Not much is known of Kabir's birth parents, but it is known that he was brought
up in a family of Muslim weavers. He was found by a Muslim weaver named Niru
and his wife, Nima, in Lehartara, situated in Varanasi. They adopted the boy and
taught him the weaver's trade.
The story is told that on one particular day of the year, anyone can become a
disciple by having a master speak the name of God over him. It is common for
those who live near the Ganges to take their morning bath there in the sacred
waters. The bhakti saint Ramananda was in the habit of arising before dawn to
take his bath. On this special day too, he awoke before dawn and found his way
down to the steps of the Ganges. As he was walking down the steps to the
waters, a little hand reached out and grabbed the saint's big toe. Ramananda was
taken by surprise, and he involuntarily called out the name of God. Looking down,
he saw in the early morning light the hand of the young Kabir. After his bath, he
noticed that on the back of the little one's hand was written in Arabic the name
Kabir. He adopted him as son and disciple and brought him back to his ashrama,
much to the consternation of his Hindu students, some of whom left in protest.
Not much is known about what sort of spiritual training Kabir may have received.
He did not become a sadhu, nor did he ever abandon worldly life. Kabir chose
instead to live the balanced life of a householder and mystic, a tradesman and
Kabir's family is believed to have lived in the locality of Kabir Chaura in Varanasi.
Kabir Math (कबìर मठ), a temple of sorts located in the back alleys of Kabir Chaura,
celebrates the life and times of Kabir. Accompanying the property is a house
named "Niru Teela" (नìर टìलï) which houses Niru and Nima's graves.  The
house also accommodates students and scholars who live there and study Kabir's
Kabir was influenced by the prevailing religious mood of his times, such as old
Brahmanic Hinduism, Hindu and Buddhist Tantrism, the teachings of Nath yogis
and the personal devotionalism of South India mixed with the imageless God of
Islam. The influence of these various doctrines is clearly evident in Kabir's
verses. Eminent historians like R.C. Majumdar, P.N. Chopra, B.N. Puri and M.N.
Das have held that Kabir is the first Indian saint to have harmonised Hinduism
and Islam by preaching a universal path which both Hindus and Muslims could
tread together. But there are a few critics who contest such claims.
The basic religious principles he espoused are simple. According to Kabir, all life is
an interplay of two spiritual principles. One is the personal soul (Jivatma) and the
other is God (Paramatma). It is Kabir's view that salvation is the process of
bringing these two divine principles into union. The incorporation of much of his
verse in Sikh scripture, and the fact that Kabir was a predecessor of Guru Nanak,
have led some western scholars to mistakenly describe him as a forerunner of
His greatest work is the Bijak (the "Seedling"), an idea of the fundamental one.
This collection of poems elucidates Kabir's universal view of spirituality. Though
his vocabulary is replete with Hindu spiritual concepts, such as Brahman, karma
and reincarnation, he vehemently opposed dogmas, both in Hinduism and in
Islam. His Hindi was a vernacular, straightforward kind, much like his
philosophies. He often advocated leaving aside the Qur'an and Vedas and simply
following Sahaja path, or the Simple/Natural Way to oneness in God. He believed
in the Vedantic concept of atman, but unlike earlier orthodox Vedantins, he
followed this philosophy to its logical end by spurning the Hindu societal caste
system and worship of murti, showing clear belief in both bhakti and Sufi ideas.
The major part of Kabir's work as a bhagat was collected by the fifth Sikh guru,
Guru Arjan Dev, and forms a part of the Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib.
While many ideas reign as to who his living influences were, the only Guru of
whom he ever spoke was Satguru. Hence one does not find any mention of
human gurus in his verses.
Kabir composed in a pithy and earthy style, replete with surprise and inventive
imagery. His poems resonate with praise for the true guru who reveals the divine
through direct experience, and denounce more usual ways of attempting god-
union such as chanting, austerities, etc. Kabir, being illiterate, expressed his
poems orally in vernacular Hindi. His verses often began with some strongly
worded insult to get the attention of passers-by. Kabir has enjoyed a revival of
popularity over the past half century as arguably the most accessible and
understandable of the Indian saints, with a special influence over spiritual
traditions such as those of Sant Mat, Garib Das and Radha Soami.[citation
Kabir in popular culture
There are several allusions to Kabir's poetry in mainstream Indian film music. The
title song of the Sufi fusion band Indian Ocean's album Jhini is an energetic
rendering of Kabir's famous poem "The intricately woven blanket", with influences
from Indian folk, Sufi traditions and progressive rock.
Documentary filmmaker Shabnam Virmani, from the Kabir Project, has produced
a series of documentaries and books tracing Kabir's philosophy, music and poetry
in present day India and Pakistan. The documentaries feature Indian folk singers
such as Prahlad Tipanya, Mukhtiyar Ali and the Pakistani Qawwal Fareed Ayaz.
Kabir's poetry has appeared prominently in filmmaker Anand Gandhi's films Right
Here Right Now and Continuum
The great poet who composed the 'Ramacharita manasa'. His boyhood was one of
poverty and suffering; but yet he became a great scholar. One word spoken by his
wife brought him a realization of his true goal; he became a devotee of Lord Sri
Rama. And this poet-saint showed thousands of people the way to a meaningful
'Tulasi Ramayana' is a very famous and great epic of North India. It relates the
story of Sri Rama.
It was written by Goswami Tulasidas. (Goswami means one who has renounced
the world and has become a sanyasi, that is, an ascetic.) That is why it was
popularly known as Tulasi Ramayana.
Tulasidas gave it the title, 'Ramacharitamanasa'.
Valmiki, the first poet, told the story of Sri Rama in his 'Ramayana'; after him
hundreds of poets have retold it in their own way. 'Tulasi Ramayana' is one of the
most popular and venerated Ramayanas.
Many poets of our country were saints. They were great scholars as well as great
devotees. They lived as rishis. Goswami Tulasidas too was a great scholar well
versed in Vedic lore, philosophy and mythology. People say that Tulasidas, by
virtue of his perfect devotion, was so fortunate as to meet Anjaneya, the
renowned servant of Sri Rama. It is said Anjaneya helped him to see with his own
eyes Sri Rama and Lakshmana. Tulasidas declared: 'Bhakti is the only way leading
to God's grace. Sri Rama is the Supreme God (Parabrahma). He is the ideal man.
And he is the Lord of this world. His words and deeds themselves form the code
of human conduct in this world.'
In his 'Ramayana' Tulasidas has narrated the story of Sri Rama; he has also
taught the principles of right living through different characters. The lessons
taught in that work are valid to this day.
The epic gives beautiful pictures of the right relation between father and children,
and of the affection among brothers. It also shows how the husband and the wife,
mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, should conduct themselves.
Tulasidas describes the affection of a teacher for his disciples and the respect of
the disciples for their teacher. But his poem is not just a moral Piece. Tulasidas
has narrated the story of Sri Rama in a moving and delightful way. As we read it
we feel as if we see Rama, Seetha and Lakshmana before our very eyes
The Age Of Tulasidas
Goswami Tulasidas was born at the close of the 15th century and lived upto the
beginning of the 17th century.
It was a bad period for the Hindus. They had lost their freedom and had to
struggle hard to maintain their unity. All their scriptures were in Sanskrit; so
many people found them difficult to understand.
As the Hindus had no freedom, it was difficult for them even to attempt to
expound the ideas of their religion.Women and also some groups among the
Hindus did not have equality.
This state of affairs made gifted and liberal-minded poets unhappy.
Sri Ramananda was a disciple of Sri Ramanujacharya, the founder of the
Srivaishnava faith. He and his disciples lived in North India. He opened the doors
of 'Bhakti' (devotion) to all and brought hope into the lives of the masses.
It was at this time that Sri Ramananda spread the cult of Rama Bhakti by
preaching that Rama is the protector of all people. Saint Kabirdas extolled the
greatness of 'Rama - the formless God' saying that Ram and Rahim were not
different. Thus he tried to bring about unity among the Hindus and the Muslims.
Sri Tulasidas set before the people the image of Sri Rama as all virtuous, all
powerful, the Lord of the World, and the very embodiment of the Supreme Reality
He gave them the light of 'Bhakti' and thus dispelled the darkness of fear from
their minds. Sri Rama shone as an ideal man and the protector.
Opinions differ regarding the exact date and place of birth of Sri Tulasidas. The
majority of scholars hold that Sri Tulasidas was born in Rajapur of Uttar Pradesh
in the year 1544 of the Vikrama Era (that is, 1488 A. D.). Some scholars say that
he was born in 1532 A. D. Others mention different other dates also
Forsaken By His Own Father
Atmaram Dube of Rajapur was a great scholar in Vedic literature and astrology.
His wife was Hulasibai. They were happy in every way but had no children. They
worshipped Anjaneya and,prayed to him with devotion to bless them with a son.
One auspicious day Hulasibai gave birth to a beautiful baby son.
The newborn babe started saying 'Ram, Ram' instead of crying. So it was given
the name Rama Bola (one who said Ram). So goes a story.
Tularam was a baby of a few days when he lost his mother. His father also forsook
him. People give many reasons for this. Here is one story. Pandit Dube cast the
horoscope of his son. All the planets were favorable. But the child's star? The star
was 'Moola'. The father thought, 'This is a bad star. It will bring me bad luck. I
must go away. Otherwise I am doomed.'
He left the town once and for all. The unfortunate child was brought up by his old
grand-mother. Thus Tularam lost the love and the care of both the father and the
He became the favorite of all his neighbors. They tended him, and played with
him, gave him something to eat and blessed him.
When Tularam was able to stand on his legs, he began to go round the town
begging for food. He lived on whatever he got.
In one of his songs Tulasidas recalls how exceedingly difficult it was for him, as a
boy, to get even four grains of gram.
After a few years his grandmother passed away. Then he became the child of the
whole town. The devotees gave him to eat whatever was offered to God and that
was his daily food. "The temple is my shelter. God is my father and mother,"
Tulasidas has said. "Anjaneya is my father who fed and brought me up" says
Tulasidas recollecting those childhood days; he then actually lived in a temple of
Anjaneya and every day partook of the food offered to God there
Naraharidas was a reputed scholar, philosopher and storyteller (he gave
discourses on mythological stories of devotion). Once he came to Rajapur. He
stayed in the temple of Anjaneya. At the request of the people he began a series
of discourses on the Ramayana.
Tularam was filled with pleasurable excitement. Discourses of this type, which
blended music and literature, were a feast to him. He used to attend them every
day without fail. Devotion to Rama lay like a seed in his heart; as he listened to
the discourses, it began to sprout.
Every day the boy sat right in front of Naraharidas and listened to the' discourse
with rapt attention. and also the boy joined the general Bhajan, singing
melodiously. Naraharidas grew interested in the lad. He saw the boy's handsome
looks, hisdelicate figure, large eyes and prominent forehead, and the bright
radiant face. He recognized the mysterious power in the boy. He pitied him when
be learnt that he was an orphan. One day he asked the boy. "Will you be my
disciple?" Tularam touched his feet with reverence and burst into tears.
Naraharidas lifted him up and patted him on the back.
From that day Tularam became a disciple of Pandit Naraharidas. In one of his
songs Tulasidas has said of this incident, 'I got for my Master God Parameswara
Himself in human form.'
After his discourses in RajapurNaraharidas set out for another place. Tularam
bowed to Lord Anjaneya and followed his master.
Wherever Naraharidas went Tularam went with him. His duty was to sing Ram
Bhajan before and discourse began. He sang melodiously. The whole day was
spent in studies. The master taught him various subjects like the Vedas, the
Upanishads, philosophy, mythology and languages - Sanskrit and Prakrit. Bhajans
were held at night. Thus they traveled far and wide for fourteen years and came
to Soro in Uttar Pradesh. By that time Tularam had mastered all subjects. He was
acquainted with the life of the people. He could sing much better than his master.
He could not only give discourses on the Ramayana, but also compose poems.
Naraharidas felt extremely happy at his disciples, accomplishments.
Marriage And Renunciation
Tularam had attained scholarship in all branches of learning; the teacher
Naraharidas himself arranged for his marriage.
Tularam married Ratnavali, a very beautiful and accomplished daughter of a
Brahmin by name Deenabandhu Pathak.
Parting from his master who loved him more than a father was very painful to
Tularam. Yet bound by the master’s wish and his own duty he became a
Tularam had everything-good looks, youth, education, honour and a good income
too. Rich people used to invite him now and then to their houses, honour him and
offer him money.
His wife Ratnavali was a beautiful and a virtuous girl. Tulararn loved her very
much. They led a happy life. No wonder that, in his state of joy and contentment,
he thought less and less about God.
He loved his wife so much that for years he did not send her to her parents’
house at all.
One day Pandit Tularam went to neighboring village to give a discourse.
The some day Ratnavali's brother came to see her. Ratnavali had not as much as
glanced at her parents' house ever since her marriage; when she saw her brother
she remembered her parent and began to weep.
The brother in fact had come only to take her home. He comforted his sister. He
said, "Come, let us go home sister you can stay with us for a few days and come
back. Mother is longing to see you". Ratnavali loved her parents’ home so much
that for a moment she decided to go. But she hesitated. She said, "My husband is
not at home. How can I come without his consent? Besides he cannot bear to be
without me event for a short time. Let him come home; you can talk to him about
I too will request him. Then we can go."
But the brother argued with her and persuaded her. She locked up the house and
left the key with the neighbor and said: "Please give this key to my husband
when he comes home, and tell him that I am returning the day after tomorrow."
She then went with her brother.
It was dark when Pandit Tularam came home. When the neighbor gave him the
key and his wife’s message, he became very angry. Without his wife the house
looked bleak as a cave. Every hour his boredom grew. He lay down but could not
sleep. It was past midnight. He' decided to go to his father-in-law's house. And he
started at once.
It was the month of Shravana. The sky was heavily overcast with clouds. It was
dark all around. He had just stepped out of his house when there was a heavy
downpour of rain accompanied by thunder and lightning.
But Tularam did not change his mind. He walked on getting wet in the rain, and
came to the banks of the river Ganga. The river was in full floods. He asked the
ferryman to take him across the river.
"What? You wish to cross the flood, in this rain and wind? Impossible," said! the
At the sight of the racing walkers of the Ganga in floods, Tularam's heart sank.
But the infatuation for his wife drove him on. He gathered courage, tucked up his
dhoti firmly and jumped into the river. He swam against the current and reached
the other bank.
He did not stop even to wring –his clothes.
He raced to his wife's house and shouted, 'Ratnavali, Ratnavali'.
Ratnavali wondered who could have come in such heavy rain. She opened the
door and there stood Tularam! His clothes were all wet and water was dripping.
He was shivering with cold.
Ratnavali was amazed. She was also happy to think of his intense love for her. At
the same time she pitied his condition. Could he not stay alone for one day? How
foolhardy it was to swim across the river in high floods! The thought made her
She said, "What can I say, my lord? Aren't you ashamed of yourself? You have
come running after me! If you had the same intense love for Sri Rama, He
Himself would have appeared to you. Then you would have been saved from the
cycle of births."
These words of his wife struck Tularam like a thunderbolt. Drenched in the rain he
was shivering, but now he began to perspire. His mind reeled and his heart was in
turmoil. The veil of attachment that had covered his devotion was torn asunder.
He went away without looking back even once.
What happened to Ratnavali after, Tulasidas left her? We do not know. Tulasidas
has not mentioned her name anywhere in his books.
Template:Bhagat Ravidasi Ji (shri babu banta ram ghera ji founder of guru ravidas
ji birth place) The details of Guru Ravidas' life are controversial. According to
some he was born in 1376/7 or else 1399 CE but many scholars offer later dates.
Schaller estimates his lifespan as 1450-1520 while the Encyclopædia
Britannica contents itself with a floreat of 15th-16th century CE. Partly this is
due to traditions that make him, one one hand, like his contemporary Kabir the
disciple of Ramananda (he is mentioned as such c.1600 CE in Nabhadas'
Bhaktamal) but also, on the other, the guru of Meera (according to a song
attributed to her: "guru miliyaa raidasjee"). However, as Schaller points out,
the importance of such claims lies in their establishing the authority of a lineage
of gurus (parampara).
One may count oneself a disciple of a master without having actually met him.
His origin and parents are likewise given differently. According to one account he
was born in a village named Sri Govardhan, near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India:
his father Baba Santokh Das was a leather merchant (chamar) and Mata Kalsa
Devi was his mother. His father got him married to Mata Lona Devi at early age
and according to the Ravidas Purana he had a son named Vijaydas. A region
between Ahmednagar and Benares is named after him.
The queen of Chittorgarh is said to have been a disciple (this may be connected
with Meera, who was married to the ruler of Chittorgarh). It is said that the
conservative Brahmins of Kashi could not stand the popularity of this
"untouchable saint". A complaint was made to the king that he was working
against age-old norms of social order (varnashrama dharma) - a cobbler was not
supposed to talk of God or do work of advising or teaching.
The ruler arranged for an assembly of learned men. Ravidas was also invited and
was felicitated publicly. A procession was arranged (shobha yatra) and the king
Today he is respected, as when Bangaru Laxman (Organiser, 6-8-1995) accused
Congress leader Sitaram Kesri of showing "disrespect to Dalit saints like Ravidas,
Satyakam Jabali, Sadhna Kasai, Banka Mahar, Dhanna Chamar and others who
protected Hindus against foreign onslaughts." 
 Songs and teachings
अब क स छ ट रïम, नïम रट लïगì |
पभजì तम चन¯न हम पïनì, जïकì अग अग बïस समïनन |
पभजì तम घन बन हम मìरï, जस नचतवत चन¯ चकìरï |
पभजì तम मìतì हम धïगï, जस सìन नमलत सहïगï |
पभजì तम सवïमì हम ¯ïसï, ऐसì भन¬ कर र ¯ïसï
How to escape? I recite the name Ram.
Lord, if you are sandalwood, I am water;
With the fragrance in all parts of my body.
Lord, if you are a cloud, I am a peacock;
Looking for you like a chakora for the moon.
Lord, if you are a lamp, I am the wick;
With a light burning day and night.
Lord, if you are a pearl, I am the thread;
Together like gold and bracelet.
Lord, you are the master and I servant;
thus is the devotion of Raidas.
This song demonstrates several key facets of Ravidas' sant bhakti. The use of the
name Ram for god establishes him as a Vaishnava. His devotion is that of the
disciple to the master, as exemplified by Rama's commander Hanuman in the
Ramayana. Yet his similes for the divine - water, cloud, light, gold - suggest the
formless and state that he himself is inseparable from that formless yet that he is
the one who gives it form.
Ravidas, also spelt as Raidas, was an Indian saint of 15th century. He belonged
to a family of leather workers. Traditionally, in Hinduism such families belong to
Shudra group, the lowest level of traditional Hindu society. However, he became a
disciple of Ramananda, another famous saint of that time. Ravidas became a
great philosopher. He became an important supporter of Vaishanava bhakti
movement, and wrote and explained about the cult of Vaishanavism. Some of his
verses found place in Guru Granth Sahib, the main text of Sikhism.
Mirabai, a Rajput lady of a royal family of Rajasthan, was one of the followers of
Ravidas. Even after 500 years millions of Hindus of all castes, including people
who belong to highest Hindu castes, give respect to saint Ravidas. They follow his
teachings and consider him their Guru, the teacher.
Chaos pervaded all through India in the matter of religion and philosophy. Sect
after sect, such as Charvakas, Lokayathikas, Kapalikas, Shaktas, Sankhyas,
Buddhas and Madhyamikas sprang up. The number of religions rose as high as
seventy-two. There was fight amongst sects. There was no peace anywhere.
Chaos and confusion reigned supreme. There was superstition and bigotry.
Darkness prevailed over the once happy land of Rishis, sages and Yogins. The
once glorious land of the Aryans was in a miserable state. Such was the state of
the country at the time which just preceded the Avatara (incarnation) of
The existence of Vedic Dharma in India today is due to Sankara. The forces
opposed to Vedic religion were more numerous and powerful at the time of
Sankara than they are today. Still, single-handed, within a very short time,
Sankara overpowered them all and restored the Vedic Dharrna and Advaita
Vedanta to its pristine purity in the land.
The weapon he used was pure knowledge and spirituality. The previous Avataras,
like Rama and Krishna, used physical forces because the obstacles to Dharma in
those days arose from the physical obstructions and molestations of the Asuras
(demons). The menace to Dharma in the Kali age (age of destruction) arose from
obstacles that were more internal than external, more mental than physical. The
seeds of Adharma (unrighteousness) were then working in the minds of almost
everyone. Hence the evil had to be combated purely by the weapon of knowledge
and self-purification. It was in order to forge this weapon and wield it with
efficacy that Sankara took birth in the Brahmin Varna (caste) and entered the
Sannyasa (renunciate) order early in life. The previous Avataras like Rama and
Krishna took birth in the Kshatriya Varna (warrior caste), because in their days
they had to wield military weapons in the restoration of Dharma.
All are no doubt aware of the very important position assigned to Sankaracharya
in the history of Indian philosophy. It can be affirmed, without any fear of
contradiction, that Bharata Varsha would have ceased to be Bharata Varsha
several centuries ago and would never have survived the murderous sword, the
devastating fire and the religious intolerance of the successive invaders, if
Sankara had not lived the life he lived and taught the lessons he taught. And
those lessons are still pulsating in every cell and in every protoplasm of the true
aspirant and the true Hindu.
Sankara was born in a very poor family in the year 788 A.D. in a village named
Kaladi, six miles to the east of Alwaye, Kerala. Kaladi is a railway station, on the
Kochi-Shoranur rail link. Sankara was a Nambudiri Brahmin. Rajasekhara, a
Zamindar (a rich landlord), built a Siva temple in Kaladi and formed an Agrahara
for Brahmins who were in the service of the temple. Vidyadhiraja was doing Puja
(worship) in the temple. He had only a son named Sivaguru. Sivaguru studied the
Shastras and married at the proper age. He had no child. He and his wife
Aryamba prayed to Lord Siva to bless them with a son. A son was born to them in
the Vasanta Ritu or the spring season at noon, in the auspicious Abhijit Muhurta
and under the constellation Ardhra. This son was Sankara.
Sivaguru died when Sankara was seven years old. Sankara had none to look after
his education. His mother was an extraordinary woman. She took special care to
educate her son in all the Shastras. Sankara's Upanayana or thread ceremony
was performed in his seventh year, after the death of his father. Sankara
exhibited extraordinary intelligence in his boyhood. When he was only sixteen, he
became a master of all the philosophies and theologies. He began to write
commentaries on the Gita, the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras when he was
only sixteen years old. What a great marvel!
Sankara's mother was consulting astrologers about horoscopes of suitable girls
for her son's marriage. But Sankara had a firm resolve to renounce the world and
become a Sannyasin. Sankara's mother was very much grieved that there would
be no one to perform her funeral rites after her death. Sankara gave full
assurance to his mother that he would always be ready to serve her at the death-
bed and perform the usual funeral rites. Even then his mother was not satisfied.
One day, Sankara and his mother went to take bath in the river. Sankara plunged
into the water and felt that a crocodile was dragging him by the foot. He shouted
out to his mother at the top of his voice: "O dear mother! A crocodile is dragging
me down. I am lost. Let me die peacefully as a Sannyasin. Let me have the
satisfaction of dying as a Sannyasin. Give me your permission now. Let me take
The mother immediately allowed him to take Sannyasa. Sankara took Apath-
sannyasa (the adoption of Sannyasa when death is near) at once. The crocodile
let him go unharmed. Sankara came out of the water as a nominal Sannyasin. He
again repeated his promise to his mother. He left her under the care of his
relatives and gave away his little property to them. He then proceeded to find out
a Guru with a view to get himself formally initiated into the sacred order of
In Search of a Guru
Sankara met Swami Govindapada Acharya in a hermitage in Badrikashram
(Badrinath) in the Himalayas and he prostrated at the teacher's feet. Govinda
asked Sankara who he was. Sankara replied: "O revered Guru! I am neither fire
nor air nor earth nor water-none of these, but the Immortal Atma (Self) that is
hidden in all names and forms". He also said in the end: "I am the son of
Sivaguru, a Brahmin of Kerala. My father died in my childhood. I was brought up
by my mother. I have studied the Vedas and the Shastras under a teacher. I took
Apath-sannyasa when a crocodile caught my foot while I was taking bath in the
river. Kindly initiate me formally into the holy order of Sannyasa".
Swami Govinda was very much pleased with the truthful narration given by
Sankara. Having initiated him and invested him with the robe of a Sannyasin,
Swami Govinda taught him the philosophy of Advaita which he himself had learnt
from his Guru-Gaudapada Acharya. Sankara learnt all the philosophical tenets
from his Guru Govindapada. Govinda asked Sankara to go to Kashi. Sankara
proceeded to Kashi where he wrote all his famous commentaries on the Brahma
Sutras, the Upanishads and the Gita and successfully met all the criticisms
levelled against them. He then began to propagate his philosophy. Sankara had
the greatest esteem for his Guru Govindapada and his Parama Guru or the
teacher's teacher, Gaudapada.
Sankara's philosophical conquests are unique in the world. He had his triumphant
tour all over India. He met the leaders of different schools of thought. He
convinced them by arguments and established the supremacy and truth of the
religion that he expounded in his commentaries. He went to all the celebrated
seats of learning. He challenged the learned men to discussion, argued with them
and converted them to his opinions and views. He defeated Bhatta Bhaskara and
condemned his Bhashya (commentary) on the Vedanta Sutras. He then met
Dandi and Mayura and taught them his philosophy. He then defeated in argument
Harsha, author of Khandana Khanda Kadya, Abhinavagupta, Murari Misra,
Udayanacharya, Dharmagupta, Kumarila and Prabhakara.
Sankara then proceeded to Mahishmati. Mandana Misra was the chief Pundit of
the court of Mahishmati. Mandana was brought up in the Karma Mimamsa faith
and so he had intense hatred for the Sannyasins. He was performing a Sraaddha
ceremony when Sankara somehow dropped down there. Immediately Mandana
Misra became very furious. An ugly conversation was started when the Brahmins,
who were present there for dinner, interposed and pacified Mandana Misra. Then
Sankara challenged Mandana to a religious controversy. Mandana agreed. Bharati
who was the wife of Mandana Misra and who possessed scholarly erudition was
appointed as the umpire. It was agreed beforehand that Sankara, if defeated,
would become a householder and marry; and that Mandana, if defeated, would
become a Sannyasin and receive the robe of a Sannyasin from the hands of his
own wife. The controversy began in right earnest and continued for days without
any interruption. Bharati did not sit and listen to their controversy. She threw two
garlands, one each over the shoulders of each of the disputants, and said: "He
whose garland begins to fade first should consider himself defeated". She left the
place and began attending to her household duties. The controversy went on for
seventeen days. The garland of Mandana Misra began to fade first. Mandana
Misra accepted his defeat and offered to become a Sannyasin and follow Sankara.
Bharati was an Avatara of Sarasvati, the Goddess of Learning. Once the sage
Durvasa chanted the Vedas before Brahma and his wife in a big assembly.
Durvasa committed a small mistake. Sarasvati laughed at it. Durvasa became
enraged and gave a curse that she would take birth in the world. Hence Sarasvati
had to take birth as Bharati.
Bharati now interposed and said to Sankara: "I am the other half of Mandana.
You have defeated only one half of Mandana. Let us have a controversy". Sankara
objected to have controversy with a woman. Bharati quoted instances wherein
there had been controversies with women. Sankara then agreed and this
controversy also went on uninterruptedly for seventeen days. Bharati passed from
one Shastra to another. At last she found out that she could not defeat Sankara.
She decided to defeat him by means of the science of Kama Shastra.
Sankara asked Bharati to give him an interval of one month for his preparation to
hold controversy with her in the science of Kama Shastra. She agreed. Sankara
went to Kashi. He separated his astral body from his physical body by means of
his Yogic powers and left his physical body in the hole of a big tree and asked his
disciples to take care of that physical body. He then entered into the dead body of
Raja Amaruka which was about to be cremated. The Raja rose up and all the
people rejoiced at the astounding incident.
The ministers and queens soon found out that the revived Raja was a different
person, with different qualities and thought. They realised that the soul of a great
Mahatma had entered the body of their Raja. Therefore, messengers were sent
out to search for a human body hidden somewhere in lonely forests and caves
and to burn it when found. They thought that if they did so, the new Raja might
remain with them for a long time.
Sankara was acquiring all the experience of love with his queens. Maya is very
powerful. In the midst, of those queens, Sankara entirely forgot all about his
promises to his disciples about his going back to them. The disciples began to
search for him. They heard about the miraculous resurrection of Raja Amaruka.
They immediately proceeded to the city and had an interview with the Raja. They
sang a few philosophical songs which at once revived the memory of Sankara.
The disciples immediately repaired to the place where the physical body of
Sankara was kept hidden. By that time the messengers of the queen had found
out the physical body and had just begun to set fire to it. The soul of Sankara just
then entered his own body. Sankara prayed to Lord Hari to help him. There was a
shower of rain immediately and that extinguished the flames.
Then Sankara returned to the residence of Mandana Misra. He resumed the old
controversy and answered all the questions raised by Bharati satisfactorily.
Mandana Misra gave all his property as a gift to Sri Sankara and Mandana was
made to distribute it to the poor and the deserving. He then became a disciple of
Sankara. Sankara initiated him into the holy order of Sannyasa and gave him the
name of 'Sureswara Acharya'. Sureswara Acharya was the first Sannyasin who
took charge of the Sringeri Mutt. Bharati also accompanied Sankara to Sringeri
and there she is worshipped even today.
Sankara ascended the seat of omniscience after inviting Vedic scholars from all
parts of India and answering their numerous questions. Sankara, by vanquishing
all the religious opponents of his day-and they belonged to no less than seventy-
two different schools-and establishing the superiority of the Vedic Dharma, had
become the Jagadguru of all.
Sankara's success over the other religious sects was so complete that none of
them have since been able to raise their head in the land. Most of them have
disappeared altogether. After Sankara's time, although a few Acharyas have
appeared, none of them have been able to vanquish those who differed from
them as Sankara did and establish unquestioned supremacy.
Mother’s Funeral Rites
Sankara received news that his mother was seriously ailing. He left his disciples
and proceeded to Kaladi alone. His mother was then bedridden. Sankara touched
her feet in reverence. He praised Lord Hari. Hari’s messengers came. Sankara's
mother gave up her physical body and went along with those messengers to the
abode of Hari.
Sankara encountered serious difficulties in performing the funeral rites of his
mother. Usually, Sannyasins do not perform any of the rites or ceremonies which
are enjoined on the householders. The Nambudiri Brahmins were all against
Sankara. Sankara's relatives also did not help him. They did not come forward to
assist him even in carrying the dead body to the place of cremation and refused
to give fire for igniting the funeral pyre. At last Sankara determined to perform
the funeral rites all alone. As he could not carry the entire dead body, he cut it
into pieces and removed the pieces one by one to the backyard of the house. He
then made a pyre there of stems of plantain trees and set fire to it by his Yogic
power. Sankara wanted to teach the Nambudiris a lesson. He then made the local
chief issue an edict that a corner should be set apart in each Illam or house of the
Nambudiri Brahmins to burn the dead of the family and that they should cut the
dead body into parts and then burn the same. This practice continues even today
amongst Nambudiri Brahmins.
Sankara then returned to Sringeri. From there he went out on a tour through the
eastern coast with a large number of followers. He preached his Advaita philosphy
wherever he went. He established the Govardhana Mutt at Puri. He went to
Kancheepuram and attacked the Shaktas. He purified the temples. He won over
to his side the rulers of the Chola and the Pandya kingdoms. He went to Ujjain
and put down the atrocities of the Bhairavas who were shedding human blood. He
then proceeded to Dwaraka and established a Mutt there. He then travelled along
the course of the Ganges and held religious controversies with great personages.
Sankara proceeded to Kamarup-the present Guwahati-in Assam and held a
controversy with Abhinava Gupta, the Shakta commentator, and won victory over
him. Abhinava felt his defeat very keenly. He made Sankara suffer from a severe
form of piles through black magic. Padmapada removed the evil effects of the
black magic. Sankara became quite alright. He went to the Himalayas, built a
Mutt at Joshi and a temple at Badri. He then proceeded to Kedarnath higher up in
the Himalayas. He became one with the Linga in 820 A.D. in his thirty-second
In the north-west of the State of Mysore, nestling in the beautiful foot-hills of the
Western Ghats, surrounded by virgin forests, lies the village of Sringeri and here
Sankara established his first Mutt. The river Tunga-a branch of the river
Tungabhadra-runs through the valley closely touching the walls of the temple;
and its pure and limpid waters are as famous for drinking purposes as the waters
of the Ganges are for bath (Ganga Snanam, Tunga Panam). Sringeri is a place of
great sanctity and its beauty has to be seen to be appreciated. The Mutt is 'still
going strong' as the phrase goes. The homage paid to the Mutt by countless
aspirants and devotees is as much due to the greatness of illustrious men like
Vidyaranya who have been at its head ever since its foundation as to the renown
of the founder himself.
It may not be out of place to mention here that it took thirty years for the well-
known Sanskrit professor Max Muller to translate the commentary on the Rig
Veda, written by Vidyaranya, also known as Sayana. The learned professor, in his
preface, says that not a single day passed in the thirty years without his devoting
at least ten minutes on the translation. There is also a little interesting incident
that when the manuscript was found to be illegible in some places, he got an
authorised transcription from the first original still preserved in the Sringeri Mutt,
through the influence of the then Maharaja of Mysore.
The famous holy shrine of Sri Sarada is an equal source of attraction to the
devotees. Many are the Mutts and monasteries in India where holy men or their
successors sit, and where Hindus from all parts of India gather, but none so great
or so famous as Sringeri, the original seat of Adi Sankaracharya. The Sringeri
Peetha is one of the oldest monasteries of the world flourishing for over twelve
centuries now. It is the first of the four seats of learning established by
Sankaracharya, the other three being Puri, Dwaraka and Joshi Mutt, each one of
them representing one of the four Vedas of the Hindus.
Sankara placed his four eminent disciples (Sureswara Acharya, Padmapada,
Hastamalaka and Trotakacharya) in charge of the Sringeri Mutt, Jagannath Mutt,
Dwaraka Mutt and Joshi Mutt respectively. The most famous Sannyasin in the
succession of Gurus of the Sringeri Mutt was, of course, Vidyaranya, the great
commentator on the Vedas and the father of the dynasty of Vijayanagar. He was
the Dewan of Vijayanagaram. He became a Sannyasin about 1331 A.D. The
eleven Sannyasins before Vidyaranya were Sankaracharya, Viswarupa,
Nityabodhaghana, Jnanaghana, Jnanottama, Jnana Giri, Simha Girisvara, Isvara
Tirtha, Narasimha Tirtha, Vidya Sankara Tirtha and Bharati Krishna Tirtha.
The historic and sacred pontifical throne of the Sringeri Mutt is known as
Vyakhyana Simhasana or seat of learning. Tradition has it that this seat was given
to the great Sankara by Sarasvati, the Goddess of Learning, in appreciation of the
philosopher's vast scholarly erudition. Thirty-five Acharyas had sat on the
pontifical throne before his present holiness in regular and uninterrupted
Sankara organized ten definite orders of Sannyasins under the name 'Dasanamis'
who add, at the end of their names, any one of the following ten suffixes:
Sarasvati, Bharati, Puri (Sringeri Mutt); Tirtha, Asrama (Dwaraka Mutt); Giri,
Parvata and Sagar (Joshi Mutt); Vana and Aranya (Govardhana Mutt).
The Paramahamsa represents the highest of these grades. It is possible to
become a Paramahamsa by a long course of Vedantic study, meditation and Self-
realisation. The Ativarnashramis are beyond caste and order of life. They dine
with all classes of people. Sankara's Sannyasins are to be found all over India