Spirituality Insight

Adi Shankaracharya

One of the most revered Hindu philosophers and proponents of Advaita Vedanta, Adi Shankaracharya is credited with the revival of Hinduism

By Madhuri.Y

Adi Shankaracharya, also known as Shankara Bhagavatpada, lived during early 8th century AD. According to legend, although Shankara wanted to take sanyasa at the tender age of eight, his mother would not give her consent. One day, while he bathed in the river Poorna, a crocodile caught his leg and Shankara requested his mother for permission during these last moments of his life. Once his mother gave consent, the crocodile let go of Shankara and he became a monk. He travelled north in search of a guru where he met Govinda Bhagavatpada, a disciple of Gaudapada, at Omkareshwar on the banks of the Narmada River.

When Bhagavatpada asked for Shankara’s identity, he replied with an extempore verse that brought out the Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Adi Shankaracharaya consolidated Advaita Vedanta with its philosophy of oneness – that there is no difference between the Brahman (Supreme) and the Atman (individual self). According to Advaita, Brahman alone is real, the rest being illusion. Bhagavatapada was impressed and took Shankara as his disciple. He then travelled across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers.


He strengthened Hinduism and established the four ‘mathas’ (monasteries). These are at Sringeri in Karnataka in the south, Dwaraka in Gujarat in the west, Puri in Orissa in the east, and Jyotirmath (Joshimath) in Uttarakhand in the north. These monastic centres were assigned one Veda each – Govardhana Pitham in the east with Rig Veda, Sringeri Sarada Pitham in the south with Yajur Veda, Dwarka Pitham in the west with Sama Veda and Jyotirmath Pitham in the north with Atharva Veda.

In Thrissur, four mathas – Naduvil Madhom, Thekke Madhom, Idayil Madhom and Vadakke Madhom – were founded by the disciples of Adi Shankaracharya after his samadhi at Vadakkunnathan Temple. He had composed many treatises and hymns, explaining Advaita Vedanta based on the truths in the Upanishads, the Brahamasutras and the Bhagavad Gita.

He is also believed to be the organiser of the Dashanami monastic order and the founder of the Shanmata tradition of worship. He composed five shlokas known as Manisha Panchakam. He also gained expertise in different forms of yoga – Hatha, Raja and Janana. Even though he passed away at the young age of 32, his impact on Hinduism and as a saint was impeccable.


Bhaja Govindam

Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
Govindam bhaja mooda mathe,
Samprápthe sannihite kale
Nahi nahi rakshati dukrunj karane

Adore the Lord, adore the Lord,
Adore the Lord, O fool!
When the appointed time (for departure) comes,
The repetition of grammatical rules will not save you.


Aadhou vijithya vishayan mada moha raga
-dweshadhi shathru ganamahrutha yoga rajya,
Jnathwamrutham samanu bhootha parathma vidhya,
Kanthasukha bhatha gruhe vicharanthi dhanya.

He is blessed, who wins over the enemies within
Of passion, desire, hatred and excess of emotions
And gets in to the kingdom of yoga and reaches
The deathless state, and lives happily with
The wife called knowledge in the house of reasoning.

Gita Jayanti

Revealed by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, the Bhagavad Gita is the Hindu holy text of selfrealisation.

It was the first day of the 18-day war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Seeing his brothers, uncles, and other relatives stand against him in battle, Arjuna lays down his weapons, refusing to fight. Lord Krishna explains to him, the truth of life and of karma and dharma, giving birth to the Bhagavad Gita.

Celebrating Gita Jayanti

While the Gita Jayanti day is relevant to all, it is celebrated with particular fervour with bhajans and puja by the devotees of Lord Krishna. All 700 verses of the Gita are read through the day.

At Kurukshetra, the birthplace of the Gita, Gita Jayanti Samaroh, a week-long celebration, is organised by the Kurukshetra Development Board. After reading from the Gita, discussions and seminars by scholars and priests are organised. Devotees from all over India take part in the ritual bath in the sacred ponds, the Sannihit Sarovar and the Brahm Sarovar. A fair is organised which lasts the week.
Shlokas are recited from the Gita and plays and dance are performed.

Gita Jayanti is a reminder of the great spiritual and philosophical teaching of the Bhagavad Gita.

What the Gita Teaches

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati Bharata;
Abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srijamyaham

Whenever and wherever there is a decline in righteousness and a predominance of unrighteousness, O descendant of Bharata, at that time I manifest Myself.

Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya cha dushkritam;
Dharma-sansthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge

to deliver the pious, to annihilate the wrongdoers, to re-establish righteousness, I appear millennium after millennium.

Vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya navani grhnati naro parani
Tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany anyani samyati navani dehi

Just as an individual discards old garments and wears new ones, so does the body-dweller discard old bodies and accepts new bodies.

Yam hi na vyathayantyete purusham purusharshabha
Samaduhkhasukham dheeram somrutatvaaya kalpate

the person who is not agitated by these (contact with material objects) O strongest of men, and can remain balanced in joy and sorrow, that wise person is fit for immortality.