Felt like writing about “How I know about Adi Shankara” after reading some threads.

For a person belonging to a family of Advaita Tradition, this is a bit of a non-issue, yet it is important to represent my journey of knowing Adi Shankara.

Given the background, an Adi Shankara photograph was always there at home. Prominently in the living room, centrally in the Pooja Room.

Bookmarks were Adishankara card photographs. The “Prasanna-Vadana” of Bhagavatpada with his 4 Shishya-s was a timeless reality at home.

Not just that, at every single relative of mine, had a similar photograph/picture configuration in their houses. So, you grew up seeing those photographs all the while.

Plus Shlokas composed by Adi Shankara, Shlokas on Adi Shankara all the time at home.

Among the very first stories that I was told, Adi Shankara was one. Most of these stories are from Madhaviya Shankara Vijayam - a 14th Century Sanskrit composition.

But I listened to from my mother with a cultural intensity & importance. After Ramayana but before Mahabharata.

Where I grew up, Adi Shankara’s presence was visibly large - Malleshwaram. Even Otherwise, Bangalore in general, Karnataka in particular - you could find an Adi Shankara presence everywhere.

Nobody would have missed to identify Adi Shankara from his photograph in those times.

Shankarapuram and Sringeri Shankara Math were in the heart of the City, next to Basavanagudi. You invariably passed through those areas even if you did not ever enter. It was impossible to be not influenced by the cultural atmosphere of Shankarapuram.

You had innumerable temples with Shankara Math affiliation and you would invariably have a Shankaracharya Vigraha - everywhere.

In addition, you would have other Institutions like Chinmaya Mission, Ramakrishna Mission where you would invariably see Adi Shankara.

Now, this much in Karnataka was true of not just Adi Shankara but Madhvacharya & Ramanujacharya too. Mother made sure that I knew Madhva and Ramanuja in a reasonable measure and an oversimplified version of the respective Siddhanta-s.

The Trimatastha-Acharyas were everywhere.

Now the next Phase - the presence of Adi Shankara in the common Kannada literature.

Kuvempu’s Naadageete, now the State Anthem, has “Shankara Ramanuja Vidyaranya Basaveshwara Madhvara Divyaranya” marking all the prominent Sanatana personalities as being present in Karnataka.

Literally every Navodaya Sahiti, Navya Sahiti, Bandaya Sahiti and every other Sahitya movement wrote something about Adi Shankara - so the Bhagavatpada was always in public conversation.

As a child, of course, you noticed only songs and stories and likes.

Of course, before I knew all this, mother taught some Shlokas too of Adi Shankara. But was put to Chinmaya Balavihar, which then taught innumerable number of Shlokas attributed to Adi Shankara. Scholars may disagree on the attribution but the folklore continues.

By now, I had heard of Brahmasutra-Bhashya, Upanishad-Bhashya, Geeta-Bhashya etc., probably by Primary school. Read ACK on Adishankara.

Every home I visited had some story books on the Acharya. So, one always read something about him.

Upanayana on the Shankara Jayanthi is considered the most auspicious in the Tradition. Innumerable kids were initiated on this day, which never went unnoticed.

As an aside, mine too was performed on the same day.

Thereafter, a very personal journey started.

Spent 21 days twice in a Camp organised by Sringeri Shankara Math during summer holidays. Ensured an exceptional initiation into the Tradition - including Veda Chanting.

Everything there, of course, Adi Shankara. A Blessing.

In the midst of all this, GV Iyer, the great Kannada Film Maker, made “Adi Shankaracharya” in Sanskrit. In such a secular era, it was produced by none other than the NFDC.

Was lucky to watch a special screening organised by the Matha and even listen to a lecture by GV Iyer.

By this time, a visit to Shankarapuram Sringeri Math was very common.

Interestingly, I had not visited Sringeri yet, but it was already a part of my consciousness. I had my own imagination of Sringeri - which changed only when I visited eventually many years later.

Similarly, Kalady (pronounced Kalati in Kannada) was always a village outside Bangalore. Poorna Nadi was somewhere very close - reachable whenever I wanted.

Narmada Nadi, where he met Govinda Bhagavatpada, was a fascination. Always wanted to see the River.

And those 18 Steps he climbed to discuss and debate with Sanskrit Scholars at Sharada Peetha, Kashmira was a must visit location.

Shankara’s deep love and empathy for his mother very touching.

But the most influencing impression of Adi Shankara from my childhood was his discussion and debate with Mandana Mishracharya and the subsequent debate with Ubhaya Bharathi.

This story alone ensured that I never fully bought into Left Liberal narratives on ancient Bharata.

And that exceptional experience of watching Sarvadaman Banerjee as Adi Shankara in the movie. What a beautiful movie. Whatever image I had of Adi Shankara and the story was only further enhanced by the movie.

There is a scene where Adishankara walks alone in Kedarnath area - the sheer beauty of acting, direction and cinematography.

I was constantly reminded of that scene - even as Shri. Narendra Modi inaugurated Adi Shankara Statue 2 days back. Proud that a Mysorean sculpted it.


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6 Nov
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There is an entirely alternative history out here.

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“May they prosper forever” - the Yadukula Santana.

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