Temple Name – Temple Of Sri Adi Shankaracharya
Main deity – Adi Shankaracharya, Goddess Saradamba
Location – Kalady, Kerala, India
Sri Adi Shankaracharya (or Sankaracharya, or Shankara, or Sankara) appeared in the spiritual scene of India, when the country was passing through a phase of tremendous spiritual identity crisis. This chaos was further catalyzed by the emergence of new faiths. Sri Adi Shankaracharya is recognized as one of the greatest Indian philosophers and his philosophy of Advaita is considered as the very foundation of Hinduism.
A shrine dedicated to Sri Adi Shankaracharya Temple was constructed at Kalady, Kerala, at the very location where he was born and lived the earlier parts of his life. It is situated on the banks of the River Periyar and is also dedicated to other Gods and Goddesses including Goddess Saradamba.
Two shrines, dedicated to Sri Adi Shankaracharya as Dakshinamoorthi and to Goddess Saradamba as the guardian deity of Sringeri respectively, are located in Kalady. The shrine dedicated to Goddess Saradamba is looked after by the Sringeri Shankara Mutt. The other major deities at the Temple of Sri Adi Shankaracharya are Brahmi, Varahi and Vinayaka or Lord Ganesha. The temple also hosts the Samadhi of Aryamba, mother of Sri Adi Shankaracharya.
Sri Shankaracharya was born to a Nambudiri Kerala Brahmin couple Sivaguru and Aryamba. At the mere age of 16 he had mastered the Vedas and was predicted by astrologers to become a Sarvajana or an all knowing saint. Later he established four mutts across the country i.e. Joshimath, Sringeri, Dwaraka and Puri. He was also given the honorific title of Jagadguru.
He played a very significant role in rescuing Hindu religion from superstitious degeneration. His philosophy of Advaita is considered to be the very foundation of Hinduism. His commentaries on the Vedas and the Upanishads are of significant relevance. Adi Shankaracharya was a master metaphysician, dexterous logician, ingenious philosopher and a massive moral and spiritual force. The philosophy of Adi Shankaracharya can be described in the verse: “Brahma Satyam Jagan Mithya Jivo Brahmaiva Na parah—Brahman (the Absolute) alone is real; this world is unreal; and the Jiva or the individual soul is non-different from Brahman.”
The only fact that is certain about Adi Shankaracharya is his birth place and family. There is no factual evidence to suggest the age he belonged to. There are two schools of thought i.e. the first suggests that Sri Adi Shankaracharya lived about 2500 years ago and the other suggests that he lived during the 8th Century A.D. The same controversy also exists regarding the attainment of Samadhi of the great saint.
The town of Kalady was obscure until the tireless efforts of Jagadguru Sri Sachidananda Shivabhinava Narasimha Bharathi Swamigal, the 33rd Peetathipathi of the Sringeri Guru Parampara. Another revered figure who brought the town to the forefront was Sri Moolam Thirunal Ramavarma Maharaja of Thiruvitamcore. Their endeavor made Kalady an international pilgrimage hub. Under their supervision two temples were established at Kalady i.e. one dedicated to Sri Adi Shankaracharya and other to Goddess Saradamba. The Kumbabhishekham for the temples were performed on the auspicious Magha Shukla Dwadasi day in the year 1910. The Maha Swamiji also established the celebration of Sri Shankara Jayanti and Navaratri at Kalady.
The other developments that took place in the recent past include the following:
- Establishment of Veda Vedanta Pathshala in 1927 by Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekhara Mahaswamigal
- Construction of Guest House for pilgrims by of Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahaswamigal
- The present peetapathi Sri Bharathi Theertha Mahaswamigal takes special interest in the promotion and propagation of educational institutions. The major educational establishments established by the peetapathi are as follows:
1. Sree Shankara College
2. Sree Sharada Vidyalayam
3. Adi Shankara Institute of Engineering and Technology
4. Adi Shankara Training College
5. The Rig-Veda Pathsala
6. Sri Sankara School of Dance and Music
7. Sree Shankaracharya University of Sanskrit (established in 1991)
There are numerous legends associated with Sri Adi Shankaracharya. Some of them are as follows:
- As per legend, he once diverted the course of the River Poorna to facilitate his aged mother’s daily ablutions. This is conspicuously evident from the unusual turn that the course of the river has taken near the Sringeri Mutt.
- As per another legend, one day Shiva Sharman Namboodiri, father of Adi Shankaracharya and also the priest of the nearby Manickamangalam Temple, requested Shankaracharya to visit the temple and offer milk to the Devi. He obeyed his father’s request and offered the milk to the Devi. However, he noticed that the measure of the milk remained unchanged. He started to cry on this observation and to appease the crying child the Devi drank the milk. References to this story can also be found in the Soundarya Lahari.
- As per another legend, Lord Shiva appeared in the dream of Sharman Namboodiri and said him that a white deer would be appearing in front of his house the next day. Upon following the deer, he will be able to find an idol, which would help him to worship the idol from his home, instead of travelling to the faraway temple.
- As per another legend, once Sri Shankaracharya had prayed so fervently to Lord Shiva in the Nayathodu Sankara Narayana temple that even Lord Vishnu came to reside in the temple.
- Another legend states that one day while roaming around the village for alms, Sri Shankaracharya came to the hut of a very poor lady. The lady offered Shankara a lone amla fruit, as she had nothing else to offer. On seeing her plight, Adi Shankaracharya pleaded with Mother Lakshmi to shower prosperity on the poor lady. Immediately, golden amlas began to shower from the roof of the hut. The hymn to Mother Lakshmi is famously known as Kanakadhara Strotam.
- As per another legend, to seek the permission of his mother for accepting Sanyas, Shankaracharya created a crocodile with his powers and entrapped himself to it. The crocodile stated that it would release Shankara only if she would allow him to take sanyas. Thus his mother accepted the condition of the crocodile and Shankara was able to take Sanyas.
- As per another legend, one day when Shankara was about take his bath, an outcaste appeared before him with four dogs and blocked his path. The enraged Shankara ordered him get away from his path. The outcaste then retorted back, “Whom are you asking to get away, the body or the soul? The soul is pure and omnipresent. Is there any difference in the reflection of the moon seen in the Ganges or in a wine cup? As for the body, it is inert; can it move away?” The mesmerized Shankara then realized that the outcaste was the Lord of Kashi and he soon fell at his feet. He soon started chanting the Advaitic hymn, which was later to become extremely popular as the Manishapanchaka or the Five Verses of Human Wisdom.
The Sri Adi Shankaracharya Temple at Kalady is of tremendous cultural significance, as it symbolizes the great Sri Adi Shankaracharya and his massive contribution to Hinduism. The temple commemorates the great deeds of the Sadguru and his tireless efforts directed towards the upliftment of human spirituality. The Sri Sadvidya Sanjivini Rig Veda Pathshala is also a very unique institution, disseminating the knowledge of the Vedas and the Shastras in the traditional method.
The Sri Adi Shankaracharya Temple in Kalady has two major shrines dedicated to Sri Adi Shankaracharya and Goddess Saradamba. The major features of the temple are as follows:
- The temple complex consists of a Keerthi Mandapam, a Geeta Upadesam center and a Paduka Mandapam. There are a few other shrines dedicated to Gods and Goddesses.
- The top floor of the mandapam hosts a magnificent statue of Sri Adi Shankaracharya along with his four disciples. The walls of the temple are elaborately adorned with paintings depicting the life and works of Sri Adi Shankaracharya.
- The design of the temple is in the Shodaskona form i.e. it has 16 edges representing the 16 divine arts.
- The Goddess Saradamba temple depicts Goddess Saradamba in the Ashtapadma form. The Ashtapadma represents the eight petals of the Hrudaya kamal.
- The three popular ghats adjacent to the temple are Crocodile Ghat, Samadhi Ghat of mother Aryadevi and Kalady Kadavu.
The other major pilgrimage sites of Kalady are as follows:
- Adi Shankara Keerthi Sthampa Mandapam- Eight storey memorial constructed by Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt.
- The Ramakrishna Advaita Ashram- It is adjacent to the Sri Krishna Temple and has been modeled on the Ramakrishna Ashram in Belur Math.
- Brindavan of Aryamba- This is the holy spot where Aryamba, mother of Sri Adi Shankaracharya, was cremated.
- Sri Krishna temple- Located in the western side of the Sringeri Mutt, the Sri Krishna Temple is built in the typical Kerala style of architecture.
- Nayathodu Sankara Narayana Temple
- Thekke Madhom- Founded by Sri Shankaracharya and is located adjacent to the Sri Krishna Temple.
Festivals & Worships
The major festivals celebrated in the Sri Shankaracharya Temple are as follows:
- Sri Shankara Jayanti
- Sarada Sarannavarathri