the daughter of Romapada decided to accomplish the task of bringing Rishyashringa to her father's kingdom.
When Shanta arrived at Vibhandaka's Ashrama, she was surprised to see the young and handsome Rishyashringa there. Vibhandaka had gone elsewhere to perform severe austerities. Rishyashringa, who had never seen a woman before, was captivated by Shanta's beauty. He followed Shanta to her kingdom and this brought huge rains to Anga desha. The overjoyed king Romapada gave his daughter Shanta in marriage to Sage Rishyashringa. Sage Rishyashringa stayed for some time in Anga and then visited Ayodhya as per the requests of king Dasharatha. He performed Ashwamedha and Putrakameshti Yagnas there as a result of which Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna were born to Dasharatha.
After several years of Lokasamgraha, Maharshi Rishyashringa and Shanta Devi returned to the Ashrama of sage Vibhandaka. Pained with his son's behavior, sage Vibhandaka had left the Ashrama and had migrated to the south. Rishyashringa and Shanta, after searching for long, were finally able to locate the great sage on the banks of river Tunga, in the region of Sahyadri Mountains. The couple served the elderly sage and after he shed his mortal body, established a Shiva Linga on his Samadhi. This Linga came to be known as Sri Malahanikeshwara. Rishyashringa then continued his penance in a nearby place called Kigga. After his Siddhi, a Linga called Rishyashringeshwara was established on his Samadhi. Shanta Devi's Samadhi is also located in Kigga. Sage Rishyashringa is the Rishi for the tenth mandala - 136th Sukta of Rig Veda. The greatness of this sage is illustrated in the Rishyashringopakhyana of Ramayana's Balakanda. His story is also detailed in the Vana parva of Mahabharata (Chapter 111-114) and the 23rd chapter of the ninth Skandha of Bhagavata. The Linga that we see today in Kigga is ancient and resembles a Rudraksha. It has a Shringa (horn) on the head. It is said that the left part of the Linga represents Shanta Devi. Even today, when there is drought in the area, worshipping Rishyashringeshwara brings rain. This amazing occurrence has been observed and documented several times.
Thus, the region in which sage Rishyashringa performed great penance came to be known as Rishyashringagiri, Sringagiri and later as Sringeri. Later, in the age of Kali, when Dakshinamurthy incarnate Sri Adi Shankara Bhagavatpada came to Sringeri, the weather here was extremely hot. A pregnant frog was in labor on a heated rock on the banks of river Tunga. Acharya was surprised to see a snake open its hood and offer shade to the suffering frog. He immediately decided that the place where even natural enmity between creatures was replaced by love and compassion was indeed the best suitable one for establishing his very first monastery.
Sri Sureshwara, the first Acharya of Sringeri Sarada Peetham was known as Mandana mishra in his Purvashrama. Because he was the most respected of Acharya's disciples, the other three amnayas also hold great regard for Sringeri Peetham. Acharya established Sri Saradambal on Srichakra Peetham and named Sureshwaracharya as the Jagadguru of this Peetham. Sri Sureshwara is the author of many works like naiShkarmya Siddhi, mAnasollAsa - a commentary on Acharya's Dakshinamurthy Stotra, Vartikas on Acharya's Taittariya and Brihadaranyaka Bhashyas and Panchikarana Vyakhyana. He lived as the head of the Peetham for more than seventy years and propagated the knowledge of Advaita in all directions. He also had many disciples from northern India. He attained Siddhi in A.D. 773. His Samadhi is located to the right of the present Sarada temple and an idol of Sureshwaracharya has been placed on the Samadhi.
Sri Sureshwara gave Sanyasa to a disciple Brahmachari and gave him the title Sri Nityabodhaghanacharya. He was the Jagadguru of the Peetham from 773 to 848 A.D. He was a great scholar of Nyaya and Vedanta.
Sri Jnanaghanacharya became the next Acharya of Sarada Peetham. He has written a work called Tatva Shuddhi, which has 46 chapters and is a commentary on Advaita Siddhanta. During his time, Shankara Vedanta branched into two streams, advocated by Vachaspati Mishra (author of Bhamati) and Prakashatman (the author of Panchapadika Vivarana).
The next Acharya in the lineage was Sri Jnanottamacharya. He held the office from 910 to 953 A.D. He originally belonged to Gouda country. He has written a commentary named Vidyashri on Acharya's sutra Bhashya. Vijnanatman (author of Tatparyadyotini) and Chitsukhacharya (author of Tatvapradipika) were his chief disciples. His disciples held him as the very incarnation of Vyasa, Shankara and Dakshinamurthy.
The lineage continued with Sri Jnanagiri Acharya (949 -1038 A.D.), Sri Simhagiri Acharya (1038 -1098 A.D.), Sri Ishwara Tirtha (1098 -1146 A.D.) and Sri Nrisimha Tirtha (1146 -1228 A.D.). All of them were great saints who championed the cause of Sanatana Vaidika dharma. There is an Agrahara named after Simhagiri Acharya in the southwest of Sringeri. This is now known as old Sringeri and it houses a small temple of Chaturvidyeshwara. Sri Ishwara Tirtha has authored a work called Shatashloki or Vairagya Prakarana.
The next Acharya of the Peetham, known as Abhinava Shankara or Sri Vidya Shankara, was Sri Vidya Tirtha Mahaswamigal. He was the Jagadguru of Sarada Peetham from 1228 to 1333. He was a practitioner of Lambika Yoga and entered Jiva Samadhi in 1333. It is said that he was originally from the Baalaganchi village of Channarayapatna of Karnataka. It is also said that Madhwa, the founder of Dvaita philosophy, made an unsuccessful attempt to debate with Sri Vidya Tirtha in Tiruvananthapuram. Acharya gave Sanyasa to two brothers Madhava and Bhoganatha with the titles Bharati Tirtha and Vidyaranya. Sri Vidyaranya began to perform penance in the Matanga Parvata in Hampi in Karnataka. Bharati Tirtha remained in Sringeri to serve his guru Sri Vidya Tirtha. The political situation in the country was bad in those days. The entire land was looted and destroyed frequently by Muslims. As per the orders of Sri Vidya Tirtha, Sri Vidyaranya began to train Hakka and Bukka, who belonged to the Sangama Vamsha. By the grace of Sri Rajarajeshwari, he established a Hindu kingdom and named it Vidyanagara. This later came to be known as the Vijayanagara Empire. Some ignorant people claim that Sri Vidyaranya came from Tamil Nadu and resurrected the empty Sringeri mutt. Various scholars have disproved this senseless claim.
When Sri Vidya Tirtha assumed Lambika Yoga Samadhi, his age had crossed 150! On the northern banks of river Tunga, he entered an underground chamber and attained Samadhi. Lambika yoga involves the practice of Khechari Mudra where the Yogi stretches his tongue upwards to block Randhras and manipulate Lalata, Lalana and Golata Chakras so as to obtain Kulamrita. The technicalities of this Kriya, which are extremely complex, should be learnt directly from a Guru. I shall refrain from discussing the details of this complex subject to avoid encouraging people from trying it themselves. In these days when a complex and sacred subject like Srividya can be taught as an year's course to raise funds for some temple complex, it is best to remain mum about traditional secrets and avoid commercialization of the same!
In old Sringeri, the Linga in the Chaturmurtishwara temple is one of its kind. It is in the form of a pillar and is about four feet tall. In front of it, a meditating Yogi is depicted. Beside him, there are two prostrating Yogis. These Yogis are Sri Vidya Tirtha, Sri Bharati Tirtha and Sri Vidyaranya respectively. The background has the picture of Sri Lakshmi Nrisimha. The Linga has Hiranyagarbha on its left, Maheshwara to the right and Narayana at the rear. The edge of the pillar has a Shiva Linga with the Peetham. This Linga represents Sri Dattatreya Bhagavan. This Chaturmurtishwara Linga is one of its kind in the entire world. It is believed that the Linga was established before Sri Vidya Tirtha assumed Lambika Samadhi. He entered an underground cave and said, After twelve years, my body will transform into a Linga similar to the Chaturmurtishwara Linga. Till then, do not enter this cave- But some curious men entered the cave before the specified date. They did not find the body of Sri Vidya Tirtha but found only a Linga. It had still not developed completely into the Chaturmurtishwara form. Later, the present Vidya Shankara temple was constructed over the underground cave.
Sri Vidyaranya was a scholar par excellence. He was a master of all Indian philosophies, scriptures, medicine, mantra Shastra, music and other branches of learning. True to his name, Vidyaranya was a treasure house of knowledge. His written works are large in number. He organized a massive workshop in Sringeri, which was attended by Vedic scholars from all over the country. They stayed in Sringeri for many decades and completed the task of writing commentaries on the Vedas. This huge task was accomplished under the leadership of Sayanacharya. Sri Vidyaranya began to reestablish idols in temples, which had been looted and destroyed by Muslim invaders. He resurrected the temples at Kanchi, Rameshwaram, Madurai and Srirangam. He then undertook a pilgrimage to Kashi and remained in Kashi for many years. The emperor of Vijayanagara requested the Acharya profusely to return to Sringeri as a result of which Sri Vidyaranya returned to Sringeri in 1360.
There were many Brahmacharis who studied under Sri Vidyaranya. He had given Sanyasa to a young man with the yoga title Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati. This Sanyasi became the Jagadguru of Sarada Peetham after the Siddhi of Sri Vidyaranya. He attained Videha Mukti in 1389 after which Sri Narasimha Bharati Swamigal became the Jagadguru of the Peetham. During his Sanchara, Swamigal visited Hampi, Gokarna and established Sri Nrisimha idol in a village called Haladi in south Canara. He is still respectfully referred to as Haladi Wodeyarin these regions. He also established a Shankara mutt at a place called Avani near Kolar in Karnataka. He attained Siddhi at a place called Hajape in Karnataka in 1408. His Samadhi is located in this place and can be seen even today. Sri Narasimha Bharati had two disciples: Chandrashekhara Bharati (second) and Sri Purushottama Bharati. After the Videha Mukti of Swamigal, Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati (second) assumed the seat of the Jagadguru of Sri Sarada Peetham. He established Srichakras in Someshwara temple of Shivanasamudra, Agastyeshwara temple in Tirumakudalu and Prasanna Parvati temple in Nanjangud. He attained Siddhi in Tirumakudalu in 1418. Sri Purushottama Bharati, who became the next Jagadguru, established a Shiva Linga on his Samadhi and performed the Aradhana of the departed Acharya. He gave Sanyasa to a Yati who came to be called Madhava Bharati. This Yati established a Shankara mutt in Gokarna. Sri Purushottama Bharati Swamigal attained Siddhi in 1448. A poet named Vishnu has written a Kavya called Purushottama Bharati Charitram-which describes the life of Swamigal.
The next Acharya of the sacred Peetham was Sri Shankarananda Bharati Swamigal. During his Sanchara, he visited the Sringanatha temple in Kanakatti near Arasikere and stayed there for long, immersed in Samadhi. The pillar, near which he was seated in Tapasya for years, bears an inscription mentioning his name. He attained Siddhi in 1454 and was succeeded by Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati (third). Probably this Swamigal did not undertake any Sanchara. He appears to have spent all his time immersed in Samadhi in Sringeri and is known to have attained Mukti in 1464. The next Jagadguru in this illustrious lineage of Sages was Sri Narasimha Bharati (third). During his time, the Yoganandeshwara Mutt of Edatore came into existence. He attained Videha Kaivalya in 1476.
Sri Purushottama Bharati (second) was the 16^th Acharya of Sarada Peetham. Krishnadevaraya, the emperor of Vijayanagara was a disciple of Sri Swamigal and by his blessings won many battles. After the Siddhi of Swamigal in 1517, Sri Ramachandra Bharati Swamigal ascended the Vyakhyana Peetham. He was widely respected by the Jains. During his Sanchara, he visited Karkala and stayed in a Jain temple. While he was performing the Pooja of Lord Chandramouleshwara, the Jaina idol there appeared as Lord Ananta Padmanabha. The temple of Lord Ananta Padmanabha may be seen in Karkala even today. He established a township named Purushottamapura in remembrance of his Guru and donated the lands in the village to scholars. After the Siddhi of Swamigal in 1560, Sri Nrisimha Bharati (third, 1560 - 1573) and Sri Nrisimha Bharati (fourth, 1573 - 1599) held the high office of the Jagadguru of Sri Sarada Peetham. Sri Nrisimha Bharati (fourth) established an Agrahara near Vasisthapura in remembrance of his Guru. In 1599, Sri Abhinava Narasimha Bharati Swamigal ascended the Vyakhyana Peetham. He established the Rameshwara Temple in Rudrapada in memory of his Parameshthi Guru Sri Ramachandra Bharati. He was a great scholar, renunciate, Yogi and a knower of mantra Shastra. In the Malahanikeshwara Temple on Mallikarjuna hill, there was no temple dedicated to Ganesha. On a pillar, which stood facing the north, Swamigal drew a picture of Heramba with turmeric and worshipped it. To everyone's surprise, an actual figure of Ganesha protruded from the pillar. This is worshipped as Stambha Heramba in Sringeri.
He also established a mutt in Shiva Ganga and nominated a shishya as its head. Sri Abhinava Nrisimha Bharati has written a wonderful Sanskrit commentary on Shiva Gita. He gave Sanyasa to an Andhra Brahmachari and gave him the title Sri Sacchidananda Bharati. After the Siddhi of Mahaswamigal, Sri Sacchidananda Bharati ascended the Vyakhyana Simhasana. He was only eighteen then! He was known as Narasimha in his Purvashrama and belonged to the Gargya Gotra of Yajusshakha. His parents were Alakadri Bhatta and Tirumalambal. He visited Sri Mukambika and worshipped her for a long time. It is believed that Devi conversed with him every night. A Jain ruler named Bhairarasa began to attack Sringeri frequently and loot the temple. Sri Swamigal performed a severe penance in Vaikunthapura as a result of which his army had to return back to Karkala defeated. Swamigal was a gifted poet. He composed many works like Minakshi Shataka, Sri Guru Stuti Shataka, Kovidashtaka and a Mahakavya called Ramachandra Mahodaya. The poem Guru Stuti Shataka has description of Acharyas from Adi Shankara to Abhinava Nrisimha Bharati and is of great historical importance. He also established Sri Bhavani Devi in Mallikarjuna hill and initiated the practice of celebrating Girija Kalyana. He attained Siddhi after handing over charge to Sri Narasimha Bharati (fifth) in 1663.
Sri Nrisimha Bharati (fifth) was the Acharya of Sarada Peetham for forty-two years, from 1663 to 1705. In the Akshaya year (1686) when there was a severe drought in Karnataka, Swamigal fed thousands of people for months in the mutt in Sringeri. He constructed a temple for the Samadhi of his guru Sacchidananda Bharati and developed an Agrahara named Sacchidanandapura. The next Jagadguru of the Peetham was Sri Sacchidananda Bharati (second). He held the high office from 1705 to 1741, for a period of thirty-six years. During his Sanchara, when he visited Subrahmanya Kshetra, the Madhwas tried to prevent him from entering the temple but failed miserably. However, in Udupi, the center of Madhwa philosophy, the Madhva seers respectfully received him. He had the Darshan of Lord Krishna and stayed in Udupi for some time enjoying the hospitality of the courteous Madhwa Yatis. As per the request of his disciples, he established a Shankara mutt in Subrahmanya. This mutt may be seen even today within the temple complex. When Swamigal was touring in Tulu Desha, a Lingayat minister constructed a Veera Shaiva mutt in the heart of Sringeri and began to create tension in the region. Pained by this, Swamigal did not return to Sringeri. He stayed back at Haladi. Many rulers of Karnataka and also Bajirao, the Peshwa of Maharashtra came to know of this incident. They urged the Lingayat minister to vacate Sringeri at once. Unable to oppose the powerful forces of the Marathas, the minister had to get the Lingayat Mutts vacated.
Sri Swamigal also established a Mutt in Belur in Karnataka. He traveled till Rameshwaram and established Sri Vidyashankara Linga in Rameshwaram. Sri Swamigal was a gifted poet and composed several hymns dedicated to Sri Saradambal and Sri Mookambika. He supported hundreds of scholars and greatly encouraged learning. Kashi Lakshmana Shastry, who was the court poet during that time, composed the great Kavya, Guruvamsha Kavya This poem describes the glorious lineage of Acharyas of Sringeri, starting from Adi Shankaracharya till Sri Sacchidananda Bharati Mahaswamigal (second). Due to its historical importance, it is widely followed to this day. Swamigal attained Siddhi in 1741.
Sri Abhinava Sacchidananda Bharati Mahaswamigal ascended the Vyakhyana Peetham in 1741. After preaching Sanatana Vaidika dharma all over south India, he attained Videha Kaivalya in Nasik in 1767. The Peetharohana ceremony of Sri Narasimha Bharati (sixth), the next Acharya of Sarada Peetham, was held in Nasik. Due to a war that took place between Hyder Ali and the Peshwas, Swamigal chose to remain in Nasik and attained Mukti in 1770. Before his Siddhi, he had initiated a Brahmachari into Sanyasa with the yoga title Sacchidananda Bharati, who later ascended the Vyakhyana Peetham. He was called Subbavadhani in his Purvashrama and belonged to Haritasa Gotra. By then, Hyder Ali was constantly pressurizing Swamigal to return to Sringeri. Finally, Sri Sacchidananda Bharati (third) returned to Sringeri in 1780.
In 1790, the Maratha soldiers of Parashurama Bhave and Harpanth attacked Srirangapattana. They also attacked Sringeri, massacred hundreds of Brahmanas and looted the jewels of Saradambal. Swamigal, who was on Sanchara, cut short his tour and returned to Sringeri immediately. Tippu Sultan, the then ruler of Srirangapattana, expressed his serious concern and got the temple of Sarada repaired immediately. He also requested Swamigal to perform Sahasra Chandi Japa to save the land from a severe drought. With the divine blessings of Mahaswamigal, the rains in Karnataka were amazingly good that year and for several years to come, people of Karnataka lived in abundance. A disciple of Swamigal had settled in Kumbhakonam. He later took Sanyasa and attained Videha Mukti. With the support of the rulers of Tanjore, a branch of Sringeri mutt was started in Kumbhakonam and a new lineage of Acharyas, who were the successors of the Yati, came to be recognized.
Sri Sacchidananda Bharati (third) had two chief disciples, Narasimha Bharati and Veera Raghava. Narasimha Shastry left for Varanasi for higher studies. Swamigal initiated Veera Raghava, who belonged to the Kaundinya Gotra, into Sanyasa with the title Abhinava Sacchidananda Bharati. After the Siddhi of Swamigal, the young Acharya, who was only eighteen, ascended the Vyakhyana Peetham. He established a Srichakra in Jnananandeshwara Temple on the banks of Manikarnika. Due to his failing health, he gave Sanyasa to his Saha Shishya Narasimha Shastry and attained Siddhi in 1817. Narasimha Shastry, who later came to be revered as Sri Vriddha Nrisimha Bharati or Ugra Nrisimha Bharati all over the country, belonged to the Bharadwaja Gotra, Yajusshakha. He had studied under the great scholar Vancheshwara Shastry of Kashi. When he ascended the Peetham, he was only nineteen. The Mutt was also in a bad financial state. He spent many years on Narasimha Parvata, practicing and perfecting Upasanas of Srividya and Ugra Nrisimha. His mantra Siddhi was enormous and beyond comparison. People held him to be the very manifestation of Lord Ugra Nrisimha. From the age of forty, he began to eat only bitter gourd for food. He had completely given up sleep.
British chief commissioner Bowring came to hear about the spectacular power of restraint of Mahaswamigal. When Swamigal was in Bangalore, Bowring silently came to visit him one midnight. When he peeped through a window, he was amazed to see Acharya absorbed in Pooja of Lord Chandramouleshwara. He fell at the feet of Swamigal and sought his blessings. Swamigal undertook a great pilgrimage from Rameshwaram in the south to Badari in north. He was followed by thousands of scholars and devout people all through the journey. He was a great linguist and could discourse fluently in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi, Marathi and Sanskrit. When Swamigal visited Nagpur, the king of the city showed disrespect to Mahaswamigal. The effect of his misbehavior was severe. He began to face hundreds of problems and finally realized that it was due to Guru Droha. He fell at the feet of Mahaswamigal, took Mantropadesha and freed himself from problems. A few writings of Mr. Bowring indicate his immense respect for Mahaswamigal.
During his Sanchara, Mahaswamigal visited Gujrat. A Gujrati gentleman had constructed a new house, spending lakhs of rupees. But he was unable to live in that house because of a Brahma Rakshasa, which was haunting the house. Without telling anyone about this incident, he invited Mahaswamigal to stay in his newly constructed house. That night, when Swamigal was busy in Srichakra Pooja, he noticed a figure leaning against a pillar and staring at him. The man looked like a well-read scholar. Swamigal signaled him to come and sit in front of him but the man showed no response. Swamigal immediately realized that the man was no mortal. He took some water in his right hand, chanted the Ugra Nrisimha mantra and threw it on the Brahma Rakshasa. Due to the immense power of the mantra, the Rakshasa began to scream fire, fire!-and jumped into the well located behind the house. All the people who had fallen asleep woke up due to his screams. When they looked into the well, the clothes, which the Brahma Rakshasa had been wearing, were floating on the surface. Mahaswamigal assured that the house was fit for residence and that he had freed it from the Brahma Rakshasa.
Swamigal was once camping the in the Kalyana Mantapa in Madurai Minakshi temple complex. As per the tradition of Shankara Mutt, he entered the sanctum sanctorum of Sri Minakshi and began performing Pooja to Ambal. The priests of the temple gathered there in groups and opposed Swamigal's Pooja. Displeased with their behavior, he immediately attracted Goddess Minakshi into two coconuts and placed it outside the temple in front of Garuda Stambha. He said, Å¢mba has graciously agreed to accompany me. You need not go all the way into the temple to worship her. She is right here in these coconuts. You may worship her right here- From then on, no one visited the sanctum sanctorum of Minakshi. Thousands of people began to worship the Goddess in the coconuts. The idol of Amba became lifeless and the priests of the temple began to suffer in many ways. They realized their mistake and fell at the feet of Mahaswamigal. The compassionate sage, Sri Vriddha Nrisimha Bharati forgave them and reinstalled the deity into the idol of Sri Minakshi. To this day in Sringeri, Naivedya is offered to Sri Minakshi and Sri Sundareshwara during Chandramouleshwara Pooja.
In 1838, he visited Rameshwaram. A group of Brahmanas called Arya Brahmanas, who mainly acted as priests to the non-Brahmins, lived in Rameshwaram. People who visited Rameshwaram generally take bath in all the Tirthas there and finally in Koti Tirtha. They also carry the water of this Tirtha home and distribute it to friends and family. The Arya Brahmanas had constructed a door to Koti Tirtha and had kept it under lock and key. When Swamigal visited Koti Tirtha, they insisted that only they could fetch water from the Tirtha and even charged some money for the same. He immediately went to another Tirtha nearby called Sarva Tirtha and declared, It is enough if you bathe in this Tirtha. It has all the other Tirthas in itself, including the Koti Tirtha- He himself took bath in Sarva Tirtha and returned to Sringeri. For a period of forty years, as per Mahaswamigal orders, no one visited Koti Tirtha or took bath in it. People began to keep away from the Arya Brahmanas because the Jagadguru had cursed them. The water of Koti Tirtha became stale and filled with worms. Realizing their mistake, the Arya Brahmanas visited Sringeri and asked Swamigal to sanctify Koti Tirtha and make it fit once again. Swamigal agreed to their request, visited Rameshwaram and sanctified the water of Koti Tirtha with the water of Sarva Tirtha.
One night, when Sri Swamigal was in Ekanta Pooja, a beautiful Suvasini appeared before him and said, Åeave your place- Swamigal at once realized that it was time to choose his successor. He chose a Brahmachari Shivaswami as his successor in 1866 and attained Videha Mukti in 1879.
Born of highly learned and pious parents, Shivaswami inherited at his very birth all the learning and piety and the religious fervor of his father, Sri Kunigal Rama Shastrigal, the famous Vidvan at the court of the Maharaja Krishna Raja Wodayar III of Mysore and the favored disciple of the renowned Tryambaka Shastrigal of the Court of the Peshwas of Poona. Even as an infant of two years, he lisped out the Stotras repeated by his father and danced with him in his Agnihotra house. Even then he used to smear himself with holy ashes and play with the children at worshipping the Gods. The child was the father of the man and even at a very early age he exhibited traces of all the characteristics that went in later years to make him the greatest of all mortals. At the age of eight he was invested with the sacred thread by his elder brother the well known Sri Lakshmi Nrisimha Shastrigal and soon after he was initiated into the Sanyasa Ashrama by the then Jagadguru of the Sringeri Mutt Sri Ugra Nrisimha Bharati Swamigal, and this was the signal for the exhibition of his greatness.
It is said that due to intense Upasana of Bhagavan Narasimha, the very form of the elder Swamigal seemed like that of Sri Nrisimha. He initiated Shivaswami into Sanyasa as per the orders of Sridevi who had appeared to him as a Suvasini, with the Yoga title Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati reiterating the Truth Shiva-Vishnu Abheda. On the very day he became a Sanyasin it was rather late in the evening when all the necessary rites were finished and when the Sringeri Jagadguru found this young boy of only eight years of age naturally tired, he asked him to retire and when our marvelous young Swami went to sleep he uttered in his sleep the following grand truth for the realization of which the most learned people yearn in vain viz.,`Sarvoham` thus giving out for the first time a glimpse of his universality. Since then, day-by-day, he became the cynosure of all eyes. His winning personality, his smiling countenance, his many-sided learning, his broad sympathy, his child-like simplicity, his charming innocence, his eager thirst for knowledge, his intense solicitude for the welfare of all, his devout piety, his religious zeal, his earnest belief in the Shastras, his rigorous penance, his innate purity, his easy accessibility, the nobility of his mind, the breadth of his views, the magnanimity of his temper, his universal kindness, his engaging conversation, his retentive memory, and last though not least his munificent generosity - all these attracted towards him every living soul that came in contact with him. None approached him in vain. None went back disappointed.
His learning was not only deep but also many sided. He could break a lance with any adversary in any of the Shastras. There was no branch of knowledge, which he did not know. He was Mantra Shastra personified. Mantras were at his finger's ends. He knew Nadi Shastra, a Shastra quite unknown now a days perfectly well. He was equally learned in Vaidya Shastra. He knew very well the medicinal value of all kinds of herbs. In Tarka and Vedanta nobody could even understand the arguments put forth by him without much labor and thought. With all his learning he was perfectly simple in his expositions. The highest truths he would expound to the tyro in language easily understandable by him. The most knotty points he would unravel in a marvelously easy way to the intense admiration of his audience. The Shastras were his playground. He would revel in them as often and as much as he could. Besides the Shastras he was an adept in Kavya and dramas also. It may be fairly said without fear of contradiction that he had gone through every branch of Sanskrit Literature and retained most of it in his memory. It was a very favorite pastime with him to repeat what are known as Antadi Shlokas. More than half-a-dozen pundits may range together against him and still he would be a match to them all. He would repeat from memory Shlokas by thousands. All his opponents would exhaust all their stores but he would be inexhaustible. Ramayana was his favorite poem.
He would oftentimes read it and while reading it merge himself in its scenes and laugh or weep as occasion demanded. It was an exceedingly rare privilege and pleasure to hear him read those excellent scenes so excellently portrayed in the Ramayana. Most of the book he knew by heart and when he read them the hearer would feel as though transported to the actual scenes and would be carried away by emotions suited to the occasion. He was a very good poet as will be clear from the pages of the Bhakti Sudha Tarangini. But all his powers of composition were directed towards praising the gods and invoking their blessings on mankind. When he entered a shrine he would involuntarily begin to repeat Shlokas. He cared not for ornate flourishes in his poems. They were the outpourings of an exuberant soul. Genuine flow of Bhakti could be traced in each of his poems. He wrote not for name or fame. He would muse on the deity and would quite unexpectedly fall into the poetic vein and repeat Shlokas after Shlokas the force and pathos of which pierced through the hardest heart and brought tears even to eyes that never before wept under the influence of religion. Similarly while teaching his disciples any work of Shastra, he would all of a sudden begin to lecture lucidly and eloquently on the most abstruse points and on several of these occasions no notes were taken and thus `full many a gem of purest ray serene' has been lost to the world.
He was intensely earnest in his Bhakti. He never considered himself as other than human. He would pray to God ardently that his human shortcomings might be rectified. His method of performing Pooja was a sight to see. None could hurry him in his Pooja. He may have some one hundred idols before him. Each idol must be separately worshipped. Each must have its allotted sandal, akshata, kumkuma and flower. Each must be praised. Each must be meditated upon. Of course Sri Chandramouleshwara and Sridevi occupied the foremost place in his mind. They stood apart and he was never satisfied with doing Pooja to them, but inwardly they never left his mind. He used to converse with them freely and even quarrel with them at times as though they were his playmates. He would never think of them as images but would feel their living presence. He would not give them any Naivedya (offering) either too hot or too cold. He would try his best to make them eat whatever he offered them. He would repeat Stotras with all the enthusiasm of a devotee and at times dance for joy. Above all his Bhakti towards his Guru was something beyond description. He would talk for days together about the greatness of his Guru. All his talk, all his deeds, in short everything of his, he would dedicate to his Guru. His Guru was ever a living presence to him. He would consult him on each and every occasion. Without his express permission he would never do anything. He would be never tired of worshipping his Guru. His Guru also was equally attached to him. He called our Swami as the aurasaputra - own son of Sri Sarada Parameshwari. He told him that he would enjoy all the blessings of his lifelong penance. Even after his departure he appeared to his disciple and told him that he was always near him. This intense guru Bhakti, this refusal to leave the Guru alone even after his departure from this world was a thing unknown in the annals of modern discipleship. Every day he would first worship his Guru's sandals. His Guru Paduka Stotra will clearly indicate the qualities he attributed even to the sandals of his Guru. There need not be any doubt about the sincerity of his utterances. They need not be attributed to poetic exaggeration. He not only fully believed in what he said but he knew full well that they were all true.
His kindness knew no bounds. To one and all that approached him he was uniformly kind. Harshness was a thing unknown to him. Hatred was a word not to be found in his vocabulary. He was always kind. Even to his servants he was nothing but kind. Real anger was really foreign to him. Even feigned anger was but the passing mood of a moment. Kind words, kind deeds and kind thoughts he spread all around. Always with a smiling countenance full of benevolent intentions he would warmly welcome everyone that approached him, tenderly enquire after their welfare as though he were a member of their family and by words and deeds relieve their distress whatever that may be. He would never forget faces, but remember people once seen even after the expiry of thirty years. He would never rest content with having done a kindness to his bhakta. He would always be eager to do him more. He would shower blessings on him one after another in quick succession. He was ever ready not only to alleviate the physical and mental distress of his innumerable disciples but was equally prompt in teaching them the required mantras, in initiating them into the path of knowledge and Dhyana and in showing them the means to liberation. He knew instinctively what a person wanted and would teach him just the thing required. In short every one who approached him returned not only perfectly satisfied but also overwhelmed with his kindness. He was an extremely pleasant conversationist. His conversations were always full of sparkling wit and wisdom. He would always have the right word to say at the right moment. His arguments would be not only quite convincing but also splendid home thrusts. For instance, a certain person who had not much of faith in our Shastras but who was still attracted by the tremendous magnetic force of his Holiness approached him and asked him as follows: "What is the use of the Shraaddha ceremony? Is it not mere superstition? Is it not absurd to say that by offering some things here in a prescribed way, the forefathers are satisfied? The rice we offer is still in our presence and yet how could we say that our forefathers have partaken of it and are hence content? Can absurdity go further?" His Holiness smiled and replied, "Listen My dear. You are perfectly right in your doubt. If I show you a parallel example where by observing certain prescribed rules and forms, a person who is not in your presence is satisfied, will you accede that it is not so very absurd as it at first seems to you? Take for example the system of Telegraphic Money Orders. If you conform to those rules and forms and take the money to the Post Office, the money you paid lies on the table in your presence, the person to whom you intended it to benefit is actually benefited. While human agencies can thus satisfy the cravings of people at a distance is it impossible for divine agencies? Only you should do it as it is prescribed. In the instance of the Telegraphic Money Order also it is so. Unless you strictly follow the prescribed rules and forms no effect will be produced. Similarly your forefathers who had eyes of wisdom foresaw the methods by which they could be pleased after their departure from this world and prescribed the rites and rules accordingly. If you follow them you would certainly please them. Why do you doubt it?" The hearer was quite struck with the force of the argument and went away thoroughly changed in his mind. Thus, words and arguments came to him of their own accord at the requisite moment.
The poet Bhavabhuti's saying "Rshiinaam punaraaryaanam vaachamarthonudhaavathi" was quite true in his case. His words never went empty. As he was full of anugraha he scattered his blessings far and wide. He was a great Yogi and a Siddha of a very high order. Nothing was impossible to him. The great Rajayogin Sri Sadashivendra Sarasvati (known popularly as Sadashiva Brahmendra, the great Avadhoota) was his ideal. But he more than realized his ideal. The only difference was, the one roamed freely wherever he willed whereas the other was bound down to a mighty Seat by the command of his Guru and accordingly had to restrain himself within his limitations. But numerous were the occasions when his yogic powers were much in evidence. In the midst of a very large concourse of people, amidst the din and noise of a huge crowd, when different kinds of musical instruments were at their loudest, when Brahmins loudly chanted the Upanishads, when the temple bells pealed with loud ringing noise, in the midst of so much hubbub and confusion he would restrain his breath, and go into a trance. Suddenly his form would become motionless, his eyes would be more than half closed and he would go into transcendent Samadhi for even hours together. None could rouse him up from that trance. Who could fathom the depth of that insensibility? Everything would have to wait until he returned of his own accord to the world.
Once while crossing the Tunga, his foot slipped from the sandal and he had a nasty cut right across his sole. The servant who accompanied him supporting his palm was likewise cut in his foot and when both reached the shore the servant could not walk even a single step and his Holiness observing this enquired of him the cause of it. But the servant noting the free flow of blood from the sole of his Holiness was much shocked and pointed it out to him. But he simply passed his hand over the sole and said that nothing was the matter with him and lo! The servant was surprised to find the sole quite hale without any sign of any cut. Then the servant was given some Prasadam and was advised to stay at home till his foot healed. His mastery of Yoga and Mantra Shastra deserves a special mention. Once when he was busy doing the Srichakra Pooja, a snake appeared in the room and the gathered crowd began to feel frightened. But H H assured them that it was Sridevi who had come to bless them and lo! The snake vanished into the form of Srichakra.
It was during his time that Srividya Upasana reached its zenith. A Siddha Purusha arrived from Andhra Desha as per the orders of H H and guided the eligible Brahmins of the Peetham in Srividya Upasana. Sri Swamigal also personally trained Sri Mahamahopadhyaya Virupaksha Shastrigal in Srividya and Mantra Shastra. It is said that Swamigal would explain Saundaryalahari's first Shloka in more than a hundred ways! He could be present in several places simultaneously. Once while at Rameshwaram, he wanted a particular disciple who was away at Tiruchinapalli to go to him. On receipt of the wire the disciple ran in all haste to Rameshwaram which he reached at about 9 O' clock in the night, but found that his Holiness was at Dhanushkoti. The disciple wanted to go to Dhanushkoti at once but no sort of conveyance could be had then. Neither a single cart nor a palanquin was available. As for boats they were not to be thought of, since the winds were unfavorable. While in this plight the disciple prayed to his guru to take him to Dhanushkoti and wonder of wonders! At about one O'clock three boatmen came to the disciple of their own accord, took him to a boat and hoisted the mast. The wind was quite favorable, the disciple saw his guru also accompanying him and chatting pleasantly the journey to Dhanushkoti was accomplished within one hour. On alighting there the disciple lost sight of his guru who had accompanied him all along and when he was ushered into his presence at the Mutt the guru smiled and the disciple wept for joy. The boat that took the disciple in the dead of night could not return but had to drift for a month on account of unfavorable wind.
On another occasion he wanted a particular disciple who was 250 miles away to go to him. He sent a mental message and the disciple who was then fully engrossed in his business heard all of a sudden the clarion call of his guru and he immediately started to his holy presence. When he reached, the first greeting of his guru was "Did you receive this message (touching his heart) that I sent you". Instances like this could be multiplied but space forbids. Above all he was a true Sanyasin. Never for a moment did he swerve even one-thousandth of an inch from the rigorous path ordained for that most noble and most difficult of all Ashramas, the Sanyasa Ashrama. None had mastered its rules so well and none followed them so closely as he. In spite of his manifold duties as the head of the most influential Mutt, in spite of his innumerable disciples who did not allow him even a single moment's leisure and in spite of the various calls on his attention he was most faithful to the duties of his Ashrama. His was true renunciation. In the midst of strife he knew the abiding Peace. He was right in the midst of the world but still quite beyond it. He was thoroughly unattached to anything worldly, though he appeared extremely attached to every one of his disciples. He was thoroughly selfless though he was always meditating on the Self. He was a triumphant example, a living realization of the complete conquest of all dvandvas or pairs of opposites. He did not care a straw for all the gold or all the fame that is in this Universe. He held the world but as a world, as a stage where every one had to play a part. He had thoroughly controlled his flesh. He was full of soul, full of the reality of religion, full of joy and full of blessed purity. In short, he was undoubtedly a very great Mahatma but without any mysteries or occultisms. Was he not God incarnate - a living and walking God on earth? Was he not then, in the language of the Sruti, beyond the reach of words? Then who at all can attempt a sketch of him? He was Infinity and infinite were his qualities. How can anyone adequately describe in words this vast storehouse of knowledge, this boundless ocean of Bhakti, this original fountainhead of mercy, this undefiled source of purity, this personal embodiment of all virtues and this perfect type of rigorous renunciation. Even the mind refuses to fathom the depth of the all-round greatness of this mighty personage. What need be said about the poverty of words? He was unique with none to approach him even as second. His spotless holiness, his deep piety, his unspeakable blessedness, his endless wisdom, his childlike peacefulness and his universal affection beggar all description. His was a life of resolute good, unalterable will and quenchless desire of Universal happiness. While it came to performing His duties, he was as meticulous as a modern-day technocrat-cum-manager. He paid attention to the minutest detail of the job on hand, whether it was the performing of a shodasopachara Pooja (worship with 16 different services to a series of murtis of the Hindu pantheon, or the offerings of Naivedya (eatables, including cooked items) to placate the gods, or any other religious or administrative matter that had to be seen through.
Once a certain Brahmin poet of a village in Kerala approached the Jagadguru with the prayer that his dumb boy should be cured. The Swamigal felt pity for the poor boy and asked the Brahmin to visit Him with the boy at the next camp. There He taught a certain mantra to the Brahmin and ordered him to magnetize a vessel of water with the intense repetition of the mantra every day for three months and sprinkle it on the boy and make him drink a spoonful with faith. This the Brahmin did; the boy's dumbness gradually decreased; he began to speak a few words and in course of time got cured.
He had a truly simple living style. His needs were few and elementary, so he missed nothing. With such simple openness of manner He was easily the most accessible of all religious heads, even to the ordinary man on the street His unshakeable faith in the traditional values of Hinduism coexisted with a rather unusually forward-looking open-mindedness while dealing with people of different religious, geographic, linguistic or cultural persuasions. It was a tradition that during the Navaratra festivities a thousand sheep used to be offered to the Goddess attached to the palace of the Raja of Ramnad. The very idea of such a sacrificial offer was repugnant to Sri Narasimha Bharati Swamigal. Even as He was thinking over the matter, the Raja himself came to the Swamigal to consult Him about the propriety of such a reprehensible act. Instead of making an off-handed pronouncement on a matter established by tradition, the Swamigal said that His say in the matter would be made known the following day. The daylong prayer for divine guidance bore fruit in a dream that night. Herein He saw a woman attired in soiled clothing, holding a cup of drink in one hand and a broomstick in the other declaring, " I leave this place". Immediately after He saw a gracefully adorned Brahmin lady announcing "I have come to stay". Having discerned the message of the dream, under the advice and benign guidance of the Mahaswamigal a new shrine outside the palace precincts was built, the Srichakra, the most efficacious of all yantras consecrated and the idol of the Goddess was shifted to this new shrine. The Raja arranged for the daily Pooja at this shrine in Vaidika style and for this purpose the Swamigal deputed two Brahmins of the Sringeri Sarada Peetham. A village yielding an annual revenue of Rs.12,000 was set apart for the maintenance of the Shrine.
Sri Swamigal had thousands of disciples. Some important disciples were Sri Bharati krisha Tirtha, the Shankaracharya of Govardhana Puri, Sri Vidyabhinava Valukeshwara Bharati Mahaswamigal, the Acharya of Kudali Shankara Mutt, Sri Sacchidanandendra Saraswati of Holenarasipur, Uppinabetageri Krishna Shastry, Kurtukoti Bhagavatar, K. Ramachandra Iyer, Siddhavalli Malai Sacchidananda Swamigal, Seshachala Swamigal, Tembe Maharaj, Brahmachaitanya Swamiji, Balagangadhar Tilak, Bapu Saheb (son of Jnansi Rani Lakshmi Bai) and others. For the Shanku Sthapana of a Kala Mandir in Benares Hindu University, as per the request of Sri Madana Mohana Malaviya, Mahaswamigal had sent his Sri Paduka. People all over the country held him as the very incarnation of Adi Shankara.
Mahaswamigal was instrumental in initiating Shankara Jayanti celebrations. He then visited Perambavur, five miles away from Kaladi. While he was staying there, a lady appeared in his dream and ndicated that she was living under an Ashoka tree. Immediately Swamigal realized that Aryamba, Adi Acharya's mother, was indicating the place where her last rites were performed by Adi Shankara. A temple was also constructed in that place. He constructed a grand temple dedicated to Adi Shankaracharya and Saradambal in Kaladi, the birthplace of Adi Acharyal. Having accomplished deeds of no small magnitude, the Jagadguru resolved to nominate the devout celibate Sri Narasimha Shastry as successor-designate for the exalted Peetham. Accordingly He arranged for the Brahmachari to be brought to Sringeri from Bangalore. But even as this bidding of His was being fulfilled, the Jagadguru, while seated in meditation after His morning bath, appeared to have fallen into a trance. Though He declared this as a dip in the ocean of Atmic bliss, He had no relish for food the whole day and lay fasting. Next morning having had His bath as usual, He was seated in meditation till nine. Then came a violent fit of coughing; the Swamigal was still seated coughing, with His head bent down and at 11.30 AM His Soul merged into the Supreme Light, leaving behind the bright smile alone which, as ever before, was irradiating His face. It was Chaitra Shukla dwiteeya in the year Paritapi (March 1912). The divine light of Sri Swamigal is continuing to guide earnest seekers to this day. Many of my personal experiences bear testimony to this statement.
His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal, a world-renowned Jivanmukta, adorned the Dakshinamnaya Sringeri Sarada Peetham as its 34th pontiff. Each and everyone who had the fortune of His Darshan unanimously agree as to His extreme detachment, mastery over senses, concern for the devotees and knowledge of the Shastras. Many came to Him with problems of various kinds and, on several occasions, He used to provide answers even before the problem was stated. His compassionate look was sufficient to transform a confirmed atheist to a sincere spiritual seeker. The morning of Sunday, October 16, 1892 witnessed the birth of a holy saint. He was a native of Sringeri itself and was born to Sri Gopala Shastry and his devoted wife Lakshmi Ammal. Sri Gopala Shastry was himself a very learned pundit and the only son of his father Sri Subba Shastry. The latter was a great scholar and the Asthana pundit of the Sringeri Mutt and was blessed and honored by His Holiness Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharati Mahaswamigal, the then Jagadguru who was famous as much for His erudition as for His yogic powers. Gopala Shastry had 14 children but such was God's will that only this boy, Narasimha by name, survived. The parents felt that they were being pursued by an inexplicable and relentless fate, which deprived them of their children and hoped that at least by separating the boy from themselves for sometime, he might escape the fate of his brothers and sisters. In response to this, Brahmasri Srikantha Shastry, the then agent of the Mutt, took the boy under his protection and treated him as one of his own household. The boy was admitted into the local Middle School where both Kannada and English were taught. He easily topped the list of students and endeared himself to his teachers. By a strange good fortune he was brought in his 12th year to the benign notice of His Holiness Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharati Mahaswamigal, the then Jagadguru, who at once discerned the aptitude of the boy and foresaw the future greatness that awaited him. He was asked to give up the secular school and join the Sadvidya Sanjeevani Pathasala attached to the Mutt. His Holiness took great interest in that Pathasala and visited it frequently and had genuine pleasure in seeing for himself the answer papers of several students of the Pathasala. He was very much impressed with the great clearness of thought and expression apparent in the answers of Narasimha and selected him for a special course in Tarka. In January 1907 His Holiness started on a tour throughout the Southern districts for consecrating a temple at Kaladi in North Travancore which was the birthplace of Sri Shankaracharya. Even while on tour He had arranged for the examination answer papers being sent to Him with the result that He was able to steadily watch the rapid progress that Narasimha was making in his studies. On His way back to Sringeri He founded the Shankara Mutt Pathasala at Bangalore for higher studies in Mimamsa and Vedanta. Realizing that a good grounding in Mimamsa was essential to a student of Vedanta, He asked Narasimha to join the Meemamsa section in the Bangalore Pathasala. That he had the special attention and blessing of His Holiness is quite apparent from the four verses, which His Holiness addressed to Sri Sarada. The refrain in all of the verses ran as follows: "Sarvajnam Srinrsimham kuru Sivadayite Sattvaram Madvinamram" (Bhaktisudhatarangini P. 445).
During this period, there were several indications to show that His Holiness had decided to choose Sri Narasimha as His successor to the Sringeri Sarada Peetham. Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharati Mahaswamigal returned to Sringeri in 1911. Early in 1912 He felt that His life work was finished and that it was time for Him to free himself from His mortal coil. He instructed one of His intimate devotees Brahmasri Kunigal Rama Shastry to go to Bangalore and take Narasimha with him to Sringeri and also inform His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore about His intention to nominate Narasimha as His successor-designate to the Peetham. His Highness promised all help in the matter. The father of the boy also agreed, though very reluctantly, to accede to the wishes of His Holiness but the mother flatly declined to part with the only surviving one of her 14 children. Narasimha himself had to plead with his mother to obey His Holiness' behest on the main ground that he himself had no intention at all of becoming a householder and that, if he was a Sanyasi staying as the Head of the Mutt at Sringeri, his mother might have the satisfaction of knowing about his welfare and of occasionally seeing him. These advantages could not be had if he was an ordinary Sanyasi going about from place to place. The mother thereupon had to agree and Brahmasri Rama Shastry started with Narasimha for Sringeri. But just the day previous to their reaching Sringeri, namely, on March 20, 1912, His Holiness had attained freedom from all embodiments. After the ceremonies were all over, Narasimha Shastry was duly given Sanyasa on April 7, 1912 and installed on the Sringeri Peetha the next day under the name of Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati Swamigal. His Holiness, the new Acharya, conscious as He was of the fact that He had in abundance the gracious blessings of His guru, was nevertheless sorely grieved at not having had the opportunity of being trained and guided by the latter. His ambition was to follow rigidly the footsteps of the previous Acharya and justify the latter's selection of Himself as His successor. In the course of about three years He completed His studies in the Vedanta under the able guidance of Mahamahopadhyaya Vidyanidhi Brahmasri Virupaksha Shastrigal, a veteran scholar who later on became the Head of the Kudli Mutt assuming the title Sri Vidyabhinava Valukeshwara Bharati Mahasannidhanam. The latter used to say that the deep knowledge and learning of the Acharya was out of all proportion to his own teaching and could be accounted for only as due to divine grace.
His Holiness felt that the renovation of Sri Sarada Temple which had been started by His Guru must be completed as early as possible and that a temple should be erected over the Samadhi of His Guru. These constructions took more than three years and it was only in the middle of 1916 that the work was complete and the Kumbhabhishekams of both the temples were duly performed. Splendor and pomp characterized the festivities especially as His Highness Sir Krishnaraja Wodayar, the Maharaja of Mysore, was there in person as also representatives of His Highness, the Gaikwar of Baroda, and representatives from other States. But the chief attraction of the great and the small, the learned and the laity, the young and the old, was the simple and enchanting personality of His Holiness the young Swamiji Himself. He radiated about Him an atmosphere of peace and joy. This did not clash with the pomp and splendor, the noise and bustle that was present due to the presence of dignitaries and a large congregation of people from all parts of the country. After the consecration was over, His Holiness steadily set His mind on the practical realization of the truths learned by Him through His exhaustive studies and, though He continued to expound the scriptures and the commentaries to deserving students, He spent more time in contemplation and Tapas. He felt that He must seek the grace of Sri Sarada and His Guru intensely and qualify Himself to the utmost for the seat of spiritual eminence, which He had been called upon to occupy. His intensive devotion to His Guru and the steady perseverance, which characterized His efforts, led Him in course of a few years to such an exalted state of erudition and self-realization as could not ordinarily be reached in several lives of genuine effort. He stands unrivalled in learning and stands equally unrivalled in the realization of the goal of the Vedanta. His predilection for contemplation naturally marked Him out from other people who could possibly have no conception of the supernormal experiences had by Him. It may be mentioned in parenthesis that His Parents were justly proud of their son and had the supreme satisfaction of seeing for themselves the spiritual eminence which He had attained. In or about 1923, His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore requested His Holiness to go over to Mysore and confer blessings on himself and the other members of the royal family. In deference to that request His Holiness left Sringeri on the January 18, 1924 and proceeded to Mysore. Arrangements had been made for acquiring for the Mutt, the house in the old Agrahara at Mysore in which the previous Acharya was born and also some extensive adjoining it. Thanks to the kindness of His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore and the good services of Brahmasri Kunigal Rama Shastry and Srikantha Shastry, it was possible to raise thereon a magnificent stone structure containing a shrine for a beautiful marble image of His Holiness Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharati Mahaswamigal. His Holiness had the supreme pleasure of consecrating this new shrine at Mysore in holy memory of His Guru. In accordance with His instructions, Vedanta classes were being held there daily. The earnest representatives of the disciples in the southern districts made His Holiness agree to extend His tour as far south as Kanyakumari.
After a magnificent reception in Mysore, His Holiness descended the Mysore Plateau by the Sathyamangalam ghat. He was well versed in Telugu, His mother tongue, Kannada, the language of the land of His birth and Tamil, from contact with the Tamilian disciples who visited Sringeri in huge numbers. The visit to Sathyamangalam was really His first contact with the Tamil districts. While there, He was requested to give some words of advice to His disciples and to the great surprise of all including those most intimate with Him, He began to give discourses in such chaste and fluent Tamil as would evoke the admiration of any born Tamilian. Since then throughout the Tamil districts, His discourses were all in Tamil except in special gatherings of pundits, which He addressed in His own characteristic style of very simple and expressive Sanskrit so natural to Him. His admonitions and advices, coming as they did from a sincere heart longing for the welfare of the world, had their own inimitable effect in converting many a skeptic and in strengthening the faith of many a believer. After visiting Rameshwaram, His Holiness toured throughout the Madura and Tirunelveli Districts, had a fitting reception at Tiruvananthapuram and then proceeded to Kalady, the birthplace of Sri Adi Shankara. His Holiness Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharati Mahaswamigal had after great difficulty and with the hearty help of the then Maharaja of Travancore acquired an extensive site there and built there a temple for Sri Adi Shankara and another for Sri Saradambal in 1912. His Holiness felt that this place must be improved further so as to become a center for learning. He accordingly directed the formation of an Agrahara (street) there for the residence of the temple employees and others and also the building of a Veda Pathasala for the education of young Brahmin boys who desired to learn the Vedas. In 1927 when He personally visited the place, He inaugurated a Vedanta Pathasala also for advanced students in Vedanta. The students were given a house to live in and also a decent stipend to cover their expenses.
From Kaladi His Holiness returned via Palghat and Coimbatore to Nanjangud in the Mysore State. There He founded another Pathasala and proceeded to Mysore. His Holiness returned to Sringeri towards the end of 1927. He was greeted with a magnificent and devoted reception. He showered divine blessings on all those who came in contact with Him. Four years of busy touring was followed by a long period of practical seclusion from the outside world. The Acharya gave Himself up to intense Tapasya oblivious to His surroundings. But the affairs of the matham required attention. Under inspiration from Sri Sarada, the Acharya designated Sri Srinivasa Shastry, as His successor. He was a youth of remarkable intelligence and potential for spiritual eminence. The Acharya gave Him Sanyasa on May 22, 1931 with the name of Sri Abhinava Vidya Tirtha. The Junior Swami soon became highly proficient in learning and took over the spiritual and secular affairs of the matham, giving considerable relief to the senior Acharya. Seldom did the Acharya receive disciples while in retirement. On the few occasions that He did, for which hundreds would be waiting, a smile or a significant nod proved more efficacious and illuminating than a sermon. It would fill their souls with blessedness. By dint of introspection and Tapasya, His consciousness appeared sublimated into an all-radiating spirit. In 1938, the Acharya yielded to the prayers of the disciples to visit Bangalore and stay there for a few months. Facing the shrine of Shankara another shrine had been built for Sri Saradambal in Shankara Matham. The Acharya consecrated this temple. From Bangalore He went to Coimbatore and then to Kaladi. The Acharya returned to Sringeri in 1940 and again went into retirement in the Narasimha Vana. Though He was not accessible, thousands who prayed for His blessings in their troubles got relief. Many others were blessed even without any conscious attempt on their part to solicit His grace. His Holiness seldom came out of His seclusion and on the few occasions He did, He used to perform Sri Sarada Chandramouli Pooja meticulously. He fully demonstrated in His life the qualities of a Sthita Prajna as enunciated by Sri Krishna in the Gita. Although externally engaged in worldly actions, His Holiness, whenever He returned to bahirmukha (the state of normal activity), Had no attachment to any object whatsoever. His conduct did not annoy anybody. He behaved like an ideal friend of all. Enjoying the Supreme Bliss, He moved sometimes like an ignorant one, sometimes with royal magnificence, sometimes full of auspiciousness, sometimes unmoving like a python, sometimes evoking respect, sometimes getting derided and sometimes unknown to anybody.
When numerous disciples approached the Acharya for permission to celebrate the 60th anniversary of His birth that fell in October 1952, He sternly discouraged the idea. When it was suggested that the funds collected would be spent in performing Atirudra and Sahasra Chandi homas He approved. The homas were conducted in April 1953. A large concourse of people from distant places gathered to witness this unique function and to get the blessings of the Acharya. The Acharya came out of His retirement for a few weeks after the homas had concluded, resumed His normal routine and received disciples. On August 24, 1954, President Rajendra Prasad paid a visit to Sringeri and was received by both the Senior and Junior Swamis with whom he spent some hours in intimate and soulful conversation. The Rashtrapati's innate humility, piety, godliness, and respect for saints much pleased the two Gurus, who showered their blessings on him. His Holiness had enormous compassion for the struggling souls. None went away from Him empty handed. His faith in the limitless power and mercy of God was such that if He gave Vibhuti (holy ashes) or Kumkuma (saffron), it acted as an immediate panacea for all human ills. He played as a child in the company of children, as a youth among the young and acted as an old man in the company of the aged ones sharing their joy and sorrow. Many have been the incalculable benefits derived by those who had the good fortune to come in contact with Him. Not only He showed Himself head and shoulders above all scholars in the several branches of learning and commanded their admiration and reverence but He made even the humblest of men realize that they had a sincere friend and guide in His Holiness. His love was quite catholic and universal. The high and the low, the rich and the poor, the learned and the laity, the Hindu and the Christian, the Mohammedan and the skeptic, all received the same kind treatment from Him and all of them returned home the wiser and the better for the few minutes of contact which they were fortunate enough to have with Him.
The commentary written by His Holiness in Sanskrit on Bhagavatpada's Vivekachudamani is a monumental work. It is an epitome of His Holiness' erudition, experience, and deep knowledge of Advaita Vedanta. Paying a glowing tribute to His Holiness who was His Guru, Sri Abhinava Vidya Tirtha Mahaswamigal said, "My Acharya was an eminent Tapasvin, a scrupulous observer of Sastric injunctions, a knower of the Atman and a rare Jivanmukta". Having seen Him, having heard about Him, having met Him and having remembered Him, all creatures feel delighted. The very remembrance of Him will bring all round prosperity and blessedness, for it is said: "The knower of Brahman verily becomes Brahman." That is why to such a seer even the Devas offer their worship. One lesser-known aspect of Sri Swamigal is his Srividya Upasana, in which he had attained great heights. Though he was not really regular in external Pooja owing to his natural state of Samadhi, the internal Srichakra Pooja went on without a second's break. Sri Swamigal was a Srividya Upasaka even from his Purvashrama. This great Jivanmukta (liberated while living) was mistaken for a mad man by the ignorant. He danced and cried in divine bliss. He worshipped himself, ate the Naivedya and declared `Sarvoham'.
He was verily of the form of Sri Rajarajeshwari and Sri Chandramouleshwara. A mere repetition of the Divine Mothers name would be enough to send him trance. One Subba Narasimha Bhatta was appointed to do Pooja in the shrine of Adi Shankara in the Mutt complex at Sringeri. Jagadguru Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati Who came to that shrine looked at the new archaka, then turned to Narahari Bhatta who was accompanying His Holiness and asked him to initiate the archaka into Sri Dakshinamurti mantra before he was allowed to perform Pooja to Sri Shankara. Only then did the others become aware of the fact that Subba Narasimha Bhatta did not have that Mantropadesha, which was necessary for one to do Pooja to Sri Shankara. The Jagadguru thus rectified the mistake committed by the Mutt officials in His own benevolent way. His Holiness was extremely patient and compassionate in His dealings with disciples and never declined to help an earnest devotee if His help was sought, in ever so insignificant or absurd a manner. The following incidents indicate this. A gentleman had a daughter who had been given in marriage. In spite of being twenty years old, she had not yet attained puberty. Her in-laws despaired of the girl coming to their home and decided to get the boy another wife. The girl's father was very poor and had more daughters to marry and was naturally upset. Unable to do anything else, he met His Holiness and expressed his helplessness. His Holiness listened to him patiently and took a small quantity of butter, sanctified it by some mantra and gave it to the father with instructions to give it to the girl that night. His instructions were duly followed and early next morning the girl attained puberty.
Mahaswamigal attained Siddhi in 1954 by taking Yoga Samadhi in river Tunga. Years after the passing of this great sage, every grain of sand in Sringeri still speaks of the Acharya's presence there. His wisdom and Chaitanya continue to guide us.
The chief deities of Sringeri Sarada Peetham are Sri Sarada and Sri Vidya Shankara. Both the deities have separate temples. Other than these, Sri Chandramouleshwara Linga, Sri Nrisimha Salagrama and Sri Ratnagarbha Ganapathi are worshipped by the Acharyas of the Peetham. On the northen banks of river Tunga in Sringeri, Acharya constructed a Srichakra on a stone and established a sandalwood idol of Saradambal. 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 Nirguna Brahma Vidya. Though initially Shakta Tantra in India was in its pristine pure form, it later got corrupted due to foreign invasion. Pancha Makaras became a reason for people to indulge in sensory pleasures. The Varna and Ashrama rules were forgotten in the name of Kaula. People began to indulge in Kaula Sadhana without considering if they were qualified for the path. Acharya rejected the Vama Marga, which was unsuitable for most and prescribed Dakshinachara as the means to realize Brahman. He initiated his disciples into Srividya and Srichakra Upasana. He established Srichakra in Mookambika Sannidhi in Kodachadri, in Sringeri and Kanchipuram. In Sringeri, he established Sarada 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 the Swat valley, 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 by Kashmirachara, Dakshinachara by Keralachara and Vamachara by Kamarupachara. Srimadacharya devised a method of Upasana which involved Keralachara in the initial stages, leading gradually towards Kashmirachara. The Purva Kaulas use the five Makaras in a symbolic way. They use tender coconut for wine, Lehya etc. for fish, Tila for meat, a garland of flowers for copulation etc. the five Makaras actually represent the five Tatvas and the Sadhana of Panchamakaras is basically prescribed for Tatva Shuddhi. If one practically observes, most people claiming to practice Kaulachara hardly are even aware of the significance of Tatva Shuddhi. Thus, the literal or symbolic Sadhana of Panchamakaras is the lowest way to achieve Tatva Shuddhi. It can be achieved faster and more effectively by other secret practices of Yoga, which do not cross the Vedic boundary.
The Sharada 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. Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati Mahaswamigal initiated the third reconstruction of the temple. A grand temple was built during the rule of Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal. And the Kumbhabhishekam took place in 1916. During the time of Sri Abhinava Vidya Tirtha Swamigal, a beautiful Gopuram was constructed. Sri Bharati Tirtha Swamigal, the present Shankaracharya of Sringeri, has dedicated a golden chariot and golden doors to Saradambal's temple.
Sarada 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 Sarada 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 Saradambal. The new golden chariot of Saradambal 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 Sarada Parameshwari and Sri guru. The then Guru, Sri Purushottama Bharati Mahaswamigal had gifted 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.
The other main deity of Sringeri is the Sri Chandramouleshwara Linga. This is worshipped in the Mutt thrice every day. This crystal Linga is worshipped with Abhisheka, Naivedya and Archana, by a priest in the morning and by the Swamigal in the evening and night. People are allowed to witness this auspicious Pooja in the mornings and evenings. Similar Lingas may also be found in the other four Amnaya Shankara Mutts. It is believed that Adi Shankara worshipped these Lingas himself and later handed them over to his four main disciples, who became the heads of the Amnaya mutts. Shiva Rahasya describes that Lord Parameshwara gave the Lingas to Acharya when he astrally traveled to mount Kailasa. This incident occurred when Acharya was in Varanasi. Some people believe that Acharya established the fifth Linga in Chidambaram.
Virashaivas or Lingayats have time and again propagated that one Revana Siddha or Renukacharya, a Lingayat guru, gave the Chandramouleshwara Linga (present now in Sringeri) to Adi Shankaracharya. But an examination of historical facts reveals that Renukacharya existed in the 12^th century. The Acharya however, incarnated in the sixth century. So it is logically quite impossible that Renukacharya traveled ahead in time to give the Linga to give the Linga to Acharya, who existed centuries before him! Also, all that is claimed by the Lingayat mutts is that Renukacharya gave one Linga to Acharya. Then where did the other three Lingas in the other Amnaya mutts come from? Also, it is not quite possible that Renukacharya, a Shaiva, gave a Linga to Acharya, who was not a Lingadhari. Acharya himself disproves the authenticity of Pashupata and other Shaiva doctrines in his Bhashya. So it is also quite impossible that he accepted a Linga from a Virashaiva, who was a Pashupata. Unlike what is propagated by many Lingayats, no Shaiva mode Pooja is performed to Lord Chandramouleshwara in Sringeri. The Pooja performed is completely based on the Vedic lines. Also, it must not be forgotten that Srichakra and Nrisimha Salagrama are also worshipped along with the Linga. Salagrama is placed with the Linga even during Abhisheka and other rituals. Thus, it is totally foolish to establish any kind of relationship with Sringeri, Adi Shankara, Chandramouleshwara Linga and the Lingayat saints. Well! Lord Nrisimha's presence would not allow that!
The Linga of Sri Chandramouleshwara is always present with the Swamigal. Even during his Sanchara, the Linga is carried along. There is a special feature in this Linga, not seen in ordinary quartz Lingas. There is a bright lunar digit in the upper part of the Linga, formed naturally. Chandra represents knowledge and joy. The Linga is the symbol of the formless supreme. The quartz Linga has no color. It reflects the color of the object placed close to it. Thus, it is verily the symbol of Parabrahman, grasped by great men as the essence of the liberating knowledge and limitless joy. The Peetha, Somasutra and the Linga, which constitute the three parts of the Linga, represent respectively Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Thus, it becomes clear that the Brahman, though formless and without attributes, assumes the form of the trinity to shower his grace on the devotees.
The Nrisimha Salagrama worshipped in Sringeri is also said to be one of its kind. The lion-face of the Lord signifies the Brahman and the human-body symbolizes Jivatman. Thus, Upasana of Nrisimha is aimed at realizing the unity of the Jiva and the Brahman. Sri Nrisimha is the Sankarshana Murti of Paramatman, who represents involution of the cosmos in the self. There is no difference between Nrisimha and Parameshwara. It is described that the form of Nrisimha, composed of the trinity like the trinity, has a dominance of Shiva Tatva. He is of a golden white complexion, like Shiva who is adorned with pure white Bhasma. He also is three-eyed like Shiva. Nrisimha controls time, which is represented by the Chakra, held in his hands. Ananta, who represents the infinite energy of Paramatman, is both the Asana and Chatra (seat and umbrella) to the Lord. The Acharyas of Sringeri are great Upasakas of Srividya, Sri Dakshinamurthy and Sri Nrisimha.
Sri Vidya Shankara temple is unique because of its architectural brilliance and sanctity. Its design is said to resemble the Bascillica of Rome. It is completely resembles the Meru form of Srichakra. The temple is constructed as per both Hoysala and Dravida styles of architecture. There is a splendid platform around the temple with six steps. The main entrance is towards the east. The sanctum sanctorum houses the Linga of Sri Vidya Shankara. The other deities in the temple are Sri Vidya Ganesha and Sri Mahishamardini. Vani -Brahma, Lakshmi -Narayana and Uma -Maheshwara are also present in the temple. The temple has six entrances representing the six amnayas. These entrances have Shiva, Shakta, and Vaishnava Dwarapalas, corresponding to the six respective amnayas. There is also an idol of Sri Kala Bhairava near the Sannidhanam of Sri Durga. The Vidya Shankara temple is located on top of the cave in which Sri Vidya Tirtha Mahaswamigal remains eternally immersed in Lambika Yoga Samadhi. He guides Sadhakas and Mumukshus even today. Many Sadhakas have experienced his grace over the ages. The Acharyas of Sringeri and its branch mutts offer special Pooja to Sri Vidya Shankara during Chaturmasya. All official activities of Sringeri are carried out in the name of Sri Vidya Shankara.
Sri Chaturmurtishwara temple is located in Simhagiri near Sringeri. The idol in this temple represents Lord Dattatreya and is a proof to the fact that Sringeri is the original seat of even Dattatreya guru Parampara. Simhagiri is also known as the old Sringeri. Before the construction of the present Agrahara on the northern banks of river Tunga during the Vijayanagara Empire in the 14^th century, Simhagiri was the place, which was the residence of the Acharyas of the Peetham. Sri Vidya Tirtha Swamigal, the guru of Sri Vidyaranya is said to have installed the idol of Lord Chaturmurtishwara. This idol made of Salagrama stone, is in the form of a pillar.
Sri Malahanikeshwara temple, also known as Sri Mallikarjuna temple is located on a hill in Sringeri. This is the place where sage Vibhandaka had performed severe penance. A Shiva Linga was established on his Samadhi and a temple was built around the same. This temple did not have any shrine dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Sri Abhinava Narasimha Bharati Mahaswamigal of Sringeri wrote a figure of Heramba Ganesha on a pillar in the temple with turmeric and the form of Ganesha emerged out of the pillar. This Ganesha, known as Stambha Heramba, may be seen in Malahanikeshwara temple. Sri Sacchidananda Bharati (second) started the Magha and Kritika Utsavas in this temple. Sri Abhinava Vidya Tirtha Swamigal renovated the temples of Sri Malahanikeshwara and Goddess Bhavani in 1983 and performed the Kumbhabhishekam. The temple houses the idols of Chandra, Narasimha, Virabhadra, Anjaneya, Kaliyamardana Krishna, Durga, Ramachandra, Shanmukha and Venugopala. Shrines dedicated to Subrahmanya and Bindu Madhava are also located in the temple premises.
Kigga is a place located five miles from Sringeri. This is the place where Sri Rishyashringa Maharshi performed austerities and attained Siddhi. Temples of Rishyashringeshwara and Shanta Devi are located in this place. The temple also houses idols of Mahishamardini and Ganesha.
Sri Janardana temple is located to the left of Vidya Shankara temple. Sri Jnanaghanacharya established this temple in 900 A.D. On either of this temple, beautiful idols of Garuda and Anjaneya may be seen. This shrine also houses an ancient Sudarshana Chakra. There is a shrine dedicated to Adi Shankaracharya nearby. A shrine dedicated to Sri Sureshwaracharya is located to the right of Sarada temple. It has an ancient Shiva Linga and a marble statue of Sureshwara. There is a shrine dedicated to Sri Bala Subrahmanya near the bathing Ghat of Tunga. Sri Vidya Tirtha Mahaswamigal has installed this idol of Subrahmanya. To the west of Vidya Shankara temple, the Adhishthanas of some of the previous Acharyas of the Peetham are located. Sringeri has four guardian deities namely Durga, Anjaneya, Kali and Kala Bhairava respectively in the south, west, north and eastern directions.
The Acharyas of Sringeri worship Sri Chandramouleshwara Linga, Sri Nrisimha Salagrama, Srichakra and the idols of Sri Sarada and Sri Ratnagarbha Ganesha. Poojas are performed in all the four quarters of the night during Shiva Ratri, Narasimha Jayanti, Vamana Jayanti and Krishna Janmashtami. Navavarana Pooja is specially performed during the two Navaratras. The Chaturmasya Diksha starts with the Pooja of Brahmavidya Acharya on Ashada Pournami. None of these practices are seen in Revana Siddha Sampradaaya. During Chaturmasya Diksha, Pooja is offered to Sri Vedavyasa and his disciples Paila, Vaishampayana, Jaimini and Sumanta. Also, Pooja is offered to Sri Krishna Panchaka, which includes Sri Krishna, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatsujata, Sanatana and Sanatkumara. Pooja is also offered to Shankaracharya Panchaka, which includes Adi Shankara and his four chief disciples. The others worshipped include Dravida Panchaka (Dravidacharya, Gaudapaadaachaarya, Govinda Bhagavatpada, Sarvajnatma Muni and Sri Chitsukhacharya), Guru Panchaka (one's Guru, Paramaguru, Parameshthi Guru, Parapara Guru and Paratpara guru). Scholars recite Taittariyopanishat and Mahanarayanopanishat during the Pooja.