Brahman divisions

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at
Thu Jun 5 21:40:55 UTC 1997

> This has been a useful discussion of internal Brahman
> sub-division and the "historical" traditions associated
> with them.  I would expect that Srini's comments about
> the lack of Shankara's "legislative power" to
> excommunicate a group of Nambudris and that it had much
> more to do with the Raja of Kollengode, as patron and
> ruler (ajudging rights to receive gifts), is closer to
> the historical (societal) "truth".  Even so, it would

Very probably so, but there are certain other aspects to it too. The
nambudiris have a tradition that in addition to the well-known mathas
established by Sankara elsewhere in India, three of his disciples also
founded mathas in Kerala. These were called vaDakke-maDam (northern),
naDuvil-maDam (middle) and tekke-maDam (southern). In fact, around the
turn of this century, when the Sringeri maTha made efforts to identify the
village of Kaladi, the land was found to be in the possession of the
naDuvil-maDam. Original manuscripts of some advaita texts, like 
sarvajnAtman's samkshepa-SArIraka have been found with the naDuvil-maDam.
The vaDakke-maDam's succession ran out centuries ago, and it is said that
the funds of this maDam were then used to organize the first of the two
major 'yogams' (Vedic colleges) of the nambudiris. So Sankaracharya's
status among the nambudiris might not have been negligible at all. 

Another piece of evidence comes from the literature of the dvaitins.
According to the sumadhva-vijayam, an early animosity between dvaitins and
advaitins is traced to a debate between AnandatIrtha (Madhva) and one
padmatIrtha, who is said to have been a sannyAsin from Sringeri. The site
of the debate was Trivandrum, and the advaitins are described as already
having a stronghold there, which allowed them to persecute AnandatIrtha
after the debate, and confiscate his library. 

The local ruler might have had a lot to do with legislative action
concerning nambudiris, but it must also be remembered that the nambudiri
brahmins wielded a lot of power with respect to the kshatriyas of Kerala,
much more so than anywhere else in India. The name of Sankaracharya might
have been used by rulers and their advisors to lend some extra authority
to any action, especially during and after Vijayanagar times. 


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