Madhava, Vidyaranya, Sringeri, and Kulke

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Jun 10 01:11:26 UTC 2000

Swaminathan Madhuresan <smadhuresan at YAHOO.COM> wrote:

>  I have read many publications which accept or modify the peasant-priest
>alliance theory to the entire gamut of early medieval kingdoms in India.
>In K. Veluthat, The political structure of early medieval south India,
>this theory plays the center of discussion on the nature of State in
>Pandya, Cera and Chola polities.

I am not an anthropologist or a sociologist, so I'm not going to comment
further on Stein's model and its general applicability. As far as the
Sankara Mathas are concerned, my central question remains, as follows.

Either Stein's model is valid over large areas and periods of time, or it is
not valid. Your contention is that it is valid. If so, why are there no
significant records from pre-14th century in which a *Matha* receives royal
grants and takes a leadership role in Brahmin society? Why is there such
meager evidence of Matha patronage by and reciprocal legitimation of the big
dynasties between the 9th and 13th centuries - namely the Cola, Pandya,
Cera, Calukya and Rashtrakutas?

To really get an answer to this, you have to pay attention to the central
value of saMnyAsa in Advaita thought, and the codes which regulated the
activities of saMnyAsins. You need to pay attention to the texts, and not
rely simply on pre-existing sociological and anthropological models of
Indian society. In other words, the study of Hindu renunciation from an
anthropological perspective is still sorely
lacking. Yes, you have Dumont's theory, but what is lost there is a view of
the renouncer as a man in the world, at least till physical death comes.
Indeed, I'm going to argue that the Advaita view of jIvanmukti finely
balances the double character of the renouncer as a man not "of" this world,
but still a man "in" this world. This cries out for anthropological study.

>The propagation and transmission of Sankaran texts was fostered
>to a large extent by these royal grants establishing Brahmadeyas
>in all of India and the Brahmin-Kings alliance.

This is an assumption on your part. If we are to treat evidence rigorously,
you need to show records of Brahmadeya grants specifically made for the
study of Sankaran texts. Records that mention the worship of Siva or Vishnu
in some temple or the other, or of general settlement of Brahmin families in
some village(s) will not do.

You also make the fallacy of assuming that Brahmins by and large accepted
Sankara's thought. Some did, no doubt, but there is no escaping the fact
that saMnyAsa was a threat to the ritual sphere upheld by most Brahmins.
There must have been intense opposition to Sankara and his followers within
many Brahmin circles, which is borne out by the criticisms of his thought
from other schools of Vedanta. Brahmins who received Brahmadeyas were free
to promote many different interests that do not depend on Advaita Vedanta,
e.g. Vedic ritual, Saiva, Vaishnava and Sakta practices, Nyaya (which
rejects Advaita totally, by the way), Vaiseshika, Samkhya, Purva Mimamsa

Take a look at Nambudiri society in Kerala, for example. Their adherence to
ritual ensured that Advaita was not a very big presence in Kerala till
recently, although Sankara himself was a Nambudiri by birth. Even the
hagiography preserves a memory of the opposition to Sankara in the land of
his birth.

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