Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Greatness Of Sringeri Math And Acharyas


The Sharada Peetham at Sringeri is one of the oldest monasteries of the world which has been flourishing for over 1,200 years now. It is the first of the four/ five seats established by Acharya Shankara. Sharada Devi is the presiding deity and she represents the eternal Brahmavidya. Acharya Shankara also established the Supreme Sri Chakra in Sringeri. In fact, Shankara lived in Sringeri for 12 years and gave his chief disciple Sri Sureshwaracharya, the Sphatika Lingam of Sri Chandramoulishwara and the idol of Ganapathi which have been worshipped by a galaxy of successive Acharyas. The Math ever since has been presided over by Acharyas in unbroken succession which include such Jeevanmukthas as Swami Vidyaranya, Jagadguru Sri Narasimha Bharathi and Sri Chandrashekhara Bharathi.

In the line of succession of Acharyas to the Math, the most famous was Swami Vidyaranya, the sage who founded the Vijayanagar Empire in the 14th Century. He was the 12th Pontiff of the Math, having held the reigns for 5 years between 1381and 1386. True to his name, he was verily a Forest of Knowledge. Deeply proficient in scriptures, Sri Vidyaranya also displayed the same intelligence as the key architect in the establishment of the Vijayanagar Empire. In the 14th Century when the lives of Hindus and their Dharma in South India were threatened, Vidyaranya established the Hindu Samrajya and protected our Sanathana Dharma.

His Holiness Sri Abhinava Sachchidananda Bharathi-I was the 28th Pontiff who held office for 26 years from 1741-1767. Sometimes in 1760 he was invited by the then Maharaja of Mysore Sri Krisharaja Wodeyar II to Mysore. In commemoration of the visit of the holy man, the Maharaja made a gift of the Belavadi village and the adjoining hamlets to the Sringeri Math. A few years later, the State came under the rule of Hyder Ali. He also showed extreme reverence to the Sringeri Math. His son Tipu Sultan was also equally devoted to the Acharya and the Math. Tipu had arranged for a Sahasra Chandi Homam in Sringeri and bore all the expenses towards it, including plenty of Dakshinas to the Ritviks. Soon after the Homam, there were rains all over and brought immense relief to the parched areas. Tipu Sultan often used to say “Wherever His Holiness stays, he always ushers in plenty of rain”

After the death of Tipu Sultan, The British restored the State to the Wodeyars under the regency of Diwan Poorniah. During that period, Sri Sachhchidananda Bharathi-III was the 30th Pontiff of Sringeri Math between 1770 and 1784 and contemporaneous to Hyder and Tipu. Once he was on a visit to Srirangapatnam, the then capital, as a guest of the Sultan. Diwan Poorniah, a Madhwa Brahmin, had a prejudice against the Adwaitins and their Acharyas of the Sringeri Math. He thought that the Sringeri Acharya was leading a life of indolence in the midst of plenty. He was waiting for an opportunity to bring about Acharya’s discomfiture. The Acharya’s sojourn gave him an opportunity. He proposed a polemical contest between the Acharya and the most erudite scholars from Mysore. The Sringeri Acharya readily accepted the challenge on condition t that a curtain should be laid between him and the assembly during the intellectual debate.

Discussions began and soon reached high intellectual standard. To Poornaiah, it
appeared that he heard a woman’s voice behind the curtain. Unable to resist his curiosity, ha slightly pushed aside the curtain and peeped in. What a marvelous sight he saw! He
saw the radiant figure of Sri Sharada Devi discoursing in a sweet mellifluous voice. Suddenly, the divine figure transformed itself into that of the Acharya. Diwan Poorniah understood the whole situation and regretted his earlier hasty decision about the Acharya. Thereafter he became a devotee of the Acharya and as Regent of Mysore rendered signal service to the Sringeri Math and upheld its primacy over all the other Maths in the State.

One of the longest serving pontiffs of the Sringeri Math was Sri Sachchidananda Shivabhinava Narasimha Bharathi, who as the 33rd Pontiff was there for 46 years between 1866 and 1912. He was a great Tapaswin and a Jeevanmuktha. It was during his time that the observance of Sri Shankara Jayanthi was given its due importance all over the State. It was he who established beyond doubt Kalady as the birth place of Acharya Shankara and also as a great pilgrim centre. Sometime in March 1911, the Acharya was returning to Sringeri after finishing his Padayatra. Just a short time before he reached Sringeri, a fire had destroyed the shrine of Sharada Devi which was made of timber. But the moorthi of the Devi was not at all affected and even the flower garlands on the Devi had not withered. Commenting on this miraculous effect, the Acharya sang the following verse extempore: “The Kenopanishad has sung that Agni, Vayu and other Gods presiding over the elements of nature are powerless before the Supreme Light from whom they derive their powers. What wonder then that the moorthi of Sri Sharada was unscathed, her garlands and drapery intact, when flames licked the enclosing wooden structure”

One of the greatest saints to adorn the Sringeri Math was the 34th Pontiff H.H.Sri Chandrasekhar Bharathi between 1912 and 1954. He was a Jeevanmuktha who became the Head of the Sringeri Math at the age of 20. He was a great saint in the real sense of the term and had such rare power to transform, by a mere look, even the non-believers into believers. The Acharya’s life is a saga of intense devotion to the Guruparampara, great learning and yogic power through Tapas.

When numerous disciples approached the Acharya for permission to celebrate his 60th Janma Jayanthi which fell in October 1952, he discouraged the idea. However when it was later brought to his notice that the funds already collected would be utilized in performing Atirudra Yaga and Sahasra Chandi Homa to secure universal peace and prosperity, he agreed. The Yaga and Homa were performed in April 1953, months after the Janma Jayanthi Day. Thousands of devotees had gathered from all over the country to witness the unique function. The Acharya, however, remained in seclusion. He sent assurances that the Gods were pleased and as a token there was going to be a shower of rain. Even as the Acharya foretold, just after Poornahuthi on the conclusion of the Homa, there occurred a torrential downpour, quite unusual at Sringeri at that part of the year, and to the wonderment of the assembled throngs.

In September 1954 His Holiness took a decision to free himself from the fetters of the mortal body. On Sunday 26th September 1954, he got up very early in the morning, had Darshan of his Guru’s Samadhi and walked towards river Tunga, a servant following

him a few steps behind. He stepped into water without heeding the servant’s warning that the water was deep at that point. He advanced further into the current and had a dip. He
did Pranayama and dipped again. What the servant next saw was the Acharya’s body floating down the current. In consternation, he plunged into the river and managed to get hold of the Acharya but in the effort lost consciousness. Some one nearby who heard the shouts of the servant brought the two ashore. The servant was restored to life but nothing
could be done in the Acharya’s case. It was reported that the body of His Holiness was in
an erect sitting posture with legs crossed as at the time of contemplation. People were surprised to find that the two fingers of His Holiness’ right hand had assumed the Chinmudra Pose.[ The Chinmudra Pose can be seen in some of the photographs of Lord Ganesha and Acharya Shankara in their raised right hand posture. This is a complex hand gesture which subtly suggests the merging of the Ego represented by the index finger with the Thumb which represents Paramatman.]



B. M. N. Murthy

Created: Friday, February 6, 2009 8:40 PM


At January 30, 2012 at 7:08 AM , Blogger Shashank said...

Dear Sri Murthy,

wonderful article. though it is easier to count the grains of sand it is immpossible to know the greatness of Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati MahaSwami. We are conducting a MahaRudram to mark the Centenary of His Coronation in April of 2012 in Washington DC. We would like to extend you our invitation. Can you please send me an email or check our website and you can contact us from it directly -

Sorry for spamming your blog.


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